While the activities section of the application may not seem as important as the others, it can be. Simply submitting an application with less than 15 activities can lead to a rejection. Recently, I reviewed the application of a student who was rejected last cycle—the only negative thing in her application was the fact that she included only seven activities. It can hurt you big time to include less than the maximum number possible.
In this post, I will share the biggest mistakes to avoid in your activities section, which include:
1. Providing less than 15 activities
Demonstrate your enthusiasm and dedication by using every space available to detail how well you have prepared yourself for medical school. If you have less than 15 activities, you can include: “Awards and Honors,” “Conferences Attended” or “Hobbies.” Go out and get more experience if you are short.
2. Including too many research activities
If you have mostly participated in research throughout college, the selection committee will not feel bad rejecting you as it will appear that you are already well on your way to embarking on a career in research or a PhD track. While you do want to demonstrate your love of learning, cover it from multiple angles. Become a TA. Teach or tutor for a non-profit. Diversify your interests.
3. Not participating on any teams
Medicine is all about teamwork. If you prefer to work on projects by yourself, your activities will reveal that you are a loner. Push your own limits by challenging yourself to seek team experience. You could try intramural sports, a new team hobby or a medical mission. You will definitely be asked questions about what you contribute to a team. Be ready to have a response.
4. Having only a handful of activities in one area
When looking at your activities, check to see if you can mark off the following categories: clinical experience, non-clinical volunteer work, leadership, research and teamwork. If you’re lacking in any of these areas, you still have time to do something about it. Create balance in your activities section.
5. Participating in activities for six-months or less
It can be a red flag, if an applicant has lots of short term experiences. It could indicate that you are difficult to work with, or that you have difficulty making a long-term commitment and sticking to it. Make sure that you include some activities that you have participated in for at least one year or longer—the longer, the better.
6. Using bullet points in the activity descriptions
To put your best foot forward, take the time to write complete sentences for your activity descriptions. Using bullet points is risky. Not only do you have to worry about formatting errors, but it looks sloppy. Take the time to do it right.
Hopefully, these tips will help you produce an activity section that you will be proud to submit. Do a little at a time. Pace yourself to give yourself the time you need to do your best writing. For more assistance, you are welcome to contact me or one my colleagues at Accepted.
Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs.