Do you want to help your premed child get into med school…without having to nag or stress them out? This series has loads of concrete, actionable advice that will help your premed discover their competitive advantage and get accepted!
Selecting extracurricular activities that will set your child’s application apart can seem overwhelming (for you and for your child). Below are strategies that your child can use to find and select activities:
1. Applicants should do what they love.
It’s more interesting to see applicants who have a diverse variety of genuine interests rather than those who only participate in activities that will “look good” to medical schools. Applicants who are artists, for example, should continue developing their skills as this may help them when they take anatomy or may result in them having the fine motor skills to perform surgeries. One’s interests often guide the direction of one’s career in the future.
2. Activities should cover multiple areas.
It is important to have some leadership, clinical, and volunteer experience. When premeds look at activities they enjoy, they should be flexible and open to taking on roles that may combine more than one of these areas. For example, some students volunteer at free clinics or health fairs; this combines volunteer and clinical work, as well as the possibility of leadership if they take on more responsibility with the organization over time. The time they put into this activity benefits them three-fold. Rather than running around and participating in three different activities, this is fantastic way to use their time to gain valuable life experience. See if your child can find activities that extend into numerous areas – these activities will be more rewarding for your child and more advantageous to her application.
3. Premeds should manage their time realistically.
Time is finite. There are only 24 hours in a day so every choice we make (or don’t make) about how we spend it is important. Premeds should look for activities that allow them to create more balance in their lives. Participating in intramural sports or exercising regularly can allow students to de-stress and also will enable them to include teamwork in their activities section. It may take some time for you and your child to locate those activities that will relax your child the most in the shortest amount of time possible, but you will both be glad you did once your child gets into medical school and has less time to maintain the same level of balance.
While this advice sounds great in theory, you may be wondering how to apply it. If your child wishes to discuss extracurricular activities or different options with you, you can work together and make a list of the activities that she most enjoyed in the past. Are there any that she would like to continue? Are there any that also cover leadership, clinical, or volunteer work?
Here are some practical ways to find these activities:
• Premeds should visit their school’s advising office on campus.
Often, they will maintain a binder or list of activities that you and/or your child can peruse for ideas. Some schools even have a lottery for the most popular clinical activities in the area.
• Search the web for a community service planning council or composite list of volunteer activities in the city or town where you live.
Some cities actually sell a directory of community services opportunities in the area, from working with children to assisting the elderly. They often provide the most comprehensive perspective of what’s available and needed in your community. Or you and/or your child can stop by your local town hall or civic center to inquire in person.
• Ask friends and family in the area.
Network by asking everyone that you know in the area about the activities your child is interested in pursuing. If you are new to the area, this can be a great strategy in establishing a strong network of support early in your child’s education.
The more time that applicants spend deciding how they will use their time can ensure that they make the most of their time. You should encourage your premeds to pursue their interests and continue to develop those skills that may benefit them in unexpected ways. The more outlets and support systems that they have in place, the better grounded they will be. As premeds continue their education, they can enrich their lives (as well as the AMCAS activities section on their application) by taking the time to make the conscious decision to participate in those activities that will bring them the greatest joy and nurture personal growth and development.