The AMCAS Work and Activities section is where you can share all your awards, memberships, research, clinical experiences, paid employment, publications, leadership, extracurricular activities, volunteer work and – as of this year – advocacy and social justice efforts.
You have a limit of 15 activities that you can include in the AMCAS application. The types of activities that you include, the length of time you participated in them, and your description of these events all have an impact on how admissions committees will view your dedication to this career path.
What kinds of activities should you include in the AMCAS Work and Activities section?
- Community service
- Hands-on clinical experience (other than shadowing)
- Honors and awards
- Paid employment
- Social justice
The types of activities most relevant to medicine are the first four in this list. If possible, be strategic in making sure that you cover multiple areas.
What’s the ideal breakdown for your AMCAS Work and Activities?
In the AMCAS Work and Activities section, the strongest med school applicants include the following:
- Three or more leadership roles
- Three or more community service and advocacy activities
- Three or more clinical experiences
- One honors and awards section (in which you detail them all)
- One shadowing section (in which you describe all shadowing under one heading)
- One or more research projects
- One or more internships
- One or more paid employment (you can list all under one to save space)
- One hobby (preferably one in which you have reached some degree of mastery and/or teach to others)
As long as you cover the four key areas of leadership, community service, hands-on clinical experience, and advocacy and have 15 activities (any fewer could hurt your application), any combination of the activity types we’ve mentioned here can be successful.
What if you end up with more than 15 activities? You can combine up to four different experiences within one activity description, as long as the activities are similar enough to each other. Take advantage of this option to make sure that you cover everything. For instance, since shadowing is considered the most passive form of clinical experience and isn’t valued as highly as hands-on roles, you can group all your shadowing experiences into a single description. Just be sure to include vital details, including the name, specialty, and contact information for each physician you shadowed.
What should you NOT include in this section?
- Activities from primary or secondary school
- Hair or blood donations
- Babysitting for family
- Research or projects for which you received course credit
- Paid employment that could be considered unethical or morally questionable
- Shadowing a parent or family member who is a medical professional
- Religious attendance
How long-term should activities be?
The length of time that you have participated in each activity will be scrutinized, so include long-term (one year or longer) activities whenever possible. Exclusively short-term activities – no more than six months for each, for example – can be considered a red flag. Lots of short-term activities could indicate that the applicant is difficult to work with or lacks commitment. Most successful applicants have a combination of long- and short-term experiences.
How to write a strong activity description
For each activity description, you need to briefly introduce the company or organization involved – for instance, “ABCMC is a nonprofit healthcare facility serving the Main Street community.” If your experience is in a lab, explain the research goal in terms anyone can understand.
The heart of your experience is your role, so be specific about what you did and the impact you had. This might be your responsibilities as a team member in a lab: “I recorded vital signs and took medical histories for patients, and I shared these notes with on-staff physicians before appointments.” Or it might be your leadership of a group: “Over the 15-week campaign, as I learned to adopt a coaching mentality, I discovered a new confidence in my ability to apply my knowledge and relay information to the athletes.” Whatever it is, go beyond the superficial job description and use this space to identify your strengths and accomplishments. The best descriptions will indicate what you have learned and include strong conclusions that demonstrate a high level of reflection in terms of what the experience meant to you and how you helped others through it.
How to choose your three most meaningful experiences
In addition to your activity descriptions, you’re asked to expand on your three most meaningful experiences (MMEs). These longer essays are a chance to reveal your goals, values, and personal qualities in a way that the shorter descriptions don’t allow. Through them, we can see how you put your beliefs into action, so don’t be afraid to get personal here. It’s great to hear that you made a strong impact on a person or a community, but be sure to also explain why making that kind of impact is important to you. And of course, emphasize, if relevant, how this will make you a better physician.
Don’t underestimate the importance of your MMEs in your application. They might not be as long as your personal statement, but they should still pack a punch. For the best results, follow these steps:
- Outline your ideas to provide more thoughtful and detailed responses, and identify the reasons each experience was so meaningful to you.
- In your writing, begin with the least important experiences and end with the most significant ones.
- Give yourself enough time to complete a few rounds of edits to ensure that you submit your best work.
For more on how to write the best MME descriptions, read this post: Meaningful Experiences For Medical School Applicants
Examples of outstanding activity descriptions and MMEs
The examples here were generously shared by students who were accepted to medical school. As you’ll see, these are exceptionally well-written pieces because they demonstrate how each student put the maximum amount of effort into their roles and responsibilities and gained an impressive degree of insight into themselves, others, the experience they discuss, and the impact they had.
Example #1: Volunteer at Free Clinic
My primary responsibility as a volunteer at the Free Clinic of Central State was patient intake. I recorded vital signs and took medical histories for patients and shared these notes with on-staff physicians before appointments. My favorite aspect of this experience was providing a comforting, reassuring presence for patients. By actively listening to patients and making sure that they felt understood, I found that my relatively small role could make a big difference. I also shadowed physicians while at the clinic and learned about several different specialties.
Example #2: Emergency Department (ED) Technician
ABCMC is a nonprofit healthcare facility serving the Main Street community. After working closely with emergency physicians as a scribe, I decided to apply to become an ED technician. In this position, I work alongside nurses in providing patient care and performing procedures under their supervision. I have developed a comprehensive knowledge of emergent clinical procedures and the process of implementing treatment plans. I thoroughly enjoy performing procedures and comforting patients and their families. Through this experience, I have gained a greater respect for the care the clinical team and support staff provides to patients and physicians.
Example #3: Nutrition Program Developer and Director
Nutrition was frequently mentioned as an area that our patients would benefit from improving, but there was no sustainable solution or support program to help patients make these changes. I developed a screening tool with an attending physician at the clinic, trained volunteers to use them and collected patient survey data for a year on the nutritional preferences and needs of every patient possible. I then established a nutrition education program at XYZ
Get help optimizing your AMCAS Work and Activities section! Check out our Medical School Admissions Services and work one-on-one with an advisor to create an impressive, well-written, compelling application that will highlight your competitive edge and help you get ACCEPTED.
Example #4: Intern (Activity description and MME)
Prior to the start of my last semester in graduate school, I was hired by the U. State Football Performance Staff to serve as an Intern Strength and Conditioning Coach. In this position, I assisted the staff during training sessions by coaching proper lifting techniques and providing direction and encouragement for the players. On several occasions, I led the team through myofascial-release exercises and warm-ups prior to workouts. I also helped set up and break down equipment for workouts and drills prior to each training session. The internship also included an education component, in which I learned how to construct precisely targeted, comprehensive strength and conditioning programs.
From working with elite athletes at the peak of their physical potential, I gained new insight into the functional capacity of the human body. Throughout the semester, I studied an array of training schemes and modalities, and learned how these can be differentially leveraged according to an athlete’s unique physiology, training background, and positional needs in order to optimize physiologic adaptations. I was fascinated by the amount of research, experimentation, and creativity that goes into developing strength and conditioning programs. Coaching these athletes allowed me to translate theory into practice; I knew that each lift or drill that I instructed would play an intricate role in developing our athletes according to a precisely calculated plan. It was an electrifying experience to quantify the players’ weekly improvements in strength, power, and speed. However, becoming a coach taught me far more than how to construct strength programs or cue proper technique, I had to step up as a leader in a new environment. Over the 15-week campaign, as I learned to adopt a coaching mentality, I discovered a new confidence in my ability to apply my knowledge and relay information to the athletes.
Example #5: Health Coach (Activity description and MME)
The patients I served at XYZ were largely an underserved population that needed support, access to health information, an advocate for their health both in clinic and out, and improved continuity of care. As a health coach, my job was to try and fill those needs. I used motivational interviewing to help patients articulate their questions to their provider while also helping them understand that they could actively achieve in their healthcare and how. I advocated for patients during their visit, ensuring all their questions were addressed, and followed up with each patient. Finally, to help improve health literacy, I would review each patient’s after-visit summary and medications list.
As a health coach, I learned that half the battle for patients in regaining or maintaining good health, especially for people in underserved areas, was empowerment and support. As part of the pilot XYZ volunteers, I helped to implement XYZ’s motivational interviewing template to empower patients to ask questions, showed them they had a say in their own care and helped them to realize they could make the changes they wanted and needed to improve their health. To help improve continuity of care and accessibility, I followed up with patients every two weeks and relayed their questions or concerns to their provider, who then personally addressed them. Additionally, XYZ saw many non-English-speaking patients, so I dedicated extra time to working with them through a translator to ensure they understood all the information on their after-visit summary as well as their medications list. To improve health literacy for all patients, I helped pilot the use of a pictorial medication adherence form. I filled this form out with the patients, verified it with the provider, and then reviewed it with the patient before they left. It was my responsibility to help patients make the most of their visit by empowering them to get involved in their care and ensuring they left their visit well informed.
Use these examples to help you reflect more deeply on your own experiences. Please do not copy or plagiarize any part of these paragraphs in your application. It would take only a simple Google search for an application reviewer to identify where they came from. Ultimately, —and no one else. Be yourself in writing about what inspires and motivates you. Every application should showcase an entirely unique combination of experiences and reflections. The effort and thought that you put into this section of the AMCAS application matters and will have an enormous impact on the outcome. You might even end up enjoying the experience and learning something about yourself!Do you need help optimizing your AMCAS Work and Activities section? Check out our AMCAS Admissions Services and work one-on-one with an advisor to create an impressive, well-written, compelling application that will highlight your competitive edge and help you get ACCEPTED.
Having served on admissions committees at the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine and the curriculum development team at the UW School of Dentistry, Cydney Foote uses her more than two decades of real-world admissions expertise to pinpoint what is unique about her clients’ stories and help them present their authentic voice. She has advised hundreds of successful applicants to MD, DO, and other healthcare programs in the United States and Canada and authored three e-books on medical education. Want Cydney to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!