May 24, 2007 at 9:06 pm (Applying to med school)
Lots of pre-meds want to make their applications stand out by getting involved with extracurricular activities. The most popular things to do involve shadowing a physician, volunteering, clinical work experience, and research. Here’s my take on the issue of EC’s. The big thing is that your activities need to be meaningful. Most pre-meds don’t grasp that concept and somehow think that the application is a series of check boxes for them to join a dozen campus organizations without any real contribution.
Shadowing is pretty worthless. Most people do it to get a sense of what medical practice is like, but few applicants spend any significant time working with a physician. What’s worse is when students try to use these attendings for rec letters. If someone can’t immediately list ten positive traits about you with stories to backup each claim, move on to another letter writer.
Volunteering is good for an application as it shows altruism. However, you should only volunteer in a field that is meaningful to you and the people you’re serving. Pushing wheelchairs is not something I would regard as substantial volunteering.
Clinical experience is also good because you’ll get a taste of medicine. Again, hospital volunteering doesn’t count unless you actually worked with patients. One applicant wrote a personal statement in which he detailed watching doctors work in an emergency department. My take on his essay was that he hadn’t ever worked with patients and was clueless as to how a hospital functions. Some of the more common routes for clinical experience are CNA, EMT, and surgical tech.
Your “research” doesn’t count if it was for a class. If you want research, find a lab and start working with the graduate students. You’ll need at least a year—preferably two—to get into the scientific mindset. Bonus points for publications. Again, what was your contribution?