Tangible v/s non-tangible requirements of med school – Part 1

October 3, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Students learning from their mentor in the obstetrics department If you’ve got your heart set on joining medical school and have been working hard at obtaining high grades in school, you are on the right path – but only partially. Academic scores are only one of the several key qualifying criteria that med school admissions authorities look at when short-listing candidates to call for the interview. One of the reasons many med school applicants make the mistake of focusing only on their academic scores is that it is the only concrete or measurable criterion. However, it is the other less tangible requirements that play just as crucial a role in securing admission into medical school. Some schools mention it right there on their websites so its importance is unmistakable. Other schools may not mention it but you should know these criteria are just as vital.

So what are these intangible requirements that you need to meet?  Here are the three most important non-academic criteria that all medical schools look for:


  1. Volunteering
  2. Physician shadowing
  3. Clinical experience


Volunteer work 

More than being academically smart, medical schools want to know whether or not you have a true passion for helping people and whether you are committed to this cause. When it comes to your love of helping people, actions speak louder than words. You can write reams about how you want to help others or what you intend to do, but if you have not actually spent time providing any real help to those in need, it’s nothing but words and that carries no weight with any medical school.

When it comes to volunteering, spending a few hours during the summer holidays helping out at a care home or similar facility does not count. What authorities will be looking for is whether you have spent a substantial amount of time doing volunteer work. More importantly, they will want to know what you have contributed to the facility that you have volunteered at. Volunteering to catalogue books in the library does not show your passion for helping people and will not count.

When you are choosing your volunteering opportunities, put some thought into it. Choose opportunities that allow you to make a real contribution towards helping people. 


Physician shadowing

Your motivation for pursuing medicine may have stemmed from some first hand experience with the front end of medicine. It could be that you saw a loved one being nursed back to health from a serious illness and were deeply touched by the experience. Or perhaps you are impressed by the healing work that you can see being done by a close friend. Being impressed or touched by some experience with a healthcare practitioner does not necessarily mean it is the right path for you and is not reason enough to pursue this field. A career in medicine can be challenging and calls for a lot of work and personal sacrifices that are impossible to fathom unless you go behind the scenes and see what it really is like.

Medical schools want to know that you are aware of the realities of medicine and not just in awe of the professionals you’ve come across. One way to do this is by spending some time shadowing a physician as they go about their daily duties.


More tips and advice to follow in Part 2!