Medical extracurricular activities: the hidden requirement for med school admission part one

December 18, 2014

Medical Extracurricular Activities: The Hidden Requirement For Med School Admission 1

Part 1

  • Why admissions authorities give so much importance to medical extracurricular activities
  • What exactly is considered a medical extracurricular activity?

Part 2

  • Choosing your medical extracurricular activity
  • Medical extracurricular activity ideas

Part 3

  • More medical extracurricular activity ideas

Helping out at the local orphanage In checking out the websites of different medical schools to determine their eligibility criteria for admission, you will find that some schools very clearly mention ‘medical extracurricular activities’ as one of the requirements whereas other schools don’t mention it. So does that mean that this is a requirement only for some schools? And what exactly do they mean by ‘medical extracurricular activities’?

To answer the second question first, medical extracurricular activities include any non-academic activity that you do to gain some insight and experience into the healthcare profession. This could be in the form of volunteering, shadowing, medical placements or mission trips.

Getting back to the first question, are these activities a requirement only for some medical schools? The truth is, whether med schools categorically mention it on their website or not, all schools will take it into consideration when short-listing students for admission. They may not say it out loud but medical extracurricular activities will play a major role in the final decision making.

Why Do Admissions Authorities Give So Much Importance To Medical Extracurricular Activities?

There are several reasons. Two of the most compelling reasons are:

  • They want to know that you have gone behind the scenes and have a fairly good idea of what it really is like to work in healthcare and you still want to be a part of the profession.
  • In your application letter or personal essay you would have written about or alluded to your love for medicine and for helping people. Admissions authorities want to see that these are not mere words on paper. If you love helping people you don’t have to wait till you’ve graduated from medical school to make it happen. There’s lots you can do to demonstrate your genuine love for helping people even before joining med school.    

In addition, there is another reason why medical extracurricular activities are so important from the admissions point of view. During your interview you are sure to face the ultimate question – Why medicine or Why do you want to become a doctor? It is almost impossible to answer that question effectively without some kind of exposure to the medical field.

What Exactly Is Considered A Medical Extracurricular Activity?

Any activity that allows you to get some kind of exposure to doctors or patients or a sneak-peek into the healthcare profession is counted as a medical extracurricular activity. It is up to you to decide exactly what you want to do but whatever it is, make it count because one thing is for sure – you will have to discuss it during your medical school interviews. Whatever activity you choose or get an opportunity to experience, the important thing is that you should be able to relate an in-depth story about your experiences and convince the interviewers about how it reinforced your decision to apply to medical school.

Don’t just look for the easiest thing to do so you can rack up the hours. When it comes to medical extracurricular activities, it’s the quality that counts, not the quantity. You may have spent several months volunteering at a local nursing home but if you have nothing compelling to say about the experience, don’t expect the extended time to count for anything.