I don’t mean to perpetuate the cookie-cutter pre-med profile, but I think there are certain types of extracurricular activities or experiences that are crucial for pre-meds who want to apply to medical school. Based on my experience applying, I conjecture that these are activities medical schools like or look for, because they ask about them in the secondary application. So without these types of experiences, I could not have answered the secondary essay questions meaningfully. Note that I’m not saying that if you have all these types of experiences under your belt, you’ll get into medical school (as there are no certainties with med schools). I’m just saying that if you have these, it’ll be easier to answer secondary and even interview questions, AND it’ll make you a more interesting, well-rounded person (which can be another plus for med schools).
This is my list of must-have activities/experiences for pre-meds:
- Some kind of DIVERSITY experience: Have you dealt with people of different cultural, social, and/or economic backgrounds from yourself? What did you learn from it and how did it affect you? These are the types of questions I had to answer for a good amount of secondary applications (i.e. East Virginia Medical School). And it makes sense. A physician deals with patients, patients = people, and different types of people too! Medical schools are looking for culturally sensitive and mature students that are socially inept in this way.
- Some kind of SERVICE experience: How have you impacted your community? What have you done to make your community better? How has it changed you? Some medical schools are big on serving the community, and like to boast about how involved their med students are in various local or international volunteer organizations (looking at you, George Washington University and Loyola Stritch). What’s the point of learning all this important medical stuff if you can’t use it to help others? Serving the community shows that you have a genuine interest in helping others, and it makes you aware of the needs of other communities.
- Some kind of TEAM-WORK experience: This is not as important as the other two categories above, but I do remember writing something about how I collaborated with others to lead a volunteer organization. However, this team-work experience is kind of a given with most extracurricular activities- I can’t imagine a volunteer gig or doing research without some kind of cooperation with others in some way. But I thought it was worth noting anyways because medical schools want people who can collaborate with others.
- Insightful CLINICAL experience: I used the word “insightful” because your clinical experience should, at a minimal, give you an idea of what it’s like to work as a health care professional. Medical schools want to know if you have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into, including if you’re aware of the cons of being a physician. I remember a secondary essay question for one school specifically asked “What is a potential problem that you think you’ll run into as a physician?”
You can certainly talk about an experience or activity in different ways. For example, I talked about my volunteer experience as my Service experience (obviously), and my Diversity experience. However, I felt that I did enough things in college to have no problem answering the secondary essay questions. The issue then became if I can write about my involvement and it’s impact on me in an effective manner…