Extra-curriculars are an important part of your medical school application and serve to set you apart from the other people with a high MCAT and high GPA. Like we have previously talked about, your MCAT and GPA are strictly to get your foot in the door of a medical school interview. Almost everyone that gets an interview has high numbers here. So what will set you apart from these other smart, hardworking individuals is what you do outside of school and how you present yourself in the interview. Extra-curriculars can include jobs, research and volunteering that you have done. Remember when it comes to EC’s, a few long term, high quality activities are better than a grocery list of things you did just to put in your application. You should aim to cover a few bases with your choice of ECs.
The basics include the generic EC’s pretty much expected to be done by every medical student. That’s not to say that people who haven’t done all of these don’t get in, but in order to maximize your chances, cover all your bases.
1) Hospital/patient care related
– This can include volunteering at the hospital, shadowing, helping with free clinics etc
-The aim of this EC is just to show that you have spent significant time in the environment that you claim is your dream job
-Shows that you have worked with medical professionals and patients and are liked in those environments
-Depending on the longevity of your work, could also lead to a reference letter down the road
-to find an opportunity like this, get in touch with local hospitals and clinics and ask if they are taking on volunteers
-I am personally not a fan of research but it is important for the medical field and for your application. It shows commitment and interest in the field of medicine/science. It shows that you like to learn and acquire knowledge and contribute to the knowledge out there.
-Ideally, find a project you are passionate about but at the very least, just do something and check the box
-You can do this by emailing your professors professionally, with a CV, and asking if they are taking on any students in their labs
-depending on the quality of work and relationship built with the preceptor, this is also a great way to get a reference letter and potential publication
This is an important skill to have as a physician so seek to find leadership positions in whatever you do. Sign up for clubs in your first year and aim to get leadership positions in those clubs as your progress to your upper years. You can also go down the route of creating your own club if that interests you. This does not have to be too fancy. For example: after a year of working at a coffee shop, I became a supervisor/trainer and this came up in my medical school interview.
4) Community Service
You are also expected to have non-medically related community service in the sense that it’s not in a hospital or clinic. This shows how good of a person you are, or at least pretend to be. Medical schools want to see that you contribute to society and will be a welcome addition to their city/environment. It is important to be at least somewhat passionate about what you do as it will make your time better and the passion will come across in your interview when you talk about it. I love volleyball so my version of this was running a youth summer volleyball camp in the summer. It was a great time and one of the major EC’s that set me apart.
These are the 4 basic categories of “expected” ECs. This isn’t a hard and fast rule but I would suggest that you cover your bases in all 4 of these to solidify your foundation. Do it in your own way, by pursuing things that you enjoy and are in your line of interest. You should aim to do more EC’s on top of this stuff, that aren’t necessarily a part of any category, but rather are individual to you and show off your personality. Just remember though, the most important thing in your pre-med years is MCAT/GPA, so don’t spread yourself too thin to the point where these things suffer.