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As you get closer to applying to medical school, you may wonder if you have enough on your application to be competitive. While the most important parts of your application will always be your GPA and MCAT score, below is a list of some important extracurricular activities for your AMCAS.

Top Extracurricular Activities for Your Med School Application

1. Research

Some medical schools care more about research than others—in general, medical schools fall under one of two categories: research-oriented schools and service-oriented schools. You can usually find out how heavily a school values research from their website or MSAR.

Still, you should try to complete at least one or two years of research by the time you apply. Try to do research in a field you’re interested in. It doesn’t have to be medical research!

The benefit of doing research over an extended period of time is the possibly of getting a publication, which will not only help you stand out as an applicant but will also benefit you when you apply to residency.

2. Volunteering

Ideally, you would do both clinical and non-clinical volunteering. There’s no magic number of hours of each you should have, but a good guideline would be at least 100 hours of clinical volunteering and 50 hours of non-clinical volunteering.

3. Clinical experience

Clinical experience usually overlaps with clinical volunteering, but the ideal applicant would have an extended period of clinical experiences such as hospital volunteering, hospice care, working as a medical scribe, working as an EMT, etc. As long as it involves patient care, it counts as a clinical experience.

4. Shadowing

While you don’t need hundreds of shadowing hours to have a competitive med school application, having zero hours can be a red flag on your application. You should aim to complete at least 50 shadowing hours with at least two physicians by the time you apply to med school.

Medical schools care that you have seen the day-to-day life of a practicing physician and are still willing to pursue the field. They do this to avoid dropouts. An added benefit of shadowing is that the physician may write you a letter of recommendation if they get to know you well enough.

5. Develop an extracurricular theme to your application

If you have a few extracurricular activities that follow a common theme, such as a passion for music, sports, or something else, it will really help you stand out on your med school application. For example, a pre-med student may have done research, volunteering, and shadowing, but over four years in college they also got a minor in music, they were part of the orchestra, and they were part of a music interest club. To admissions committees, this applicant stands out because of their obvious passion. If you have some kind of similar theme to your activities, you’ll stand out too.

While obtaining these experiences may seem like a lot, it’s important to have them; not only to be a more competitive applicant to medical school, but also to know if you really want to be a physician. By having these experiences, you have a taste of what it’s like to be a physician, which will only set you up for success in both your application and career. 

Download our free AMCAS activities tracker to keep yourself organized! 

Further reading:

Gaining Pre-Med Clinical Experience During COVID-19

Med School Admissions Timeline

The 5 Most Important Factors in Applying to US Med Schools

The Top Reasons Students Rush Their AMCAS Applications


Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash

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Kevin Wang

Kevin Wang

Kevin is a careful and hardworking tutor who understands the dedication necessary to succeed on the MCAT. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2019 and is currently taking a year off while applying to medical school. His experience taking the MCAT as an undergraduate has given him an extensive knowledge bank on all things MCAT, and he hopes to be able to share how he was able to utilize all the resources available to him in order to make every minute of studying as efficient as it could be. Kevin has been teaching ever since he was a high school senior when he was an SAT instructor and has been teaching MCAT for over a year as a class instructor and private tutor. As your tutor, Kevin will teach you how to create a study schedule that will make the MCAT seem like a walk in the park, how to think exactly like the MCAT test-makers and ensure that you fully understand each concept that will be assessed. Kevin wants you to feel comfortable with each session as if he is a close friend just giving you some extra help with MCAT material!
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