Being pre-med is one thing. Sticking with pre-med and applying to medical school? Now that’s another. Trying to get into medical school or any graduate school is hard. You’re expected to have a list of things done and have spectacular grades but be unique at the same time. How is something so hard possible? To help, here is my compiled list of activities that may pique your interest as someone interested in medicine or applying to medical school one day. And no, you don’t need to and shouldn’t do all of these! Your medical school application should not be a completed checklist.
This is number one for a reason! After speaking to many medical students and listening to admission committees, this is practically a must unless you have some other way to be exposed to the medical field. Trust me when I say that you don’t know if this is a good fit for you until you go out there and see what it’s like.
After my first shadowing experience, I realized how much of a real commitment this career is and how this might not be the life for everyone. Communicating with medical professionals and hearing what they had to say about me continuing on this route made a difference in the experience.
The best way I have found shadowing opportunities is through networking and reaching out to offices in my hometown and hoping for the best. Those offices that I have a personal connection to were more likely to respond, even if it’s just to say that they are currently full.
This is one of those things you also must have. The best part about volunteering is that it involves something that you are passionate about. Its primary purpose is for you to experiment and learn about the volunteer opportunities in your area. Applying to medical school is not a cookie-cutter situation, so your activities should be relevant. Don’t do them if you hate them.
When you have the time, look up a list of volunteering ideas or volunteer resources at your school. Joining a specific pre-med club can also help with exposure to new volunteer opportunities that may just click for you.
This is an actual option this time. Do you like research? Do you want to try it out? That’s great! But, if you try it out and find out that you don’t like it or aren’t as interested as you thought you were, there’s no need to push yourself to keep doing it for your application. Research is more of an option than some places may say and you don’t need to stress yourself out trying to find a research opportunity if you have already filled up your time with other meaningful activities.
If you are interested in a particular research area, go to your school’s research directory and find someone in that area. Read some of their research and try to set up a Zoom (or in person if that’s an option and both parties are comfortable) meeting to discuss their research. Be sure to express interest in volunteering at their lab.
4. Working In a Clinical Setting
Working in a clinical setting is fantastic if you have both the time and motivation to do so. It can be hard to find these opportunities and make it through the application process, especially in cities that are densely populated by pre-meds. Many people are jumping for such an opportunity and others get certifications just to be let down because most practices are looking for full-time employees.
This kind of experience is incredible if you can manage to get it. It can sometimes substitute for clinical shadowing hours (also, those are still preferred) and help you get some clinical experience. Working with patients and understanding what life is like as a medical professional is something that medical admission committees want you to know before applying and deciding to dedicate your life to medicine. Looking at hospitals nearby and researching their available positions can help, but personal connections work best from my own experience. Although many don’t find medicine a sector where networking is essential, it is just as important as anywhere else.
There are still plenty of other activities that you may express interest in, so go out there and try to find them! Stick with the things you love and leave the things you don’t behind. The pre-med journey is challenging but not impossible.