As a pre-med student, you might find yourself pursuing extracurricular activities and work opportunities you aren’t really interested in when trying to puff up your medical school resume. But experts will tell you that’s being counterproductive. Others will try making up for their early school years by trying to participate in more “meaningful” activities during the last year.
However, just like running a marathon, you should be well prepared for medical school. For some, this will mean scoring high in their GPA and MCAT, while for others, it might mean participating in research or volunteering in their communities.
But should that be the approach? Not always the case. Most pre-med students waste their undergraduate years trying to concentrate on what they think the admission officers will check out for instead of taking that time to develop their character by trying extracurricular activities that interest them and following their passions.
This blog post will highlight the extracurricular activities that would positively impact your medical school resume. The admission boards across all medical schools follow a similar rubric when evaluating pre-med students’ extracurriculars.
You are probably asking yourself what extracurriculars you should resume. With thousands of pre-med students applying for a very limited number of medical school positions, you are well aware that you will need to score high in your MCAT and GPA. But most pre-med students do not have the slightest clue on what extracurriculars would help build an impressive medical school resume.
Whenever a medical school admission official picks up a resume, he/she is typically looking for two things:
- A passion for medicine
- Affinity to help people
Extracurriculars are undeniably an important factor, just like your scores when it comes to admission assessment. They help in painting an image of the doctor you are capable of becoming.
But how often do pre-med students participate in extracurriculars? Most lose their undergraduate years committing to all clubs in school, strenuous coursework, and volunteer work. You will find others working with the laboratory technicians and professors to help in research.
But is this enough? Is it all it takes? There is a difference between throwing your hands on so many activities and choosing a solid list of extracurriculars. The difference lies in the experiences you are choosing.
The medical school admission officer will look for trends and links that clearly draw an idea of your interests. To aid with this, pre-med students should create a cohesive mental image of themselves. When you paint a picture of a complete mess of unrelated extracurriculars, you might not have a chance with the admission officer’s empathy.
The first step to boosting your chances in the highly competitive medical school admission is performing excellently in your MCAT and GPA. After checking that, the admission officers will review your pattern of extracurriculars. When categorizing the applicants, they will create a distinction between students who just meet the minimum requirements and those that went beyond.
Participate in Research
It is not uncommon for pre-med students to work in the laboratory, helping with all sorts of research such as studying diseases, inventing new medical devices, and more. These examples show a commitment to achieving results through collaborative efforts.
A student who actively participates in research shows his or her curiosity and interest in science. Having a background in research shows the pre-med student has a desire to make an impact in medicine.
During your years in medical school or when practicing as a physician, you will be required to interpret your research. This means acquiring research skills when in pre-med schools is an added advantage.
However, it is important noting that most medical schools have a minimum requirement that the students must meet to participate in hypothesis-based research projects. A hypothesis has to be first developed, tested, and later answered.
For you to be considered as a competitive applicant, you should consider participating in hypothesis-based research that is not part of the coursework but supervised by someone with research credentials. Not only will you be taking part in high-powered research, but you could also come up with your own research as well.
Most pre-med students are faced with the dilemma of whether they can actually participate in research projects conducted outside the conventional laboratory or outside the scientific field since they are pursuing a medical degree. Yes. All medical school applicants are not expected to be the same. However, the top medical schools recommend that you conduct research with the same laboratory for at least a year.
How Does One Acquire Research Experience?
There are many ways of participating in research during your pre-med undergrad. The first and most crucial step is finding your passion. Considering the fact that you are about to commit a ton of time to the research project you pick, you should take up a project on a topic that you are passionate about.
The next step is finding the team of researchers conducting the research you want to participate in. You can pick any faculty you are comfortable with within your institution.
The next step should be contacting the relevant professors to determine whether the research project will be a good fit for you and for them as well.
To participate in research outside your school, you can volunteer in research projects in hospitals, research institutes, medical centers, community-based organizations, private institutions, or any other research facility.
Completing an honors thesis in a university program allows you to conduct independent research and make presentations at conferences. You should, however, understand that some research opportunities are more competitive than others, and you may have to apply and pass an interview for you to participate in them.
Volunteering and Service To Others
Service sits at the core of the medical practice as medical professionals are constantly tending to other human beings who are at their worst moments. When you volunteer to serve with medical organizations as a pre-med student, the medical school admission officers will get the impression that you can serve humanity in the healthcare field.
Whenever you volunteer with these organizations, always make sure you have made tangible accomplishments that you can write about in your medical school resume. What positive interaction can you recall? How many hours did you serve? What results did you achieve?
How Many Volunteer Hours Will You Need?
Objectively, a competitive medical school applicant is one who, within the past four years, has completed over a hundred Hours in voluntary community service. This threshold does not exist for all medical schools, and in those that it does, it will vary from one medical school to another.
The reason for having a threshold is that results can be observed over a substantial duration of time, compared to a few hours of jumping from one activity to another.
Regardless of whether you are working, volunteering, or shadowing, you should be observant of the surroundings and actively logging your emotions, thoughts, and personal growth. This is particularly vital as these attributes will significantly expound your personal statement in your medical school resume and later in life.
With thousands of options out there, pre-med students are not restricted to any specific cause, organization, or years when making applications for medical school. The admission committee reviewing your medical school resume will tell you are a committed student if you have been returning to the same organization, and you have actually made a positive impact with your voluntary work.
However, you should be able to tell your story well during the interview and via your medical school resume as well.
Conventional vs. Modern Pre-Med Paths
Today, most pre-med students struggle with making a decision on whether they should follow the traditional route to med school or diverge from the norm. With thousands of pre-med students competing aggressively for just a few hundred positions in medical school, your medical school resume must be outstanding for you to be picked.
With that in mind, you will agree with me that garnering extracurriculars outside the science and medical fields provides a valuable perspective of your passion and interests. This will portray your incredible achievements, which will definitely highlight your medical school resume.
For instance, a pre-med student who took a business internship shows he/she has a better understanding of finance, which is a major part of healthcare. Another applicant may have traveled to study abroad, exposing him/herself to a different culture. This second student will be seen as one who better appreciates the diversity of life, which is a crucial dynamic for any present-day doctor.
The vilest extracurricular traps that you can fall into are those that most pre-med students have traditionally been made to believe must be in the medical school resume. The top three include lab research (become a technician), Volunteering in hospitals with zero patient interactions, and working in healthcare settings without physicians. To mitigate these problems, you should consider joining paid pre-med internships, which require training and certification for entry-level healthcare positions.
Being a medical professional calls for a number of skills: leadership, listening, and communication. The capacity to lead is a crucial personality trait that each doctor must-have. This is so because they have to train other physicians and explain to patients about their conditions.
Leadership not only means holding a position of responsibility but also having the ability to guide others with a sense of purpose. Dedication and determination are the two major drivers of healthcare.
This means that the admission officers will look for leadership positions in the applicant’s medical school resume. You can demonstrate your leadership skills by mentioning positions of responsibility that you held during your undergrad program or in your community.
A competitive medical school applicant is one who has held at least three leadership positions, each running for a minimum of three months, within the past four years.
Different Forms of Leadership Experience
Most pre-med students choose to become teaching assistants, tutors, coaches, etc. There a million options to choose from since the definition of a leader is someone who has taken the responsibility to guide and positively influence others.
In any of the given example, you will notice that in each, you become a mentor to an individual or a group of individuals. By taking up a job as a physician, you take up the responsibility to inform and teach the next generation of medical practitioners.
Let’s assume you had a part-time job position during your undergraduate years, and within the course of employment, you got promoted all the way to the position of a supervisor or manager. Holding a position of authority helps you to learn how to manage a team, handle more responsibilities, delegate tasks, and advance your connection or network.
As a pre-med student, you can join the various clubs, fraternities, organizations, and sororities within your institution. That is not enough, though. You have to remain committed to the organizations and clubs throughout the years for you to earn a leadership position.
How To Write Your Medical School Resume
Creating a resume that will be reviewed by the admission committee might be as daunting as writing the medical school application. However, you can make this easier by viewing the medical school resume as an argument highlighting all your achievements.
When writing the resume, sort your academic achievements, work experience, and extracurriculars by order of relevance – never by order of chronology. You should include your skills at the bottom of the resume, and this includes skills such as multi-lingual abilities, the ability to handle laboratory equipment, etc.
When sculpting your medical school resume, the majority of the pre-med students struggle with cutting the fluff. Less is more. The medical school interview is meant to offer you an opportunity to expand on your experiences, which are already in your application and the resume.
The questions posed by the admission panel are designed to challenge you to explain yourself beyond the words used in the resume. For this reason, you do not want your medical school resume to be too long. A maximum of about four bullet points for every experience with a single sentence of information describing the achievement or activity is enough.
When drafting your medical school resume, make sure you clearly show your progress. You can bullet-list your progress in work experiences and extracurriculars as “trained X number of people,” “Earned promotion,” and so forth. Finally, and this is very key, just like any other academic paper you have written before, grammar and formatting should be consistent and clear.
Do not expect your strong points to be in every single category. The medical school admission officers understand that we are all human, and we can’t check every box in the extracurriculars or have a resume that is longer than a page. You do not have to be a star in every single thing that you try.
Keep in mind that you will face more challenges as a medical practitioner compared to those you face during your school lifetime. The medical school admission committee is, therefore, trying to decipher, through the information on your resume and your responses during the interview whether you are competent enough to manage the rigors of the medical profession.
Medical Resume Writing Guide
You might consider following these steps when writing your medical school resume:
1. Researching resume keywords
Resume keywords are an important ingredient to include in your resume when applying for businesses and schools today. Since your target medical schools receive thousands of resumes every single year, they often can’t read every single one of them. Instead, most schools use resume scanning software that looks for specific keywords. A resume that contains keywords matching the medical school’s program outline is likely to attract the attention of the admission officers.
2. Have Professional Contact Info
Make sure you have revised your contact information to make it more professional. If you are still using an email address that you created when you were young, it might not be as professional as the medical school admission panel would like it to look. For instance, using an email address with your nickname, and some numbers is considered unprofessional.
3. List Your Education Achievements
Your academic details are a must-have in your medical school resume. Consider including specific details beyond the degree you earned. The admission board will be more interested in academic achievements, your GPA, and transferable skills.
Academic Achievements: List the academic achievements earned in various programs, departments, classes, and schools. The admission panel will be impressed that you exceeded the minimum requirement.
GPA: Your Grade Point Average is very important when applying for medical school. This helps the admission officer determine how competent you are in the various classes.
Transferable Skills: Skills like leadership, communication, adaptability, and teamwork are referred to ad transferrable skills because one can transfer them from one job or program to the next. You should highlight your transferable skills in your medical school resume.
4. Include Employment and Internships
Include every internship and job you have taken, and be as detailed with the description as possible. Your aim is to help the admission department clearly understand the nature of the job and your achievements on the job.
Detailed Employment: Giving a detailed account of your employment helps the admission officers understand the roles you played in every job, your achievements, and the skills you developed. Consider highlighting leadership positions, transferrable skills, and sufficient details about the job.
Internships: The medical school admission panels appreciate applicants who have achieved shadowing or internships programs in the medical field or any other relevant field. Having these mentioned in your medical school resume shows your commitment to the medical world and that you went above and beyond.
5. Feature your Certifications and licenses, if any
Any certification or license you received from training, school, jobs, or any other program should be included in your resume to illustrate that you have more to offer besides what your GPA and MCAT show. Even when the certifications and licenses are not within the medical field, the admission panel will appreciate the fact that you have a basket-full of skills. You were awarded the credentials so that they can represent what you are capable of.
6. Highlight test scores, awards, and honors
You definitely want to highlight your grants, scholarships, honor societies, awards, and test scores. Anything that you offer the admission department presenting you as a competent leader makes you a more qualified applicant.
7. You can add any Extra Section that makes you Stand Out.
If you feel you have more to offer the admissions department, you are free to add any relevant section to make you stand out among your competition.
Extracurriculars: Pre-med students who are more than book smart have a better chance of being selected. Having an all-round extracurriculars background makes you stand out. Consider highlighting community service, local groups, or sports that you have been part of.
Research groups: research lies at the core of medical studies, and showing that you are already well experienced in research gives you an upper hand. It shows the medical school admission officers that you are capable of managing the medical workload.
8. Identify and fix caution signals
Before submitting your medical school resume, go over it a couple of times, looking for any cautionary signals that can potentially lead to rejection of your resume. Edit whatever needs editing. Some of the elements that the medical school admission officers might frown upon include:
• Low GPA
• Unaccounted for gaps in your education or work history
• Education programs taking longer than usual
Medical School Resume Formatting Tips
Here are some tips on how to format your medical school resume:
- Use the past tense
- Keep it concise
- Highlight the sections carrying your strongest selling points
- Make sure the information is well detailed
- Proofread your resume before submitting
- Make sure it is easy to read
In summary, be yourself and follow your passion, and do so in a thoughtful manner. Diverging a little from the pre-med conventional route without completely going off track will work to your advantage and will earn you a competitive edge.
If you are considering applying for a Pre-Med or Pre-PA Internship that offers you an opportunity to gain experience in the medical field, we offer pre-clinical internships in a variety of disciplines and specialties in addition to dedicated medical school admissions consulting. Don’t hesitate to email us today for a consultation. We will help you make an informed decision for your future career.