Video 5: Med School Prep – Extracurriculars (Part 2)
In this video we’ll be building on the concepts we discussed previously:
- The feasibility of getting involved in multiple extracurricular activities
- How you should be choosing what to get involved in
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Hi everyone! It’s Radhika here again. We’re on the medical school prep part of our video series and we’re going to continue with what we started talking about last time, the extracurricular component of your journey to medical school. Last time I went over the types of activities you can get involved in, things previous students have gotten involved in. I gave you an exhaustive list of the kind of activities and you’re probably wondering how you can get involved in all of these things. The thing is, you can’t. You have to pick and choose what you want to spend your time doing. We really gave this some thought and decided we should leave you with some advice that we’ve gathered over the years as to how you want to select the extracurricular activities to get involved in. Let’s get started!
Here is a piece of advice I want to begin with. First and foremost, when you choose an extracurricular activity, you have to make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. If you are embarking on this activity that you are going to give time to and think you’re doing it just because medical schools will like it, not a good reason to take up that activity. You think it will look great for medical schools. You think it will make you a strong candidate. It may or may not. You have to remember that there are other things that they really look for in a strong candidate. Mostly, your academic component like how strong your GPA and MCAT score is. Your extracurricular activities are for you. They’re for you to take your time and devote it towards something that is nonacademic in nature, most of the time at least. You have to do it for you because you find true enjoyment out of that. The reason for this is because a lot of students, when they go on to do their medical school interview, or when they’re talking about certain activities that they’ve been a part of in their personal statement, if it’s an activity that you participated in and truly enjoy you can speak about it very passionately. Medical schools and committees can see the passion emanating from a candidate.
Now if you took something because you thought it would be the right kind of activity to get involved in for medical school, the downfall to that is you won’t be able to speak about it as passionately as would another candidate. They can see that right away too. Make sure the reason is you derive enjoyment out of this and that is why you’re doing it. It is your time and it is valuable at the end of the day.
Another thing is the duration of the activity really matters. They want to see you were committed to something. Why? Because medical school and becoming a physician are two activities that are going to require a lot of commitment from you. They want to see that you chose certain activities and that you were committed to excelling in those activities. On top of that, they want to see that those activities that you chose required some level of responsibility from you. The higher the level, the more things that you were accountable for and the better that activity is. They want to see long-term commitment, not any superficial involvement for the sake of being involved. As an example, I’ll tell you that it’s better being involved in an activity that runs once a week for fourteen weeks rather than every day for just two weeks. That’s the same about of time but you’re not showing that long-term dedication and duration that they’re looking for. Duration matters!
You also want to be sure you choose activities that help you stand out. This has to be in accordance to activities that you actually like. Every applicant that applies to medical school usually has a very competitive GPA and MCAT score. Admissions committees don’t talk about the applicants with the 4.0 GPA or the 95th percentile MCAT score in most senses. But they do remember the candidate who started a project that was completely out of the sciences to help with the community. They do remember someone who spent an insane number of hours helping at a soup kitchen. These are the things I mentioned that add dimension and depth to your application. Yes, you have a skeleton that’s built by achieving the prerequisites, having a good GPA and competitive MCAT score, but to fill that skeleton with meat and character they’re looking for your extracurricular activities. You want to make sure you’re engaging in activities that are enjoyable to you but also make you stand out as a good, strong applicant.
Next thing is they also like activities that allow you to seek leadership roles. The reason being is because physicians are perceived as local leaders in their communities. They’re up to date on world knowledge and occurrences. They know everything going on in the scientific community, especially in the specialty they practice in. They’re kind of known to be a good voice in advocating for better healthcare and day-to-day living. They are perceived as leaders. If you can engage yourself in extracurricular activities where that leadership becomes very prominent that can almost make an attribution. They can say that this person has demonstrated these leadership skills and have had to focus and hone in on them, and as a result I think they would be a good candidate for medical school because they’ve already been exposed to what it means to be a community leader.
You also want to choose activities that address your own weakness. This is great because it shows that you are willing to do what it takes to overcome or work on those weaknesses. I’ll give you an example. If you’re a very shy individual who absolutely detests speaking to a crowd of people, take a public speaking course. Get involved in activities that allow you to interact with different kinds of people or speak in front of a crowd. It shows the medical schools that you’re not only aware of certain weaknesses you may possess, but you also have a desire to overcome them. Because this field is about consistent learning it’s a great way to showcase that you’re onboard and willing to address and learn from those weaknesses.
Further, mix medical and non-medical activities. This is extremely important. I said this a few times already. Do not be a premed drone. Don’t get involved in activities that you think medical schools will like and spotlight you as a strong candidate. You want to get involved in things perhaps in the humanities because in the humanities what you’re exposed to is a ton of interaction. That is great as a future physician. They want to see there is some way in which you were able to gain potential skills to interact with patients. That may be through a retail job where you were dealing with customers through all walks of life. This kind of expands on my next point, expand your cultural horizons. Try to deal with people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, different cultures, and walks of life. See if you can not only interact with people but cooperate with them to lead to a meaningful action. Were you able to help someone out with a language barrier? Or some sort of a learning disability? These activities indicate that you have the right know of sensitivity, the skills, and the aptitude to be a good physician. There is no guarantee that the people who you’re going to see as a physician will not have any language barriers. They may. They may have communication errors in the sense that because of old age they can’t comprehend and understand what you’re trying to say. A lot of one-on-one interaction between patient and physician becomes a troubleshooting activity where you’re trying to figure out the best way to interact with my patient. How do I get across what I’m trying to say? When you expose yourself to various cultural horizons, people from different cultures and backgrounds, different religious and grew up speaking different languages, you are getting yourself to focus and perfect skills you need as a future physician.
Just one more point of interest. Don’t overdo it! Your goal is to make sure you exceed as well as academically as possible. You cannot let anything sacrifice or get in the way of you achieving the best you can in terms of your GPA and your MCAT score. Get involved in extracurricular activities. Make sure you address some of the points on this slide but don’t overdo it. Don’t do anything that will jeopardize your academic progress. That means that some of the activities that we talked about in the last video, such as clinical experience, volunteering, work, scholarships, and awards, you may not be able to partake in all these things. It’s actually impossible! By no means should you. But you should be able to really engage and do activities that you enjoy and that you’re able to learn certain skills out.
That takeaway message from this video is, first and foremost, make sure you get involved in extra circular acidities. They’re fun! That being said, make sure you diversify your activities but that you’re doing them for you and finding true enjoyment out of engaging in these activities. Third, and most importantly, make sure you don’t forget that your focus is still to excel academically speaking while keeping the extracurricular component in mind. I hope you found this talk useful and I’ll see you all next time. Take care!