Choosing the Right Non-Clinical Experiences

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This post is written by Marissa, a third-year medical student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is originally from Long Island, NY and attended Stony Brook University, receiving a BS in Health Science, MS in Physiology & Biophysics, and an advanced graduate certificate in Disability Studies. She plans to apply for residency in pediatrics. She enjoys nature photography, watching NY Rangers hockey, and going for long walks with her dogs Shadow and Indy.

In recent years, there has been a shift in the way that medical school applicants have been evaluated. Greater value is being placed on a holistic view that looks at each applicant as a well-rounded individual rather than a collection of scores. This change has provided a great way to showcase applicants as people and delve into what they are passionate about, but has also added some pressure to finding the “right” activities and experiences. Don’t stress about finding exclusively clinical experiences to get involved in. Any experience that is important to you and your growth, even a non-clinical experience, can be the “right” experience, especially if you know how to talk about it!

Choose Important Experiences

As important as your medical school application is, your entire life cannot revolve around building the perfect application. Besides the fact there is truly no such thing as the perfect application, you will stand out best by building the application that is the best representation of you. This includes getting involved in activities and experiences that are right for you. Whether it’s a club, leadership position, volunteer opportunity, internship, or a job, it is important to choose experiences that will contribute positively to your life. In addition to making you happier and more fulfilled than other activities would, you will also be able to talk about them more genuinely in your essay prompts and interviews. Overall, they will better help you be a well-rounded future physician.

Get to the Root of why Your Experiences are Important

As you are participating in your experiences, pay attention to how you feel. Take note of any events, people, or interactions that particularly stand out to you or have a significant effect on you. When it comes time to start thinking about documenting your experiences in AMCAS/ACOMAS or preparing for interviews, take some time to journal about your experiences.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Why did you choose this particular activity? Why was it important to you?
  • What did you learn about others? What about yourself?
  • What kind of impact did you have and how did you grow?
  • Have you discovered new interests, perspectives, or values from your involvement?
  • Is this an activity you’d like to continue to be involved in?
  • Can what you learned through this activity help you or others in the future?

Consider How Your Experiences will Make You a Better Medical Student and Future Physician

Being a great medical student and, more importantly a great physician in the future, is about so much more than how much information you know or how well you can do on an exam. Non-clinical experiences play an exceptionally important role in helping you develop to be a compassionate and understanding provider.

Did balancing your activities alongside school help you develop valuable time management skills? That will help you manage the rigorous coursework of medical school and the busy schedule of residency.

Did you get the opportunity to work with and appreciate populations that are typically underrepresented and underserved in medicine? This will help you be more aware of the needs of various populations and help you provide quality care to those who need it the most.

Did your experience help you build patience, develop compassion and empathy, or become a better listener and communicator? These are all skills that will help you provide better, more comprehensive care to your future patients.

Did your activity help you find a new interest or passion or a desire to make positive change? There are so many areas of medicine from research to public health to administration to policy that can benefit from passionate individuals with an interest in getting involved and making a change.

Be Confident in Yourself

It can be very easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others or worrying about whether or not you are making the right choices during your time as a pre-med. The best way you can stand out as an applicant, develop as a future physician, and hopefully enjoy the process along the way is to get involved in things that are best for you. You will be able to talk about your experiences more genuinely and with greater enthusiasm, which will help the best version of you shine through. Be confident in yourself – choose experiences you are passionate about and that are important to you, and everything will fall into place!   

Leave a comment if you found this helpful! What are some activities that you have been passionate about?

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