Does the type of clinical experience matter to medical schools?


New Member
May 26, 2020
  1. Non-Student
Hello, I am a rising senior in high school. Before you tell me to post this in the high school forum instead, I want to say that this question is more med-schools admissions related rather than premed admissions related, and I hoped that this forum would be better equipped to answer this.

Does the type of clinical experience matter to medical school admissions officers? My freshman year, I discovered the field of forensic pathology. And I LOVED it. As a kid, I'd always been fascinated with why and how people die and the clues they leave behind in their bodies. I loved learning about what specifically happens in the human body when it is afflicted with a certain disease that may result in death. I didn't realize that it actually was a real profession until high school. Forensic pathology as as a career appeals to me as it embodies some of the deeply rooted interests I've had since I was young. I know that quite possibly this interest may change, but as of right now, it is my career of choice.

As a rising high school senior, I have been searching for colleges that match my interests, yet are also located close to a medical examiners office so that it could open up the possibility of interning/shadowing/volunteering in a forensic pathology setting so that I could further determine whether I really do want to go into such a gruesome field. Yet, simultaneously, I am worried if my interests are too specific and too morbid. Although I do plan to volunteer at a traditionally clinical medical setting as well, would this type of clinical experience with the deceased hurt my application to medical schools? I heard that medical schools highly value clinical experience. Does that change if some of said "clinical experience" is working with dead patients instead of living ones, and comforting patient's loved ones through their grief instead of counseling live patients and their kin (Idk if that's what people actually do, but it is my guess)? Should I worry less about applying to schools located nearby medical examiners' offices because I should be more focused on clinical experiences with living patients as it demonstrates "people skills" and "empathy" among other things?

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
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The moon is just the back of the sun.
2+ Year Member
May 18, 2016
  1. Medical Student
IMO I don't think it would hurt your application unless that was your only experience but you've said that you intend to get clinical experience as well. It's pretty much expected that applicants will have some shadowing experience but other than that, "medical experience" varies a lot from applicant to applicant. Most commonly, applicants also spend time as scribes or become EMTs so while it is beneficial to make sure you have solid clinical experience, having this experience as well will set you apart from other applicants. I recommend not coming off as too close-minded in your interests though, it may hurt you if you make it sound like you have completely made up your mind and are only interested in this field.

When I applied in 2017, I had some shadowing experience and was an EMT for about a year, but most of my "clinical" experience is actually through veterinary medicine since I was pre-vet before I became pre-med. I'll be graduating next year so clearly it didn't hurt me too bad lol. It probably would have helped me if I had more focus on human medicine though so do whatever you can to make your application process as easy as possible for you!


Full Member
2+ Year Member
Jun 2, 2018
Sounds pretty cool and keep doing what you love. But make sure to have a diversity of experiences. Two types of clinical experiences are necessary:

1. Shadowing a physician (while pathology is cool, I would recommend getting at least 20-40 hours of some sort of primary care)
2. Patient interaction (if you genuinely get to talk to loved ones, I think you’ll be fine but if you have time, maybe do another experience that allows patient interaction with the actual patient)

Remember that while you might’ve made up your mind, you will still have to do tons of stuff not directly related to forensic pathology in medical school and they want to know you’re at least familiar with what you’re getting yourself into.
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Rule One: Take a Breath
10+ Year Member
Jul 26, 2009
The Big Bad Apple
  1. Non-Student
I have had to advise several students from New York City's Jay College of Criminal Justice for reasons similar to OP. They wanted to enter forensic medicine. They were able to get shadowing/volunteer in pathology around the city as well in ME office. There issue was more the opposite: making sure they had enough clinical volunteer with living people
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the evil queen of numbers
15+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2005
  1. Academic Administration
Even if you are convinced that you'll be seeing a pathology residency and further training as a medical examiner, getting through four years of medical school will require dealing with living patients. Be sure you understand what that entails and that you have the enthusiasm for it before you get too deep into things and decide that a different career would be a better fit.

Do some free service to those in your community who cannot afford to pay for a needed service. Ideally, this is not clinical in nature (no two birds/one stone). This can be related to food, coaching/tutoring, shelter, etc. Also have some employment or volunteer activity that brings you face to face with people who are receiving/seeking medical care for an injury, illness or as part of preventive services. This is tough to do right now as a volunteer which could make a strong case for becoming certified and employed in a clinical setting, at least for one summer.
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