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Extracurriculars: Is Research the only way?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by TicalTarHeel, Dec 30, 2008.

  1. TicalTarHeel

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    Hey everyone,

    I'm going to be taking a year off after I get my bachelors to get some more extracurriculars under my belt. I have some options choosing from and was hoping I could get some opinions on how medical schools rank or rate one's extracurriculars.

    Let me first establish that I have no research experience. I understand that this is relatively unusual for a pre-med student. My initial plan was to do some research in this year off either at the NIH or at UNC-Chapel Hill.

    However, a new opportunity has knocked and I have a chance to work in New Orleans for Katrina relief. It's somewhat health related at best (more construction, emotional support to victims, etc).

    I don't like research. I find it monotonous and boring (I don't want to debate over it's benefits to me as a future MD, I just wanted it to be understood that I don't like it). All things being equal, I would be in New Orleans in a flash. However, I don't want to take this trip at the expense of my chances for med school. That's my ultimate goal.

    Many advisors in this case would say "well, you have to do what you want". I understand that. My question is less related to what I want and more related to what medical schools want. Am I hurting my chances of getting into medical school by not having research experience, or will it be relatively unaffected?

    Sorry for the length of the post, but I wanted everyone to understand my situation as fully as possible. Thanks so much for your opinions and also your patience. Best of luck in the future.
     
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  3. Caesar

    Caesar In Memory of Riley Jane
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    no research is not an absolute must to get into medical schools in general. For some schools it seems to be however. Depends on where you are applying.
     
  4. TicalTarHeel

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    Thanks Caesar, I think I may have heard that before.

    Is there any way you can be more specific? Would it be top medical schools that require research, or perhaps it's more arbitrary than that?
     
  5. 236116

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    The ones that do a lot of research, want research.
     
  6. ChubbyChaser

    ChubbyChaser Yummmy
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    for UNC, my interviewer specifically said that they liked research and being able to adequately explain it.
     
  7. TicalTarHeel

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    That definitely makes sense, but I don't really know if "doing a lot of research" means the med school is considered better or not.

    Forgive my ignorance, but the only comparison I really have is UNC and East Carolina. UNC does a lot of research, and ECU does not (and UNC is considered much better than ECU). Do most top institutions focus on research, or is it random?
     
  8. EpiPEN

    EpiPEN Aegis of Immortality
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    If you don't like research, then you probably wouldn't like a lot of the research heavy institutions anyways despite their US News ranking. So it probably won't matter much in the end if you just want to be a pure practitioner because you can apply to the less competitive schools that don't hold research experience as a requirement.
     
  9. Doctura

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    Research is necessary for the schools with a research emphasis (say Stanford). Many (perhaps most) medical schools are looking for great clinicians with a wide variety of backgrounds. Research is great, but not the end-all be-all.

    With that said, I think working with Katrina victims would be an awesome EC. From my experience, an interest in your fellow human beings is one of the top criteria interviewers look for. In addition, interviewers want you to be passionate about what you do (this would be medicine, of course, but also other interests). If you love your humanitarian aid efforts, that will be a great plus for your application.
     
  10. suizyme09

    suizyme09 I haz a flavor
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    Do what you will enjoy the most!!!!! If you enjoy the experience you will be able to do a much better job talking about it in applications/interviews and it would prob be pretty obvious to interviewers if you forced yourself to do research you hated just to get into Med School.

    For the record I have done both things you asked about. My freshman year I went to New Orleans with a group of students to work with Habitat for Humanity. This year I've been working in a Biochemistry research lab. I enjoyed both but honestly the Katrina relief trip was great and it made for an excellent EC since I don't have a lot of volunteering experience and needed to have some proof that I really have a humanitarian bone in my body :).

    Overall I'd just say do what you love and it'll be an asset to you in the application process. Besides if you hate research now why on earth would you want to go to a research heavy medical school?!
     
  11. cbrons

    cbrons Ratatoskr! *Roar*
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    just about every allopathic school in the MSAR has successful matriculants: 75% or above (most of them above 80%) have research experience
     
  12. RoyBasch

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    A representative from the University of Chicago told me at a biomedical graduate school fair (PhD, MD, MA, etc.) that research was a de facto requirement for admissions to the U of C's medical school. But she said it didn't have to be scientific research, it could be in the humanities or social sciences as well. Just to recapitulate what others have said here: I would venture to say that some research experience is probably very important for the research heavy schools like the top 20, but even non-research heavy schools still look at it as a great EC.
    -Roy
     
  13. Valvool

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    I have never done any research, it isn't my thing. When asked about research during medschool interviews I said as much. I recieved multiple acceptances. Research isn't a prereq for acceptance. Do what you're passionate about. For me it was emergency medicine in rural Alaska and my fledgling career as a freelance writer. In my case this was sufficient.
     
  14. Jolie South

    Jolie South is invoking Domo. . .
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    OP, do what you want to do.

    I think the Katrina opportunity sounds awesome and if it really interests you go for it. You can definitely get into a medical school without research. It might hinder you at really research heavy schools, but these are not the majority of schools out there.

    I think it is much more important to do something that you are passionate about. Humanitarian efforts will never be looked at in a negative light.
     
  15. michigator04

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    If your standard for "better" is the US News Rankings, then yes the research heavy schools will fare better in their rankings. These schools tend to have better NIH funding and higher MCAT/GPA averages.

    Since you don't seem to be research focused, I would suggest you mostly ignore this type of ranking. If clinical education is your focus, that may lead you in a very different direction.
     
  16. TicalTarHeel

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    Thanks so much for the responses, guys. I obviously have a tough choice ahead of me. All of the replies have been thoughtful, and I will take them all into account when I make my decision.
     
  17. WashMe

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    Research is not valued highly in my experience. Everyone has their own take on things, but I think clinical ECs are the most important (and my biggest weakness)
     
  18. boboca

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    OP: how do you know you hate research if you've never done it? That said, I would go with the Katrina relief b/c it's something you're passionate about and something you'll get a lot out of. But, while you're there, maybe you can check out Tulane or some other research institute and volunteer 4 hours a week or work part time in a research setting. You could even ask health NGOs if they have any data stuff that needs to be done. (not really sure if that counts, point is to find research that you'll be interested in). Just to get your feet wet. It wouldn't hurt to cover your bases.
     
  19. scarletgirl777

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    Any kind of experience that you start for the first time in the year that you are applying--it's going to be hard to convince the admissions committee that this is something you love to do and will definitely continue in med school and beyond. The reason that adcoms like research is because they want to believe that we'll all be academic doctors--and academic doctors do research for the rest of their careers. On the other hand, I think that many top medical schools would be of the opinion that you should at least try research to see whether or not you like it. The volunteering in a lab on a side thing sounds like a good idea.

    Also, as has been said, you don't know if you dislike research until you try it. There are also many definitions of research. Clinical research is just as good as basic science research. There are people who do research on how best to teach medical students, on whether one cancer drug works better than another in terminal patients, on how doctors' attitudes affect their interactions with minority patients. This is all valid research, all equally respected by adcoms, even if pipettes are not involved. So, yes, I would say top schools like research, but once you find the topic you love, it's very painless and you should seriously think about doing it.
     
  20. scarletgirl777

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    Well, yeah--first you have to convince them that you want to be a doctor and that you would be good at it...but research is still important for top research schools, because they want leaders who will shape medicine and healthcare and research is critical in doing that.
     
  21. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    ^ all that plus, knowing a little bit about how research is done (rather like making sausage or making laws) gives you some insight as a consumer of research findings. Medical school should teach you a little bit about how to read and evaluate the medical literature but sometimes some experience with the scientific process is helpful.


    Schools that do a lot of research are also looking for many enthusiastic students who love research and who will want to get involved during med school. Many hands makes light the work! The top schools (Stamford, Harvard, Yale, Hopkins, et al.) are looking for people with research experience. The schools with less research funding, fewer investigators on the faculty, and a mission to train primary care providers will put less of a premium on research experience.

    Clinical experience is an absolute requirement, IMHO and research experience is no substitute for clinical exposure whether it is shadowing, paid work with the sick or volunteer service with the sick or disabled (e.g. nursing home or ER) or in direct contact with people receiving health care services (e.g. volunteering in a family planning clinic isn't service with the sick but it is clinical).
     
  22. CCLCMer

    CCLCMer CCLCM Alum c/o 2011
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    I think you should go to New Orleans because it's obviously what you want to do, and it's a valuable service and learning experience in its own right. No research med school wants to take someone who is bitter from doing research and who will hate having to do even more research during med school. When you start reading about med school curriculums, you'll see that a lot of research med schools require their students to do research. The four year Case University Program, for example, requires every student to do four months of research, and if you're in my program, you'll have to do a year and a half of required research. The other thing you could consider doing is public health research. Not all research has to be done in a lab with pipets, and it sounds like that might be more in line with your interests.
     

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