Sep 13, 2020
Status (Visible)
  1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
My main goal is to get into medical school--I’m not too picky about which one, but I do want to try being a physician-scientist, ideally researching the medical applications of psychedelics. I would really appreciate any advice about how I should spend my time to improve my application. Here are the main things I’m wondering about:

  • What to do this summer
  • What kind of job to look for during my gap year
  • What kind of clinical and non-clinical volunteering to do


I'm an undergraduate in my third year of college who recently decided to pursue medical school. Some personal events and reflection led me to decide to dedicate my time and effort to helping other people, and becoming a doctor is part of that. I’m planning to take a gap year before applying, which means I have 2.5 years before I apply to medical school.

Undergrad: Top 10 school

Ethnicity: White

Major: mathematics, minor: neuroscience

cGPA: 3.70, sGPA: 3.88 (my cGPA is lower because I got a bunch of low grades in computer
science courses)

Research: ~500 hours at a computational neuroscience lab, summer research fellowship grant but no publications/presentations

Non-clinical volunteering: Will be volunteering at a food pantry 4 hrs/week and mentoring a family of Congolese refugees, but none yet

Clinical volunteering and shadowing: None yet, and I don’t think this is currently possible due to COVID

Other: Secretary and head of psychedelic science at my school's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, co-founder of Psychonautics Society (only had two meetings before covid hit), will be tutoring peers calculus 4 hrs/week, one previous software engineering internship at a local media company

Focus: I’m strongly interested in psychedelic medicine. In fact, one of the main reasons I want to go to medical school is the hope of researching the medical applications of psychedelics, and if they turn out to be medically useful, prescribing them. I was considering centering my extracurricular activities around psychedelic medicine (i.e. volunteering for MAPS or the Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research), but I’m not sure if this is a good idea--if it would improve my chances to avoid mentioning my interest in psychedelics, I’ll do that. It’s not like it’s the only reason I want to be a doctor, but it’s a big one.

Unknowns: I have an internship offer for this summer with a health research software company possibly doing software engineering or data analysis, but this isn’t set in stone. I’m kind of paralyzed by all the possibilities--clinical work, research, or keeping my internship. My main concern here is getting a job for my gap year, but the possibilities there are even greater--I could try to do software engineering, data analysis, clinical research, or other clinical work. Finally, I’m planning to do 200 hours of non-clinical volunteering, 200 hours of clinical volunteering, and 50 hours of shadowing, which is doable if I spend 4 hours/week on volunteering. However, I’m not sure how best to spend those hours. I’m currently tutoring a refugee family and volunteering at a food bank.

I know this is a lot, and I don’t expect responses to everything I’m wondering about, but I would be thankful for any advice.
Jul 29, 2019
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  1. Pre-Medical
Your GPA is very solid, so you’re starting off in a great foundation.

You need clinical experience, which can be paid or volunteer work. You can most likely start this later next academic year once the pandemic is under control through vaccinations. I found volunteering to be more flexible as a student. But make sure that what you’re doing is actually clinical, and not things like “gift shop volunteering” at a big hospital.

Some good places to volunteer clinically: free clinics, local clinics, hospice. Large hospitals can also work, but from my experience they’re going to use you for stuff like restocking and occasionally giving patients a blanket or something, which isn’t really clinical. Of course, hospitals vary, and you’ll need to look into that.

Paid clinical is usually scribing. This is guaranteed clinical, and even checks off shadowing as well. Cons are low pay, inflexible hours (usually in my experience).

2 years of volunteering 4 hours/week should give you ~400 hours, which is solid.

You can also decide to just get a clinical job for a year and earn 1k+ hours, but you’ll be a lot busier.

Non clinical, the general advice is to pick a couple of meaningful activities working with the underserved, and continue it over the course of a year or two. Food pantry + your mentoring thing should be solid sources of non clinical.

For the top schools, try to aim for 300+ hours in each category. I believe the bare minimum is like 150-200 hours.
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5+ Year Member
May 28, 2014
Status (Visible)
  1. Medical Student
Right now priority = clinical experience and a good MCAT.

If you have this particular interest in psychedelics, I suggest doing research specifically based on that. But I do warn you against having a story that's too tunnel visioned come application time, so be smart there.

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