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How much will lack of extracurricular and volunteer experience affect me?

Corpsman

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    Hello, I am seeking some input concerning the necessity of extracurricular and volunteer opportunities over the next two years as I finish up my pre-requisites.

    A little background about myself; I am a Navy Hospital Corpsman, ASCP certified Lab Tech, and EMT currently assigned to a Fleet Surgical Team. My day to day tasks while deployed ranges from handling sick call, standing watch in the ward and ICU taking care of patients, scrubbing in for surgeries, and taking care of all lab work and blood banking procedures for the medical department; as I am the designated Lab Tech for the team. I will be finishing up my medicine pre-requisites in 2011 and taking my MCAT in April of 2012 for the 2012 application season. I am finishing a Bachelor's degree in Medical Lab Science (and will get my MT cert) from one university and concurrently finishing a dual degree in Nursing and Psychology at another university. I have a previous background in finance and banking for over 10 years and will be 35 when I apply to med school in 2012. With this type of background would you think it necessary to get volunteer experience in a civilian hospital and or outside community projects for the "checks in the box"? Time is a precious commodity between family, school, and responsibilities in the Navy with short notice deployments; however, I do not want to short change my application either.

    Any feedback is appreciated.
     
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    Richardh

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      I used to give out the response to applicants who work in hospital related environment that such applicants are fine not to do volunteering. but my friend recently pointed out to me that volunteering is valued and encouraged because it shows dedication and gratitude to one's community. in other words, volunteering is not about clinical experience but more about you showing commitment to community service where the service doesn't have to clinical related but can be. so I encourage you to volunteer :)
       

      eablackwell

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        I second the volunteer vote. I don't think it needs to be clinical, given your background. Maybe being in the military you guys have done some outside community service? I know soldiers at our navy base often help with boy scouts and such, so that's something you may have done previously but not thought about.

        All in all with a good gpa, a good MCAT score, and your background you should be sitting in a great position. Make sure you get several people to look over your PS, as it plays a significant role in whether or not you get invited for interviews.

        Make sure you are well prepared for your April MCAT so you do not feel rushed into retaking like some people *cough* me *cough* :eek:

        Good luck! :luck:
         
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        Corpsman

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          Thanks for the feedback. I have some great mentors on the surgical team who are encouraging me in this path (One a former PD and another who did his residency at UCSF in general surgery) and they are more than willing to write LORs and vet my statement.

          With the deployment situation, one thing I am involved in is community relations projects with foreign countries whenever we head to a port. So if we are in port for 2-3 days then at least 1-2 of them is doing some type of community relations project. I am wondering if this would be considered as “other focused” enough versus working in the local stateside community. After being gone for seven months at a time, being gone another 3-5 hours a week feels trying to say the least. On top of that, having any consistent schedule with organizations is not very feasible with the operation tempo of the team.

          Would you suggest individual/one off endeavors such as habitat for humanity?
           

          eablackwell

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            Are these community relations projects voluntary or directly ordered by your job? Either way I think they are a great thing to put in your app. It makes perfect sense that due to your line of work consistent volunteering in one place is not feasible. I'm SURE adcoms will know this (especially if you mention something about this in your app).

            I know a lot of people on here say do 50 million things to beef up your app and you need to fill every check box, but I personally (n=1 of course) think your job makes up A LOT for your lack of volunteer work. I would not stress too horribly about it, especially since family time is so important when you are home. Also, if you volunteer abroad you shouldn't worry about not having volunteer work in the states. Volunteer work is volunteer work, no matter what country you're in, and from what I've heard adcoms tend to like different methods of volunteering. I'm pretty sure "volunteered 3 hours a week in the local ER" makes a few of them throw up a little when they read it. ;)
             

            phrygian

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              Glad to see another Corpsman among us! I did not have a ton of volunteer activity when I applied, but I did participate with many of the things that came up on base/deployment which does count for volunteering (HIV awareness classes on the base and town, toys for tots, etc...). I am sure you have similar opportunities. Basically, I put down anything extra outside of my normal job as volunteer activity, which did add up over the course of a few years. You will be fine from that perspective, just keep that GPA up and kill the MCAT!

              If you have any specific questions for an ex-Corpsman, just PM me. Good luck!
               

              shadowfox87

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                I had 0 volunteering in clinical settings. Most important thing is your grades. They will look at your whole background, which in your case is varied, so that is good. They like seeing students who tried different things and that don't have a one-track mind.
                 

                Corpsman

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                  Thanks for the consideration in this matter.

                  The volunteer work is just that, voluntary. I can only handle so much drunken sailor shenanigans, so after a day or two I am generally working with the chaplain on various projects with other Sailors and Marines.

                  As for the local stuff, concerning teaching HIV awareness, CPR training, I have always just considered that part of the job of being a Corpsman.
                   

                  SFGuy2011

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                    I know that I didn't have much volunteering as part of my application, but I was able to demonstrate compassion and humanism through essays about what I've done in the military. It certainly can't hurt you to do some volunteering, but if you have the grades and MCAT your experiences and how you tell your story are what will make your application stand out. Good luck to you!
                     
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