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Is my lack of volunteer experience going to hurt me??

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MonicaMelquiade

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I have a 3.92 cGPA and 3.9 sGPA, anticipate getting a 34 or 35 MCAT (I've taken a practice exam), have average extracurriculars (leadership activities, athletic stuff, a couple clubs), should have 50 shadowing hours with three different doctors, and lots of research hours in two different labs (also might be doing an REU this summer). My major is Molecular Biochemistry and Biophysics and I have a minor in Linguistics.

I have a history of service and my personal statement will reflect this, but I don't actually have any clinical volunteer hours in my undergrad years. I'm set to start volunteering at a hospital next month, but will probably only have 50-100 hours by the time I start applying in June. I'm worried this is really going to hurt me. So question number 1 is: How important are large numbers of volunteer hours, and will it look bad that I didn't start volunteering until this semester?

My second question involves my undergraduate institution. I'm at a small private tech school. It never occurred to me that this was going to hold me back a great deal, but my advisor told me recently that this would probably be my limiting factor. Will the fact that I didn't go to an ivy or big 10 school reflect poorly on me, even with a fairly high GPA? What kinds of schools should I be looking at?

Thanks so much for any help and advice!
Appreciatively,
A Pre-Med Student
 

JustMeditate

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#1. Unfortunately, clinical volunteer work is about the only thing you can't slack on before applying. Not having clinical experience is a red flag for adcoms, because it suggests that you don't really know what you are getting yourself into. How could you possibly know you want to be a doctor if you've never done clinical volunteering? If you have limited clinical experience, that question will probably come up in interviews, and your answer could make or break an acceptance. Lucky for you, you have an amazing GPA and some other wonderful EC's. And, it looks like you can get in at least a few hours before sending out apps. Most applicants have an average of 150 clinical volunteer hours, earned over the course of 1.5 years. So, if you can get around 100 hours, minimum, you won't be too far below the average. I think, if you do this, the rest of your stats might compensate, and you'll probably get some interviews. I would apply early and broadly though. I wouldn't count on any top 20 schools or anything.

#2. Don't count on a 35+ MCAT unless you have consistently gotten similar scores on several AMCAS practice tests. EVERYONE on this forum swears up and down that they will get a 35+, easy as pie, even though only the very best of the best get scores that high. Just saying, don't count your chickens before they've hatched.

#3. Nobody cares where you went for undergrad, unless you went to a community college. A 3.9 at some no-name school beats a 3.6 at JHU any day.
 

MonicaMelquiade

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#1. Unfortunately, clinical volunteer work is about the only thing you can't slack on before applying. Not having clinical experience is a red flag for adcoms, because it suggests that you don't really know what you are getting yourself into...

Thanks so much for the tips! This is really helpful - I will work on getting my clinical experience hours way up. (And continue studying for MCAT...)
 
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I'd further suggest that it would be helpful to continue gaining more clinical experience hours after you submit, for the sake of update letters (these can make a difference if you're on the cusp in an adcomm's eyes), interview conversations, and if worse comes to worst, improving your activities if you need to reapply.
 

mafunk

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Most applicants have an average of 150 clinical volunteer hours, earned over the course of 1.5 years

Sorry to hijack, but...

How exactly does one get clinical volunteer hours without any medical certifications? Does it have to be clinical? What about teaching medical awareness courses (for example breast cancer awareness, colorectal screening, prenatal care)? And also doing simple bone density sonograms?
 
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1) What about teaching medical awareness courses (for example breast cancer awareness, colorectal screening, prenatal care)?

2)And also doing simple bone density sonograms?
1) I'd call that teaching.

2) Could be, depends on if the folks getting them are patients with a problem (not just routine screens without an indication) and the location/circumstances. Most clinical experiences are in a medical environment where docs work (though not all).
 

mafunk

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Thanks for the reply. So once again... how does one get clinical experience without any medical certs?
 
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You don't need a medical certificate to transport folks in a wheel chair, assist in hospice care, play with pediatric patients in a playroom, or help elderlly nursing home patients select appropriate foods for their diets, do their rehab exercises, or practice their fine motor skills. Nor would you need one to gather data for a clinical research trial, or to get a job assisting in a doctor's office.
 

mafunk

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Thanks Cat lady. I'm a bit confused. How can wheeling patients around be more clinical/beneficial than teaching prenatal classes to CHC patients? Below is a list of my possible volunteer opportunities. Could you please review and comment? Your insight is much appreciated.

Clinical Opportunities

  • Performing bone density tests/sonograms at health fairs on behalf of a CHC?
  • Helping to facilitate 'group' prenatal checkups at a CHC. A group of 4 to 8 women attend these checkups. They get 5 minutes with the OB individually (weight in, etc), and many of their concerns are addressed to the group as a whole. As a co-facilitator I would assist the OB with whatever she needs. These group visits are billed as regular prenatal visits.
  • Teaching child health and/or prenatal classes to patients of a CHC. For example, teaching mom's about the importance of timely immunizations... or nutrition for children, etc. Or teaching pregnant women about nutrition or common health concerns in the X trimester.
  • Informing the general public about the importance of mammograms and colorectal screening... to be done at an 'event booth' not in a clinic.
  • Working at a Native American run clinic and/or an urgent care clinic assisting with misc., entry level, patient care duties
  • Shadowing a physician at a Native American run clinic and/or an urgent care clinic.
  • Working in 'recovery' at a hospital - keeping the waiting room clean, making coffee, transporting patients, keeping family informed
 

MonicaMelquiade

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Thanks for all the tips. I have one more question: would I be better off applying later than June 1st to have more time to get up to 100 hospital volunteering hours, or should I have fewer hours but get all my AMCAS apps in by June 1st?
Thanks!
 

Silverfalcon

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Thanks Cat lady. I'm a bit confused. How can wheeling patients around be more clinical/beneficial than teaching prenatal classes to CHC patients? Below is a list of my possible volunteer opportunities. Could you please review and comment? Your insight is much appreciated.

Clinical Opportunities

  • Performing bone density tests/sonograms at health fairs on behalf of a CHC?
  • Helping to facilitate 'group' prenatal checkups at a CHC. A group of 4 to 8 women attend these checkups. They get 5 minutes with the OB individually (weight in, etc), and many of their concerns are addressed to the group as a whole. As a co-facilitator I would assist the OB with whatever she needs. These group visits are billed as regular prenatal visits.
  • Teaching child health and/or prenatal classes to patients of a CHC. For example, teaching mom's about the importance of timely immunizations... or nutrition for children, etc. Or teaching pregnant women about nutrition or common health concerns in the X trimester.
  • Informing the general public about the importance of mammograms and colorectal screening... to be done at an 'event booth' not in a clinic.
  • Working at a Native American run clinic and/or an urgent care clinic assisting with misc., entry level, patient care duties
  • Shadowing a physician at a Native American run clinic and/or an urgent care clinic.
  • Working in 'recovery' at a hospital - keeping the waiting room clean, making coffee, transporting patients, keeping family informed

You should just make a new thread. Catalystik was nice enough to respond two of your questions - one question is acceptable for hijacking, but three with third one this long? Come on... That's not respectful to OP.
 

mafunk

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Sorry about that - that wasn't my intention. I figured the OP was interested in the same thing - 'getting quality clinical exp' so it fit. But I can see your point.
 

mafunk

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Also, to OP. I have spoken to several admission counselors. The schools I'm looking at said that clinical experience is valuable, but what they really want to know is

A) Do you know what you are getting in to (this you can learn from shadowing)

and

B) Do you have a heart for helping others? Have you demonstrated this through your volunteer work, be that clinical or otherwise.

you have great grades. It seems like you should be able to get in to a school.
 

MonicaMelquiade

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Also, to OP. I have spoken to several admission counselors. The schools I'm looking at said that clinical experience is valuable, but what they really want to know is

A) Do you know what you are getting in to (this you can learn from shadowing)

and

B) Do you have a heart for helping others? Have you demonstrated this through your volunteer work, be that clinical or otherwise.

you have great grades. It seems like you should be able to get in to a school.

Thanks for the tips. No problem about hijacking - I got my questions mainly answered. Good luck!
 
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Thanks for all the tips. I have one more question: would I be better off applying later than June 1st to have more time to get up to 100 hospital volunteering hours, or should I have fewer hours but get all my AMCAS apps in by June 1st?
Thanks!
Balancing these two issues can be difficult, but with your strong projected stats, waiting another month to submit to have more hours is probably the better choice. Waiting until August, is probably not in your best interests. Having so little longevity may still hurt you, considering the time duration most applicants have to report. (Thus post #4.)
 
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Below is a list of my possible volunteer opportunities. Could you please review and comment? Clinical Opportunities:

  • Performing bone density tests/sonograms at health fairs on behalf of a CHC?
  • Helping to facilitate 'group' prenatal checkups at a CHC. A group of 4 to 8 women attend these checkups. They get 5 minutes with the OB individually (weight in, etc), and many of their concerns are addressed to the group as a whole. As a co-facilitator I would assist the OB with whatever she needs. These group visits are billed as regular prenatal visits.
  • Teaching child health and/or prenatal classes to patients of a CHC. For example, teaching mom's about the importance of timely immunizations... or nutrition for children, etc. Or teaching pregnant women about nutrition or common health concerns in the X trimester.
  • Informing the general public about the importance of mammograms and colorectal screening... to be done at an 'event booth' not in a clinic.
  • Working at a Native American run clinic and/or an urgent care clinic assisting with misc., entry level, patient care duties
  • Shadowing a physician at a Native American run clinic and/or an urgent care clinic.
  • Working in 'recovery' at a hospital - keeping the waiting room clean, making coffee, transporting patients, keeping family informed
Best:
Working at a Native American run clinic and/or an urgent care clinic assisting with misc., entry level, patient care duties
Shadowing a physician at a Native American run clinic and/or an urgent care clinic.
Or teaching pregnant women about nutrition or common health concerns in the X trimester (if ordered by the physician)
Next:
Working in 'recovery' at a hospital - keeping the waiting room clean, making coffee, transporting patients, keeping family informed
(maybe, depending on your role) Helping to facilitate 'group' prenatal checkups at a CHC. A group of 4 to 8 women attend these checkups. They get 5 minutes with the OB individually (weight in, etc), and many of their concerns are addressed to the group as a whole. As a co-facilitator I would assist the OB with whatever she needs. These group visits are billed as regular prenatal visits.
Last
Performing bone density tests/sonograms at health fairs on behalf of a CHC?
No
Informing the general public about the importance of mammograms and colorectal screening... to be done at an 'event booth' not in a clinic.
Teaching child health and/or prenatal classes to patients of a CHC. For example, teaching mom's about the importance of timely immunizations... or nutrition for children, etc.

This is not to say that these experiences have no value to a med school application, because they do. But for the highest quality patient interactions as seen in adcomm eyes, this is how I'd rank your list from the info provided. JMO.
 
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