Mar 10, 2010
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Hey guys I have a general question. I saved up enough money for a medical mission trip that I've been wanting to take for awhile. The trip is in May and I'll be applying this upcoming June. Would this trip look like "padding my application" because there is only a month between May and June? If I had a good experience I may want to talk a little bit about it in my personal statement and tie it in with my whole personal statement. Would admission boards in general look down upon this as "padding the personal statement and application?" Thanks a bunch.
 

LizzyM

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You can leave it off if you think it will hurt you. No one says you have to put in on the AMCAS.

If you have no other volunteerism and/or if you have no other clinical exposure it will seem like too little, too late. Otherwise, I don't think it's bad at all as a way of learning more about another culture and about yourself (how you deal with stress, cultural differences, etc). I don't think of these short trips as much in the way of service or clinical exposure.
 
Mar 10, 2010
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Thanks for the fast response lizzyM. I've been part of a clinic for about 2 yrs and it's pretty good hands on experience. I will have 250 hours by the time I apply. My friends say these trips are fun/good experiences and have told me that admission boards like foreign/abroad experiences.
 

riverjib

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Thanks for the fast response lizzyM. I've been part of a clinic for about 2 yrs and it's pretty good hands on experience. I will have 250 hours by the time I apply. My friends say these trips are fun/good experiences and have told me that admission boards like foreign/abroad experiences.
It's amazing, and I'd do it just for the experience. I actually chose medicine only after my experience on a medical mission. I was working in the field, and the physician running the mission asked me to join them.

I'm in a hugely pre-med school. I recently had the opportunity to speak directly with the dean of admissions at the med school. I'll paraphrase what he said to me: medical missions are becoming as trendy as the EMT certification, and they're not "impressive." He told me I should definitely talk about what my experience meant to me, but not to play it up too much, since ADCOMs are used to it now. He thought I should play up my other leadership experience unrelated to health care--I spent years teaching whitewater kayaking and mountaineering, and that's refreshing and "unique" in his opinion.

You definitely should do this for yourself, and mention it somewhere, but you should stay true to yourself when applying. Talk about other interests you have. Don't think about what they "want" to hear. Think about what they're bored of seeing. My medical mission experience changed my ambitions, so I need to mention it, and he also pointed out that the fact that the foundation paid my airfare and travel expenses meant that I was really making a contribution and not simply along for the ride, as so many people are. That doesn't mean it's not a meaningful experience for those who save up and pay their way to attend a medical mission, but it's not as powerful as starting and running a club, or performing in a symphony, or teaching kids to read, or whatever you have already done that proved you were passionate about something and committed to doing it extraordinarily well.
 

Narmerguy

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It seems like it's a growing trend among applicants with money to use them on trips abroad. They're probably losing their luster a bit but they can be great experiences if done for something longer than 2 weeks.
 

riverjib

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Admissions LOVED my mission work when I applied. Definitely put it in your application!
How did you put it on your application, though? I think you can list whatever you want in your "activities" section, but you have to be careful about overwrought sincerity in your PS. I personally spent over two months abroad, on three separate trips. There are two missions a year, but I haven't had time to go on any since I returned to undergrad in 2006. I have spent considerable time procuring supplies from companies, filling out paperwork, and recruiting fellow OR personnel for this particular mission. I'm talking about it in my PS because it was honestly my pivotal experience. I didn't want to go into medicine before that. I worked in the OR, and I didn't want the surgeon's life style...plus, many are jaded enough to admonish their kids (and me) to go into business instead. But my experience on the mission was my first exposure to medicine outside of surgery, which is ironic considering it was mostly a procedure-based mission.

Do you really think your experience helped you? Or did you already have a 3.8/30+ MCAT and great ECs/LORs? I have found that most of the traditional students I've met who go on missions are priveleged kids who can afford it, not kids who are selected and funded for their expertise. There's nothing wrong with that, but to me, that's like choosing the kid whose parents could afford Yale or Harvard over the kid who got an equally prestigious slot in a state honors program and volunteered in the local hospital's pediatrics oncology clinic.
 

TexasPhysician

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How did you put it on your application, though? I think you can list whatever you want in your "activities" section, but you have to be careful about overwrought sincerity in your PS. I personally spent over two months abroad, on three separate trips. There are two missions a year, but I haven't had time to go on any since I returned to undergrad in 2006. I have spent considerable time procuring supplies from companies, filling out paperwork, and recruiting fellow OR personnel for this particular mission. I'm talking about it in my PS because it was honestly my pivotal experience. I didn't want to go into medicine before that. I worked in the OR, and I didn't want the surgeon's life style...plus, many are jaded enough to admonish their kids (and me) to go into business instead. But my experience on the mission was my first exposure to medicine outside of surgery, which is ironic considering it was mostly a procedure-based mission.

Do you really think your experience helped you? Or did you already have a 3.8/30+ MCAT and great ECs/LORs? I have found that most of the traditional students I've met who go on missions are priveleged kids who can afford it, not kids who are selected and funded for their expertise. There's nothing wrong with that, but to me, that's like choosing the kid whose parents could afford Yale or Harvard over the kid who got an equally prestigious slot in a state honors program and volunteered in the local hospital's pediatrics oncology clinic.
It was four years ago, so I don't remember exactly where I put it in my application. It definitely made my PS also. My application was pretty solid, and my trip was well-funded (if that makes any difference).

I was surprised how many times my mission trip was brought up in interviews and it was only 2 weeks long.
 

LizzyM

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It was four years ago, so I don't remember exactly where I put it in my application. It definitely made my PS also. My application was pretty solid, and my trip was well-funded (if that makes any difference).

I was surprised how many times my mission trip was brought up in interviews and it was only 2 weeks long.
Don't mistake what an interviewer wants to talk about at interview with what really matters for medical school admissions. A single interviewer may talk to anywhere from 25 to 300 applicants in a cycle. It is always nice to ask about something new or different just because it breaks up the monotony of interviews.
 

TexasPhysician

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Don't mistake what an interviewer wants to talk about at interview with what really matters for medical school admissions. A single interviewer may talk to anywhere from 25 to 300 applicants in a cycle. It is always nice to ask about something new or different just because it breaks up the monotony of interviews.
Why bring it up during a short interview unless it matters? Interviewers should be well enough versed to keep on task for 15-30 minutes with each applicant. I can that in my sleep.
 

LizzyM

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Why bring it up during a short interview unless it matters? Interviewers should be well enough versed to keep on task for 15-30 minutes with each applicant. I can that in my sleep.
Some of what the interviewer is looking for is language fluency and vocabulary, sincerity, humility (lack of arrogance), a calm exterior, friendliness and other personal characteristics that can be assessed regardless of the topic of conversation. So, interviewers will often bring up that which is novel or at least unusual about the application because it is always nice to learn something new while making an assessment of an applicant's suitability.
 

TexasPhysician

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Some of what the interviewer is looking for is language fluency and vocabulary, sincerity, humility (lack of arrogance), a calm exterior, friendliness and other personal characteristics that can be assessed regardless of the topic of conversation. So, interviewers will often bring up that which is novel or at least unusual about the application because it is always nice to learn something new while making an assessment of an applicant's suitability.
Agreed, but with most applicants having tons of things on their resume, it would make sense for interviewers to assess the aspects you mentioned while talking about the applicants most unique and beneficial experiences.

I disagree that interviewers should be spending this time learning something new for their own benefit. It should be all about evaluating the applicant......or maybe this is why applicants are still accepted with minimal social skills and borderline ethics.