Planes2Doc's Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Your Medical School Application

Planes2Doc

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Jul 23, 2012
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At the time of this posting, it's summer! This is not only a time of rest and relaxation, but also a time to get things done for medical school admissions. I've decided to create a comprehensive guide to maximizing your medical school application, for pre-meds from all over the spectrum, starting all the way in high school! I hope that you find this helpful. Please let me know what you think, and don't ever hesitate to message me any personal questions you might have. :)

Warning: This is my longest post ever. I needed to divide the main post into two parts due to the 32000 character limit. Due to the character limit, I also created separated yet connected threads in hSDN and the non-traditional forum. It encompasses just about every aspect of medical school admissions. I hope you enjoy it though!

If you're a high school student check this out first.
If you're a non-traditional student check this out first.


*A Little About Me*

So who exactly am I? What gives me the authority to give you such advice? Well, I started my pre-med journey many years ago actually, in the mid-2000s. I was a pre-med during my first semester of college. During that time, I discovered SDN and have looked at it ever since. After not doing so hot in general chemistry and getting freaked out, I dropped my medical school ambitions and continued with the business route that I initially set out on. I never stopped thinking about medicine, and always went on SDN through the years. After graduating college, I got a job working management in the airline industry. I absolutely hated it, and still thinking about medicine, I decided to quit after a year and do a post-bacc. After my post-bacc and MCAT, I got a job at a second airline as a backup job. I actually loved it there and miss it to this day, but I know in my heart that medicine is right for me.

I'm your typical medical student at a US medical school. But there's one thing about me that I don't think is typical. I believe that I don't exactly follow the common mindset that people have here on SDN (except I would really like an SDN author badge if you catch my drift ;)). In my opinion, I think that it's a great asset for me, and depending on the person you are, it can help you out greatly. Let me elaborate...

*The Pre-Med Philosophy... Who is Correct?*

There are two schools of thought in my opinion. One is the "SDN opinion," which people seem to regard as the best way to approach pre-med. I have a different opinion. I feel that it reflects more of the general population, and is still based on my original thoughts as a pre-med in the mid-2000s. Here they are in a nutshell:

The SDN Philosophy: The pre-med journey should be a meaningful one, where you do things that you're passionate about. You should grow significantly as a person. You will enjoy it, because if you don't, well then you don't want to know.

The Planes2Doc Philosophy: The purpose of pre-med is simple. Get a seat in medical school. The journey itself isn't important. Pre-med is potentially a huge sacrifice. Too many applicants put all of their eggs in one basket, and if medical school doesn't work out, then their lives can be ruined.

If you disagree with my philosophy, then STOP READING NOW. Read other threads on SDN, and do what they tell you. If you want a nice efficient way of getting into medical school, then keep reading.

*Approaching Pre-Med as a Traditional College Student*

Traditional college students make up the majority of pre-meds. If you just started college and want to maximize your medical school application, then you've definitely come to the right place. Now keep on reading! I'll help fill you in on what you need to know, answer commonly asked questions, and debunk some myths about the process.

-Choosing the Right Major-

You do not need to be a science major to get into medical school. Let me repeat that. You do not need to be a science major to get into medical school. Let me repeat that again, but this time bold it, italicize it, underline it, and change the color. You do not need to be a science major to get into medical school. People seem to be under the impression that you need to be a science major to get into medical school. This is not true. As long as you take the required per-requisite courses, MCAT, and jump through the extra curricular activity hoops, you will get into medical school assuming good stats, regardless of your major. In fact, if you are a science major and fail to get into medical school, you might have a hard time getting a good high-paying job in the future. :meh: I know a few people who got "stuck" doing their ECs as their current jobs because they put all of their eggs into one basket as science majors, and didn't get into medical school. More on that later.

Here are the pros and cons of different types of majors:

1. Hard science majors - The pros of being a hard science major is that you'll likely prepare yourself well for the MCAT. You can also develop somewhat of a decent science foundation for medical school. The difficulty of medical school itself far exceeds that of undergraduate science coursework, so don't get too excited as of yet. The cons of being a hard science major is the difficulty in finding good jobs. When I was in the business world, I haven't met any science majors. The former pre-meds at my workplaces quit early on, and were able to switch their majors to something more practical for their careers. As mentioned above, I know people who got stuck working in their ECs after pre-med since they weren't able to find anything else. I hate seeing that. For some reason or another, most pre-meds seem to gravitate toward science majors, particularly in the biological sciences. If you don't mind doing something low-paying in science if medical school doesn't pan out, or might try for other healthcare professions as a backup, then go ahead and pick science. Otherwise, I might suggest other things.

2. Engineering majors - I'm under the assumption that engineering majors tend to have lower GPAs. If this is the case, then this might be killer for your medical school application. If you get a very high MCAT, you might need to do a masters program (SMP) in order to boost your grades. On the other hand, if you don't end up going to medical school, engineering majors do very well out in the real world. Despite the lower GPAs, you can secure a pretty good high-paying engineering job. Other professional schools often have lower GPAs of matriculants, which includes top business and top (Top 14) law schools. So if medical school doesn't pan out, you have an excellent choice of backups to go into. It's a tough trade-off though. So think wisely before committing to this major!

3. Business majors - This is a very practical major. I went this route actually. People pursuing business have all sorts of GPAs. High and low. If you go to a school that has an undergraduate program, you have a wide variety of majors to choose from. Some are easier than others. Some schools only have economics programs, which can be more tedious, but do not near the difficulty of majors like engineering. If medical school doesn't work out, then you have some great backup choices, as business is a very practical major. If you end up going to medical school and become a doctor, then this might provide a decent foundation for starting a private practice. Business is a pretty good way to go in my opinion. :thumbup:

4. Liberal arts majors - This is the most well-rounded major. Medical schools like to see well-rounded applicants. But of course, most importantly, medical schools like to see applicants with good GPAs and MCAT scores. :cat: If medical school doesn't work out, it can be hard to find a high-paying job as a liberal arts major. This is why many often go to graduate school.

The major you choose is up to you. Just make sure you choose wisely. And always have a backup plan in mind in case you don't end up going to medical school!

-Extra Curricular Activities-

Did you take a foreign language in high school? How about right now in college? Well guess what. You need to learn a new one! It's called "ECs" here on SDN. You can't just tell an ADCOM what they want to hear. Sure you can tell them that you want to be a primary care physician in an underserved area that provides free services to the poor on weekends. You know that's what they want to hear. So what's stopping you? Well, you need to speak their language. It's based on action. In order to show ADCOMs that you want to be a primary care physician in an underserved area that provides free services to the poor on weekends, you have to show them via activities. If you want to show ADCOMs that you're a nice person, you need to show them through action. Now what kinds of actions am I talking about?

I'm talking about extra curricular activities. Now you might be thinking that these are simply ways of helping to pad your application and if you have great stats, you don't need them, right? Wrong! Some of them are required. Some of them are unnecessary. So before you start freaking out and wasting your time by doing a bunch of things, I'll help you navigate through ECs as efficiently as possible so you can have a strong medical school application, all while enjoying your life at the same time.

Part I: The Meaning Behind ECs -> The purpose of ECs are for ADCOMs to gauge a variety of things. They want to see that you are a human being, not just some automaton that is churning out good grades and MCAT score. They want to see that you possess traits which are considered important to being a doctor, namely altruism. ADCOMs also want you to know what you're getting yourself into. This is where you get "clinical experience." Once you accumulate enough hours of it, you'll be considered good to go. There are a variety of ways to gain these experiences. People often refer to this as "box-checking," which unfortunately carries a negative connotation. ADCOMs want to see people who are passionate about what they do, not people who are just going through the motions for the sake of getting an acceptance into medical school. Unfortunately, the majority of applicants are box-checkers, and there's nothing wrong with it since some extra curriculars are essentially requirements. I'll help you find ways to make your activities look genuine, while putting in the minimal amount of effort so you can keep working on your grades, MCAT, and free time.

If you want to read my large post on the art of box-checking, check it out here: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/medical-school-admissions-blackjack-and-the-art-of-checking-boxes.1073401/

Part II: The Highly Sought After Clinical Experience -> What exactly is clinical experience? I think that our ADCOM friend on this forum sums it up best: "If you are close enough to smell patients then it is clinical experience." [email protected] What you need to do is put yourself into a clinical environment. It can be something as simple as volunteering in the hospital. You do NOT need to do any form or paid work or learn any specific skills/procedures. This is not PA school. Medical school will start you from the beginning with everything. Therefore it doesn't matter if you were a lowly volunteer in a hospital emergency department, or part-time emergency medical technician (EMT), you will start at the beginning. Now while some schools might place a premium on paid clinical work, I wouldn't suggest doing it, and will explain why later. What I'm trying to say here is that all you need to do is smell the patient, as our ADCOM friend suggests. You do NOT need to poke, prod, lance, or do anything else with the patient. Just remember that the minimum will get you by, and is the smartest way to go.

Part III: How to Approach ECs -> There are two types of philosophies once again, and here they are:

The SDN EC Philosophy: Do what you're passionate about.
The Planes2Doc EC Philosophy: Do what ADCOMs want you to be passionate about.

The SDN EC Philosophy is something you'll read over and over on this site from a variety of different members. If I had a nickel for every time I've read it, I'd be a rich man right now. Okay, so if you are honest with yourself and do only what you're passionate about, you'll probably never get into medical school. Sorry, being a typical college student just doesn't look good. ADCOMs don't want to hear about how you hang out with friends, go to parties, workout, play video, games, etc... Yes there are people who are genuinely passionate about things that should go on a medical school application, but these people are very rare. I can count on one hand the number of genuinely altruistic people that I have met in my lifetime. Now don't forget, I'm a medical student, so I've met a lot of fellow classmates that had to volunteer and do plenty of ECs for their application. It's your job to do specific ECs to make you look passionate about them, whether you actually like them or not.

Part IV: ECs and the Honor System -> It's kind of funny. You're treated like a common criminal when you take the MCAT. You probably take your college exams in fairly controlled environments. But when it comes to ECs, reporting is entirely based on the honor system. It's a far cry from the MCAT test-taking experience. Therefore you can write literally anything you want with whatever hours you want. Do I suggest doing that? No. Lying is dishonest. Plus we all know that if you're caught cheating within the honor system, the penalties are incredibly severe. It's very common to embellish ECs. If you're volunteering in a hospital, you don't want to tell ADCOMs how you spend a majority of your time cleaning beds and restocking supplies. You want to tell them about the patient contact experiences that were instrumental in your decision to become a physician. Embellishing hours is also a commonly-accepted practice, but no one has officially ever drawn the line between cheating and honesty. For instance, someone who volunteered for 294 hours might write that they volunteered for 300. Someone who volunteered for 274 hours might write that they volunteered for 300. Someone who volunteered for 30 hours might write that they volunteered for 300. Who is honest? Who is dishonest? No one officially drew the line anywhere. If your volunteer site has a computerized logging system, then it's very easy to call and verify the number of hours. If it doesn't, I suggest using an Excel spreadsheet. If you feel the need to embellish hours, then do whatever allows you to sleep at night. I'm not advocating lying, but rounding up slightly to a nice round number is pretty innocent. Fabricating ECs, on the other hand, is completely wrong. It's like playing Russian roulette. You can get into medical school, but you'll need to watch your back. If your past is ever discovered, then you can get expelled.

ECs are also like Vegas, minus 99% of the fun. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Same with your ECs. What you tell the ADCOMs is only bounded by what lets you sleep at night. Either you embellish a crappy experience into something amazing, or you are completely honest about it. It's your choice, not mine. If your goal is to get into medical school, then it might be in your best interest to find crappy experiences for reasons that I will mention below. If you feel the need to make pre-med a meaningful journey full of great personal growth, then find experiences which you enjoy. You'll have pre-meds that do all sorts of experiences. Good or bad. It's your choice, not mine. You're the one that needs to sleep at night.



Part V: Volunteering Whether You Want to or Not -> I hate it that service is called "volunteering" when it comes to medical school admissions. I wish that they would change the name to "community service." Volunteering is most definitely a requirement. So whether you want to volunteer or not, you'll have to do it. Very few people get in without volunteering. I'm guessing that they are people with heavy research and incredibly high stats, or maybe BS/MD students since they probably don't end up doing these activities in college. Close to 90% of matriculants each year have volunteering on your application. Applying to medical school without volunteering is like walking around with your pants wrapped around your ankles. You'll stand out, and not in a good way. Since volunteering has become a solid part of the medical school application, it's not something that will make stand out. Doing it won't make you look good, it will just prevent you from looking bad.

MYTH or FACT: Volunteering Sucks - MYTH. Volunteering doesn't suck. Pre-med volunteering gigs typically do suck though. Pre-meds have developed quite a nasty reputation among hospital and volunteer organizations over the years. This is why "typical" pre-med volunteer hot spots like hospital emergency departments often treat their pre-med volunteers like garbage. They often force them to do free labor, and not give them any respect. You might have better luck if you volunteer in a non-clinical setting, or if your clinical volunteering is far away from a college campus (less pre-meds). Based on the things I've written on this site, you would think that I hate volunteering. That couldn't be further from the truth. I absolutely loved my sporadic non-clinical volunteering as a pre-med, and wished I did more. Now as a medical student, I try to volunteer once a week. The organization is great. I am treated with plenty of respect, and am never forced to do free labor (I would refuse to do it since I am no longer pre-med). I genuinely enjoy it. I hope that pre-med volunteering or forced community service high school/college graduation requirements don't put you off from volunteering. It can be very meaningful and lots of fun. But then again, if it's something you don't enjoy or simply don't want to do, then that's fine. That's the whole point of volunteering, it's doing something because you want to, not because you're forced to. No one should be judged for not wanting to do, like people are on this site.

There are two types of volunteering: Clinical and non-clinical. You're only required to have one (you need clinical experience regardless), though it's better to have both, since most applicants will have hours for both. If your main goal is to get into medical school, then you'll definitely want consistent clinical volunteering coupled with sporadic non-clinical volunteering.

Part VI: Clinical Volunteering -> Clinical volunteering is the most commonly done volunteering, and for good reasons. First of all, you initially kill two birds with one stone. You check the box for clinical experience and also a second box for volunteering at the same time. In my opinion, hospital volunteering is the best bang for the buck when it comes to medical school admissions. When I volunteered as a pre-med, I absolutely dreaded 99% of my time volunteering in the hospital ED. I was treated like garbage, and was asked to do lots of free labor. I was upset because I felt like I was lining the pockets of the hospital board of directors more than anything else. I had some good patient experiences, and maybe a good day or two, but as a whole, the experience was terrible. Looking back, it was great? Why? Am I nuts? Nope!


No, I'm not a nut like Mr. Peanut. I realized that I was very lucky since these volunteer opportunities are usually a minimal commitment of four hours per week. The hospital volunteering had minimal impact on my grades. I was also able to squeeze some shadowing in during my volunteer shifts. This helps you get even more bang for your buck since you can add yet another important part to your application all while racking up volunteer hours. Sure I was upset with not making any money, but you do have to pay for convenience. I used to think that entry-level clinical jobs were the way to go combined with non-clinical volunteering. But looking back, I realized that they aren't worth it even though you make money. I'll explain this a little bit later and provide you with some math. Overall though, if you're looking for something that will kill multiple birds with one stone all while requiring a minimal commitment, clinical volunteering is the way to go.

Part VII: Non-Clinical Volunteering -> If you already have clinical volunteering, non-clinical volunteering is not required, but highly recommended. If you are doing an entry-level clinical job in place on clinical volunteering, then you're required to have a consistent volunteer commitment, whether clinical or non-clinical. I personally enjoyed my non-clinical volunteering a lot. These don't typically get lots of pre-meds, so you will probably be treated well as long as you're putting in a good effort. If you want to maximize your medical school application, I would recommend piggy-backing a sporadic non-clinical volunteering gig (once every few weeks) on top of a consistent weekly clinical volunteering gig. The clinical volunteering is what will get your foot in the door for interviews by having the right boxes checked, but the non-clinical experience is what will set you apart and give you interesting things to talk about during interviews. If you are working an entry-level clinical job or decided to discontinue clinical volunteering, then you must make sure your non-clinical volunteering is a consistent weekly commitment. These are also great opportunities to do good things with your hobbies. Do you enjoy photography? Why not do free photography for charities? Do you enjoy teaching? Why not tutor underprivileged children? There are so many possibilities! Hopefully you can find something meaningful that you enjoy. If not, then that's fine too.

Part VIII: International Volunteering -> When I was a pre-med initially, I told myself that I was going to do a mission trip to Brazil (the country I wanted to visit most) and that this would make me a highly desirable applicant that ADCOMs would drool over. I thought that you could do international volunteering in place of domestic clinical volunteering. But I learned that it's not the case. Pre-meds are like King Midas, they ruin everything they touch. I'm guessing that years ago international mission trips probably helped get pre-meds into medical school, but that's not the case anymore. If you do a short two-week trip, you're likely doing nothing more than throwing away your money, unless you care about that local population of course. If not, I would recommend spending that money on a vacation package from a website like Expedia.com. You'll have a lot more fun that way. Now of course if you care about that local population, you can write a check directly to an organization that will help them. But sadly that won't look good on your medical school application. :oops:

If you want more information on why medical mission trips won't dramatically improve your application, then read this thread: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/volunteering-abroad-joseph-kony-and-why-you-shouldnt-do-it.994079/

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTION: Which volunteering experience looks better? Option A, Option B, Option C, or Option D? - You see these threads all the time on SDN. Someone who is about to start volunteering lists usually three or four different experiences, and asks which one looks best. You'll usually have a bunch of responses saying to do one over the other. But what's the correct answer? Assuming your main goal is to get into medical school, it's going to be the same one every single time. It doesn't matter what the different volunteering options are. They are red herring.


Do whatever fits best in your schedule, and what allows you to get the best grades and MCAT score possible. In other words, do the volunteer experience with the shortest commute, or perhaps the volunteering experience that allows for downtime so that you can study for school. In all of my years of viewing SDN, I have never heard anyone ask how they can help more people with their ECs, they only ask about how they can help themselves. So if you genuinely want to help the most people possible, then do the activity you care about most in which you can help the most people. But if you're concerned about helping yourself and your medical school application, then do whatever will be most convenient. Why do the options not matter? Because over the years, ADCOMs have seen virtually everything under the sun. Whether you volunteer at a hospital ED, free clinic, ICU, or wherever else, it will all look the same to them. If there was really something superior (which I'll debunk), then everyone would be flocking there instead. Just make sure you can come off as passionate and have things to talk about. Where you volunteer isn't important. It all depends on what you want, whether you want to help others, or to help yourself. I'm not judging, and neither should anyone else on this site.

MYTH or FACT: Quality > Quantity - MIX OF BOTH. Another thing you commonly hear on this site is how quality is more important than the quantity of hours. This is partially true. First, you need to reach a "magic" number of volunteer hours to get your application in the door. This is usually in the 150+ hour range. Because let's face it, if you did something you thought was AMAZING, but it only took place every few months, then you'd have barely any hours, and wouldn't be able to land yourself an interview because you'd come off as a selfish applicant. Oh the irony! :p This is why I suggest piggy-backing a non-clinical volunteer experience on top of a crappy clinical volunteer experience. If you're applying to service-focused schools, you'll definitely need a large number of hours. So remember, you need to get both, a nice amount of hours and good things to talk about.

MYTH or FACT: Volunteering A is Superior to Volunteering B - MYTH. Nothing sounds more ridiculous than saying that your volunteering is superior to someone else's. Okay, let's rephrase that. It's like saying your helping people is superior to someone else's helping people.


Yeah, thanks Jackie Chan! Pre-meds are under the mentality that the more you do, the better. This is why some pre-meds gravitate toward volunteering in places like free clinics, or overseas (don't fall into that trap). They clearly aren't taking LizzyM's advice, that all you need to do is smell the patient. They feel like learning arbitrary skills will help improve their application. Look, if you genuinely care about the poor, then go ahead and volunteer at a free clinic. It's nice because they actually provide free services to the poor. When I was pre-med, all of the nearby free clinics in Chicago were filled to the brim with pre-meds. Pre-meds aren't necessarily volunteering there because they care about the poor, it's because they feel that they can go beyond their scope of practice as volunteers, and do more things to the patients. As a hospital volunteer, you probably won't be allowed to even shake a patient's hand. Look, it sounds ridiculous when people say that one form of volunteering is superior to another. We're all helping people, right? That's the point, right? Well as long as you tell ADCOMs that you were there to help people, everything should look good, whether you couldn't touch the patient, or if you were taking vitals.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTION: Is it better to volunteer at a more prestigious hospital? - It doesn't make a difference. As a volunteer, you can volunteer at a local no-name hospital, or you can volunteer at Massachusetts General which is a part of Harvard! One isn't going to make you look better than the other. You entered a non-selective position which anyone can do. If you're a janitor, food service person, or administrative assistant at Massachusetts General, does that make you any more prestigious than a person in a similar position elsewhere? Nope. Now if you are a physician at Massachusetts General, then I'd be impressed. Volunteer where it's most convenient. Plus you'll likely be on a very long waiting list at a prestigious institution. You'll probably be able to volunteer by the time you're already accepted to medical school. :D

Part IX: The Best Way to Approach Volunteering and Make it Look Good -> This is pulled directly from my other thread since it's relevant:
 
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Planes2Doc

Planes2Doc

Residency is ruff!
7+ Year Member
Jul 23, 2012
2,745
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Resident [Any Field]
---What to do...---

1. Longevity -
There's two ways which you can go about this. If you are starting college and know you're going to be a pre-med, it's best to start your activities freshman year, or sophomore year at latest. When ADCOMs see longevity in the activities, they will somehow think that you were doing them because of genuine passion instead of doing them solely to get into medical school. I guess that starting a bunch of stuff the moment you become pre-med isn't suspicious at all. You also want to make sure that you are volunteering at the time you submit your AMCAS and or AACOMAS. That's the one activity you do NOT want to quit before applying. In fact, even though you can technically quit the moment you submit your primary application, it's best to continue doing it until you have an acceptance. Then you can drop volunteering if you seriously dislike it. Other things like shadowing and clubs can be treated like more obvious check-list items, and ADCOMs are okay with it.
2. Showing passion - We all know that the more typical pre-medesque activities can really suck, particularly hospital volunteering where the staff are all too familiar with the pre-med agenda. But of course you're not going to go to an interview saying your activities suck. It's important to find some good things from each of them to share in your personal statement and at interviews. Even the crappiest of activities can have their good moments. Just make sure you don't go in there with nothing to talk about.
3. Become Mother Teresa - Your best bet to having "strong ECs" is to become what I call the "ZERO to Mother Teresa" applicant. This is the type of person who picks up a huge laundry-list of activities immediately after becoming pre-med. So pretty much, they have never volunteered a day in their life before starting college, but then suddenly they are doing a bunch of activities, and make those elderly volunteers in the hospital look like selfish bastards! I'm surprised that ADCOMs haven't caught onto this. On the contrary, ADCOMs love love love these applicants. You can't call them a dreaded box-checker as long as they started their activities early and continue doing them for a long time.
4. Get into Harvard without even interviewing - If you're Chinese and volunteer once a month in the Chinese community, you'll get into Harvard without even interviewing! Imagine that! :p http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/i-got-into-harvard-medical-school-with-a-26-on-my-mcat.880229/ You'll be one happy Chinese girl (Troll thread, but it's a funny)!


---What NOT to do...---


1. Lack of longevity - There are pre-meds who pick up an activity like volunteering and then ask how many hours they have to do. Generally, you see that magical 100-150 hours floating around. They might do this early on, let's say as a freshman and finish sophomore year once getting into that hour range. The activity gets dropped long before submitting the primary application. ADCOMs can smell a box-checker from a thousand miles away when this happens! DO NOT DO THIS! If you want to do a minimal commitment and still come off as not box-checking, then make sure your 100-150 hours lead you into the primary application, and the activity is thus listed as "current." With such low hours, this means you'll likely be volunteering a few months at a time, and not going through the whole year like most people on SDN do. My suggestion is to bite the bullet, and rack up more hours. This will make you more competitive for schools that are also focused on community service.

2. Starting activities too close to the primary application - It's probably fine to join a club or do some small activities/gigs close to submitting your AMCAS (I'd say within a year). But as for your mainstay ECs, like volunteering and shadowing, those should not be done within a year of applying assuming you're a traditional student. This will come off as box-checking to ADCOMs, since you left these things until the last minute to do them. Unless you decided late to become pre-med or are non-traditional, starting late will bite you. This happened to me when I wasn't pre-med. I wanted to become an investment banker, and sadly I never heard of things like wallstreetoasis.com nor cared to research the things I needed to do. This didn't end well with me. As for medical school admissions, unless you have stellar scores and perhaps long-term research, you'll likely need to do a gap year "beefing up" those good ole' ECs. Now I know what you're thinking, but do not do the next thing on this list either.

3. Doing an obscene number of hours in a short time period - If you volunteered for 40+ hours per week in a summer and racked up more hours than someone who volunteered for four years straight, how would that look? I mean you'd have the same or even more hours, right? Well, ADCOMs will see this as a case of obvious box-checking. :( They like to see a long-term spread of hours versus doing them all at the same time. Even if you happened to start activities too close to the primary application, it might be a better idea to just take the gap year and do lower consistent hours. This would also be incredibly difficult to do during the regular school year. So remember, racking up 500 hours over four years looks a whole lot better than racking up 500 hours in one summer.

Part X: Looking Unique? -> The "U-word" should be treated as a profanity on SDN. It's nearly impossible for you to be truly unique. Unless you're a cowboy-astronaut-millionaire (or Fortune 500 CEO, professional athlete, Olympian, or other things), you won't be unique. The closest thing you can do though, which still looks good, is start a non-profit organization that has some sort of medical focus. This can be very expensive and time-consuming though. It still looks good though at the time of this thread being posted.



Part XI: Shadowing -> Shadowing is a requirement. Unless you're doing something like scribing, you'll have to do it. It's entirely passive. Unlike volunteering, however, it can be treated like check-box item without any worries. You should find doctors from multiple specialties, but most importantly include family medicine. It doesn't matter who they are. You can find them by either cold calling, through friends, or other methods. Shadowing isn't a selective process either. A 3.20 and 21 MCAT student might end up shadowing the same physician as a 4.00 and 43 MCAT student. There's no need to look for more "prestigious" physicians, since ADCOMs don't care about their accomplishments, only yours! I noticed that some people stress the fact that they shadowed very prestigious doctors. It doesn't matter. It's the equivalent to you posting a picture of a Lamborghini you saw on the street onto your Facebook account. It's not your car. You're not that doctor. Just shadow whoever at the most convenient times. If you're thinking of applying to osteopathic medical schools, make sure that you shadow a DO physician since a lot of schools require that. You'll need a letter of recommendation from them. As for allopathic schools, chances are that you won't end up getting a letter of recommendation, since shadowing is mostly a passive process.

Part XII: Entry-Level Clinical Jobs -> Entry-level clinical jobs are pretty popular among pre-meds. They include positions such as EMT, CNA, phlebotomist, scribe, doctor's office receptionist, etc... In my opinion, I do not think that these jobs are worth it. They are often very time consuming, sometimes with 12 hour shifts which can cut into your coursework. Since these jobs are more exciting than studying, sometimes you have people who spend more time working on them than doing school work. I've known people who have fallen very hard since they put all of their effort into working these jobs, and then ended up failing to get into medical school (or anywhere near it with the grades that resulted o_O). Often the people on this forum swear by these jobs. I'd like to say to these individuals that I think it's great that you've done this work. I'm not saying that it's worthless. I'm not trying to insult anyone. I'd like to say that entry-level clinical jobs have become very commonplace, and don't set apart applicants the way they'd like to think. Sure some schools might place a premium on paid clinical work, but is the time you put into it worth it? Is it worth the hit your GPA and MCAT might take? Another thing people say is that they've experienced amazing things during these jobs. If you become a physician, you'll have an entire lifetime to experience these things. So think long and hard before deciding to do an entry-level clinical job. You might get some good experiences and help your application, but you're either giving up your free time to enjoy the best years of your life in undergrad, or you might kill your chances of getting into medical school all-together if your grades and MCAT are negatively effected. Even if you're tempted to make money, you must realize that the money you earn working an entry-level clinical job is pocket change compared to future earnings. It's also far less than the cost of taking courses or an SMP to make up for bad grades that may result from this work. You're better off doing clinical volunteering.

If you want to read more about entry-level clinical jobs, check out this thread: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/clinical-jobs-bar-mitzvahs-and-why-you-shouldnt-do-it.1030074/

Part XIII: Non-Clinical Jobs -> If you need to make money when you're in undergrad, I'd probably suggest doing something non-clinical for work. These tend to have shorter and more flexible shifts than entry-level clinical jobs. These experiences also might come off as more unique since so many pre-meds do the same entry-level clinical jobs over and over again. If your parents or loans aren't supporting you, then I suggest picking up a service job like waiting tables or food delivery. You can make a lot of money in short period of time working maybe a couple times a week. This will have a minimal negative impact on your grades, and might provide you with some nice conversational pieces for interviews.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTION: Help! I got fired from my job! Do I list it? - AMCAS asks you to list your most meaningful experiences. It doesn't require you to post your work history. If you were fired for something embarrassing, then rest assured that there is no such thing as a national employment database. If you leave a job off your CV, no one would find out unless you were applying for a government job, which would thus have access to your IRS records. Also, it's illegal for employers to disclose that you were fired. Instead, your potential employer calls the HR department of your former employer and asks if you are "eligible for rehire." If they are told yes, it means you left on good terms. If they are told no, it means that you were fired. I doubt that ADCOMs would ask if you are eligible for rehire, let alone even call to verify hours to begin with. If you had a multi-month or year commitment, you should probably include it. If you're feeling paranoid, then leave it out. If it was a very short stint of maybe less than a month, I'd leave it off. There's no reason to put anything that's not flattering on your AMCAS application in terms of work and ECs. And remember, if there's no record in Google, Facebook, or Linkedin, you never worked that job.

Part XII: Hobbies -> Definitely include hobbies in your application. Just don't make up things that aren't true. Also if you're looking to beef up your application even more, you might want to look into non-clinical volunteering gigs that are related to your hobbies.

Part XIII: Research -> Research goes both ways, if you are applying to lower-ranked clinically-focused schools or Osteopathic schools, research isn't really a requirement. If you're applying to top-ranking and research-heavy schools, then research is a requirement. Unlike volunteering and shadowing, the purpose of research is not to rack up a bunch of hours. You can have 1000 research hours, but if all you did was clean test tubes and never ended up with your name on a publication, then it won't look good. If you do research for one summer and come out with a publication, then that will look good. I completed one summer of research and didn't enjoy it. I was ready to tell ADCOMs why I did so little if asked. I'm honestly not as familiar on this topic as people who did years of it, so there might be better places to ask. If I were you, I would look at the schools you want to apply to, and see if the majority of people do research to get into them. If so, I would start looking for a lab to work in, either as a volunteer or for pay. Remember, the money you'd make as a pre-med is pocket change compared to future earnings, so I wouldn't hesitate to work for free if it will end up being something that looks good on your application. If research is something you enjoy and are considering going the MD/PhD route, then why are you reading this? Go out and get some research! :) Another bonus for doing research is that you can put undergraduate research on your CV, which you then send to residency applications. Other ECs like pre-med volunteering become worthless once you matriculate into medical school. Once again I'll say that grades and MCAT are most important. If you're not applying to top-heavy schools, I might not do it. If you want to check the box to improve your application or apply to research-heavy schools, then you'll definitely want to be involved.

Part XIV: EC Math -> I want to show you just how much time I can save you by utilizing my simple EC method versus trying to rack up hours doing a variety of different things. Remember, all you need to get into medical school is volunteering and shadowing. That's it. Here's an example:

*Minimal Commitment Method: Clinical volunteering once weekly @ 4 hours (1 hour of work, 1 hour of free time, 2 hours of shadowing during shift) = 3 hours of ECs weekly due to bonus hour of work.

*Minimal Commitment Method + Piggy-backing Non-Clinical Volunteering: Clinical volunteering once weekly @ 4 hours (1 hour of work, 1 hour of free time, 2 hours of shadowing during shift) + Non-clinical volunteering once every three weeks @ 3 hours = 6 hours of ECs weekly due to bonus hour of work on non-clinical volunteering weeks.

*Entry-Level Clinical Job + Shadowing + Non-Clinical Volunteering: Entry-level clinical job multiple times weekly @ 20 hours + Shadowing once weekly @ 3 hours + Non-clinical volunteering weekly @ 3 hours = 26 hours of work/ECs weekly. Could be higher with a 32hr/week part-time job.

Look at the above ECs... With a 20hr/week entry-level clinical job, you'll still need volunteering no matter what. You'll also most likely need shadowing unless you're a scribe (even then some is recommended). With my calculations, you're looking at only three or so hours a week of EC commitment if you maximize the value of clinical volunteering. You're going to devote so much time if you do paid work, and these 20+ hours might end up killing you. Study time is valuable, can you afford to lose those hours? :bookworm:

-Getting Arrested & Institutional Actions-

Not everything is always perfect. It is possible to be issued an institutional action at your school for a multitude of different reasons. It's also possible to have been arrested as well! I'll tell you how to deal with these things.

Part I: Help! I've Been Arrested! -> Medical schools do background checks on its applicants. If I remember correctly, on the primary application, you're required to disclose any convictions you had. You're not required to disclose, however, arrests that didn't result in a conviction or were expunged.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTION: What is SDN? - We are a vibrant nonprofit organization of thousands of pre-health, health professional students and practicing doctors from across the United States and Canada. Membership is free.

The educational mission of SDN is to assist and encourage all students through the challenging and complicated healthcare education process and into practice.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTION: What is SDN NOT? - A lawyer!

If you've been arrested before and convicted of a misdemeanor, it's best to consult with an attorney instead of fellow peers on SDN. It's always better to sweep something under the rug than to disclose it. That's why you should spend the time and money on a good attorney that will make this happen for you. If you're going to want to own up to something you've done, then it either needs to be something very minor (like public intoxication, marijuana possession, etc) so you can explain what you learned from it. At that point it will likely be a minor issue. If it's something bigger (like DUI, soliciting a prostitute, etc), you'll need more time to pass to show that you've matured from that time in your life. The only thing that heals criminal records better than time is expunging the records. :angelic: Some secondaries might ask you if you've been arrested. You need to be honest here! I heard that this is for administrative purposes. If you're feeling very paranoid, I would recommend skipping secondaries that ask you to disclose either arrest records or expunged convictions.

Part II: Institutional Actions. Will it Kill My Chances? -> You can get institutional actions from your school for a multitude of reasons. I'm guessing the most common reasons are drink tickets. Usually, things like alcohol infractions, marijuana, and downloading illegal music/movies will be non-issues. As our other ADCOM friend @Goro usually says in these threads, "Own up to it and it won't be an issue!" Yes, this is true for most of these small things. Be sure to disclose them, being dishonest will only kill everything for you. Don't be stupid!

Unfortunately, there is an institutional action which is surely lethal to your medical school application. It's academic dishonesty. If you were unlucky enough to get cheating during college, then you can probably kiss medical school, and just about any other graduate school, goodbye. At this point, I'd say it's best to look for an alternative career. If you want to be adventurous, then I'd say you'd want to wait at least ten years until after the incident occurred to apply. You'll need some killer ECs and grades to make up for it. You can try to own it on your application, but it's unlikely that any ADCOM will bite. It's a risk that not many are willing to take. Sorry, no one wants a cheater. +pity+

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTION: Help! I was caught cheating in my class! What do I do?! - This is probably the worst thing that can happen to you as a pre-med. If things haven't gone to the honor committee at your school, there are still certain things that you can do in order to salvage your application. First of all, you should take responsibility and apologize to your professor. DO NOT MAKE ANY EXCUSES! She isn't going to care that you were so tired and over-worked when you decided to plagiarize that term paper. She isn't going to care that other people have gotten away with cheating on her exams. Do everything in your power to keep it inside the classroom. If your professor offers you a zero on the assignment? Take it! Even if your professor offers to fail you but not go to the committee, take it as well! A course failure is much better than academic dishonesty on your school record. You won't be the first nor the last person to get into medical school with an "F" on their transcript. Professors aren't usually out to ruin their students' lives. Consider it a gift if they let you off without notifying the school administration.

What happens if it's gone to school committee? There are two things which could happen in your favor. First and least likely, you might be found not guilty. In that case, you'll get off free and not have any further issues. The second is that you might be lucky enough to be issued a warning. As long as you don't commit any new violations during a probationary period, this warning will be destroyed. If this is the case, then I would contact your school administration and ask if this needs to be reported on AMCAS. If they tell you that it's just a warning, and not an action, then you better behave until it gets taken off!

Your entire future literally hangs in the balance based on a technicality.

And what if you're found guilty? Let's just hope you don't get expelled. If not, then I'd look for careers which won't require copies of your college transcripts. Maybe you can try again with medical school in a decade or two, but I don't think ADCOMs would recommend that.

-Additional Classes & College Transcripts-

Some people decide to take classes at different schools for a variety of reasons. At my undergraduate institution, both general chemistry and organic chemistry were considered to be absolutely brutal. A lot of pre-meds took summer courses at other local or distant institutions. Generally, as long as you're taking them at a four-year institution it's considered Kosher. As for taking courses at community colleges, some people advise against doing that. Also, taking a course at community doesn't necessarily guarantee that it will be easier.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTION: Help! I did very poorly at another school. Can I just leave out the transcript like it never happened? - If you look back to threads pertaining to this topic in the mid and late-2000s, you'll see some people advising others to leave them out. I mean no one will ever find out, right? Big Brother surely can't be watching, right? Well remember how I told you earlier that there is no such thing as a a national job database? Well, I can give you a link to an organization that knows every single college you've ever attended. You can find it here: http://www.studentclearinghouse.org/

Don't even try to lie and omit transcripts. If you screwed up a few years ago, show a large positive upward trend and tell ADCOMs how you grew. Omitting your transcripts won't get you very far. Even if a school doesn't check the database when you apply, you'll have to look over your shoulder for the rest of your life. You can get expelled at any moment. And man, that's not a good feeling! :hungover:

-The MCAT-

At the time of this posting, the MCAT is currently transitioning to the 2015 MCAT. I have no idea what to expect from it. The best advice I have is to read all of the helpful information listed on SDN. You should start early. Take a test prep program. And do not take it until you are ready!

-Underrepresented Minority (URM)-

A thread on SDN just isn't a thread without inserting URM. It's a highly charged topic here on SDN. I'm guessing that you can create a thread with subject line "URM" and leave the body empty, and it will surely get up to a few pages in a single day! :nailbiting: I'm not here to debate on the topic or anything like that. I'm just here to inform you.

Studies show that URMs are more likely to help serve their respective URM communities. Studies show that URM patients often feel more comfortable with their respective URM physician. The end. Whether a URM applicant wants to serve the community is up to them. It's not any of my business, and certainly not yours! Unless you were entirely truthful in your application (yeah I'm looking at you!) and will help the underserved like you promised, you have no right to throw insults at anyone else.

Therefore, if you are a URM applicant, you should get involved in ECs that are focused on your URM population. Whether you actually want to serve or not in the future is up to you. But for now, it's most important to make your application as strong as possible. So if you're 1/16th Cherokee Indian, then go ahead and serve in the Cherokee Nation community. Checking off the URM box yet never being involved in the community isn't going to be much of help. Remember how I said that you need to use a foreign language of ECs when communicating to ADCOMs? Well, it's the same exact thing with URMs. You need to show commitment to the community.

If you want to serve these communities in the future, then more power to you. I don't like anyone gaming the system as much as the next guy in line. Everyone needs to cool it down with URM insults. Let's not be hypocrites, because honestly that's just the worst. Unless you're 100% truthful in your application and are doing your ECs because you genuinely want to, you really don't have a right to insult anyone else trying to do the very same thing. Look, we're all after the same thing. We're trying to get into medical school. We all want to help people. Whether we are URM or ORM. We are all after the same thing. Remember that.

-MD VS DO-

Oh and I almost forgot! An SDN thread just isn't an SDN thread without an MD vs DO debate. Well, beyond SDN, no one really cares. Both are physicians. DO has a more forgiving holistic application process which is terrific for non-traditional students, and those who have made academic mistakes (not cheating of course) in the past. The AACOMAS application has grade forgiveness, and that's the primary application! There are lots of great MD and DO schools. Both schools produce excellent doctors. MD produces great doctors. DO produces great doctors. MD produces terrible doctors as well. DO produces terrible doctors as well. You have family medicine physicians. You have dermatologists. You have MD and DO physicians all over the place! In the workplace, DO physicians are considered equal. Physicians have mutual respect for each other. If you don't want to be a DO then don't do it. If you do though, that's great, because you'll be a physician, helping people for the rest of your life. MD = DO.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTION: Help! I have a 3.97 GPA, 42 MCAT, and killer ECs, why won't anyone hire me to do entry-level clinical work?! - Believe it or not, despite your incredible stats and ECs, you might not be desirable to certain employers. Why not? Because entry-level clinical jobs weren't established in order to cater to the needs of pre-meds and other pre-professional school students. If there's anything I've learned from watching daytime television (one of the perks of never going to class in medical school), it's that there are a lot of people who strive for careers like medical assisting and other entry-level clinical jobs thanks to those pretty good commercials. For example, I know someone who runs a medical office. He was specifically looking for people who only have high school diplomas, since he knew they would be career-driven. He didn't have time to mess with someone for whom the job was just an afterthought. In absolute terms, you might be superior academically to someone who only has a high school diploma. But that high school graduate might be a far more attractive job candidate when the workplace wants a career-minded person, not a flaky pre-med that will leave the moment they get an acceptance letter. Don't take it personally.

I think I've covered all the important topics regarding the traditional undergraduate medical school admissions process. If I've left anything out or there's something else you'd like to know, feel free to send me a message. :heckyeah:

*In Conclusion... Why Did I Make Such a Long Post?!*

You might be asking why I made such a long post? I feel the need to help try and change the medical school admissions process. I think that there are a lot of things wrong with it. I feel like people who follow SDN, while getting good advice, are also being put on an unnecessary journey. The pre-med journey is not easy. It's nothing to laugh about. If you put all of your eggs in one basket, you might ruin the rest of your life. I'm not being sarcastic or exaggerating either. Let me give you three examples of people who put their eggs in one basket, and failed (names are all changed)...

In my opinion, there are two kinds of successful pre-meds. The first is the one who goes to medical school. That's obvious. The second is the one who quits the pre-med process and is still able to do something good with their lives. Then there are the people who sacrifice everything to get into medical school. They don't get in, and are unhappy with their lives.

Meet Daniel:
When I met David, he told me that all he ever wanted to do was to be a doctor. He was a biological sciences major. He struggled in some of his classes. Near the end of my post-bacc and before he was ready to graduate, he was looking for research positions at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago since he thought these would save his application. Well, he ended up getting a research position at a prestigious school. But he didn't get into medical school. He is still trying to get into medical school and working the same research position from the last I heard. He cut ties with everyone who was pre-med with him.

Meet Michelle: Michelle is one of my close friends. I met her when she was a freshman in college. She was pre-med, and was quick to get a job as a receptionist in a doctor's office. Now, she tends to be a little more private with her life. Somewhere around junior year, she suddenly wasn't pre-med anymore. She ended up graduating with her science degree. So what does she do today? She is a receptionist at that very same doctor's office which was meant to be a clinical experience EC. Since she put all of her eggs in one basket, she ended up working a job that only needed a high school diploma after college.

Meet Brian: Brian and I quickly became friends because we had our first class together and sat next to each other. We were also lab partners for the lab portion of the class. He told me that he was doing EMT work, and sometimes complained of being very tired after working "crazy" shifts the night before class. I noticed that he was struggling on his exams. At the end of the class, he came to me with a huge smile on his face. He said he was so happy because the professor was nice enough to let him off with a "D" instead of failing the class. He continued to work his EMT position until this day, thinking that it will look very good to schools. He also picked up research, and this is what he is doing now according to his Linkedin account. I'm guessing he is still trying to get into medical school. He doesn't want to talk about it.

This is who I am writing for. I don't want people to fall into that horrible situation. Try telling them that the journey was worth it. Try telling them that the journey was meaningful. I want everyone to have the safest journey possible. It doesn't matter what happens on your journey, as long as you get that seat in medical school. And if you don't get that seat, then I hope you will do wonderful things with your life that make you happy.

Good luck to everyone with this process. As I've mentioned before, if you have any further questions, please feel free to PM me! :)
 
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mehc012

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My only question: Why not put this Part II as the 1st reply in Part I, so there's no thread-splitting?
 

Ace Khalifa

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What about people who work as a scribe during their gap year(s)? Or any other kind of entry-level clinical job? Assuming the person had a good GPA and MCAT score after graduating from college and before starting work...
 
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Planes2Doc

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What about people who work as a scribe during their gap year(s)? Or any other kind of entry-level clinical job? Assuming the person had a good GPA and MCAT score after graduating from college and before starting work...
I'm all for doing entry-level clinical jobs during gap years as long as people aren't taking classes or studying for the MCAT. At that point, anything you do to boost your app is totally fine. I've seen too many people falter trying to balance these commitments along with classes and studying for the MCAT.
 

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Great post, only thing I'm wondering about the URM info is if white and asian people get bonus points too for working with their own ethnic groups based off of what you said about people trusting their own ethnic groups more. I'm guessing that would make them "racist" though.

Personally I'd work with any ethnic group and trust all because there's so much more to people than their race.
 
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Great post, only thing I'm wondering about the URM info is if white and asian people get bonus points too for working with their own ethnic groups based off of what you said about trusting their own ethnic groups more. I'm guessing that would make them "racist" though.
Unfortunately that would come off a little racist for white people. :p There are Asian communities, however, with Asian owned businesses and Asian professionals serving their own Asian community. One of my best friends is South Korean, and we often head to the area near my house which has a large Korean population.
 
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Awesome thread!
 
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Due to the character constraints, I'll post the one section I removed earlier. This pertains to gap years, and might answer some questions:

Gap years are either time people take off after undergrad in order to build their ECs or improve stats like their GPA and MCAT, or the time in-between college, applying to medical school, and then matriculation. Please correct me if I'm wrong about any of this. If you feel that your application is weak, and lacking ECs for example, you can take a year off to help build them. Some people also want to take time off before starting medical school, to explore the worlds, or do things that they are genuinely passionate about. Don't hesitate to take whatever time you need. One thing I do not recommend though is if you already have solid ECs, spending a year to do something like additional EMT work or other entry-level clinical work. Remember, your goal in life is to become a physician, not a professional EMT, scribe, or other profession.
 

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Haha great post. Read the whole thing and enjoyed it.

One thing I will say is that I don't know how people are able to reflect in detail about their experiences in clinical volunteering if it is sub-par. That's where my clinical employment has really helped me, I have so much material to use to write my primary, secondaries, and for interviews. I also did clinical volunteering and have little to say about that.
 
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Haha great post. Read the whole thing and enjoyed it.

One thing I will say is that I don't know how people are able to reflect in detail about their experiences in clinical volunteering if it is sub-par. That's where my clinical employment has really helped me, I have so much material to use to write my primary, secondaries, and for interviews. I also did clinical volunteering and have little to say about that.
Even if your clinical volunteering is sub-par, I'm guessing there are at least a few decent moments which you can talk about. I'm sure that some pre-meds also talk about meaningful experiences from shadowing. At least with shadowing, you're guaranteed to see patients. I'm glad that your clinical employment has worked out for you. :) You have killer stats! Best of luck!!!
 

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Even if your clinical volunteering is sub-par, I'm guessing there are at least a few decent moments which you can talk about. I'm sure that some pre-meds also talk about meaningful experiences from shadowing. At least with shadowing, you're guaranteed to see patients. I'm glad that your clinical employment has worked out for you. :) You have killer stats! Best of luck!!!
Yeah I think shadowing for sure helps a bit more, and combining both will be more than sufficient. And thanks for the encouragement!
 
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acslater99

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This is a very good guide. Although it is great you did this for everyone, knowing SDN there will still be URM threads, grade threads, MD vs DO threads the list goes on.


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This is a very good guide. Although it is great you did this for everyone, knowing SDN there will still be URM threads, grade threads, MD vs DO threads the list goes on.


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Yeah those threads are what make SDN fun and exciting! :) As for this specific thread, I've maintained a pretty neutral position. I don't think everyone will find that very exciting, but it's the best I can do!
 

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Planes, I do have to give SDNers credit, even in the pre-Allo forum, that I see much less bias towards the DO profession than there used to be even two years. Overall, people are very helpful here.

Oh and I almost forgot! An SDN thread just isn't an SDN thread without an MD vs DO debate.
 

mehc012

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Haha great post. Read the whole thing and enjoyed it.

One thing I will say is that I don't know how people are able to reflect in detail about their experiences in clinical volunteering if it is sub-par. That's where my clinical employment has really helped me, I have so much material to use to write my primary, secondaries, and for interviews. I also did clinical volunteering and have little to say about that.
I had a great volunteering experience - hands on work between me, by myself, newborns, and their mothers. That's a 2-1 patient-volunteer ratio! But I still wouldn't use any of that for my app. Volunteering is just...purposefully limited to areas where you can't have a real impact on the patient. The 1 on 1 nature of mine made it even more certain that I would never be around during any situations of actual impact. I did try 2 other volunteer sites, but found it the same, really.
Personally, while I found clinical volunteering fun, I never found it to be meaningful, and I HATE feeling useless, so this is the one area where Planes2Doc and I differ strongly. I would never advocate clinical volunteering for anyone, ever. I would rather put in 3x the hours and have them actually count (getting paid is a bonus) than phone in a few dozen hours of patting myself on the back.
 
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Planes, I do have to give SDNers credit, even in the pre-Allo forum, that I see much less bias towards the DO profession than there used to be even two years. Overall, people are very helpful here.

Oh and I almost forgot! An SDN thread just isn't an SDN thread without an MD vs DO debate.
I completely agree. I've seen less and less MD vs DO threads as well as troll threads. With the merger taking place, I think things will get even better.

I had a great volunteering experience - hands on work between me, by myself, newborns, and their mothers. That's a 2-1 patient-volunteer ratio! But I still wouldn't use any of that for my app. Volunteering is just...purposefully limited to areas where you can't have a real impact on the patient. The 1 on 1 nature of mine made it even more certain that I would never be around during any situations of actual impact. I did try 2 other volunteer sites, but found it the same, really.
Personally, while I found clinical volunteering fun, I never found it to be meaningful, and I HATE feeling useless, so this is the one area where Planes2Doc and I differ strongly. I would never advocate clinical volunteering for anyone, ever. I would rather put in 3x the hours and have them actually count (getting paid is a bonus) than phone in a few dozen hours of patting myself on the back.
It's great that you had wonderful experiences. :) But like I said, there are people who put emphasis on the journey, and people who only put emphasis on the end point. For those who want a meaningful journey, they should do activities which they are passionate about. For those most concerned with the end result, there are easier paths with far less resistance to take.
 
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I completely agree. I've seen less and less MD vs DO threads as well as troll threads. With the merger taking place, I think things will get even better.



It's great that you had wonderful experiences. :) But like I said, there are people who put emphasis on the journey, and people who only put emphasis on the end point. For those who want a meaningful journey, they should do activities which they are passionate about. For those most concerned with the end result, there are easier paths with far less resistance to take.
I demand BOTH. :xf::sneaky:

So far it's working out for me. But then, I enjoy things like 70hr work weeks and MCAT (or other) studying!

We've had this discussion before, though, and I understand your point...and agree with it, to a certain extent. There is a certain amount of 'just suck it up and do it' on this path. However, I tend to think that those who focus only on the goal are going to regret it later, so either way I always recommend getting where you want to go without hating the path. Heck, it's even in my sig!
 
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Absolutely incredible post! This is something many pre-med advisers need to read in order to better assist their students. I though there were two points that weren't discussed in much detail (but I understand the character limits). One is showing leadership skills as a lot of medical schools seek that in students and another one is showing your commitment to undeserved populations, which perhaps is more important at some schools than others.
 
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Absolutely incredible post! This is something many pre-med advisers need to read in order to better assist their students. I though there were two points that weren't discussed in much detail (but I understand the character limits). One is showing leadership skills as a lot of medical schools seek that in students and another one is showing your commitment to undeserved populations, which perhaps is more important at some schools than others.
OK, I normally don't call out typos, but this particular one happens to force a 180° flip in meaning :laugh:
 
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I demand BOTH. :xf::sneaky:

So far it's working out for me. But then, I enjoy things like 70hr work weeks and MCAT (or other) studying!

We've had this discussion before, though, and I understand your point...and agree with it, to a certain extent. There is a certain amount of 'just suck it up and do it' on this path. However, I tend to think that those who focus only on the goal are going to regret it later, so either way I always recommend getting where you want to go without hating the path. Heck, it's even in my sig!
I agree with a lot of what you said. As for the bolded part, I mentioned three people I personally knew at the bottom who failed to get into medical school despite doing big things on the path to medical school. I think they regret making those decisions more now, since they not only failed to get into medical school, but they also failed to get into a good fallback job/school/etc. There are definitely people like you who enjoy working a lot, and are very successful at it. You're very lucky that you can handle such a heavy workload. You will definitely excel in medical school, clinicals, and I'm sure you can deal very well with a special competitive and demanding specialty like surgery. And then we have the people who bite off more than they can chew. They will crash and burn, and trying to become a "ZERO to Mother Teresa" applicant will lead to failure.

Absolutely incredible post! This is something many pre-med advisers need to read in order to better assist their students. I though there were two points that weren't discussed in much detail (but I understand the character limits). One is showing leadership skills as a lot of medical schools seek that in students and another one is showing your commitment to undeserved populations, which perhaps is more important at some schools than others.
Thank you so much! I appreciate the feedback. :) Yeah you're right, I don't think I've mentioned leadership once! I assumed that most pre-meds will put all of their ECs in the most positive light, thus showing leadership. I think embellishment, even in the slightest bit, will help to show leadership roles in any of their ECs. I mentioned that medical schools like to see commitment to the underserved, and pre-meds must show this through their ECs. I think that anytime a pre-med does a general volunteering activity, they are automatically showing that they want to help the underserved. Of course I could be wrong, and maybe ADCOMs would rather see these pre-meds do other specific activities, especially for service-focused schools with a very specific mission statement.
 
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3. Doing an obscene number of hours in a short time period - If you volunteered for 40+ hours per week in a summer and racked up more hours than someone who volunteered for four years straight, how would that look? I mean you'd have the same or even more hours, right? Well, ADCOMs will see this as a case of obvious box-checking. :( They like to see a long-term spread of hours versus doing them all at the same time. Even if you happened to start activities too close to the primary application, it might be a better idea to just take the gap year and do lower consistent hours. This would also be incredibly difficult to do during the regular school year. So remember, racking up 500 hours over four years looks a whole lot better than racking up 500 hours in one summer.
@Planes2Doc, what if you were to get a high volume of volunteering done in the summer, but still continue throughout the school year?

Example:
Person A: Volunteers about 2 years/100 weeks straight, does 4 hours a week. 400 hours total
Person B: Volunteers for 2 years/104 weeks straight. School year (say, 40 weeks) is 1 hour every 2 weeks, and summer (12 weeks) is 3 hours a day, Monday-Friday. 400 hours total

Is Person B at a disadvantage? I'm not familiar with the AMCAS so I don't know how carefully adcoms can see your dates of volunteering.
 
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@Planes2Doc, what if you were to get a high volume of volunteering done in the summer, but still continue throughout the school year?

Example:
Person A: Volunteers about 2 years/100 weeks straight, does 4 hours a week. 400 hours total
Person B: Volunteers for 2 years/104 weeks straight. School year (say, 40 weeks) is 1 hour every 2 weeks, and summer (12 weeks) is 3 hours a day, Monday-Friday. 400 hours total

Is Person B at a disadvantage? I'm not familiar with the AMCAS so I don't know how carefully adcoms can see your dates of volunteering.
Yes, person B is at a disadvantage, especially if this summer is the one before filling out AMCAS. This shows that you were treating this more as a check-box item than anything else, and trying to rack up hours. Your example is interesting though, since you include a giant buildup of hours in the summer connected to a more consistent bi-weekly volunteer commitment (AMCAS asks for weekly hours, so be aware of that). Typically, people who are misguided in the process might only volunteer the summer before when they realize they have no volunteering and need to get the requirement done. In that case, it might be painfully obvious. Now what if you volunteer every week for four hours, but decide to double the hours in summer or add other volunteer gigs? That should probably look fine as long as you have consistent volunteering in place. The best thing to do though is a straight commitment over three or four years as a traditional applicant. ADCOMs like to see commitment, and after that time you should rack up a few hundred hours which will make you competitive at most schools assuming good stats.
 
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Yes, person B is at a disadvantage, especially if this summer is the one before filling out AMCAS. This shows that you were treating this more as a check-box item than anything else, and trying to rack up hours. Your example is interesting though, since you include a giant buildup of hours in the summer connected to a more consistent bi-weekly volunteer commitment (AMCAS asks for weekly hours, so be aware of that). Typically, people who are misguided in the process might only volunteer the summer before when they realize they have no volunteering and need to get the requirement done. In that case, it might be painfully obvious. Now what if you volunteer every week for four hours, but decide to double the hours in summer or add other volunteer gigs? That should probably look fine as long as you have consistent volunteering in place. The best thing to do though is a straight commitment over three or four years as a traditional applicant. ADCOMs like to see commitment, and after that time you should rack up a few hundred hours which will make you competitive at most schools assuming good stats.
They can't see more than start date, end date, hours, right?
So wouldn't A and B look analogous?

Clever way to do zero to Mother Teresa, imo
 
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@Planes2Doc, what if you were to get a high volume of volunteering done in the summer, but still continue throughout the school year?

Example:
Person A: Volunteers about 2 years/100 weeks straight, does 4 hours a week. 400 hours total
Person B: Volunteers for 2 years/104 weeks straight. School year (say, 40 weeks) is 1 hour every 2 weeks, and summer (12 weeks) is 3 hours a day, Monday-Friday. 400 hours total

Is Person B at a disadvantage? I'm not familiar with the AMCAS so I don't know how carefully adcoms can see your dates of volunteering.
Well AMCAS doesn't ask for weekly hours now, just total, so they'd both look the same on paper if the volunteering was continuous.
 
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Well AMCAS doesn't ask for weekly hours now, just total, so they'd both look the same on paper if the volunteering was continuous.
Oh wow, things have definitely changed then! My bad. I'm guessing that if it still asks for a start and end date, pre-meds might take advantage of this. But otherwise, yeah they would likely look similar.
 
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I mean... in the interview if they ask you to talk about volunteering you did it would probably be a bad idea and lie saying you did it every week when you did most of it in the summer.
 
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I mean... in the interview if they ask you to talk about volunteering you did it would probably be a bad idea and lie saying you did it every week when you did most of it in the summer.
That's definitely a possibility. I'm not sure how ADCOMs would approach this issue today. It's also far more realistic to do it once per week for a few hours than doing 40+ hours per week. The latter sounds insane.

On the other hand, this is great for sporadic non-clinical activities which can't be done on a weekly basis.
 

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Oh wow, things have definitely changed then! My bad. I'm guessing that if it still asks for a start and end date, pre-meds might take advantage of this. But otherwise, yeah they would likely look similar.
I believe the shift from listing weekly hours to listing total hours on the AMCAS is that adcoms have shifted their own beliefs about what's important. I think they now recognize that not everyone can do a weekly commitment for community service, shadowing, clinical volunteering, etc. Also, some activities are hard to quantify using hours, such as having a leadership position on an exec board, but we still have to list total hours for everything we put.
 
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Bumping this for freshman and other posters
Thanks! I appreciate it. I'm glad that you find this helpful. I hope that freshman find this thread helpful as well. :)

I think that if we can bridge the divide between what pre-med advisors say (they have a bad reputation on SDN for some reason) and what typical SDN members say, we'd have a much better place for all pre-meds.
 
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Thank you so much for your post, it was very informative.

I do have a few questions. You mention that it's not worth it to volunteer abroad, for various reasons. I'm going to be studying in Chile this fall (for the entire semester, not just a few weeks). The doctor my sister sees has a friend in the city I'm staying in who happens to be the director of Teletón, a charity that earns money for physically disabled children, particularly kids with cerebral palsy (which my sister has, so obviously I have a personal interest in this cause). The doctor said she'd be happy to contact her friend in Chile and set up a volunteering opportunity for me. If this works out, I'll probably end up doing this regardless of whether or not it helps my med school application, because I actually do love volunteering. But I am curious, would this opportunity be completely meaningless because it falls into the category of volunteering abroad? Also, what about volunteering in a hospital abroad, assuming it's something I would do for the duration of my five months there?

One more question: when I'm abroad, I'm going to be taking a class that involves doing several hours of clinical observations a week. It's 80 hours total over one semester, and I get to see disciplines including public health, physical and rehabilitative medicine, ob/gyn, pediatrics, general internal medicine, surgery, and psychiatry. My question is: do clinical observations fall into the category of shadowing? And how will this experience compare to shadowing doctors in the US in the eyes of adcoms?
 

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Volunteering abroad is not useless in itself.

However, recently, an inordinate amount of "organizations" have started offering "volunteer trips" to developing countries for which you have to fork-out an insane amount of money and all you do is basically get a great tan and take pictures with kids in orphanages and co to have something to show when you get back home. In general, if you're asked to pay for anything more than your plane ticket and affordable food/roof ($5-$10/day), it's a scam and meant only to make money off of people's good intentions. (And it is MUCH more common than you'd think.)

Your experience, on the other hand, is fine. Do it for the good reasons, however.
Does it fit with the rest of your volunteering history? Are you passionate about helping kids with disabilities?
A bunch of random, unrelated ECs aren't -to my knowledge- looked at very strongly by ADCOMS. Even if the activities are individually good.
 
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Thank you so much for your post, it was very informative.
Thanks! :)

I do have a few questions. You mention that it's not worth it to volunteer abroad, for various reasons. I'm going to be studying in Chile this fall (for the entire semester, not just a few weeks). The doctor my sister sees has a friend in the city I'm staying in who happens to be the director of Teletón, a charity that earns money for physically disabled children, particularly kids with cerebral palsy (which my sister has, so obviously I have a personal interest in this cause). The doctor said she'd be happy to contact her friend in Chile and set up a volunteering opportunity for me. If this works out, I'll probably end up doing this regardless of whether or not it helps my med school application, because I actually do love volunteering. But I am curious, would this opportunity be completely meaningless because it falls into the category of volunteering abroad? Also, what about volunteering in a hospital abroad, assuming it's something I would do for the duration of my five months there?
This is very unique. You don't hear about someone going abroad and continuing ECs very often. I say go for it! This will be a longer commitment, and if you explain it to ADCOMs the same way you explained it on this thread, you should be fine. If you were going to Chile for a week or two, then it would probably look bad assuming you never did anything like this again. Once you come back to the states, you should consider pursuing more ECs that deal with physically disabled children.

One more question: when I'm abroad, I'm going to be taking a class that involves doing several hours of clinical observations a week. It's 80 hours total over one semester, and I get to see disciplines including public health, physical and rehabilitative medicine, ob/gyn, pediatrics, general internal medicine, surgery, and psychiatry. My question is: do clinical observations fall into the category of shadowing? And how will this experience compare to shadowing doctors in the US in the eyes of adcoms?
Hmm... I honestly don't know how to answer this question. I've seen people say that they shadowed during mission trips or when they were visiting their home countries. I'm guessing it can't hurt, but it definitely won't replace domestic shadowing. I'd like to see what an ADCOM has to say about this!

Best of luck on your semester abroad this fall! It sounds like it will be a terrific experience! :D
 
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Volunteering abroad is not useless in itself.

However, recently, an inordinate amount of "organizations" have started offering "volunteer trips" to developing countries for which you have to fork-out an insane amount of money and all you do is basically get a great tan and take pictures with kids in orphanages and co to have something to show when you get back home. In general, if you're asked to pay for anything more than your plane ticket and affordable food/roof ($5-$10/day), it's a scam and meant only to make money off of people's good intentions. (And it is MUCH more common than you'd think.)
I agree with you. These organizations trying to profit off peoples' good intentions and pre-meds' ulterior motives ruin it for everyone else. The bad apples always ruin things. :(

Your experience, on the other hand, is fine. Do it for the good reasons, however.
Does it fit with the rest of your volunteering history? Are you passionate about helping kids with disabilities?
A bunch of random, unrelated ECs aren't -to my knowledge- looked at very strongly by ADCOMS. Even if the activities are individually good.
This is where I was going with my response... An ongoing theme is what will make your application look better. But now I just sound like a horrible person. :(
 

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Okay, thank you! I've never been involved in working with disabled kids, actually. I think having a disabled sibling has had the opposite impact on me that it has on most people, in that it's kind of driven me away from having an interest in physical medicine. I am interested in helping the disabled in other ways (better living standards, feeling involved in the community, opportunities at school, etc) but I've never been interested in helping medically, if that even makes sense. But I feel like I should give it a chance, and I think this would be a good opportunity to do so. What if I don't like it and decide to not continue volunteering with disabled people when I return home? Is it still a worthwhile experience?