void

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I am strongly considering taking a year off after I graduate my undergraduate institution. I do not want to waste this time off, nor do I want to spend it taking additional classes. I really don't want to spend it at home, living off my parents. I realized this would be a perfect opportunity to learn something real about the world. Aside from spending the time studying for the MCAT (which I intend to take the August after my senior year.) and time spent on research and hospital volunteering, I wish to spend it at an international organization helping people who really need it.

I feel that with a Bachelor's in Biochemistry, which I will have by that point, I will be able to make some sort of difference - Far more than what that will get me in the United States. But idealism aside, my ultimate goal is to become a physician and this is the rub.

How good would an international volunteership look on my application for medical school? Given that I am able to talk lengths about it in my interview, and that I am genuinely interested and not just doing it for the application. (The reason I say this is to ward off potential posts saying "don't just do it for the app")

Given that the Peace Corps requires a 27-month commitment, I will probably volunteer through some other international organization for a shorter period of time. (6 mo. - 1 yr.) But seriously, how good to these things look on the application? How would medical schools react to something like this? Would they tear at my dedication and humanity? Or has the admissions process become so competitive that it's become cookie cutter? Discuss.
 

ChubbyChaser

Yummmy
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Apr 14, 2007
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I am strongly considering taking a year off after I graduate my undergraduate institution. I do not want to waste this time off, nor do I want to spend it taking additional classes. I really don't want to spend it at home, living off my parents. I realized this would be a perfect opportunity to learn something real about the world. Aside from spending the time studying for the MCAT (which I intend to take the August after my senior year.) and time spent on research and hospital volunteering, I wish to spend it at an international organization helping people who really need it.

I feel that with a Bachelor's in Biochemistry, which I will have by that point, I will be able to make some sort of difference - Far more than what that will get me in the United States. But idealism aside, my ultimate goal is to become a physician and this is the rub.

How good would an international volunteership look on my application for medical school? Given that I am able to talk lengths about it in my interview, and that I am genuinely interested and not just doing it for the application. (The reason I say this is to ward off potential posts saying "don't just do it for the app")

Given that the Peace Corps requires a 27-month commitment, I will probably volunteer through some other international organization for a shorter period of time. (6 mo. - 1 yr.) But seriously, how good to these things look on the application? How would medical schools react to something like this? Would they tear at my dedication and humanity? Or has the admissions process become so competitive that it's become cookie cutter? Discuss.
Umm how are you gonna do research and volunteer overseas for a year?
 

ChubbyChaser

Yummmy
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Wylde

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Just curious, why does it matter how it looks if you're genuinely interested?
It's not unreasonable to want to know how xx or yy will be received by adcoms. Everyone tries to get a good GPA, not because they are genuinely interested in learning every intricate detail to solidify an A, but because they ultimately want to enter Medical school.

People don't study for the MCAT because they enjoy studying/taking standardized tests, they want to get into medical school. This is not selfish.

To answer the OPs question: I think international volunteering (if it's more than a single 2 week trip) is obviously going to benefit your application. Everyone has hospital volunteering, shadowing, and usually a volunteer organization (ie big brothers/sisters) and research... international volunteering will probably set you out from the cookie cutter model of ECs that adcoms see with all 42k applicants. The benefit you gain from being able to incorporate your experience into PS/secondaries/interview is highly unquantifiable, it'll especially be important if you don't have many interesting stories to tel!
 

ChubbyChaser

Yummmy
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Apr 14, 2007
13,168
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Medical Student
It's not unreasonable to want to know how xx or yy will be received by adcoms. Everyone tries to get a good GPA, not because they are genuinely interested in learning every intricate detail to solidify an A, but because they ultimately want to enter Medical school.

People don't study for the MCAT because they enjoy studying/taking standardized tests, they want to get into medical school. This is not selfish.

To answer the OPs question: I think international volunteering (if it's more than a single 2 week trip) is obviously going to benefit your application. Everyone has hospital volunteering, shadowing, and usually a volunteer organization (ie big brothers/sisters) and research... international volunteering will probably set you out from the cookie cutter model of ECs that adcoms see with all 42k applicants. The benefit you gain from being able to incorporate your experience into PS/secondaries/interview is highly unquantifiable, it'll especially be important if you don't have many interesting stories to tel!
of course we do...everyone loves the mcat/
 

brianmartin

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Nov 12, 2006
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But seriously, how good to these things look on the application? How would medical schools react to something like this?
I'd imagine positively. Don't feel like you have to do it though. Though Africa does file under "the real world", YOUR real world will be a lot different once you graduate from medical school, get a residency, and start practicing. Don't let your EC's get in the way of learning about OUR world first. You may not need to spend an entire YEAR abroad...unless your heart is really set on that.

I feel that with a Bachelor's in Biochemistry, which I will have by that point, I will be able to make some sort of difference
You may, possibly by working in a lab that is doing interesting work.

But seriously, how good to these things look on the application? How would medical schools react to something like this? Would they tear at my dedication and humanity?
You seem to be preoccupied with this question of the outward appearance of your actions. In the grand scheme, what a medical school adcom thinks of your international volunteering is inconsequential. You could decide to stay here and do something different, like gain some clinical experience working in a hospital. It doesn't matter what you do as long as it's worthwhile in some way.
 
OP
V

void

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Dec 27, 2006
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I foresaw the first three posts, which is why I tried to emphasize how I wanted to do this not just for the application, but that it is obviously important. I also want to re-emphasize that I am aware of the things I can do here. I plan on gaining clinical experience at hospitals and I plan on researching here anyway. The reason I want to take a year off is because I want to do something abroad.

The point of this thread is to discuss the merits of international volunteering. Whether or not it plays a profound role in the application process. We all want to get into medical school, and everything we do that we say we do because we want to (volunteer at hospitals, act nice to professors, participate, do well in daily everyday events of our lives) they all, regardless of the perceived motive, have something to do with ensuring that you have a better shot at achieving that goal, or at least ensure that you have a good future. So spare the lecture. :p

So anyway, is volunteering abroad overrated? hackneyed? or is it just what the doctor ordered?
 

littlealex

little tiny alex
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Does it help? Yes. Does it play a profound role? Not really. It definitely helps, but most adcoms realize it's a byproduct of the wealth of a student's background, and therefore it's valued as much as dedicated volunteer work around your home would be.

To quote an adcom on my application: "your work in China is great, but you do realize that there are just as many people that need help in your city? It looks like you just volunteered there because you wanted to travel."

I told him the truth, that I really did want to travel and I thought it was a good chance to broaden my horizon.

My advice, go because you want to have fun, mention it in your application, but don't make it the focus. You'd be surprised at the number of people with similar experiences. At the same time, it'll be the trip of a lifetime and you won't regret it.

Volunteering at the local community clinic for 2 years > volunteering abroad for 8 months.