Sufficient experience for application

elloL

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Mar 19, 2020
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Hello,

I wondering if my expected clinical activities would be viewed as being enough. I currently have no shadowing experience even though I have been trying to find some in my town for the past couple years. I finally found time to get some while living on campus at college, but it was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I will continue trying to get some before I apply, but the hours will likely be low. Other than that I have 120 hours volunteering at a local hospital and will likely accumulate about 200 hours volunteering as a blood donor screener for the Red Cross. I am not sure if the latter counts as being clinical, and am therefore uncertain if I have a decent amount of clinical hours. On the nonclinical side, I was a paid tutor for several years at my college and am a volunteer online counselor for a suicide prevention website. Should I pursue a specific type of clinical activity before I apply? And does the Red Cross experience count as being "clinical?" - I do not work with patients (sick people), but do have to check the temps of people donating blood to see if they may have the virus.
 

kpotato

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Mar 21, 2020
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I don't have an answer for ya, but will you be applying next cycle? I think I'm in the same boat as you and I'm really worried that covid restrictions will inhibit my ability to shadow and get clinical (and even nonclinical) experience in the next year.
 

elloL

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Mar 19, 2020
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I don't have an answer for ya, but will you be applying next cycle? I think I'm in the same boat as you and I'm really worried that covid restrictions will inhibit my ability to shadow and get clinical (and even nonclinical) experience in the next year.
Yeah, applying for 2021. I know admissions committees will likely be understanding about the limits of the pandemic, but I feel like they might think that I have had plenty of time to have gotten clinical hours since I will have been out of school for two years. That would not be too fair though since I have not had a car throughout college and so was restricted to finding hours in my town, and my town is unfriendly to pre-meds so I was ignored by all of the places that I tried to find shadowing hours at. It was definitely not for a lack of trying that I have no shadowing hours.
 
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kpotato

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Mar 21, 2020
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  1. Pre-Medical
Yeah, applying for 2021. I know admissions committees will likely be understanding about the limits of the pandemic, but I feel like they might think that I have had plenty of time to have gotten clinical hours since I will have been out of school for two years. That would not be too fair though since I have not had a car throughout college and so was restricted to finding hours in my town, and my town is unfriendly to pre-meds so I was ignored by all of the places that I tried to find shadowing hours at. It was definitely not for a lack of trying that I have no shadowing hours.
Yeah, I feel you. This is something I've been curious about -- are adcoms at all sensitive to personal situations that may have made it difficult for us to build up our application and resume, even in non-pandemic times? is there a space to explain this in the application? or do they brush right past you to find someone who achieved more and who did not have any barriers to those opportunities? in my case, I really did not consider medicine seriously until this school year, and had covid not happened, I would have been able to get more shadowing and volunteering. But I'm starting to think that I'll have no choice to take a gap year.
 
May 19, 2020
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Yeah, I feel you. This is something I've been curious about -- are adcoms at all sensitive to personal situations that may have made it difficult for us to build up our application and resume, even in non-pandemic times? is there a space to explain this in the application? or do they brush right past you to find someone who achieved more and who did not have any barriers to those opportunities? in my case, I really did not consider medicine seriously until this school year, and had covid not happened, I would have been able to get more shadowing and volunteering. But I'm starting to think that I'll have no choice to take a gap year.

Remember that medical schools aren't looking to build the "fairest" process: they're looking to select for the students that will give them the strongest class.

While there are some situations that can certainly explain lower numbers of hours (for instance, needing to work to support a family and not having as much time to volunteer) even that will only go so far. The committee isn't going to expect less of you since you decided late that you wanted to be a doctor: the expectation would be that you would take the time post-graduation to build the experience you need to be a competitive applicant.

I would encourage anyone who feels like their application is "light" on experience (but not lethally so) to be well prepared to answer specific questions about it, and have good answers. For instance, if you're saying you weren't able to get shadowing experience due to COVID, the immediate question you will need to be able to answer is "Why didn't you get experience in previous years?"

If you already had a track record of clinical and non-clinical volunteer work and shadowing, but may be on the light end because you were planning on ramping up existing activities this Spring/Summer, you will be in a better situation for an admissions committee to be understanding- but they still are going to be looking at people who had more hours even with COVID, and potentially wondering why you wouldn't wait until you had the needed background experience to apply.

Getting into medical school isn't a race to see who gets in first. Gap years aren't a penalty. They're often excellent for building skills, maturity, and helping with career discernment.
 
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elloL

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Mar 19, 2020
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Yeah, I feel you. This is something I've been curious about -- are adcoms at all sensitive to personal situations that may have made it difficult for us to build up our application and resume, even in non-pandemic times? is there a space to explain this in the application? or do they brush right past you to find someone who achieved more and who did not have any barriers to those opportunities? in my case, I really did not consider medicine seriously until this school year, and had covid not happened, I would have been able to get more shadowing and volunteering. But I'm starting to think that I'll have no choice to take a gap year.
Gauging from what you said, it seems like you might have less experience than I do? What have you done clinically and non-clinically? I am currently taking a gap year to gain more clinical hours, so I would certainly recommend it if you feel that you are lacking in that department.
 

kpotato

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Mar 21, 2020
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Gauging from what you said, it seems like you might have less experience than I do? What have you done clinically and non-clinically? I am currently taking a gap year to gain more clinical hours, so I would certainly recommend it if you feel that you are lacking in that department.
I admittedly have very little experience. I probably have about 40-50 hours of nonclinical volunteering and I have 12 hours of shadowing. No clinical volunteering yet, but I was going to volunteer with a hospice organization this past spring if covid hadn't happened, and I'm hoping to be able to volunteer to give first aid at sporting events this fall. I'm teaching an online enrichment course this summer and working as a TA so I'll have ~130 hours of that too. And I'm also on a senior leadership committee this year, from which I estimate ~20 hours (not even sure if this would be volunteering or leadership). And I have an assortment of paid work experience. I'm realizing that it's probably not looking good for me next cycle as I write this all out.
 
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kpotato

Full Member
Mar 21, 2020
15
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  1. Pre-Medical
Remember that medical schools aren't looking to build the "fairest" process: they're looking to select for the students that will give them the strongest class.

While there are some situations that can certainly explain lower numbers of hours (for instance, needing to work to support a family and not having as much time to volunteer) even that will only go so far. The committee isn't going to expect less of you since you decided late that you wanted to be a doctor: the expectation would be that you would take the time post-graduation to build the experience you need to be a competitive applicant.

I would encourage anyone who feels like their application is "light" on experience (but not lethally so) to be well prepared to answer specific questions about it, and have good answers. For instance, if you're saying you weren't able to get shadowing experience due to COVID, the immediate question you will need to be able to answer is "Why didn't you get experience in previous years?"

If you already had a track record of clinical and non-clinical volunteer work and shadowing, but may be on the light end because you were planning on ramping up existing activities this Spring/Summer, you will be in a better situation for an admissions committee to be understanding- but they still are going to be looking at people who had more hours even with COVID, and potentially wondering why you wouldn't wait until you had the needed background experience to apply.

Getting into medical school isn't a race to see who gets in first. Gap years aren't a penalty. They're often excellent for building skills, maturity, and helping with career discernment.
Thanks for this perspective. I totally get that med schools are trying to build the strongest class. Given the experience I noted above in my reply to OP, would you say that I should think about delaying my app because opportunities in the next year could be limited and because I have demonstrated limited experience in the first half of my college career?
 

elloL

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Mar 19, 2020
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I admittedly have very little experience. I probably have about 40-50 hours of nonclinical volunteering and I have 12 hours of shadowing. No clinical volunteering yet, but I was going to volunteer with a hospice organization this past spring if covid hadn't happened, and I'm hoping to be able to volunteer to give first aid at sporting events this fall. I'm teaching an online enrichment course this summer and working as a TA so I'll have ~130 hours of that too. And I'm also on a senior leadership committee this year, from which I estimate ~20 hours (not even sure if this would be volunteering or leadership). And I have an assortment of paid work experience. I'm realizing that it's probably not looking good for me next cycle as I write this all out.
The way I see it is that for a solid application you have to have (in terms of extracurriculars) 1. leadership experience - eg. teaching/tutoring, being president of a club, organizing events/ charities 2. clinical volunteering 3. non-clinical volunteering 4. shadowing hours 5. research (typically recommended). The thing is under the context of this pandemic, I am not sure how lax they will be about hours, because my shadowing and clinical hours will be weak due to this pandemic and past struggles. Like I mentioned, I would recommend taking a year off for you, simply based on the fact that you have even less experience than me, and I consider what I have to be lacking.
 

penguinsfan71

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Jan 7, 2020
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I currently have no shadowing experience even though I have been trying to find some in my town for the past couple years. I finally found time to get some while living on campus at college, but it was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shadowing is important for a complete application, med schools want to know that you know exactly what you're getting into. I'm sorry covid messed up your plans :(

Other than that I have 120 hours volunteering at a local hospital and will likely accumulate about 200 hours volunteering as a blood donor screener for the Red Cross. I am not sure if the latter counts as being clinical, and am therefore uncertain if I have a decent amount of clinical hours.

Experiences are typically only considered clinical if you have direct interaction with the patients. Volunteering as a blood screener is a very cool experience that you should absolutely list on your app, but it isn't clinical.

That would not be too fair though since I have not had a car throughout college and so was restricted to finding hours in my town, and my town is unfriendly to pre-meds so I was ignored by all of the places that I tried to find shadowing hours at.

Unfortunately, med schools don't really care about what's fair and what's not. You'll be going up against other applicants with tons of clinical and shadowing experiences, and adcoms aren't going to know your reasons for being light on them. I would definitely try to add more clinical experience between now and when you apply next year.
 
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StudentDoGter

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How many hours do you have for the online suicide prevention website? Do you have any volunteering hours in the community with underserved populations other than the Red Cross?

It may be in your best interest to delay applying a year so that you can gain more clinical experience and shadowing.
 
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One thing I'd encourage is to not just consider hours: also consider how long you've been working.

For example, volunteering 2 hours a month at the same organization for the last 4 years (96 hours total) will look different than volunteering 10 hours a week for 10 weeks over the summer (100 hours) and both of those will look different than working full time for 2 weeks (~80-100 hours, depending on the length of days).

Showing that you have consistently put time in is important- it shows a long-term commitment and interest, both to clinical work and to serving your community in general.
 

elloL

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Mar 19, 2020
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How many hours do you have for the online suicide prevention website? Do you have any volunteering hours in the community with underserved populations other than the Red Cross?

It may be in your best interest to delay applying a year so that you can gain more clinical experience and shadowing.
I do not think delaying a whole year is necessary given the fact that I still have a year ahead of me to do these things. I will have about 200 hours for the suicide prevention thing by the time that I apply. I have 120 hours (3 years) volunteering at my community hospital where I transported physically disabled people to their appointments and acted as a translator for people who could not speak English (I'm bilingual). I would try to continue volunteering there for more hours, but they stopped accepting student volunteers. I wanted to (while continuing to study for the MCAT) find a clinical position that would look good on my application, but was not sure where. Really, my main concern is that I will not have too many shadowing hours by the time that I apply (I might be able to pull about 40 hours, maybe).
 

elloL

Full Member
Mar 19, 2020
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  1. Pre-Medical
One thing I'd encourage is to not just consider hours: also consider how long you've been working.

For example, volunteering 2 hours a month at the same organization for the last 4 years (96 hours total) will look different than volunteering 10 hours a week for 10 weeks over the summer (100 hours) and both of those will look different than working full time for 2 weeks (~80-100 hours, depending on the length of days).

Showing that you have consistently put time in is important- it shows a long-term commitment and interest, both to clinical work and to serving your community in general.
I am not too concerned about that because all of the experiences that I have completed or am currently doing, I will have done for at least 1 year. My shadowing will be the only thing crammed in a little last minute because of the pandemic, unfortunately. By the time that I apply, based on what I am currently doing/ have done:

Red Cross Volunteer - 1 year
Suicide Counseling Volunteer - 1 year
Community Hospital Volunteer l - 3 years
Paid Tutoring - 3 years
Shadowing ~ 6 months?
 

StudentDoGter

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Sep 17, 2014
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I do not think delaying a whole year is necessary given the fact that I still have a year ahead of me to do these things. I will have about 200 hours for the suicide prevention thing by the time that I apply. I have 120 hours (3 years) volunteering at my community hospital where I transported physically disabled people to their appointments and acted as a translator for people who could not speak English (I'm bilingual). I would try to continue volunteering there for more hours, but they stopped accepting student volunteers. I wanted to (while continuing to study for the MCAT) find a clinical position that would look good on my application, but was not sure where. Really, my main concern is that I will not have too many shadowing hours by the time that I apply (I might be able to pull about 40 hours, maybe).

oh I thought you were applying this current cycle, oops. I definitely think that you could be okay for next year :).
 
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