Sep 13, 2017
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My goal is to aim for top tier come app time and I am wondering what kind of volunteering/how many hours would make me stand out. I currently volunteer at a clinic for 3 hours a week. I have a little less than 100 hours at this point and just started my sophomore year.

I genuinely enjoy volunteering and and other than the clinical volunteering I have:
-program where you are paired with a person with disabilities as a "buddy"
-a mentorship/tutoring program with a local public school

I dont know if either of the above count as non-clinical volunteering or serving the underserved, but I was also considering joining Habitat for Humanity. I tried volunteering at a little homeless shelter but it was really boring and just wasn't for me. Any other suggestions or tips would be appreciated.

Also, I am wondering if the 3 hour clinic volunteering is enough in terms of clinical experience or if I need to add on something else such as a different clinical volunteering experience, scribing, etc. I plan on continuing the clinic volunteering and would have around 250 hours by the time I apply. Thank you.

@LizzyM @Goro @gonnif @gyngyn
 
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Goro

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Of the SDNers who made it into Really Top Schools, one theme that seems to be common is that they have lots of service to others (especially those less fortunate than yourself) and/or patient contact experience. Where they have bulked up on one over the other, quality over quantity seems to stand out, for example, working in hospice or with the developmentally disabled rather than scrubbing ER stick rooms or greeting visitors at the front desk.

These people also have hundreds, if not even 1000s of hours of said experiences (either employed or volunteer). You don't have to be Mother Teresa or join the Peace Corps, but do what you love and love what you do.
 

LizzyM

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If you have more than 300 hours of non-clinical volunteering by the time you apply you will be in the top 25% of applicants with regard to community service (based on what I see). The tip top of the pyramid are those who do a full-time volunteerism during a gap year or two (Peace Corps, City Year, etc).

Both the buddy to a disabled person and tutoring in a local school would count as non-clinical volunteering.
 
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USERX

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Its hard to give advice for two reasons. 1) Each place is different with different opportunities and the ones that are the same are usually pretty generic which plays into point 2. 2) You should select experiences that you enjoy and can talk about. Pick volunteer work that you can sustain all 4 years in university and progress each year via a leadership role or a personal project to show how you build on your experiences. It is not about quantity or even what you do, its about how you have progressed yourself in each experience.
 
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Planes2Doc

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It becomes a fine balance of getting lots of hours while maintaining stellar grades and getting a great MCAT score. My suggestions would be the following:

1. Do NOT do an entry-level clinical job under any circumstance, these are too time consuming and won't set you apart. Also any money you earn now is pocket change compared to future earnings. It's better to just take the pay cut and volunteer, volunteer, and volunteer some more.
2. Start hospital volunteering immediately; try to find a hospital that isn't pre-med heavy, and it's best to find a nearby hospital with shifts that hopefully allow plenty of down time to study. I volunteered in the emergency department, and it was hit or miss for being able to do school-related stuff. Do clinical volunteering up until submitting your AMCAS so you have longevity.
3. The mentor ship stuff sounds good. If you genuinely enjoy that, then it's even better. Just make sure it's not cutting into your study and MCAT time.
4. With all of the hurricane stuff going on, see if you can help with relief efforts if you have the time for it. You'd actually be doing some good here domestically, and it's short, sweet, and would look good.
5. Unless you or your parents are immigrants from a poor third world country, do NOT waste your time and money going on a mission trip. Pre-meds have overdone them to the point that not only do they not look good, they will actually look bad because they will demonstrate medical tourism.

Okay, we got clinical and non-clinical volunteering covered. As for your non-clinical volunteering, make sure that you are doing it during each year of college for a decent duration of a few months at a time. That way you can pretty much write it as a consistent activity. I did some pretty neat non-clinical volunteering, but they were usually single events few and far between. But they were actually fun and didn't suck majorly like hospital volunteering.

Also, if you have a particular hobby like photography, playing an instrument, or something similar, then find something where you can use it! I'm a professional photographer on the side (well rarely now because of residency), but I volunteered my services for free and it was great.

Speaking of hobbies. If you do something like photography, try to get better at it. Not only can you list it as a hobby, but you can volunteer your services for hospitals or health-related organizations. It's the one gig that lets you rub elbows with those at the upper echelon of society. Also people that might know ADCOMs or be able to help you get into medical school. Remember, it's all about networking!

For more volunteer-related advice, check out some of my threads here:
1. Medical School Admissions, Blackjack, and the Art of Checking Boxes
2. Clinical Jobs, Bar Mitzvahs, and Why You Shouldn't Do It
3. Volunteering Abroad, Joseph Kony, and Why You Shouldn't Do It
4. Planes2Doc's Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Your Medical School Application
 
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Of the SDNers who made it into Really Top Schools, one theme that seems to be common is that they have lots of service to others (especially those less fortunate than yourself) and/or patient contact experience. Where they have bulked up on one over the other, quality over quantity seems to stand out, for example, working in hospice or with the developmentally disabled rather than scrubbing ER stick rooms or greeting visitors at the front desk.

These people also have hundreds, if not even 1000s of hours of said experiences (either employed or volunteer). You don't have to be Mother Teresa or join the Peace Corps, but do what you love and love what you do.
This advice is right on the money--it is literally the change I made when I was trying to find more meaningful and direct clinical volunteering ~10 years ago. (Which may have been inspired by reading similar advice on SDN back then!)
 
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If you have more than 300 hours of non-clinical volunteering by the time you apply you will be in the top 25% of applicants with regard to community service (based on what I see). The tip top of the pyramid are those who do a full-time volunteerism during a gap year or two (Peace Corps, City Year, etc).

Both the buddy to a disabled person and tutoring in a local school would count as non-clinical volunteering.

I feel like those estimates are pretty high. Are you sure it's the top 25% of applications who get accepted and/or an II rather than the entire applicant pool in general?

It's very hard to believe that a fourth of the national applicant pool has 300 or more nonclinical hours
 

Planes2Doc

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I feel like those estimates are pretty high. Are you sure it's the top 25% of applications who get accepted and/or an II rather than the entire applicant pool in general?

It's very hard to believe that a fourth of the national applicant pool has 300 or more nonclinical hours
I'd be willing to guess that the top people have a wide variety of both clinical and non-clinical volunteer experiences that end up at way beyond 300 hours. In my opinion, this likely has a paradoxical effect, and have an explanation for this too. It was originally thought as a troll post: MORE Volunteering = LESS Desirable Applicant
 
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LizzyM

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I feel like those estimates are pretty high. Are you sure it's the top 25% of applications who get accepted and/or an II rather than the entire applicant pool in general?

It's very hard to believe that a fourth of the national applicant pool has 300 or more nonclinical hours
I'm referring to the top 25% of the pool that get reviewed at a top 20 school. The OP is aiming for a top tier and I'm just reporting what I see in that pool.
 
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I'm referring to the top 25% of the pool that get reviewed at a top 20 school. The OP is aiming for a top tier and I'm just reporting what I see in that pool.

So around 250 clinical hours at an outpatient clinic (with a leadership position) and 200-300 non-clinical (through 3 activities) would be considered in the top 25% of top 20 school applicants in terms of volunteering?

What would you say would be competitive for research? In your experience what percentage of applicants have a pub or a thesis? Will not having either of these and just working in a lab for 2 years hurt me?
 

mwsapphire

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If you have more than 300 hours of non-clinical volunteering by the time you apply you will be in the top 25% of applicants with regard to community service (based on what I see). The tip top of the pyramid are those who do a full-time volunteerism during a gap year or two (Peace Corps, City Year, etc).

Both the buddy to a disabled person and tutoring in a local school would count as non-clinical volunteering.
I'm referring to the top 25% of the pool that get reviewed at a top 20 school. The OP is aiming for a top tier and I'm just reporting what I see in that pool.
What about clinical volunteer hours? Could you give an estimate for that?
( Not aiming for Harvard, just trying to asses my own competative-ness compared to the overall applicant pool.)
 

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250 hours is sufficient for top tier as long as you can demonstrate in your writing and interviewing that you enjoy working with sick people and can see yourself in such an environment for the rest of your professional life. If the main selling point of your app is your clinical volunteering, then 250 is probably going to be too little, but if it's a more peripheral, aspect, it should be fine.
 

LizzyM

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So around 250 clinical hours at an outpatient clinic (with a leadership position) and 200-300 non-clinical (through 3 activities) would be considered in the top 25% of top 20 school applicants in terms of volunteering?

What would you say would be competitive for research? In your experience what percentage of applicants have a pub or a thesis? Will not having either of these and just working in a lab for 2 years hurt me?
The OP was asking about non-clinical volunteering and I put the top 25% of the top 20 applicant pool at 300 hours. Ergo 200 hours of non-clinical would be below the top 25% of that pool. If you figure 3 years between HS graduation and application and an average of 2 hours per week for 3 years, it is 300 hours. You can do it differently, more intensely or over more years (non-trad, or applying as a senior).

Clinical... top 25% of the pool have employment in a clinical setting: EMT, scribe, patient care technician (aide). The hours don't matter... it is going to be hundreds of hours if you even work full-time for a few weeks.

The proportion of top applicants who have a publication or a thesis is relatively low -- maybe <20% if you include undergrad thesis. Publications? Less than 5% have anything in a reputable peer reviewed journal.

Most applicants have neither a thesis or a publication after 2 years of lab work during undergrad.

To stand out in the top tier, seriously, you need to be in the top 2% in terms of MCAT and have an excellent GPA. Beyond that, if you have the minimum in all areas and stand out in one or two areas (research, clinical, service, leadership, life experience) you'll be fine.
 
OP
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The OP was asking about non-clinical volunteering and I put the top 25% of the top 20 applicant pool at 300 hours. Ergo 200 hours of non-clinical would be below the top 25% of that pool. If you figure 3 years between HS graduation and application and an average of 2 hours per week for 3 years, it is 300 hours. You can do it differently, more intensely or over more years (non-trad, or applying as a senior).

Clinical... top 25% of the pool have employment in a clinical setting: EMT, scribe, patient care technician (aide). The hours don't matter... it is going to be hundreds of hours if you even work full-time for a few weeks.

The proportion of top applicants who have a publication or a thesis is relatively low -- maybe <20% if you include undergrad thesis. Publications? Less than 5% have anything in a reputable peer reviewed journal.

Most applicants have neither a thesis or a publication after 2 years of lab work during undergrad.

To stand out in the top tier, seriously, you need to be in the top 2% in terms of MCAT and have an excellent GPA. Beyond that, if you have the minimum in all areas and stand out in one or two areas (research, clinical, service, leadership, life experience) you'll be fine.
Could you elaborate on what is considered minimum vs. "standing out" in terms of leadership? Would holding a few (3-4) leaderships positions (that aren't president) be considered minimum or standing out? Also does TAing count as leadership?


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I'd imagine top schools looking for quality over quantity; possibly military experience, service to country/underserved, T4A etc.
 
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Walter Raleigh

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The OP was asking about non-clinical volunteering and I put the top 25% of the top 20 applicant pool at 300 hours. Ergo 200 hours of non-clinical would be below the top 25% of that pool. If you figure 3 years between HS graduation and application and an average of 2 hours per week for 3 years, it is 300 hours. You can do it differently, more intensely or over more years (non-trad, or applying as a senior).

Clinical... top 25% of the pool have employment in a clinical setting: EMT, scribe, patient care technician (aide). The hours don't matter... it is going to be hundreds of hours if you even work full-time for a few weeks.

The proportion of top applicants who have a publication or a thesis is relatively low -- maybe <20% if you include undergrad thesis. Publications? Less than 5% have anything in a reputable peer reviewed journal.

Most applicants have neither a thesis or a publication after 2 years of lab work during undergrad.

To stand out in the top tier, seriously, you need to be in the top 2% in terms of MCAT and have an excellent GPA. Beyond that, if you have the minimum in all areas and stand out in one or two areas (research, clinical, service, leadership, life experience) you'll be fine.
LizzyM, I've heard that there are a few undergraduates applying to top-20 schools with first-author Nature papers from undergrad; others say that this is almost nonexistent even at top-20 schools, rarer even than Olympic medalists. It goes without saying that something this stellar will make an applicant stand out at any school. Have you ever seen anyone coming fresh out of undergrad with a Nature, Science, or Cell paper?
 

boogiecousins94

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LizzyM, I've heard that there are a few undergraduates applying to top-20 schools with first-author Nature papers from undergrad; others say that this is almost nonexistent even at top-20 schools, rarer even than Olympic medalists. It goes without saying that something this stellar will make an applicant stand out at any school. Have you ever seen anyone coming fresh out of undergrad with a Nature, Science, or Cell paper?
I really cant comprehend how an undergrad could be first in one of these journals of such high impact. (Not arguing with you just don't know how this can be accomplished as an undergrad) Maybe 4,5,6 author, but first is insane. Being first author in nature, NEJM, science, cell, etc. as a postdoc is a huge deal. A DFCI lab I was associated with had a postdoc with a first author pub in nature right before their faculty appointment and everyone talked about it making it seem like this was rare, and this was from a lab who regularly has postdocs become faculty at HMS, UCSF, Duke, etc.
 
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MareNostrummm

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If you have more than 300 hours of non-clinical volunteering by the time you apply you will be in the top 25% of applicants with regard to community service (based on what I see). The tip top of the pyramid are those who do a full-time volunteerism during a gap year or two (Peace Corps, City Year, etc).

Both the buddy to a disabled person and tutoring in a local school would count as non-clinical volunteering.
That's it? You could easily hit about 300 hours in just one gap year only volunteering about 6 hours once a week. Not to mention people usually have some volunteering throughout undergrad.
 

LizzyM

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That's it? You could easily hit about 300 hours in just one gap year only volunteering about 6 hours once a week. Not to mention people usually have some volunteering throughout undergrad.
But most people do the minimum (<50 hrs) and skate by.
 

LizzyM

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LizzyM, I've heard that there are a few undergraduates applying to top-20 schools with first-author Nature papers from undergrad; others say that this is almost nonexistent even at top-20 schools, rarer even than Olympic medalists. It goes without saying that something this stellar will make an applicant stand out at any school. Have you ever seen anyone coming fresh out of undergrad with a Nature, Science, or Cell paper?
I don't know. Why not grab a few issues if those journals are determine who the authors are and where they are now. Google makes it easy. We're any of the authors undergrads at the time the paper was submitted??
I don't recall seeing applicants who've published in high impact journals.
 
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