What Kind of Clinical and Volunteering Experience Do I Need?

Apr 2, 2013
195
125
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Medical Student (Accepted)
I posted in the "What Are My Chances?" thread and was told that my clinical volunteering experience was average and that it would reduce (at least not help) my competitiveness at more selective schools.

I have between 100 and 120 hours of clinical volunteering experience. I agree that is about average. However, I included information about my other volunteer activities, but it seemed that these other activities were ignored by the responder (If the responder sees this, I'm not trying to call you out, I'm just trying to get more input).

(In my initial post, I made a low estimate of my volunteering hours, so that might be a factor)
Experience:
350 hours over 8 years experience reading for Quiz Bowl tournaments (it's like Jeopardy! for High School kids) (Initially said 200+ over 6 years)
~110 hours clinical volunteering in a hospital
6 hours (so far) shadowing with a goal of 50+ hours
1 year+ of research experience in a biology lab

If my work experience is important, I will post details. (2 years sales 2008-2010, 3 years tutoring 2010-2013, 2013->matriculation project management)

Questions:
1)Is this enough for my ECs to be competitive at highly ranked schools like UNC, Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, and other schools in WV, VA, KY, NC, and SC? (I already know what competitive GPA, MCAT, and other things are already, mostly from the Medical School Matriculants Data Spreadsheet)
2)Is clinical volunteering experience the most important EC?
3)Can clinical experience and volunteering ECs be separate and still be at least equal to clinical volunteering? (I have read other threads and think I know the answer, but I would like answers to this general question, rather than using a principle derived by induction from answers by adcoms about specific situations)
4)If I want to improve my application before June, what is the most effective use of my time? Should I shadow and continue my Quiz Bowl volunteering or shadow and volunteer at a hospital again?

Thank you!
 
Last edited:
Apr 23, 2013
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It is really, really hard to really evaluate ECs through posts like these. The alchemy of what makes a truly strong candidate is in no small part in the sales as well as the product, so to speak. How well can you articulate the meaning of what you did? How well do you present yourself, both on paper and in person? Your ECs do seem a little thin on depth and leadership for the very top schools, given that you apparently also have no research.

However. I do think that the importance of clinical volunteering and shadowing are both overstated on these boards. I have very little shadowing and very little clinical volunteering compared to most people on these boards (when I applied, maybe 20-25 hours of each). I have received 14 interview invitations, including both Harvard and Penn (and several other top 20s). Multiple acceptances already, including several state schools where I am out of state. I am not URM. My exemplary research background, lengthy work history, and extensive non-clinical volunteering clearly mattered more to these schools than doing the same cliche clinical volunteering that most premeds do.

Basically, if something keeps you out of top schools, I don't think it will be your clinical experiences as described so far. It is more likely to be the rest of your application.
 
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OP
dorian baltar
Apr 2, 2013
195
125
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
Your ECs do seem a little thin on depth and leadership for the very top schools, given that you apparently also have no research.

However. I do think that the importance of clinical volunteering and shadowing are both overstated on these boards. I have very little shadowing and very little clinical volunteering compared to most people on these boards (when I applied, maybe 20-25 hours of each). I have received 14 interview invitations, including both Harvard and Penn (and several other top 20s). Multiple acceptances already, including several state schools where I am out of state. I am not URM. My exemplary research background, lengthy work history, and extensive non-clinical volunteering clearly mattered more to these schools than doing the same cliche clinical volunteering that most premeds do.
Thanks for the input.
I forgot to state my research, but I edited to fix that. I have a little over a year of research experience, but no publication.
What do you mean by "depth" of extracurricular activities?
I'm glad at least one other person thinks clinical volunteering is overemphasized on the forum (I haven't seen shadowing be pushed anywhere near as much as clinical volunteering).
I'm not really aiming for top 10 or top 20 schools, since I want to do primary care, but UNC is probably my top choice because of it's location and curriculum. I'm hoping that since it's ranked higher in primary care than research that they won't be too concerned about my lack of publications.
 
Apr 23, 2013
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Medical Student
Thanks for the input.
I forgot to state my research, but I edited to fix that. I have a little over a year of research experience, but no publication.
What do you mean by "depth" of extracurricular activities?
I'm glad at least one other person thinks clinical volunteering is overemphasized on the forum (I haven't seen shadowing be pushed anywhere near as much as clinical volunteering).
I'm not really aiming for top 10 or top 20 schools, since I want to do primary care, but UNC is probably my top choice because of it's location and curriculum. I'm hoping that since it's ranked higher in primary care than research that they won't be too concerned about my lack of publications.
By depth I mainly mean substantial commitment in roles that involved something along the lines of significant maturity or leadership skills. Ie, you say you were a reader for Quiz Bowl--did you just show up and help out? Or were you a main organizer? The first is a vaguely interesting extracurricular, the second is something that is much more meaningful to talk about. Although my volunteering experiences weren't clinical, they were with challenged populations in emotionally demanding circumstances; this has been discussed many times in my interviews and I was able to draw connections to medicine, even though the content is different.

Not having pubs is not a major barrier. Having pubs is unusual (another thing these boards provide a skewed perspective on).

It sounds like you're in pretty good shape. Just remember to apply broadly, apply early, and take care with your secondaries.

In terms of what you should do with your time in the next few months my advice is do what you enjoy and/or find meaningful.
 
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Goro

7+ Year Member
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Maybe. Seems kind of "cookie cuter", but I concede that you have demonstrated altruistic and humanistic activity, plus actually been around patients.

1)Is this enough for my ECs to be competitive at highly ranked schools like UNC, Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, and other schools in WV, VA, KY, NC, and SC? (I already know what competitive GPA, MCAT, and other things are already, mostly from the Medical School Matriculants Data Spreadsheet)

Yes
2)Is clinical volunteering experience the most important EC?

Yes. An EMT or a CNA with, say, non-clinical ECs and no patient contact volunteer experience is still fine by me

3)Can clinical experience and volunteering ECs be separate and still be at least equal to clinical volunteering? (I have read other threads and think I know the answer, but I would like answers to this general question, rather than using a principle derived by induction from answers by adcoms about specific situations)

I think you definitely need some more shadowing experience. If you can mix up a primary care doc and a specialist, that would be excellent experience. try something different fromt he quiz bowl stuff as well...ie, get away from academics. Check out your local houses of worship for volunteering opportunities. And not all patient contact experience has to be hospital based. Think clinic, nursing home, hospice.

4)If I want to improve my application before June, what is the most effective use of my time? Should I shadow and continue my Quiz Bowl volunteering or shadow and volunteer at a hospital again?

Thank you![/quote]
 
OP
dorian baltar
Apr 2, 2013
195
125
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
Maybe. Seems kind of "cookie cuter", but I concede that you have demonstrated altruistic and humanistic activity, plus actually been around patients.

I think you definitely need some more shadowing experience. If you can mix up a primary care doc and a specialist, that would be excellent experience. try something different fromt he quiz bowl stuff as well...ie, get away from academics. Check out your local houses of worship for volunteering opportunities. And not all patient contact experience has to be hospital based. Think clinic, nursing home, hospice.
Why do you say my ECs are "cookie cutter"?
I agree my clinical experience is "cookie cutter" but I don't have the time to do anything spectacular now.
Until now, I thought quiz bowl was a pretty good EC, since I've stayed with it for a very long time and have a lot of hours in it. I was working on getting into an organizational role as well. Should I just give up on this and try to get more variety?
I thought there was a fair amount of variety in my ECs and the other random volunteering that I did during college. Is there not enough variety, or is the problem something else?
I have one specialist who agreed to let me shadow her already and I'm looking for more PCPs and specialists, so the shadowing will definitely go up. Like I said, my goal is 50+ and I should reach that easily.
I was going to look into hospice, but then I thought I just needed more volunteer hours. Also, my job takes me out of town fairly frequently, so I was worried about making commitments to help on a regular basis.

What else can I do to make my ECs stand out? I will definitely look into hospice again and look into opportunities at nursing homes and clinics.
 
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Goro

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Don't take my comments the wrong way; your experiences are not bad! I especially like the prepping help you did for the quiz bowl. My only critique of that is that it might be overbalancing your entire portfolio. But overall, your ECs are pretty similar to many I've seen. This is NOT a bad thing. That's means your ECs are very similar to those of my students.

But keeping in mind that you're competing against a lot of people with similar stats, you do want something to stand out. Displays of altruism always help. So, a little more variety and you're good to go. Good luck!

Why do you say my ECs are "cookie cutter"?
I agree my clinical experience is "cookie cutter" but I don't have the time to do anything spectacular now.
Until now, I thought quiz bowl was a pretty good EC, since I've stayed with it for a very long time and have a lot of hours in it. I was working on getting into an organizational role as well. Should I just give up on this and try to get more variety?
I thought there was a fair amount of variety in my ECs, especially with working in Japan for a year in sales and starting the English class on my own (which I thought was going to make me stand out) and the other random volunteering that I did during college. Is there not enough variety, or is the problem something else?
I have one specialist who agreed to let me shadow her already and I'm looking for more PCPs and specialists, so the shadowing will definitely go up. Like I said, my goal is 50+ and I should reach that easily.
I was going to look into hospice, but then I thought I just needed more volunteer hours. Also, my job takes me out of town fairly frequently, so I was worried about making commitments to help on a regular basis.

What else can I do to make my ECs stand out? I will definitely look into hospice again and look into opportunities at nursing homes and clinics.
 
OP
dorian baltar
Apr 2, 2013
195
125
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
Don't take my comments the wrong way; your experiences are not bad! I especially like the prepping help you did for the quiz bowl. My only critique of that is that it might be overbalancing your entire portfolio. But overall, your ECs are pretty similar to many I've seen. This is NOT a bad thing. That's means your ECs are very similar to those of my students.

But keeping in mind that you're competing against a lot of people with similar stats, you do want something to stand out. Displays of altruism always help. So, a little more variety and you're good to go. Good luck!
That clarifies a lot. I really appreciate you pointing out the idea of balance with my ECs!
I'll definitely get more clinical experience to offset the quiz bowl hours.
Thank you so much for your advice!!
 

Sparda29

En Taro Adun
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Mar 25, 2008
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Now as a non-traditional applicant who's been a pharmacist for a little more than a year. Let's say I continue working as a pharmacist for another 4-5 years before deciding to make a career switch.

Would I still need to get some volunteering or shadowing done? Or is my work experience as a hospital pharmacist more than enough (I verify medication orders and read chart notes and labs all day long asides from checking the pharmacy tech's work or making an IV or dispensing a narcotic.)
 
OP
dorian baltar
Apr 2, 2013
195
125
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
Now as a non-traditional applicant who's been a pharmacist for a little more than a year. Let's say I continue working as a pharmacist for another 4-5 years before deciding to make a career switch.

Would I still need to get some volunteering or shadowing done? Or is my work experience as a hospital pharmacist more than enough (I verify medication orders and read chart notes and labs all day long asides from checking the pharmacy tech's work or making an IV or dispensing a narcotic.)
You would still need volunteering and shadowing based on everything I've seen.
Think about it, if you haven't shadowed any doctors, how do you really know what being a doctor is like?
Why on earth would you go through pharmacy school with a plan to go to medical school in 5 years?
 
Jun 21, 2014
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Pre-Medical
Reviving an old thread..

I have a question for @Goro,

If you remember, I was asking about having attended a medical school abroad (obviously it was me)

Since shadowing was not required to get into the previous school (it was a pure numbers game), would you still expect shadowing? --as extensive as would be expected of traditional applicants?

I would guess that enough shadowing and clinical experience would be expected in order to be familiarized with U.S. healthcare.

Would previous hours at said foreign university hospital doing graded histories & physical exams be counted as clinical experience?
 

Goro

7+ Year Member
Jun 10, 2010
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Somewhere west of St. Louis
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My first interview question to you would be "how do you know what a doctor's day is like here?"

Since shadowing was not required to get into the previous school (it was a pure numbers game), would you still expect shadowing? --as extensive as would be expected of traditional applicants?

Correct
I would guess that enough shadowing and clinical experience would be expected in order to be familiarized with U.S. healthcare.

I think so, at least for me. I don't know how my clinical colleagues would feel.
Would previous hours at said foreign university hospital doing graded histories & physical exams be counted as clinical experience?[/QUOTE]