You're doing it wrong, part 2: your experiences

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In reviewing an AMCAS application I actually spend the most time on the experiences (employment/activities) section. My rationale is that your metrics are easy to interpret and your butler may have written your personal statement, but the experiences you list shows me two important things: (1) what you have chosen to do with your available time, and (2) what you consider worth sharing.

Here's a little exercise. Lay out your proposed experience list in order of descending hours, the look at the list and try to see what it says about you. For example, if your list looks something like this (which is only a slight exaggeration):

1. Hobbies - Skiing/snowboarding, 9000 hours
2. Hobbies - Windsurfing, 7000 hours
3. Hobbies - Cycling (road and mountain), 5000 hours
4. Hobbies - Rock climbing, 2000 hours
5. Research, 100 hours
6. Shadowing, 20 hours
7. Habitat for Humanity, 8 hours

...it tells me that you are a very active, outdoorsy kind of person. Great. Good for you. It also tells me that you are more concerned with enjoying yourself than getting into medical school. Not so great. Bad for you.

A couple more easy rules to follow:

(1) If you have five or fewer entries don't apply. If you have 12 or more check for excessive filler.

(2) Don't list anything from high school or earlier. I don't care if you played for the state championship football team. I don't care if you had great accomplishments as a boy scout. I don't care if you were valedictorian of your high school. Pretend your life started on the first day of college.

(3) Don't include anything that is considered a normal part of existence for decent human beings. I have seen people list the deaths of relatives/friends in this section. If that event impacted your journey to medicine do yourself a favor and put it in the personal statement. I have seen people list being a husband/wife/father/mother/sister/brother/son/daughter/best friend in their experiences section. I can feel the earnestness oozing through the computer screen when I read these, but it doesn't make you look appealing. At best, it makes you look like a newborn fawn that just hobbled into traffic.

(4) In writing the entries I know there is an endless debate over being explanatory versus being brief, so you need to walk the line and be concise. That means you explain wherever necessary, and don't explain where it is unnecessary. Use enough words to get the point across and then stop. Tell what you learned only if you have something worthwhile to tell.

A good example is a poster presentation. Most everyone in medicine is familiar with posters. We know the drill. It is perfectly fine to simply list that you presented Poster X at Conference Y on date Z. You don't need to wax poetic about how crafting this poster taught you the value of teamwork and the true meaning of Christmas.

Now, if you have done something that is likely unfamiliar to the audience, like worked as a counselor at a camp that serves a specialized population, that deserves some verbiage.

That's all for now, I look forward to continuing the conversation below...

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This is extremely helpful for reapplying. I have a question, though. Last cycle, my pre-med advisor mentioned that it was best to write work/activities like a resume (I.e. Action verb followed by whatever I did). Is this the case or should I actually write things out?


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I have seen people list being a husband/wife/father/mother/sister/brother/son/daughter/best friend in their experiences section. I can feel the earnestness oozing through the computer screen when I read these, but it doesn't make you look appealing.

You mean I can't list being the CEO/accountant/nurse/teacher of my own home as a meaningful experience???
 
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Thanks @Med Ed for doing this! In regards to your point about not listing anything in high school, would it be bad to include a service trip that I went on senior year of high school? (roughly 100 hours)
 
Do you find that the quality of activity descriptions is often make-or-break for recommending to interview? Or is it similar to personal statement writing where 95% are all in the yeah-that's-fine pile, and what you've done matters far more than how you describe it?
 
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(1) what you have chosen to do with your available time, and (2) what you consider worth sharing.
This is the single most important line in a post oozing with important lines.





PS. In your example, you have 23,000 hours listed. 4 years of undergrad has a total of 35,000 hours. I know it is an exaggeration, but people do sleep... ;)
 
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When you said we should have at least 5 activities, did you mean for all combined or only the central, essential ones (clinical, community service, and research)?
 
What are your thoughts on combining poster presentations into one activity? Seems like posters are a dime a dozen doesnt make sense on wasting multiple entries for them.
 
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(2) Don't list anything from high school or earlier. I don't care if you played for the state championship football team. I don't care if you had great accomplishments as a boy scout. I don't care if you were valedictorian of your high school. Pretend your life started on the first day of college.

I didn't list anything from high school (reaching back to high school felt like trying to scrape from the bottom of the barrel). That being said, I had a friend who listed his Eagle Scout Project. He said it came up pretty frequently in interviews, and many of the interviewers reacted positively (although he did have a few that weren't so impressed...).
 
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I can feel the earnestness oozing through the computer screen when I read these, but it doesn't make you look appealing. At best, it makes you look like a newborn fawn that just hobbled into traffic.

This is the greatest two sentences I've ever read on SDN.
 
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This is the greatest two sentences I've ever read on SDN.
It might just be me, but listing personal items on a professional CV seems weird. I mean sure, Jenny, your step I scores are amazing and your research is great, I am curious why you listed donut eating contest champion or mother to three shelter armadillo's on the app.
 
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It might just be me, but listing personal items on a professional CV seems weird. I mean sure, Jenny, your step I scores are amazing and your research is great, I am curious why you listed donut eating contest champion or mother to three shelter armadillo's on the app.
But I have well over 9,999 hours of armadillo husbandry!
 
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What happened in high school stays on high school.

The only thing worth mentioning about HS volunteering is if they continued into college

Thanks @Med Ed for doing this! In regards to your point about not listing anything in high school, would it be bad to include a service trip that I went on senior year of high school? (roughly 100 hours)
 
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What happened in high school stays on high school.

The only thing worth mentioning about HS volunteering is if they continued into college
Is this truly a hard-and-fast rule? I think I understand the idea behind it, but surely there are exceptions? For example, I personally competed in a (youth) world competition in a sport and placed in the top-15 in 5 different events. It seems kind of crazy to not include something like that in my application!
 
Is this truly a hard-and-fast rule? I think I understand the idea behind it, but surely there are exceptions? For example, I personally competed in a (youth) world competition in a sport and placed in the top-15 in 5 different events. It seems kind of crazy to not include something like that in my application!
Did you continue the sport through college? If not, I wouldn't make a separate entry for it. Maybe put it under an "accomplishments/awards" tab or something like that. If you were that great and didn't continue involvement, that opens up a different can of worms (why you stopped, how important it was, etc.).
 
Did you continue the sport through college? If not, I wouldn't make a separate entry for it. Maybe put it under an "accomplishments/awards" tab or something like that. If you were that great and didn't continue involvement, that opens up a different can of worms (why you stopped, how important it was, etc.).
It was continued at a much more minimal level of involvement - partially because my partner was injured and needed a significant amount of time to recover, partially because the sport is incredibly expensive to compete in and it wasn't financially feasible to attend college and compete often/at a high level at the same time.
 
Man I wish I could snowboard for 9000 hours. That's 7 hours a day every day for 6 months of a year for over 7 years. Sign me up!!!!
 
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I've played in touring bands long before I decided I want to be a doctor (actually before I decided I *didn't* want to be a doctor out of high school). It's something I would like discuss on my application but will also reflect the greatest time commitment simply because it's basically always been a part of my young adult life. Would this be understood? Or will it be perceived as "well, you could have volunteered more if you weren't running around with a band all the time?"

These threads are great btw
 
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Volunteering, not sports. Medicine is a service profession.



Did you continue the sport through college? If not, I wouldn't make a separate entry for it. Maybe put it under an "accomplishments/awards" tab or something like that. If you were that great and didn't continue involvement, that opens up a different can of worms (why you stopped, how important it was, etc.).
 
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Volunteering, not sports. Medicine is a service profession.
Oops, I misread your post. My apologies.

Everyone makes such a big deal about not including things from high school, it makes me overly paranoid! I need some of your xanax!
 
In reviewing an AMCAS application I actually spend the most time on the experiences (employment/activities) section. My rationale is that your metrics are easy to interpret and your butler may have written your personal statement, but the experiences you list shows me two important things: (1) what you have chosen to do with your available time, and (2) what you consider worth sharing.

Here's a little exercise. Lay out your proposed experience list in order of descending hours, the look at the list and try to see what it says about you. For example, if your list looks something like this (which is only a slight exaggeration):

1. Hobbies - Skiing/snowboarding, 9000 hours
2. Hobbies - Windsurfing, 7000 hours
3. Hobbies - Cycling (road and mountain), 5000 hours
4. Hobbies - Rock climbing, 2000 hours
5. Research, 100 hours
6. Shadowing, 20 hours
7. Habitat for Humanity, 8 hours

...it tells me that you are a very active, outdoorsy kind of person. Great. Good for you. It also tells me that you are more concerned with enjoying yourself than getting into medical school. Not so great. Bad for you.

A couple more easy rules to follow:

(1) If you have five or fewer entries don't apply. If you have 12 or more check for excessive filler.

(2) Don't list anything from high school or earlier. I don't care if you played for the state championship football team. I don't care if you had great accomplishments as a boy scout. I don't care if you were valedictorian of your high school. Pretend your life started on the first day of college.

(3) Don't include anything that is considered a normal part of existence for decent human beings. I have seen people list the deaths of relatives/friends in this section. If that event impacted your journey to medicine do yourself a favor and put it in the personal statement. I have seen people list being a husband/wife/father/mother/sister/brother/son/daughter/best friend in their experiences section. I can feel the earnestness oozing through the computer screen when I read these, but it doesn't make you look appealing. At best, it makes you look like a newborn fawn that just hobbled into traffic.

(4) In writing the entries I know there is an endless debate over being explanatory versus being brief, so you need to walk the line and be concise. That means you explain wherever necessary, and don't explain where it is unnecessary. Use enough words to get the point across and then stop. Tell what you learned only if you have something worthwhile to tell.

A good example is a poster presentation. Most everyone in medicine is familiar with posters. We know the drill. It is perfectly fine to simply list that you presented Poster X at Conference Y on date Z. You don't need to wax poetic about how crafting this poster taught you the value of teamwork and the true meaning of Christmas.

Now, if you have done something that is likely unfamiliar to the audience, like worked as a counselor at a camp that serves a specialized population, that deserves some verbiage.

That's all for now, I look forward to continuing the conversation below...
If you have less than 5, don't apply? What if you have 2/3 meaningful activities ( such as hundreds of hours in a hospital, research, and non clinical volunteering. That's only 3, but all aspects of a strong app. to medical school).
 
If you have less than 5, don't apply? What if you have 2/3 meaningful activities ( such as hundreds of hours in a hospital, research, and non clinical volunteering. That's only 3, but all aspects of a strong app. to medical school).

Those three things are important, but they do not make you very interesting. You'd also probably want to put down any work experience you have, leadership experience, extracurriculars, awards you've received, and hobbies you might have.

Yes, there are certain boxes that are good to check, but you also don't want to come off as a robot.
 
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^ OOhh, so the rest can be hobbies and chill stuff ? Okays. I may also work as tutor, but that may have to wait until senior year.
However, I think EC's are a little inflated on here.
Like, somebody will have clinical/non clinical volunteering, research, shadowing, and people on SDN are like WWEEAKKK EC'S.
 
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posters teaching the true meaning of Christmas haha
 
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^ OOhh, so the rest can be hobbies and chill stuff ? Okays. I may also work as tutor, but that may have to wait until senior year.
However, I think EC's are a little inflated on here.
Like, somebody will have clinical/non clinical volunteering, research, shadowing, and people on SDN are like WWEEAKKK EC'S.

It definitely depends on the number of hours (depth of experience) as well. For example, if your ECs are 100 hours of clinical and non-clinical volunteering, 1 summer of research, and 50 hours of shadowing, then that is relatively weak and appears to be box checking. That's much different than 500 hours of clinical and non-clinical volunteering (and perhaps leadership roles in the volunteering organizations), 2 years of research with posters/thesis, and 100 hours of shadowing (although really 50 hours seems to be fine).
 
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^ OOhh, so the rest can be hobbies and chill stuff ? Okays. I may also work as tutor, but that may have to wait until senior year.
However, I think EC's are a little inflated on here.
Like, somebody will have clinical/non clinical volunteering, research, shadowing, and people on SDN are like WWEEAKKK EC'S.

I would only recommend having 1-2 spaces for hobbies.

You may have only been involved in 4-5 things but those activities may take up several spots. For example I was heavy involved in research but instead of using one space for everything research related, I had one space for my thesis, one for publications, two for summer internships, and a couple more for the jobs I had after I graduated.
 
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Am I the only one while appreciate this and the first post done by OP find all the points listed as obvious and should be common knowledge. If he/she thinks it should be brought up as a reviewer it means it might not be as obvious as I thought.
 
Would you recommend listing activities in bullet point format or paragraph style (not for the most meaningful experiences)?
 
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I've played in touring bands long before I decided I want to be a doctor (actually before I decided I *didn't* want to be a doctor out of high school). It's something I would like discuss on my application but will also reflect the greatest time commitment simply because it's basically always been a part of my young adult life. Would this be understood? Or will it be perceived as "well, you could have volunteered more if you weren't running around with a band all the time?"

These threads are great btw

I actually have exactly the same question. I was a session/gigging musician for two years and have thousands of hours in there. I'm also a non-trad and have over 20k hours of non-clinical work experience and 10k hours of paid clinical experience. It will be impossible for me to balance it out, but my research and volunteering are pretty balanced (more volunteering hours).
 
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So I gave a poster presentation and an oral presentation on the same day at the same research conference. However, they are two different research projects. Should I list those as two separate activities?
 
I would only recommend having 1-2 spaces for hobbies.

You may have only been involved in 4-5 things but those activities may take up several spots. For example I was heavy involved in research but instead of using one space for everything research related, I had one space for my thesis, one for publications, two for summer internships, and a couple more for the jobs I had after I graduated.

While your hobbies aren't likely to have any impact on your application, I think it can be helpful to briefly list them. In all but one interview had, my interviewers brought up what was in my hobbies entry and this led to some interesting conversations. I don't think OP is discouraging mentioning hobbies but they shouldn't be a focal point in any sense.
 
So I gave a poster presentation and an oral presentation on the same day at the same research conference. However, they are two different research projects. Should I list those as two separate activities?

personally, i like combining all posters, oral presentations, talks etc. into one category called Conference Presentations (or similarly named AMCAS entry).
 
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So I gave a poster presentation and an oral presentation on the same day at the same research conference. However, they are two different research projects. Should I list those as two separate activities?
do you have enough space? If they are two different projects and two different types of projects, and you spent lots of time on both of them, why not.
 
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personally, i like combining all posters, oral presentations, talks etc. into one category called Conference Presentations (or similarly named AMCAS entry).
Cool, thanks! Should I still create two more entries for the research experiences that lead to me giving those presentations? e.g. one entry for the lab work that I did and another for the poster that resulted from the lab work.
 
Cool, thanks! Should I still create two more entries for the research experiences that lead to me giving those presentations? e.g. one entry for the lab work that I did and another for the poster that resulted from the lab work.

i believe that would be fine. I'll tag @Catalystik @Goro @Med Ed for some quick clarification.

hopefully, the AMCAS Work and Activities Thread will be created sometime shortly to address these questions more thoroughly.
 
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You list pubs separately though unless there are a lot of them, right?

i think there are two separate categories for research productivity: Posters/Presentations and Publications, so it would be reasonable to list pubs separately from posters.

but personally, it's better to group all publications (few or many) into one category called Publications, and group all posters/presentations (few or many) into another category called Posters/Presentations.
 
i think there are two separate categories for research productivity: Posters/Presentations and Publications, so it would be reasonable to list pubs separately from posters.

Yeah that's not what I meant.

but personally, it's better to group all publications (few or many) into one category called Publications, and group all posters/presentations (few or many) into another category called Posters/Presentations.

That's what I was getting at. So if you have two or three pubs, you'd list them in one spot and just put the citations for each?
 
Yeah that's not what I meant.



That's what I was getting at. So if you have two or three pubs, you'd list them in one spot and just put the citations for each?

yeah sorry. i was getting it confused in context with the other post on poster/presentations. i don't like to have multiple categories discussing the same thing when only one category is sufficient. even if the publications are on different research areas like one in criminal justice, other on health policy, and another on basic science, it would be better to combine all of them into one category, and have three separate research experience descriptions for each subject.

of course i could be wrong but i like keeping things concise. i don't know how adcoms would view it.
 
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yeah sorry. i was getting it confused in context with the other post on poster/presentations. i don't like to have multiple categories discussing the same thing when only one category is sufficient. even if the publications are on different research areas like one in criminal justice, other on health policy, and another on basic science, it would be better to combine all of them into one category, and have three separate research experience descriptions for each subject.

of course i could be wrong but i like keeping things concise. i don't know how adcoms would view it.

That satisfies my desire to be concise and not look like I'm padding.
 
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The logistics of entering these things into app forms is outside my area of expertise.



i believe that would be fine. I'll tag @Catalystik @Goro @Med Ed for some quick clarification.

hopefully, the AMCAS Work and Activities Thread will be created sometime shortly to address these questions more thoroughly.
 
My hobbies include raiding in WoW two nights a week and knitting socks... I'm not sure either of those are something I should include on an application.

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@Goro @meded I am a bit unclear as to why hours are the usual unit of time. It just sounds a little crazy to state in hours that I did 5 years of reading to the blind. Is it not better to state read to the blind 5 years, 2x week for 2 hours/day.

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Anyway that's how my resume is currently organized

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@Goro @meded I am a bit unclear as to why hours are the usual unit of time. It just sounds a little crazy to state in hours that I did 5 years of reading to the blind. Is it not better to state read to the blind 5 years, 2x week for 2 hours/day.

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Which would be 1,040 hours. Pretty easy to convert it.
 
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