ask Elyse - volunteering and medical school admissions

X: What would you say would be the best volunteer activities to do to make yourself standout for Medical school?

The short answer to this is there are no particular activities that make a person stand out to a medical school admissions committee. In fact, it's probably the opposite. The applications tend to run together so much that it's usually the unique aspects of a person's application that makes them stand out. Medical schools are looking to fill their classes with a diverse group of individuals who have an equally diverse set of personal experiences. Medical schools are not looking for robots.

Your dedication to any particular cause also stands out and that is reflected in the number of hours/years/talents you dedicate to any cause cause and the level of responsibility and ownership you take on (ie: leadership positions).

The long answer to this is I feel very strongly that this is the wrong question to ask.

What would you say would be the best volunteer activities to do to make yourself standout for Medical school?

I know you think you want to be a doctor, but questions like this are why there are so many unhappy physicians today - people who decided they were pre-med in highschool and have been so focused on obtaining the goal of medical school that they don't ever second guess their decision.

I'm not trying to talk you out of becoming a physician. I think it's the greatest job in the world, but it's not for everyone and the only way to know that is to know yourself.

So, instead of asking me "what are the best volunteer activities to make me standout to medical schools?" you should ask yourself "what do I enjoy doing?" 

Don't get me wrong. It is important to know the requirements for medical school admission. Preparation is the hardest part of the battle (see: components of your medical school application), BUT the specifics should be all you. So, I definitely did more volunteer and research work during my pre-medical training than I would have done if it wasn't a component of my application, but I only did/do things I love.

I worked with gifted underprivileged kids because I was once a gifted underpriviledged kid who someone took interest in. I volunteered at a retirement home originally because my brother asked me to, but I continued because it was fun.

Because I only did things that I loved, I am able to talk about them with passion to this day. I also learned that I really like one on one teaching and working with elderly patients. 

If I could give you only one piece of advice, it would be to follow your heart and work very hard. You may not end up where you thought you'd be, but you'll end up where you're meant to me.

that's all. If you're interested in the array of pre-medical journeys other medical students, residents, and attendings have taken, check out the career profile series!

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