How Should I Categorize my Extracurricular Activities?


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ADG 126: How Should I Categorize my Extracurricular Activities?

Session 126

An important part of the med school application is the extracurricular activities section. How do you know which category your activities fall in?

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

By the way, the episodes in this podcast are recordings of our Facebook Live that we do at 3 pm Eastern on most weekdays. Check out our Facebook page and like the page to be notified. Also, listen to our other podcasts on MedEd Media. If you have any questions, call me at 617-410-6747.

[00:37] Question of the Day

“How do I categorize my activities? I’m managing several clinical trials, phase I, II, and III, specifically imaging. So most of my trials are on oncology. We receive imaging scans from different clinical sites from patients. 

My job is to make sure everything is set up in our system to receive the imaging and assign this imaging to the radiologists who perform the techniques, and then manage the workflow and as a point of contact between the pharmaceutical clients and my team

I also do a lot of training with the sites and answer questions, and solving issues with the clinical sites. So I am wondering, how can I categorize these activities?”

It’s probably not research because you’re not the one setting up what the trial looks like. You’re not the one interpreting data. You may be gathering data or information, but you’re not really analyzing the data, inputting it into a system, and trying to come to conclusions on your own. You’re just the “middleman” so to speak, who’s helping people get the information they need to help make decisions for the study.

Where you’re at in a clinical trial position, a lot of those decisions are already made. I don’t know if I would call that research. You’re doing a job that involves touching a lot of individual people in and around research, which is very interesting.

You could probably put it under paid employment – non medical/clinical, and then in the description, talk about what your role is, the leadership, and managing people. And even maybe put it as your most meaningful if that’s what it is to you.

[05:45] Research is Research

Our student also mentioned that she’s a finalist in the project management category of Clinical Research of the Year. And she was wondering if she could place this under research as well. Instead, this falls under Awards, Honors, and Recognitions.

I’ve noticed that this student seems to try to fit in research on her application. She’s trying to fit research where they don’t fit. And she explains that she doesn’t have any research experience being a nontrad.

'Students are so concerned about checking all the boxes.'Click To Tweet

Our student is trying to check off the boxes ahd she’s trying to fit a square peg through a round hole. Just because she wrote an essay for this award doesn’t make it research.

[08:36] Racial Bias Associated with Names

Q: “I recently read a research about how your name affects the opportunity that you are going to be landing an interview. I’m wondering what is your thought on how this applies to medical school or is it even relevant at all?

A: I don’t think the research was specifically around medical school admissions. It was more about job hiring. 

In the research, they looked at names and how names affect hiring options. And we know in the African-American community that the names are not as standard or typical as white Christian names.

And so, if a hiring person at a job or at a medical school potentially sees an “abnormal” name, that person is less likely to be invited for an interview and be hired. Unfortunately, there’s this racial stigma associated with names of people that don’t get hired. 

Now, whether this is going to affect medical school admissions, you would have to do some research and see.

“At the end of the day, people are people. People run this process, and they have their own biases, and racism. And that definitely could carry over into medical school admissions.”Click To Tweet

On the medical school application, you’re putting your race and ethnicity. And so, that’s typically illegal in a job application. It’s for affirmative action type application processes for medical schools, which I think we need. And so, that adds a little bit of other information above and beyond what a name may say.

[11:31] Tell Your Story, Tell Your Truth

Q: “I was born and raised in Vietnam. We were very poor when I was a kid. And I knew I always wanted to become a doctor someday after my uncle was diagnosed with cancer, and a lot of things in my family. But we, I’ve never really thought it would become a reality, because we were just so poor. 

Anyway, I got a chance to go to the U.S. to study. And after I graduated with a BA in economics, I just started to look for a job right away to have money to support myself and to send to my family as well. 

So I never really thought about my dream or to pursue my path until I met someone who really inspired me and gave me the courage to pursue my path. So I’m wondering if it’s even relevant to mention the person who inspired me or I just should focus on what happened to my family and my uncle. After all, it’s what really put the seed into my head in wanting to pursue the medical path?”

A: That’s definitely your seed. And as a nontraditional student, you’re going to have to answer “why now.” And so this person, whether or not it’s specifically related to medicine, obviously gave you a kick to start to look at this again and to realize that it was possible.

And so, I think that should be, if not part of your personal statement, then somewhere in your answer of why you’re doing this now. And you’ll just have to see how it works with a personal statement.

But don’t try to make it seem like you’ve been working to save money so that you could go to medical school because that’s not the truth.

'You have to tell your truth. Don't fit a square peg through a round hole.'Click To Tweet

[15:53] Preparing for the MCAT

Our student says she’s studying for the MCAT having finished all her premed classes. She has found it a little bit challenging because of the job and the volunteering that she’s doing as well. So she’s trying to squeeze in all her times to study

If you’re currently studying for the MCAT, just like our student today, check out Blueprint MCAT. They have a free half length diagnostic as well as one free full-length exam. And that’s the test we’re going over on The MCAT Podcast.

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