How Can I Craft a Compelling Activities Section Narrative?

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Session 225

This student needs help navigating the fine line between bragging and showing what she’s learned.

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[00:40] Question of the Day

“I’ve tried my best to have a very comprehensive background. And one of the things that I’ve been able to do, especially with my history in the military, is I got a job in the emergency room as an intermediate care technician. We actually do really cool things sutures and procedures. And I know, I’ve listened to you before, less about the skills that you’ve done and more about what you’ve learned from it. I was trying to find a balance between making sure they know I have a really extensive background with patient care and these really advanced skills, but also, not bragging in a way.

[01:56] Crafting Impactful Essays

When writing essays, it’s crucial to consider the audience’s understanding of certain terms or roles. While including personal stories adds depth, it’s important to find a balance, as some advisors may discourage excessive storytelling. For instance, for roles like EMT, readers may not require an explanation. However, for positions like an intermediate care technician, a brief introduction stating “In this role, I performed XY and Z” suffices, allowing more space to delve into the impact and significance of the experience.

Avoid getting caught up in every minute detail of daily tasks – focus on the bigger picture. Additionally, always include a reflection sentence to express what the experience meant to you.

“Always leave a sentence for reflection.”Click To Tweet

[03:36] How to “Stand Out”

Q: What are the ways that you’ve seen veterans be able to best explain their background? What are the qualities that usually stand out from veterans? 

A: Whether you’re a veteran, traditional student, or non-traditional individual, it’s essential to focus on conveying the meaning and impact of your experience. Don’t try to make yourself stand out.

Avoid generic statements and instead be authentic in telling your story. Merely stating that as a veteran, you possess cultural competency won’t make you unique, as many other applicants make similar claims. Instead, explore how being a veteran shaped you and what it meant to you personally.

Admissions committees are looking for genuine reflections and stories that demonstrate your growth and individuality. Remember, authenticity is what truly sets you apart.

“Standing out as being authentic and telling your story.”Click To Tweet

[06:45] Connect Through Meaningful Experiences

When crafting your application, it’s common to create a checklist of skills and traits that you believe medical schools are looking for. However, instead of focusing solely on generic attributes like cultural competency, take a step back and reflect on the most significant experiences from your military service.

Delve into the emotions and personal meaning behind those moments. Did you participate in humanitarian aid efforts after a natural disaster? How did it feel to provide assistance to a devastated community?

By sharing these raw and authentic reflections, you can forge a genuine connection with the reader and showcase the depth of your character in your essay. Remember, it’s the personal connections that truly resonate and make your application stand out.

[08:00] The Weight of the MCAT

This student is also wondering about the weight of the MCAT. While it is not the sole determining factor, a higher MCAT score can improve your chances of admission.

Medical schools use MCAT scores to assess overall academic performance and intellectual knowledge, which is crucial in a fast-paced medical curriculum. However, it is important to note that each medical school has its own criteria for evaluating MCAT scores. Other factors such as GPA also play a role in the admissions process.

Ultimately, it is advised to focus on doing your best on the MCAT and continuously refining your approach to the exam rather than fixating on a specific score.

“A higher MCAT score always helps.”Click To Tweet

[12:39] My Personal Journey

I pursued the HPSP scholarship for medical school through the Air Force, driven by my desire to become an orthopedic surgeon. However, when I applied for orthopedics through the military match, I was initially told that I would have to complete an internship year instead.

Undeterred, I reapplied for orthopedics and was eventually accepted three days after receiving the initial rejection. It seemed that someone who was initially offered a spot did not match, making me the first candidate on the waiting list. So I didn’t make the cut.

As a result, I served as a flight surgeon for five years. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being a rated flyer and providing care to a patient population similar to what I had envisioned in orthopedics – healthy individuals striving to stay fit and recover from injuries. Unfortunately, health issues arose, leading to my departure from the Air Force, but I continued pursuing my interests on the side.

[16:08] The Pros and Cons of Being in the Military

Being in the military comes with its own set of pros and cons. Having prior experience in the military, such as through the HPSP program, offers a unique perspective and a greater awareness of these advantages and disadvantages. It also fosters adaptability to situations where one may not have complete control.

Moreover, historically, prior military service has been known to provide bonus points in residency rankings. This increases the chances of matching to more competitive specialties. However, it is always important to verify current facts regarding these benefits.


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