Late to the Game: How Do I Find Extracurriculars Now?

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ADG 231: Late to the Game: How Do I Find Extracurriculars Now?

Session 231

This student is a junior with no extracurricular experience, can they catch up in time?

Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT. Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

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[00:26] Question of the Day

“I’m currently a junior right now. And I finished the majority of my prerequisites for med school. And I’ve been struggling a little bit in terms of what I should do extracurricular-wise. I’m going into my junior year, and I don’t have much under my belt. So I’m kind of confused about where to start. Do I still have time in these next few years to get those executed? I know inpatient care hours and volunteer work are another huge part of getting into med school.”

A: Go start. The only option is to start. There’s an old saying says, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is today.” Just because you haven’t done any clinical experience or shadowing yet, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start today or as soon as possible. ​​

Clinical experience is an essential aspect to consider when preparing for a career in healthcare. It provides an opportunity to determine if working with patients and being in a clinical environment aligns with your interests and preferences. Clinical experience can be gained in various settings, such as hospice or in a patient’s home. It does not necessarily require direct supervision by a physician.

Find a clinical experience that suits your personality and preferences. Whether it’s through becoming an EMT or working as a scribe, this requires self-reflection and choosing an experience that resonates with you.

This student adds he has just secured a volunteer position at the hospital for the upcoming summer, specifically in the cardiac weighing camp. This role will involve various aspects of inpatient care, including interacting with patients and assisting with deliveries between rooms. Additionally, he has been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to become an EMT. His university offers a program that leads to immediate job placement for students upon completion. Interestingly, they also have a program happening in his hometown over the summer. He’s torn between choosing to participate in the program near his college or opting for the one in his hometown and then seeking employment afterward. At the end of the day, I don’t think it matters. He just has to get training and then find a job.

[03:49] Taking Physics Classes

Q: I’ve done fairly well in the majority of my prereq classes, except for physics. I did not do so well in those two physics classes, probably like my subject. And it’s been stressing me out in terms of like where my GPA stands. Should I be worried about that?

A: Two classes aren’t going to make or break your application to medical school. The only thing that you need to be concerned about is if you got a C- or lower.

“You have to retake if you got a C- or lower.”Click To Tweet

[04:42] Taking a Gap Year for Clinical Experience

Q: “Should I look into taking a gap year out of college or trying still shoot for that “right out of college moved to med school” application time, since I’m lacking in those extracurriculars?

A: If you are applying next year and you have a year of experience under your belt, presumably continuing that experience through the application, there’s no reason to take a gap year. The question of should take a gap year or not is really just based on what you want to do. And then potentially looking at what’s missing in your application that a gap year will help strengthen.

If we were having this conversation next year, and you don’t have any experience yet, then you’re probably not ready to apply. But you have a whole year plus to get all those experiences in so you should be fine.

[06:10] Understanding Clinical Experience

There’s a lot of confusion in this process with experiences and like, do you have to come out of the womb with a stethoscope in your hands taking vitals or else you’re late and you’re not going to get in? Most people only have one area of clinical experience, whether it’s scribing, EMT, or whatever else.

Volunteering can encompass both clinical and nonclinical experiences. It extends beyond traditional hospital settings, with opportunities like working with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or serving at soup kitchens.

It’s important to remember that clinical volunteering in a hospital setting may not be the ideal choice for everyone, as individual preferences and interests vary. Just because many people opt for clinical volunteering doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right fit for everyone; they may simply be unsure of what they truly want to pursue.


Q: “I’ve watched a lot of your videos on YouTube, and some of the things I hear you talk about when people are actually working on their application, the use of a story behind the extracurriculars and stuff they do. How would you go about explaining what you mean by that?”

A: The purpose of sharing a story is to provide anecdotes that showcase your identity and the impact you have made.

For example, instead of simply stating the responsibilities of being an EMT, such as responding to 911 calls and transporting patients, it is more effective to share a specific anecdote that highlights your impact. Rather than listing skills like teamwork and empathy, it is more meaningful to recount a memorable call where you comforted a patient in distress.

Showing the reader who you are through anecdotes, rather than just telling them, can be highly effective. However, it is important to find a balance and not solely focus on storytelling without reflecting on the experience and its significance. Leaving room for reflection within the character limit is crucial.

'Having room to potentially include a sentence of responsibility, an anecdote, and some reflection is important.'Click To Tweet

For AMCAS, you can mark three activities as most meaningful. So not all activities will have the “extra essay.” That’s basically an essay for why is it most meaningful.

[11:42] The Story Behind the Numbers

Q: “In terms of GPA, should I shoot for a specific number? What do you think is the cut-off in terms of whether should I do a postbac or should I take some grad classes after college?”

A: There’s no number that I can tell you, but it’s about the pattern of how everything looks like.

For example, if you have a 3.5. You graduated, you had a 3.5. You were in school for four years, and you took 30 credits every year. So if you graduate with a 3.5, that could be 3.5 in your first year, 3.5  in your second year, 3.5, in the third year, and 3.5 in your fourth year. That’s one story.

Another scenario is that your 3.5 could be 4.0, 4.0, 3.0, and 3.0 (first to fourth). Or your 3.5 could be 3.0, 3.0, 4.0, and 4.0 (first to fourth).

And so, the 3.5 has different stories but the same exact GPA. So I can’t tell you based on a number, what you should do. It’s the story behind the number that we get into the nitty-gritty and base your decision on whether you should do a postbac or not.

[13:34] Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Q: “I know during the premed course, you shouldn’t try and compare yourself to other students. And I feel like I don’t have that much clinical experience compared to the people around me. I feel lost in terms of the things that I’m doing this summer, is that the right move for me?”

A: If you want to be an EMT, go get your EMT training. If you want to be a scribe because you don’t want to be an EMT, go be a scribe, don’t be an EMT. So you could sit here all day long, and look at what everyone else is doing. And be super scared to do anything because you’re comparing yourself to everyone else. Or you can just do something and don’t care about what anyone else is doing. So just do it and then if you don’t like it, figure out something else.

'Stop comparing yourself to everyone else.'Click To Tweet

You don’t know the full context of all of your classmates and friends and other stuff. So stop comparing yourself. It’s a waste of energy.



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