As a premed student, you might ask, if I do really well in my classes and rock the MCAT, what more do I have to do?!
Enter the world of extracurricular activities. Extracurricular activities for a premed student include 2 major categories:
- Shadowing and clinical experience
- Volunteering, research, and all those hobbies you love
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Why are extracurriculars so important?
First, being a physician is not like any other job—it’s really a calling. You have to know something about the life and work of a physician to really know if it’s for you.
Medical school admissions committees want to see that you have taken those steps and obtained some one-on-one experience seeing how a physician interacts with patents. If you think about it, this really does make sense for lots of reasons. What if you started medical school and found out that you can’t stand the sight of blood or can’t tolerate spending lots of time around people who are sick?
So, if you score a 528 on the MCAT and have a 4.0 GPA but fail to gain any clinical experience, medical schools will throw out your application because you really haven’t taken the time to figure out if medicine is the right path for you.
Many students ask us how they can get a shadowing opportunity with a physician. If you don’t know any physicians personally, this may seem like a daunting task. But, the reality is, many physicians are delighted to teach and work with students who are interested in medicine.
Click here to read on about how to get started and the major dos and don’ts when shadowing. You can also listen to Session 12 (above) of The Premed Years, an episode in which we talk about the secrets to effective shadowing.
Through shadowing a physician, you can build a great relationship with that physician such that he/she ultimately becomes a mentor for you. Having a mentor through the premed and medical school journey is extremely helpful and can be life changing.
For additional information, read the post “Preparing for a Career in Medicine: Clinical Experience," which includes even more great information about shadowing.
In addition to shadowing, extracurricular activities include any non-clinical experience outside of your classes—research in your biology professor’s lab, singing in a local choir, playing intramural volleyball, or volunteering at a soup kitchen.
Why are extracurriculars important?
These experience show admissions committees that there is more to you than just grades and test scores. Being well-rounded is very important on the journey to becoming a physician. The life of a physician is a very demanding one, and we all need things outside of the hospital to keep us grounded.
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In Session 41 (above) of The Premed Years, Ryan interviews Dr. Faye Reiff-Pasarew, at the time, 3rd year internal medicine resident at Mount Sinai in New York City and the publisher of The Art of Medicine Podcast. In this episode, they talk about the importance of living life and experiencing all that you can.