How Important is Volunteering as a Nontrad Premed?

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Session 119

When you’re a nontraditional premed student working full-time and going to school doing a DIY postbac, should you be concerned about volunteering and other ECs?

Remember that extracurricular activities as a nontraditional student are hard but they’re still important!

If you want a question answered here, go to Nontrad Premed Forum. Meanwhile, if you’re considering working with me for personal statements and extracurriculars editing, you can save 15% using the coupon code MARCH2018. And even if you’re not applying now, you can still buy this now and save it for later.

[01:17] OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

“I’m a nontrad student who just graduated a few years ago. I’ve taken two gap years as of right now and I’m currently focusing on taking classes in a DIY postbac and sustaining a full time job. With these two activities, it takes the majority of my time during the week.

However, I understand that medical schools are looking for sustained direct patient interaction throughout the gap year. The issues that with working and schooling, how would it be possible volunteering or getting another job to demonstrate that I really want to be a doctor.

I volunteered at a local hospital for six years and left a couple of years ago to focus on school and work. Now, after listening to the podcast, the AdCom wants continuous direct patient care. I was wondering if I should focus on direct patient care such as getting an EMT job on top of the full time job and postbac. I canot quit my full time job as that job is keeping me afloat for rent, bills, etc.

Should I put more focus on getting these direct patient interaction activities or getting into a part time research assistant physician as possible? How do people here do it?”

[02:34] First, What Do They Mean by “Sustained”?

At a recent premed conference I was at, the Dean of Admissions stated that the two things they’re looking for are sustained volunteering and sustained clinical experience.

When the word sustained is used, students freak out and say their job isn’t in patient care or some volunteering, or a setting that shows their doing the thing the medical schools want. So they think they need to quit their job or be an EMT or a medical assistant.

But that’s not the take home message. “Sustained” may mean for you, five hours a month. It may be ten hours a month. It could be two hours a week. Sustained doesn’t mean all consuming of your time. Don’t think that’s what you have to do all the time. Of course, you need shadowing and clinical experience. And it would be nice if you did some volunteering on the side just to show you’re a good person.

[Tweet “”Sustained doesn’t mean all consuming of your time. So when you hear sustained, don’t freak out and think that’s what you have to do all the time.””]

[04:08] Nontrads Have a Lot on Their Plate

[Tweet “”But as a nontrad student, you typically have other commitments. And that is okay.””]

Admissions committees understand that. They know that you’re working a full time job to put a roof over your head, to put food on the table. They understand that your time commitments are different than a traditional student who’s going to school full time, who maybe on scholarship, maybe have student loans, maybe have their parents’ bank for their undergrad school. And they have more time for volunteering.

In fact, volunteering is oftentimes built into an undergrad environment or activities as you’re a student as part of your fraternity or sorority or a premed club. It’s much easier. And the heads of admissions committees and deans of admissions understand what your position is and what your restrictions are as far as time.

If you’re working full time, going to school full-time, then doesn’t leave a lot of time for other things. But that does that mean you don’t do anything? Of course, no. But it just means you do what you can. Don’t kill yourself.

So sustained could mean a couple of hours every a couple of weeks. It doesn’t mean you get a full time job as an EMT on top of your already full time job. So don’t think about that sustained part and think that you have to fill every waking moment with something else. Otherwise, something is going to give – your health, your grades, MCAT prep, etc. Something is going to give.

[06:07] Sustained Means Consistency

When you hear sustained, as a nontrad student, if you’re working full time, great. If you can work full time in the medical field and get paid what you need to earn to make a living, great. Do that and get that experience. You don’t have to. It would be nice. But don’t think you have to surround yourself and engulf yourself in the medical field to show that this is what you want to do.

Again, by sustained, it may mean doing it a couple of hours every couple of weeks or a handful of hours every month. Do that consistently. That’s the sustained part. It’s consistent, not all-consuming.

[Tweet “”Don’t think you have to surround yourself and engulf yourself in the medical field to show that this is what you want to do.””]

[07:15] Medical School Admissions Understand

Especially that you’re a nontrad student, they understand what your commitments are and they understand that you’re limiting in what you can do outside the rest of your commitment. They need to understand that if you’re doing a good job with your extracurriculars in your application. You’re showing to them how busy you are. You’re showing all the classes you’re taking and the job you have. You’re showing everything else that you’re cramming into your days. And they will be able to see that. They see the commitment and understand who you are while you’re painting that picture.


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