Should I Delay Med School Apps to Work on Extracurriculars?

Session 148

Our poster today is worried that she isn’t doing enough shadowing or volunteering to apply next cycle and is wondering if she should take a gap year to fix it.

Have you subscribed to the Premed Diaries yet? Check out episode 2 now! Be sure to also take a listen to all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network to help you along this path to medical school, and ultimately towards becoming a physician one day!

Your questions are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum. If you haven’t yet, register for an account. It’s free! You’ll be welcomed by a collaborative community of students and ask away! Or you can also join the Premed Hangout on Facebook.

[01:50] OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

“I’m a nontraditional student who just graduated in May from a four-year college. I actually did it in five to complete premed requirements. I am currently working as a research assistant for a nuclear neurologist as I study to take my MCAT this spring, and hopefully, apply this coming cycle.

As we’re currently working on the data organizations/process for the research, I’ve been listening to The Premed Years Podcast as I transfer files. It’s really been an engaging mental stimulator and I plan to catch up on it. Then I continued listening to other podcasts I’ve encountered as a result, either directly or through for the research of your podcast.

Your podcast has brought up some concerns I didn’t know I had yet with my application, mainly, my medicine-related extracurriculars. I had clinical experience as a CNA/STNA but I haven’t really had the chance to do much, if any volunteering or shadowing.

Some more things about me you may want to know.

I was homeschooled-there is a >10 year gap where I was not in a formal academic classroom. During that time, I pursued a career as a professional ballet dancer. This path stopped at age 21(due to an issue with my ankle which surgery could correct, but would leave me without the flexibility to do pointe work, necessary for a ballet dancer- researching my symptoms really was the catalyst that piqued my interest in medicine). I started college at age 22. While I started with the thought of going pre-med, I was highly uncertain in my ability to take on the study load required of a pre-med student(heavily science-based when I was very much arts-focused), and eventually a med student. I started with high-school level sciences at a community college, and now have a major in Cognitive Science (ok, it *technically* says Social Science Interdisciplinary on my diploma) with minors in two hard sciences (Biology & Chemistry).

I was without a car most of my undergraduate career, and public transportation is not great where I live. I worked at least 1 job throughout my education, and had a second throughout my senior year, and sporadically during other years. I still do two jobs – the research assistant position and I also teach ballet. I am in the process of trying to get volunteering & shadowing experience now that I have the transportation for it, but I am concerned as to how that’ll look to medical schools, and if I should hold off longer on applying to boost my extracurriculars? I really would prefer to get my life moving further forward towards my eventual career if possible, but I could see how a school could look at me and balk.

Oh, if it helps, my overall GPA was 3.95.”

[05:10] Clinical Experience as a CNA – How Long Has It Been?

The question here is how long has it been since you’ve had clinical experience because that matters. Consistency is needed with this process. That includes consistency with your extracurriculars, your shadowing, MCAT prep, volunteering, and your grades obviously.

This is a hard process that takes a lot of balancing. And when you need to work, how do you actually fit all of this in? Well, you can find a job that also pays (ex. scribe, ER tech, EMT, etc).

If the amount of clinical experience scares you a bit, then how much do you have and how old is it? If it’s not consistent, then you need more clinical experience. As to how much, there’s no exact number. But what’s really, really important is that you show the admissions committee you consistency in terms of your shadowing, volunteering, and clinical experience. And that consistency needs to lead up to the application through the application cycle.

Remember, when you’re filling out your application, you put the stop date as the dates you’re expecting to start medical school. And you can technically estimate the hours for that whole other year as well (but that can seem a little sketchy).

Again, consistency with all of those things.

[09:10] Should You Delay Your Application to Boost Your Extracurriculars?

September is in the middle of the application cycle. If you’re applying right now (October) for this current cycle, the application is still open. The deadline for AMCAS is typically end of October. Sure, you could submit an application now. But I do not recommend it as you could be late in the game.

Assuming you’re applying for next year, June of 2019 to start medical school in 2020, then don’t delay your application past June 2019 because you have many months right now to work on your extracurriculars. It could look a little funky because it’s all crammed in at the end. But starting right now is better than starting in May before you apply in June.

So start getting extracurriculars. Make sure you have consistent clinical experience, shadowing, and volunteering. Do it now.

Do you need to delay? Not necessarily. It also depends on your commitment to work. How many hours do you have?

[11:37] It’s Not Black and White

A lot of students see this as a black and white thing. It’s 0 or 1. You’re either shadowing and volunteering and getting clinical experience 30 hours a week or you don’t have time for it at all. And you’re not seeing you have five hours here and there everywhere. How many times were you out this week or surfing on the Internet? There’s a lot of hours that are unaccounted for as you’re going through this process that you can fit in 5 hours a week. And that’s good enough! 5 hours a week for 5 months times 4 is 100 hours and that’s a lot! So you have plenty of time to do that. So you don’t have to delay past 2019 to apply even if you have a lot to do moving forward. Again remember, consistency is key!

Links:

Premed Diaries Episode 2: The Financial Pressure of a Premed Parent

MedEd Media Network

Nontrad Premed Forum

Premed Hangout on Facebook

The Premed Years Podcast

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