Volunteering or Working When There is a Time Crunch

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OPM 21

Session 21

In this episode, Ryan pulls out a question directly from the OldPreMeds.org forums. It’s all about working and volunteering and how to squeeze it all in. Ryan also covers a very important aspect of applying to medical school when it comes to updating your application.

OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

Poster is a student in a premed postbac program and will finish next year and applying for 2018 matriculation; with 30 hours of shadowing and three months of volunteering experience at a clinic; working at a radiology department for transport about 25 hours a week; and bartending 1-2 nights a week to pay the bills. Poster finds it difficult to volunteer with a year plus to work and volunteer after postbac before matriculation, but is it too late to add volunteer hours to the resume?

Here are the insights from Ryan:

Updating your AMCAS application as your resume grows:

Once you submit your application for verification, there are only a few things that you can change in your AMCAS application and your extracurriculars are NOT one of them.

The only things you can update are:

  • ID number, name, address, contact information, date of birth, sex
  • Letters of recommendations
  • MCAT test dates
  • Schools you’re applying to
  • Release of application information to your prehealth advisor

What you can do, however, is send an individual letter to each of the application services (which means you have to add in some work sending individual letters or emails to each of the schools you applied to updating them about it)

Work versus volunteer:

Volunteer experience is very important while work is also very important in order to pay your bills so it’s basically a personal decision. Everybody is different with the amount of work they have to do and the amount of bills they have to pay.

Major takeaway from this episode:

Choosing between work and volunteering is a personal decision but you have to keep in mind that lack of clinical experience is one of the biggest reasons students aren’t getting into medical school.

Links and Other Resources:

The Premed Years Session 171



Dr. Ryan Gray: The Old Premeds Podcast, session number 21.

You’re a nontraditional student entering the medical field on your terms. You may have had some hiccups along the way, or you’re changing careers, you’re now ready to change course and go back and serve others as a physician. This podcast is here to help answer your questions and help educate you on your journey.

Welcome to the Old Premeds Podcast, session number 21, I thank you for being here. Usually it’s me and Rich Levy who used to be the former director of the National Association of Nontraditional Premed and Medical Students. He’s now retired from that position and that’s now me, but Rich still comes on and answers questions with his vast knowledge of the nontraditional career path for premed students. But today it’s just me, and I have an awesome question to answer from- directly from the Old Premeds forums. So if you haven’t gone over to www.OldPremeds.org, checked out the forums, if you’re used to the forums that you see over at Student Doctor Network, this is not those forums. The www.OldPremeds.org forums are very helpful, very cordial, not cutthroat, and pretty well informed. So what I’m going to do, is I’m going to talk about this question, and I’m going to answer it, and that’s about it.

Working and Volunteering

So the question today is all about working and volunteering, and kind of how to squeeze it all in while also working, and keeping a roof over your head. As a nontraditional student, some of you have families, some of you have- most people have bills that they need to pay, rent obviously to keep a roof over your head. And so this student talks about being in a premed postbac program, he’s a third of the way through- I think he, could be a she, and will finish next year, applying for 2018 matriculation. They have thirty hours of shadowing so far, they have three months of volunteer experience at a clinic, they don’t necessarily say it’s clinical experience, they just say it’s volunteer experience at a clinic, so that’s a good question to ask. They have working in a radiology department for transport, about 25 hours a week, so that’s a lot. It doesn’t say- it says working but it doesn’t necessarily say volunteering or not. Because their next line says they bartend one to two nights a week to help pay the bills. And so I’m not sure if the working 25 hours a week as a radiology patient transport is also work.

Updating AMCAS Application

So the question comes down to- they say they’re maintaining their GPA which is great, working enough to keep a roof over their head which is great, but finding time to volunteer is proving difficult. They say they’ll have a year plus to work, and volunteer after the postbac is finished, before matriculation, but is this too late to add volunteer hours to my resume? And here’s an interesting statement that they make here. It says, ‘I know you can update your AMCAS app as your resume grows, but I’m wondering if I need to try to fit in regular volunteer hours now, and put working on the back burner.

So before I answer the question with some advice, I want to talk about that comment, about updating the AMCAS application as your resume grows. Once you submit your application for verification, there are very few things that you can change in your AMCAS application, and your extracurriculars are not one of them. You can update your ID number, which apparently very important. You can update your name, you can update your address, contact information, you can update your date of birth in case you got that wrong or all of a sudden it changed, you can update your sex which you can change nowadays. You can update letters of recommendations, letters of evaluations if those come in late or don’t come in late. You can update MCAT test dates if you get a test score back a little bit later after you submit and you go, ‘Oh my God I need to retake it,’ you can update that in the AMCAS application. And you can update schools that you’re applying to, and you can update the release of your application information to your pre-health advisor. That’s the only things according to AMCAS that you are allowed to change.

So if you have an amazing experience that you couldn’t fit in before you submitted your applications, and you want to notify the schools of that change, you can’t do that through the application service. You can however send an individual letter to each of the application services. So think about that. You can still update the schools, but it’s a little bit harder because you’re going to have to send individual letters or emails to each of the schools that you apply to, to say, ‘Hey here’s an update letter from me why- here’s why I’m bothering you.’ Remember there’s thousands of students applying to these schools. Yeah you need to have a good reason why you’re interrupting their day with a letter from you. So go ahead and do that if it’s substantial enough, and you can go ahead and do that.

The one thing that- going back to the original question here, work or volunteer? I don’t see a lot of clinical experience here, and if you listen to The Premed Years Podcast back in session 171 I believe, which you can find at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/171. We talked to Christina who used to be the Dean of Admissions at UC Irvine, who’s now at USC Keck School of Medicine working there. And she said the number one reason they didn’t admit students was lack of clinical experience. That was the biggest thing holding students back. And so I would recommend to this person- obviously without having the full picture, and only this post, I would recommend you need some more clinical experience. Radiology patient transport, I really wouldn’t call that patient experience, or clinical experience. Again there’s a statement here, ‘three months of volunteer experience at a clinic,’ again not knowing specifically what that is, I don’t know. So obviously being a nontraditional student, you need to pay your bills, you need to have a roof over your head. Could you not rent your apartment and go crash on your parents’ couch, or a friend’s couch? Could you sell your car and take a bus? Sure you could do those things, cut down your bills and have more time to volunteer and get the experience that you need so you don’t have to work as much, because you don’t have to work as much because you don’t have your bills.

So that’s something to keep in mind, but I really wanted to answer this one because of that statement in there about updating the AMCAS. But volunteering and work, it’s a very personal decision because everybody’s going to be different with the amount of work that they have to do, the amount of bills that they have to pay, but remember that lack of clinical experience is one of the biggest reasons why students aren’t getting into medical school, at least according to Christina, the former Dean of Admissions at UC Irvine.

Final Thoughts

So I hope that helps. If you have any questions, go to www.OldPremeds.org, sign up to have an account in the forums there, ask a question, we’ll answer it here hopefully at some point, but beyond that there’s an amazing community of students that are answering questions all the time in there as well.

If you liked this podcast and you haven’t heard of The Premed Years, you need to go check that out over at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net. We have over 180 episodes that you can listen to starting now.
Alright I want to take one second to thank a couple people that left us ratings and reviews. If you haven’t done that, you can do so at www.OPMPodcast.com/iTunes and that will take you into iTunes to leave a rating and review. It only takes a minute and we are extremely grateful for everybody that does.
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I hope you got a ton of great information out of the podcast today, and as always I hope you join us next week here at the Medical School Headquarters and the Old Premeds Podcast.