How to Select Your Activities for your Med School App

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OPM 289: How to Select Your Activities for your Med School App

Session 289

When filling out your med school application activities section, which activities should you include? Today, I share my tips for crafting an impactful story.

Questions answered here on the podcast are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum over at Please go ahead and register for an account, ask your question, and have fun with the community.

Also, please be sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as we try to bring you as many resources as you need on this journey.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[00:48] The MCAT Minute

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[01:55] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“I have been a nurse for 4 years in the ER and have achieved many things in that time frame regarding leadership and certifications. 

With only 15 activities spots, would you recommend that I simply discuss nursing achievements in the free text or create them as separate activities?

For example, I have obtained both my CEN and TCRN certifications. I work as a charge nurse and have been a graduate nurse preceptor (leadership). I serve as shift representative in ED shared leadership. I teach classes on USGIV insertion to residents and fellow nurses, etc. 

Would you create each of these as an activity and then discuss them further? Or create Nursing as a lone activity and then list all of these accomplishments in the most meaningful essay?

I want to make sure I have room for all other activities, however want to highlight my achievements within nursing as well.

Side note to Dr. Gray: I have loved the podcasts in which you brought on nurses to discuss their journeys to med school, but I would LOVE an episode geared towards formulating an application specifically for people with significant health care experience. It would be very helpful!”

[03:07] Achievements Don’t Matter as Much as the Impact

It sounds like our student wears many hats as a nurse. Number one, forget about achievements. Obviously, they have shown that you are being rewarded with something or you have done something to get that achievement that certificate,

'Listing certificates and achievements, in the grand scheme of things, listing them out, don't mean much. The reflection on those achievements is what means everything.'Click To Tweet

For high achievers, the reflection is going to be very similar in that you worked hard to accomplish these things. What makes for a very good, most meaningful statement is to say what your achievement is and why such certification is most meaningful to you.

Then you can put the honors, awards recognitions as one thing and list stuff in there. Put nursing as one activity and as the most meaningful. Talk about being a nurse and how that was most meaningful to you. Reflect on that experience, what it meant to you and its impact on you or how you impacted it.

Now, you can have another activity that talks about your leadership within your nursing world. And so, technically have three nursing-related activities.

One is in honors, awards, recognitions (and you can put non-nursing honors, awards, and recognitions in there as well.) You can have nursing as a clinical activity, labeling it as clinical. And then you can have another nursing activity labeled as leadership then talk about it.

'This is what I love about activities is there are no rules. You could fill up all 15 spots with nursing if you want. I don't recommend it, but you could.'Click To Tweet

[05:59] The Goal of the Process

The goal of the process is the impact, the self-reflection, and the takeaway of what the experience meant to you. That’s what you should be talking about because it lets the reviewer know more about who you are.

Talk about how each of these activities has helped you grow, and not what’s going to make you a better doctor.

“Stop thinking about achievements and start thinking about impact.”Click To Tweet

Remember, it’s not about the achievements. It’s about impact. It’s about who you are and who you are (not the achievements) that will allow the reviewer to understand that indeed you have achieved a lot.


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