Thursday, April 24, 2014

Family Aerospace's Suggestions on Extracurricular Activities

One of the things I have noticed is the large amount of people asking the forums what extracurricular activities one should put on their AMCAS application so I feel I should list my suggestions.
  1. If it can go elsewhere, put it elsewhere. Living under a bridge is, for the most part, not an extracurricular activity. If you were homeless, put that under disadvantaged. Now if you were sleeping under a bridge because you love camping and are trying to camp under every bridge in North America, that is an activity... granted a weird activity but an activity none-the-less.
  2. Please don't list things that happened in elementary school or middle school. Even high school is a bit of a stretch to be honest unless you continued it through college and beyond. I saw someone who wanted to put their awards from elementary school down. Look we are all very smart so we all probably do have a million awards from elementary school, I know I do. There isn't enough space on AMCAS, plus if you are resting on laurels from elementary school days in the words of John Adams (from "1776") "Oh, don't wave your credentials at me! Maybe it's time you had them renewed!" ie do something more recent.
  3. List clinical experiences! Medical volunteering and/or shadowing are common, adcomms want to assure you know what you are getting into. Few places make it mandatory since you could in theory have clinical experience from somewhere else, but if you have this, list it! If you did lots of shadowing, group it all in one slot with the attending's names, specialties, dates, and contact info. Of course if you have something else that shows you have clinical list that. List something or anything that shows you know what you are getting into.
  4. If you are applying to a top school or a research school list Research/Publications/Presentations. Those are common. If you absolutely hate research, I would advise you to not do something you hate just to check off a checkbox. Leave it to those of us who like it. Research is a pain in the butt which will take up a good chunk of your life if it is done correctly. Also, please don't insult the adcoms by telling them that you did extensive research when all you did was wash dishes in a lab.
  5. If you have teaching experience, it cannot hurt to list it. This is one of the things that shows leadership, plus you are going to be a teacher to patients all day.
  6. Full time jobs... list it. You know as well as I do that a full time job will eat up your time, especially if you are doing school as well.
  7. Don't list parenthood. As the parent of four do you realise how much I think that this should be a qualifying EC? I would LOVE it, but no one else thinks that it is relevant. Now if you were troop leader for your daughter's girl scout troop for a few years, that might be a better option.
  8. Pick things that will show consistency and dedication over a long period of time.
  9. Have a personality.
  10. Be careful of controversy as you just don't know who is reading it.
When I was deciding for the ECs, I printed off a copy of my CV and cut it up as I work better that way. I started grouping like things together​​, that knocked it down to about 18 piles. 12 sections were huge, and when I looked at the rest I realise they were not as important and chose to omit them. That allowed me to fill a few slots with things that were not on my CV (shadowing/hobbies) and instead showed things about me. This is what I had (not in the order listed)
  1. Publications - listed 3 journal articles, 3 invited contributions, and a book chapter. None were medical and some were not even science, but adcom is supposed to care so they got it
  2. Shadowing - all 400 hours with 8 attendings' contact information, shows I know what I am getting into
  3. Hospital volunteering - 350+ hours, shows I know what I am getting into plus was significant to me
  4. Presentations - 9 academic presentations plus panels, took up two slots. Very weird subjects only a few were medical even in part, but if they want to see it, they get it
  5. Community Service volunteer for a non-medical passion - thousands of hours over a three year period, shows I am committed to an interest
  6. Full time "scary" job - the company I worked for is known by medical schools (particularly in the Northeast) as being very stressful, they are hired by medical schools as consultants.
  7. Teaching Assistant - medical schools seem to like this ad I have years of experience since I am always tapped as the TA. I only listed the graduate courses I taught.
  8. List of leadership for various organizations - this combined a lot into one, some were medical and some were not
  9. Performing arts - this combined several activities into one since I had a theater/tv/radio/movie career over 25 years
  10. Research - 3 years, 20-40 hours or more a week
  11. Entrepreneur - all the companies I founded over 10 years
  12. Hobby 1 - actually talks about a few(medieval reenactor, camping and includes leadership) it makes one of my volunteer positions make sense as well as some other things
  13. Volunteer work for a very unusual health related NPO
  14. Hobby 2 - completely irrelevant to anything I had spoken about so far. My collection hobbies. I should have done genealogy instead
Added May 4, 2015: I finally did get accepted to medical school and the only change to the above activities was swapping out Hobby 1 (which was semi-merged with the unusual health related NPO as they were related) for religious community involvement.

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