Thursday, 28 July 2011

Introduction to Extracurriculars - Workin' for Free, by Danielle

So you’ve got the GPA, the MCAT and the reference letters and you think you are ready to apply to medical school? This is like having unprotected sex, you’re missing something very important. There is one more step and this hoop is not as simple as just studying for a summer for a test. This step involves years of loyalty and commitment. Most medical schools now require their students to demonstrate “non-academic criteria” and each school has their own little special way of describing it. Dalhousie calls it “any outstanding achievement or breadth in terms of life experience is given consideration.” Toronto says “the admissions process identifies the best possible candidates for medical school through assessing each applicant's overall achievements, including those in academic and non-academic areas. It is understood that academic excellence is necessary, but not sufficient, to ensure success as a physician.” And UBC describes it the best by saying “motivation, social concern and responsibility, creativity, scientific and intellectual curiosity, attitude toward continuing learning, maturity, integrity, and realistic self-appraisal, are just a few examples of important non-academic qualities.”

You get the point; extracurriculars, volunteer work and employment are necessary and Jeff will address how you can choose them but I want to tell you how they can actually help your application. Here is a little secret; everyone who applies to medical school is smart, has a good enough GPA, did well on the MCAT and has met some people that will write a letter for them. So then how can you differentiate yourself from all those losers? You can have kick ass EC’s, volunteering and employment!

I hope you are still reading and are not hiding in your basement fearing rejection because you did not cure AIDS, or build a school for children in Cambodia. I am going to tell you another little secret; it is not necessarily what your activities are but how you present them on your application. I am not telling you to lie but I am telling you to take a closer look at those seemingly insignificant activities and reconsider what they have done for you. Use who you are and what you have done to your advantage. Talk about that soccer coaching that you did for your little sister, or that lame karate that you taught for a long time (no offense to actual practitioners of this well respected craft, just Jeff). 

Ok so you are a little bit of a loner and do not have too many activities at this point. It is not the end of the world you can still jump on the activity bandwagon, and for the love of God do not volunteer at the hospital because that is what all the cool kids are doing. Pick something that you actually enjoy because the admissions committees will see your transparency. When you do pick something stick to it and expand upon it. The admissions committees will want to see commitment and reliability.

To sum up what I have said here and what medical schools want is that they want a human that is the spawn of a genetics experiment where Albert Einstein and Mother Theresa had a baby and then that baby married Neil Armstrong and they had a kid and now that child is ok enough to be a doctor. When medical school applications seem overwhelming, like it sure does a lot of the time; break it into tiny pieces and tackle one at a time. There are worse things in life to get into, so there is no need to cry yourself to sleep at night.

- Danielle