Essential Pre-Med Extracurriculars

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • As you get closer to applying to medical school, you may wonder if you have enough on your application to be competitive. While the most important parts of your application will always be your GPA and MCAT score, below is a list of some important extracurricular activities for your AMCAS.

    Top Extracurricular Activities for Your Med School Application

    1. Research

    Some medical schools care more about research than others—in general, medical schools fall under one of two categories: research-oriented schools and service-oriented schools. You can usually find out how heavily a school values research from their website or MSAR.

    Still, you should try to complete at least one or two years of research by the time you apply. Try to do research in a field you’re interested in. It doesn’t have to be medical research!

    The benefit of doing research over an extended period of time is the possibly of getting a publication, which will not only help you stand out as an applicant but will also benefit you when you apply to residency.

    2. Volunteering

    Ideally, you would do both clinical and non-clinical volunteering. There’s no magic number of hours of each you should have, but a good guideline would be at least 100 hours of clinical volunteering and 50 hours of non-clinical volunteering.

    3. Clinical experience

    Clinical experience usually overlaps with clinical volunteering, but the ideal applicant would have an extended period of clinical experiences such as hospital volunteering, hospice care, working as a medical scribe, working as an EMT, etc. As long as it involves patient care, it counts as a clinical experience.

    4. Shadowing

    While you don’t need hundreds of shadowing hours to have a competitive med school application, having zero hours can be a red flag on your application. You should aim to complete at least 50 shadowing hours with at least two physicians by the time you apply to med school.

    Medical schools care that you have seen the day-to-day life of a practicing physician and are still willing to pursue the field. They do this to avoid dropouts. An added benefit of shadowing is that the physician may write you a letter of recommendation if they get to know you well enough.

    5. Develop an extracurricular theme to your application

    If you have a few extracurricular activities that follow a common theme, such as a passion for music, sports, or something else, it will really help you stand out on your med school application. For example, a pre-med student may have done research, volunteering, and shadowing, but over four years in college they also got a minor in music, they were part of the orchestra, and they were part of a music interest club. To admissions committees, this applicant stands out because of their obvious passion. If you have some kind of similar theme to your activities, you’ll stand out too.

    While obtaining these experiences may seem like a lot, it’s important to have them; not only to be a more competitive applicant to medical school, but also to know if you really want to be a physician. By having these experiences, you have a taste of what it’s like to be a physician, which will only set you up for success in both your application and career.

    Download our free AMCAS activities tracker to keep yourself organized!