You likely spent a lot of your time during high school participating in extracurricular activities. French club, Model UN, basketball, debate and the like offered a way to have fun and socialize while adding valuable experience to your college applications. The good news: College will provide just as many opportunities for you to get involved in your community and explore your passions. As long as you balance your academic and work commitments with your extracurricular activities, the connections you make and the experiences you have outside of the classroom will be valuable during your academic career and beyond.
If you’re planning on a health care career that requires additional schooling, you’d do well to approach extracurriculars the same way that you did in high school, participating in as many activities as you can that will help your application stand out to admissions officers. After all, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) sees those who participate in extracurricular activities as well rounded and attributes value to activities both related and unrelated to medicine. This professional association is not the only one that sees prospective students who have this experience as knowledgeable and highly skilled.
So how can you gain experience outside of the classroom as you complete your studies? Volunteering, working and serving the community are three options.
Donating your time
What exactly does volunteering in the medical community say to admissions counselors? That you care about people, you’re dedicated and committed to the career field and you’ve already started to gain valuable experience even before you enter the classroom.
To get involved with a medical community volunteer program, try searching HealthCare Volunteer. This resource highlights many available opportunities, especially throughout the summer. A few of them include volunteering as an emergency medical technician, as a summer camp counselor with disabled children or as a blood blank volunteer.
Making a living while gaining experience
Admissions counselors recognize that not everyone has the luxury of focusing on extracurricular activities. They understand that work comes first, particularly with looming tuition prices. But the choices made at this point of your professional life say quite a bit about your dedication.
For those looking to get involved in the field right away while earning a living, there are quite a few options to help you pay for school and learn about your intended profession, like:
Getting active locally
There are so many organizations that survive solely based off of the work of volunteers. Dedicating your time to a cause speaks to your dedication and passion to make a difference.
Throughout the course of some academic programs, community service hours are required for graduation. The World Health Organization encourages all medical schools, and therefore their students, to “direct their education, research and service activities towards addressing the priority health concerns of the community, region and/or nation that they have a mandate to serve.”
A good way to find opportunities near you is to search VolunteerMatch.org. Consider checking out these organizations:
Leading the way
Even extracurricular activities that you see as completely unrelated to your dream health care position can help you tell a valuable story to an admissions counselor. For instance, leadership skills are often a requirement. Even if it’s not expressly required, highlighting the leadership experience you’ve gained shows that you are able to balance academics and other commitments.
The key takeaway: Some of the experiences that you may not consider important enough to list, really truly are. Here are some real-life examples that can apply both to high school and undergraduate life:
- Holding an office in student government, a club or an organization.
- Being the team captain for a sport.
- Organizing any type of event, through school or in the community.
Setting yourself up for lifelong success
Beyond the value that these experiences offer your academic career, there are social benefits, too. If you let it, college will provide you with many opportunities to expand your horizons by getting out and meeting new people from different walks of life. Keep your future caring career in mind as you plan your activities. After all, as a health care provider, you will be placed in situations that you aren’t always prepared for. Learning how to interact with people from different backgrounds is a skill you can start working on in college.
Not every organization or club you join is going to be perfect. Approach extracurricular activities with an open mind and you’ll be on your way to setting yourself up for lifelong success.