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How to Fill Out Your AMCAS Application Entries/Sketch For The 2019 Application Cycle

An important requirement for medical school applications is a record of non-academic activities. This would include your paid work and volunteer experience, leadership positions, extra-curricular activities, and so on. These are recorded in the AMCAS activities sketch. Showing that you are well-rounded and have a record of success in multiple domains (work, community service, arts/athletics, etc) shows that you have many skills and qualities that you can apply to medicine and you’ll likely be successful as a physician as well.

There are some subtle differences between how these are recorded, but they all have the same purpose: to demonstrate the skills and qualities necessary to be a physician. Some of these can be directly stated. For example, if you volunteered as a tutor, you likely have strong communication skills to help others understand complicated material; this would be helpful when speaking to patients about their condition and treatments. Some excellent qualities cannot be stated directly, but are still demonstrated in your application. For example, if you worked as a tutor for several years and eventually trained other volunteers, you are likely someone who is committed, reliable, and able to assume a leadership role. This is why it’s important to start developing a well-rounded CV early in your career! Choose to participate in activities that you want to be involved with in areas you are passionate about. You will perform better in these than activities where you don’t have the same interest. And, just like showing you have successfully become well-rounded, you will show that you applied your passion to an activity and, if you have the same enthusiasm for medicine, you’ll like be successful in that venture too.

AMCAS sketches/entries can take a lot of time to fill out and completing them can be tedious and stressful, particularly when trying to make sure your entries fit within the character limits. Being successful at this means that you have good attention and focus and can follow directions. Make sure you give yourself ample time to fill these out. You do not want to be overlooked because you rushed or made a mistake you would have caught had you proofread your entry!

AMCAS 2019 Application Tips:

How you choose to order or title these items is up to you. However, these are important things to include

Tip #1  The actual title of the activity is not as important as how you describe it. 

 However, it’s important that the title states your role and if a structured/formal activity, includes the specific organization in which you were involved.

ie:

Title: Volunteer, “TRU Eco” at Thompson Rivers University (TRU)

Tip #2:  If your activity was through an organization or group, introduce your activity by stating the purpose or the mission of the group

ie:

Title: Volunteer, “TRU Eco” at Thompson Rivers University (TRU)

Description: TRU Eco is s a student-lead group that promoted environmental awareness and sustainability on campus and in our broader community.

Tip #3:  State your roles and responsibilities; it is helpful to describe the type of role you took on

ie:

Title: Volunteer, “TRU Eco” at Thompson Rivers University (TRU)

Description: TRU Eco is s a student-lead group that promoted environmental awareness and sustainability on campus and in our broader community. In my leadership role, I facilitated meetings and coordinated team members in our outreach activities. My managerial duties were to schedule meetings and events as well as ensure our activities were cost-effective.

Tip #4:  Emphasize what impact this had on you – and the impact you had

ie:

Title: Volunteer, “TRU Eco” at Thompson Rivers University (TRU)

Description: TRU Eco is s a student-lead group that promoted environmental awareness and sustainability on campus and in our broader community. In my leadership role, I facilitated meetings and coordinated team members in our outreach activities. My managerial duties were to schedule meetings and events as well as ensure our activities were cost-effective. I was able to practice many skills in team-building and develop as an effective communicator and problem-solver. The feedback I received from my teammates was that I was thoughtful when making decisions and efficiently managed resources. Under my leadership, our group was able to enlist several new members, complete several campaigns for environmentally friendly activities, and increase our group’s reserve funds.

Tip #5:  Value statements are valuable!

Value statements are declarations of what you stand for. While they may not fit for every activity, they are very effective ways of communicating how your activity informed your personal qualities.

ie:

Title: Volunteer, “Trick or Eat”, Yale University

Description: Trick or Eat takes place each Halloween where volunteers collect items for local food banks. I have participated in this event every year of my undergraduate schooling. I am invested in supporting those who struggle with poverty and hunger.

Tip #6:  State why this activity was important to you

Similar to value statements, stating why you participated in an activity can demonstrate good personal and professional qualities. This also doesn’t fit with every activity – it wouldn’t be suitable for employment or required activities – but can demonstrate that you are intrinsically motivated and have good intentions.

Title: Intern, Projects Abroad

Description: As an intern, I observed doctors and nurses in a busy urban clinic in Nepal. I learned about the roles of different health care professions and assisted the team by taking patient vital signs as well as with record keeping. I wanted to become involved in this organization because of their involvement in international development. It is important to me that I contribute to creating equality in global health.

Myth #1: You should try to state as many skills and qualities as possible

Applicants often panic trying to demonstrate having leadership skills and team building skills, being a good communicator and being a good listener, being a good critical thinker who is sensitive and compassionate, and so on -- and on and on! Sometimes applicants try to show all these things in just one description. This doesn’t look like a well-rounded and multi-talented applicant; it stands out as unrealistic and disingenuous. For example, having experience as a medical scribe is a great way to demonstrate time management skills…but it’s is hard to imagine how this activity demonstrates empathy. It is best to focus on a few qualities and skills and thoughtfully discuss them. Just as importantly, these should be relevant to the activity that you describe.

Myth #2: Hobbies aren’t important

If you’re a gym bunny, amateur chef, knitting aficionado, or music connoisseur, let your assessors know. Understand that these items don’t have the same impact as more structured activities and shouldn’t replace a more traditional experience. However, not only does including one or two hobbies personalize your sketch, it lets assessors know that you have interests outside of school. Being able to manage stress and taking good self-care are challenges for professionals at any stage in their training and having hobbies shows that you’re able to create a work-life balance.

Myth #3: Everything has to be “medical”

The purpose of having some type of clinical experience (shadowing/observation, employment, volunteering) is really the only way to demonstrate that you have endeavored to develop some awareness of the profession and the rewards and challenges of the field. Applicants at least owe it to themselves to have some type of clinical experience before applying. Clinical experience will also allow you to develop the qualities that medical schools are looking for -- but these skills are transferable and can be developed in other ways. For example, if you like working with children you can seek out opportunities in a paediatric hospital or work at a daycare, volunteer in a school program, coach a youth sport team, and so on.

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