Listing hobbies in the AMCAS work and activities section of your medical school applications is an opportunity for the admissions committee to learn about who you are as a person, beyond your pre-med related activities. With room for up to fifteen activities covering all areas of your life experiences, it's difficult to know which activities, let alone which hobbies, you should include and exclude. This blog will focus on your most commonly asked questions surrounding AMCAS hobbies and will provide you with AMCAS hobbies examples so you can create your own powerful entries.
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The AMCAS application is composed of 9 different sections; three sections under Background Information, Course Work, Work and Activities, Letters of Evaluation, Medical Schools, Essays, including the AMCAS personal statement, and Standardized Tests. In the AMCAS work and activities section, students can include up to 15 experiences from a variety of categories including volunteering, employment, teaching, publications, and extracurriculars. Of these categories, a maximum of four experiences can be included. For example, if you have six different research experiences, you can only include four of these, so it's important to prioritize which experiences should be included. In addition to selecting the category and title for each experience, you'll also have to include the total hours spent, contact details, and dates of the experience. Students can choose up to three “meaningful experiences” from their list – those that have deeply moved you, affected your growth, or aided in your development. Each entry must be discussed in 700 characters, including spaces. Experiences that have been designated as meaningful will be given an extra 1325 characters to explain why they have been classified that way.
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While grades and test scores are an important component of admission selection factors, most medical schools are interested in forming a well-rounded medical class, rich in both diversity and experience. Our participation in hobbies makes each of us unique, shaping and changing us in different ways, allowing us to gain skills and insights to help ourselves and our peers. One person's passion for travel can give them a deep appreciation and respect for different cultures and beliefs. Another person's love of playing the trumpet can help them achieve discipline and determination when faced with challenges. Similar to the diversity essay for medical school, including hobbies in your application is a way for you to bring original experiences forward that someone else may not have had. Even if two students both participate in and enjoy cooking, they will still have had different experiences, learned different lessons and gained different skills. Participating in a long term hobby shows the admissions committee your commitment and passion towards something you value which can carry over in your pursuit of medicine.
When considering which hobbies to include, it's important to think about why you want to include them in the first place. All AMCAS entries, regardless of the category, should only be included if they are significant. So what is a significant entry? One that has been particularly important on your journey towards becoming a physician and one that can demonstrate your suitability for the profession. After all, the purpose of the AMCAS work and activities section is for the admissions committee to learn about who you are as an applicant and how your experiences have helped you develop desirable personal characteristics and skills. It is therefore important to choose the activities that you include wisely. You need to be able to demonstrate to the admissions committee that you possess sought after qualities such as resilience, compassion, dedication, teamwork, cultural competency, etc. Remember, quality is more important than quantity here, and even though you are allowed to include up to 15 activities, if they are not significant, don't include them. Think about a hobby that you've participated in that can demonstrate valuable attributes. Perhaps you've participated in a debate club where you learned how to compromise and respect differing opinions. Perhaps you've fished for as long as you can remember which taught you patience and determination. Any skill set that can carry over into your career as a doctor is useful. There are not a lot of wrong answers when it comes to which hobby to include, the most important criteria is that you can discuss what the activity means to you and what you learned or gained from the experience.
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Absolutely! There are no stipulations that indicate which activities you can identify as your AMCAS most meaningful experience, however, it's important to choose experiences that truly warrant this classification. For example, if you play golf twice a year with your friends, you probably don't find this experience life-altering or transformational, so you shouldn't classify it as a meaningful experience. So what is a meaningful experience? The AAMC suggests determining your meaningful experience(s) by considering “the transformative nature of the experience, the impact you made while engaging in the activity, and the personal growth you experienced as a result of your participation.”
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I enjoyed being a cheerleader, sharing a mutual passion with my teammates, and representing the College by leading sponsored events, making appearances, and advertising the College. Being an athlete my freshman year was challenging as I balanced coursework, practices, workouts, sponsoring events, and attending games. I learned that teamwork is not only integral in sports, but in life. Having the ability to communicate and cooperate with others and those with different personalities is vital in teamwork and success of the group. I enjoyed being a leader and contributing ideas to fundraisers, routines, and motivating others to keep trying and persevering when a skill was difficult to obtain.
Character Count: 698
From a young age, I always favored music-themed toys. At five years old, I started my first private cello lessons. Since then, I have earned spots in local youth symphonies, orchestras, and even performed solos at a local hospice. From the beginning of college, not only has playing the cello served as my primary source of stress relief, but it has also continued to be a way for me to give back to the community. Since I started playing for those who lived at the Birchwood Residence in high school, I continually returned and played my music there throughout my college years. The commitment to my passion despite the challenge has fueled my motivation to pursue medicine.
Character Count: 675
I committed a minimum of 40 hours each week to practices, training, competition, and other team related activities. As a point guard, my position is often equated to the quarterback of the team. I provided leadership and stability for my team. I loved this role for the emphasis it placed on adaptability, communication, and creativity. Finding balance between my aspirations on and off the court was essential to my success in both areas. I received the WVB Scholar Athlete award all three years I competed. Upon graduating with my chemistry degree, I was awarded the University of X Borrow Albert Davis Award as the top student who is also an intercollegiate athlete.
Character Count: 671
Most meaningful experience elaboration
This experience provided me with some of my best experiences and some of my hardest obstacles. While I loved playing and competing, the memories and lessons that stick with me the most include my teammates. I was able to meet people from all over the country with varying backgrounds. Competing in a high stakes environment with others who share the same passion is a unique experience where a strong understanding of each individual is essential. Some teammates responded to criticism and needed it, whereas others wanted reassurance and encouragement. As a point guard, this was my job on the court, but off the court it meant even more to me as a friend and teammate. I did my best to always be there to listen, and offer my support when needed. Knowing I helped alleviate the stress of a teammate was the sweetest victory of all.
This experience also taught me to compartmentalize my activities. My job as an athlete did not end with the final whistle or even when I changed out of my sweat-soaked attire. My teammates and I were never really done for the day. I learned success on the court requires a lot more than the time you put in at practice. However, the ability to compartmentalize when it was time to focus on school, basketball or other activities was necessary to be successful in each.
Character Count: 1301
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