Where can I find clinical research opportunities for premedical students? How important is clinical research experience anyway? Which experiences will make your medical school application stand out? If you're asking yourself these questions, among others, then you are in the right place. In this blog, we are going to answer them. We'll discuss the importance of clinical research for premedical students and give you some tips for finding them. We also included a few of those opportunities in this article. So keep reading if you're interested in taking advantage of some clinical research opportunities. 


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What is clinical research and why is it important for pre-medical students

Clinical research essentially refers to studies that examine people, data, or tissue samples from people to better understand health and disease in order to find better ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. Often, clinical research opportunities for pre-medical students give students a chance to assist on such projects by doing tasks such as interviewing the clinical trial participants or following up with them. They may even be allowed to get some hands-on experience by doing things like taking vitals, for example.

While most research is good research, clinical research experience is especially great for pre-medical students who are hoping to get into a top medical program. Not only does it give them a chance to get some clinical exposure and experience interacting with patients, but by being a part of a research project, they get to actively learn about medical research.

This helps pre-medical students in several ways, including the following.

Want to see an infographic highlighting the points below first? Take a look at this infographic:

It shows curiosity, heightened interest in the field, & work ethic

The right clinical research experience on your medical school resume can show the medical admissions committee that you have a curious mind, a strong work ethic, and a desire to contribute to the field of medicine. Medical boards understand that most pre-medical students have a demanding schedule, so being able to take on and follow through with a substantial research project will show them that you are prepared to take on medical school. 

Furthermore, medicine is a field that requires lifelong learning. From the moment you start wondering if medical school is right for you to when you become a resident doctor and eventually a practicing physician, you constantly have to seek out new information and study new materials. This is one of the reasons why admission committees like to see curious applicants who enjoy learning. Substantial research experience suggests that you are one of those students to the admission committee.

It is also worth noting that one of the CanMeds roles identified by the framework for doctors is being a scholar. Medical schools in Canada and abroad look at this framework to try and identify the key traits of a potential doctor, so showing that you are already a scholar in your undergraduate years can make you a more attractive medical school candidate. 

It gives you transferable skills

Clinical research allows you to expand your knowledge in your area of interest, and it also provides you with skills that will be beneficial to you in medical school and beyond. The exact skills that you pick up can vary greatly depending on the specifics of your research, but you will most likely improve your critical thinking and reasoning skills, time management and organization skills, oral and written communication skills, and many more. You also get more experience being part of a team while learning how the publishing world works. All of these skills will not only help you while you complete your undergraduate degree, but they will also help you improve your MCAT CARS score and your performance on situational judgment tests like CASPer, which is required by many medical schools in Canada and the US. 



Gives you access to potential mentors and referees

One of the advantages of participating in clinical research opportunities as a pre-medical student is that it gives you a chance to meet professionals in the industry. We always recommend putting your best foot forward when participating in activities such as virtual shadowing, virtual research opportunities, or clinical research programs. Make sure you interact with your supervisors, ask them about their expectations of you, and do your best to impress them.  

This is a great way to start building your professional network and potentially get mentors. Your supervisors can provide you with insight into different things relating to the research you are conducting and the field of medicine in general. If they seem enthusiastic about your desire to apply to medical school, and you are confident that you've made a good impression, then you can approach them and ask if they'd be willing to write a medical school recommendation letter for you when the time comes. 

Strengthens your med school application

Ultimately, having clinical research experience as a pre-medical student helps strengthen your application and makes you a more competitive candidate. Medical schools usually have a holistic admissions process, which means that they look at more than just your grades and MCAT score. The activities you choose to participate in outside of school are a part of that, and many other qualified premed students know this. It is the reason why several activities that medical schools do not necessarily require have practically become standard practice among applicants. According to this Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) survey, clinical research is slowly becoming one of them, with nearly 60% of medical school applicants having some form of clinical research experience in college. 

These numbers tell us that if you want to beat the competition and get into medical school, having clinical research experience can go a long way towards making that happen. Furthermore, it can help compensate for some of the weaker points in your application. For example, suppose you're hoping to get into medical school with a low GPA. In that case, having an impressive MCAT score and great clinical research experience can significantly improve your chances of admission. 

Looking into volunteer experiences as a premed and not sure what would be best? This video will help you:

How to find clinical research opportunities for pre-medical students

There are several clinical research opportunities for pre-medical students out there, but you have to go looking for them if you want to participate. Often, medical school applicants do not realize that getting clinical research experience before medical school is possible. For those who know about these opportunities, the challenge then becomes finding them. If you are working with a medical school application tutor, a good one can help you find them and guide you through the process of applying for these research positions, thus making things a bit easier for you. However, if you are not, we recommend that you start with the following:

3 clinical research opportunities for pre-medical students that you should check out



What to look for in clinical research opportunities as a pre-medical student

Quality over quantity

When looking for clinical research opportunities for pre-medical students, you should take the time to consider a few things. Namely, why you are choosing a particular topic of research, what you will be learning, who you will be learning from, and when you will be doing it. Keep in mind that quality is better than quantity. If you want to make your medical school resume stand out, you need to look for research opportunities that explore high-impact topics that are consistent with your interests and the rest of your application.

Think about it this way: an admission committee gets two different applications that include clinical research. One of the applicants medical school resumes shows that they participated in three different research projects on three different topics that don't seem to come up anywhere else in their application. The other applicant only has four months of clinical research experience, but they were working on a high-impact study about a topic that the applicant mentions caring about in their medical school personal statement, and some of their volunteer experience seems related to it. The second candidate may have less clinical research experience, but they would have the upper hand in this situation. 

Furthermore, you want to try as much as possible to find clinical research opportunities that will do more than just give you something to put on your resume. We recommend looking for clinical research programs that allow you to be actively involved in a project or conduct your own research under the supervision of an experienced researcher. There are research programs that will provide you with supervision and guidance as you complete your research project. The programs also include workshops and exercises that will teach you more about research literature search, data analysis, scientific communication, manuscript creation, methodology, and research presentation.

Who will you work with

It's also important to consider who you will be learning from. Is it a credible professor at a university? Or perhaps a research expert with a track record of mentoring students? Or just a medical school student? It is safe to say that the first two options are ideal. For your research to be valuable and give you the transferable skills you need, it needs to come from credible sources that actually know what they are talking about. 

For example, here at BeMo, we always make sure that our students work with certified research experts instead of random PhDs, MDs, or medical school students who have no experience mentoring students. All of our experts embody our student-focused philosophy, and they undergo rigorous training to ensure that they can provide the best services for our students. This means that if you decide to enroll in one of our virtual research programs, you can rest assured that you will be guided by qualified professionals. 

Time commitment

Last but certainly not least, you should consider the time commitment that a clinical research opportunity will require. Most pre-medical students are very busy studying for the MCAT, keeping up with their academic course load, extracurriculars for medical school, and other commitments that they may have. This makes finding the time to get research experience challenging. That is why we recommend looking for opportunities over the summer or that run for a short period of time, like 6 or 4 months. You may also want to consider virtual research opportunities as they tend to be more flexible.

Not sure what extracurriculars are important for premeds? This video is for you:

Conclusion

In today’s increasingly competitive landscape, one of the many things you can do to strengthen your application is get clinical research experience. There are many clinical research opportunities available for pre-medical students, but you need to make sure you are choosing the ones that will give you the most opportunities to learn about medical research without disturbing your other commitments. If you follow the guidelines we outlined above for identifying the right research opportunities and where to find them, then you’ll be able to secure great experiences that will help your medical school resume and application stand out.

FAQs

1. What is meant by clinical research?

As suggested by the name, clinical research are studies that take place in a clinical setting. They typically involve the examining of patients, patient data, or patient tissue samples to better understand an illness or disease.

2. Do I need clinical research experience to get into med school?

Clinical research experience is not a medical school requirement, but it does make you a stronger candidate. Additionally, the data shows that almost 60% of med school applicants have some form of research experience so getting some experience as well can help you stay competitive.

3. How hard is it to get into medical school?

Medical school acceptance rates are incredibly competitive. In Canada, the average acceptance rate for medical schools is under 6%. This means that for every 100 applications that a medical school receives, only about 6 applicants get offered admission on average.

4. What kind of research do medical schools want to see on your application?

Medical school admission committees want to see genuine curiosity and impactful research on a topic of your choice. If that topic is medical, you might score some bonus points. Still, it’s important to remember that a good, in-depth clinical study in a different field will have a more positive effect on your application than a small amount of time spent working on medical research that does not align with the rest of your application.

5. Is research in a social science field still good for pre med students?

Yes, it is. Getting research experience in a different field can still help you learn valuable skills. Just make sure that you pick something that you are genuinely interested in and explain what you learned in your AMCAS Work and Activities section or your personal statement.

6. Where can I find clinical research opportunities?

You can find clinical research opportunities through helpful blogs like this one, websites like the AAMC, student forums online and by speaking with your instructors and premed advisors at school.

7. What looks better on a med school application, clinical research, or volunteering?

Both! We know that getting both of those experiences is hard, but it’s best to have both to be a competitive candidate. To find the right opportunities for you, consider where you will learn the most, pick up the most skills, and find potential mentors.

8. Will clinical research improve my chances of getting into med school?

Clinical research opportunities for pre-medical students can improve your chances of getting into medical school. However, you need to keep in mind that medical schools look at your entire application, so you will need to meet the school’s requirements and the other application components that you submit need to be compelling as well.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


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