Volunteer experiences can make or break your med school application. Are you wondering why volunteering is important for premeds? Do you want to know the optimal number of hours of volunteering you need to stand out in your application? Would you like to find out what type of activities are best? Check out this blog to learn the answers to these questions and more!

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Volunteer Experiences Can Make or Break Your Medical School Application

Between maintaining an exceptional GPA, juggling numerous extra-curricular activities and looking for opportunities to engage in meaningful research, the process of applying to medical school can leave one white-knuckled countless times a day. The answer to the age-old question, "How hard is it to get into medical school?" is - to put it briefly - "It's really hard!" In spite of all this, I truly believe that some of my most valuable learning experiences to date have occurred while volunteering. Volunteering to do the things that I am most passionate about has helped to shape me into the person I am today. In this blog post, I will cover some of the most common questions that students ask about volunteering, including how many volunteer hours you need for a strong medical school application (particularly in filling out an activities sketch, like completing the AMCAS Work and Activities Section and determining your AMCAS Most Meaningful Experiences), and what every pre-med hopeful should be looking for in their volunteer experiences. 

Why is Volunteering Important as a Pre-Medical Student?

As Noreen Kerrigan, Assistant Dean of Albert Einstein’s College of Medicine says, medical schools “want to make sure we’re not accepting brains on stilts. We want people with hearts”. The volunteering section of your medical school application is meant to illustrate that you are more than just book smart, you are a human being with an insurmountable level of selflessness, compassion, and altruism. Volunteering also provides an amazing opportunity to work with people in your community, allowing you to learn valuable skills such as leadership, teamwork, and communication. The world of medicine, and medical professional hopefuls is filled to the brim with high-achieving, motivated, and competitive beings. Being involved in your community is one way to truly set yourself apart, while also learning the skills required to be an excellent physician.

The benefits of volunteering include gaining new experiences, building long-lasting and substantial relationships with others, self-discovery, networking, reaffirming your life's calling, having a sense of purpose and accomplishment, giving back to your community and, of course, helping others. It will help you reflect in new ways on the common question, "Why do you want to be a doctor?" Volunteering also allows you to work alongside and meet people who you might not otherwise have had the chance to interact with. Volunteering is an opportunity to gain perspective and build the skills that will one day make you an excellent and empathetic physician.

How Many Hours of Volunteering Do I Need For Medical School?

When it comes to service work, QUALITY outweighs quantity. It is more important to actually reflect on what you’ve learned and attained through your volunteering journey then to focus on the simple act of logging hours. Volunteering is an opportunity to discover that which you are truly passionate about.

Instead of perceiving service work as a rat-race to log an infinite number of hours in the hopes of impressing a medical school admission committee member, volunteering should be regarded as a step towards growth, exploration, and the adventure of discovering who we truly are as individuals. This ever-evolving journey of discovering what we are capable of when pursuing something that we are passionate about has unequivocal benefits when it comes to your surrounding environment and community as a whole! The act of service work should be a personal choice, one that speaks to YOUR ethos, a mandate that you believe in, and the part of your day that you most look forward to. If the type of activity that you’ve chosen to explore feels like it is one you need to “tolerate” for the greater good of your admissions application, then it probably isn't the right fit.

Although, there is really no formula, typically, if the activity is something you really care about, it is common to show that you had committed to this activity on a consistent basis for several years at least 10-15 hours/month. But again it is important to note that this is not set in stone. Some of our students who have gotten excepted had less than 10-15 hours/month some had more. 

So, What Type of Volunteer Activities Should I Engage in as a Med School Hopeful?

Choose activities that satisfy the following criteria:

Final Thoughts About Volunteering:

All in all, years later, after the admissions process, after successfully gaining acceptance and thereby completing my medical degree, I can definitely attest that my safe haven, and my personal moments of tranquility, regrouping, and re-setting all take place during the time I carve out to volunteer, not because I am OBLIGATED to, but because I have truly found my calling with these organizations. My journey in navigating my way through the world of giving back to my community is what has truly made me the person I am today, and allows me to aspire to continuously grow to be the best physician I can be. I hope that all of you all will find as much fulfillment and personal growth through your volunteer experiences as I have with mine!

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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