ExtracurricularsPre-Med Academics

5 Ways to Optimize Your Pre-Med Experiences During the Pandemic

Have your in-person shadowing, clinical, research, and community service experiences been cancelled due to the pandemic? If so, I bet you’re wondering how this will impact your application, and what you should do about it. You’re not alone.

In terms of your medical school application, recognize that almost all other applicants are in the exact same situation. Medical schools will take this into account as they evaluate you.

However, there are still things you can do right now to give yourself a competitive advantage over other pre-med students:

1. Stay Connected with Your Pre-Med Advisors

Even if you feel like your pre-med advisors aren’t very helpful (which is a common complaint), they are still a valuable resource. They are often the first to know about in-person opportunities in the community, as well as remote opportunities. In addition to periodically reviewing your school’s pre-med website for any updates, set up a meeting with a pre-med advisor to come up with a plan of action. If you are no longer an undergraduate, reach out to your school’s alumni organization and see if they can help find relevant pre-med experiences.

2. Join a Pre-Med Organization

Pre-med clubs can help grow your network, identify opportunities for shadowing, clinical, research or community service experiences, and help you develop skills. These organizations usually have connections and resources that make finding such experiences easier. Most undergraduate schools with a pre-med track have a local affiliation of these national groups on campus:

  • American Medical Student Association (AMSA) AMSA is the largest physician-in-training, pre-med club in America. They focus on career development, advocacy, and medical training improvement. AMSA also provides leadership training, community service opportunities, and access to the largest network of medical students, premedical students, interns, residents and practicing physicians in the country.
  • Alpha Epsilon Delta Club (AED) AED is a selective pre-med honor society. If accepted, you will have access to scholarships, conventions and a network of esteemed medical practitioners. Plus, the prestige of AED will boost your medical school application.
  • Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA)HOSA is a leadership organization dedicated to developing student’s skills and encouraging best medical practices. HOSA members have access to scholarships, career development opportunities and extracurricular education.

3. Leverage Your Personal Connections

You probably already know individuals within medicine through your own experiences, family and friends. If so, take advantage of these connections by reaching out to them. Have a conversation with them so they get a feel of where your passions are. Even if they don’t know of specific opportunities now, they may be able to connect you to people who do.

4. Warm Up to the Idea of Cold Calling or Emailing

Cold calling and emailing are common approaches to finding healthcare opportunities. Even though the success rate is lower versus leveraging your personal connections, you can increase your chances with sheer volume.

First, target your writing. Instead of saying that “you’re wondering if they have a shadowing, clinical or research opportunity available,” go the extra mile by succinctly detailing the relevant knowledge and skills you would bring to whatever position you’re interested in. That will help you stand out from the crowd!

Second, even if the position you are looking for is not currently open, don’t take that as a “no.” Respond that you’d be interested in speaking with them about those positions now – “informationally.” These “informational discussions” often bear fruit, because when those positions do open eventually, instead of going through a traditional hiring process, the hiring manager remembers YOU, and contacts you directly.

5. Go Remote Where Help is Needed in Real Life

If in-person opportunities aren’t available, consider a remote one. Here are a few examples:

  • Crisis Text Line allows you to answer texts from people in crisis, bringing them from a hot moment to a cool calm through active listening, collaborative problem solving, and safety planning.
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides confidential support for people in distress when they have nobody else to turn to
  • ProScribe is the recognized leader in providing the highest quality trained on-site and virtual medical scribes.

These count too, and can be just as crucial to helping patients and saving lives as in-person pre-med extracurriculars!

Do you need more help navigating and optimizing your pre-med journey? MedSchoolCoach has a team of physician advisors. Schedule a free consultation with a MedSchoolCoach enrollment advisor today!

Ziggy Yoediono MD

Dr. Yoediono was a Duke University pre-major advisor, and an adcom member for Duke University School of Medicine, the University of Rochester School of Medicine and the Harvard Longwood Psychiatry Residency Program. Today, he is an Associate Director of Advising at MedSchoolCoach.

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