In the primary application, section 5 will allow you to enter up to 15 “AMCAS activities.” You can enter short descriptions or reflections for each of these activities and you can designate three of them as important, which means that you can write an additional 1325 characters on that experience. Seeing as it can be daunting to be involved in even 3-4 extracurricular activities as a premed, how can you be expected to fill all 15 fields? Here are some ways you can consider expanding the scope of your activities section.
1. Honors/Awards: Although this is the activities section, you are in no means restricted to your groups, clubs, or volunteer organizations that were part of your “extracurricular life.” This is also an area where you can put awards, honors, and events. Have you made the Dean’s List or College Honors for multiple quarters? Have you ever received a scholarship or been presented with an award? Have you ever set up a symposium? Honors and awards can add 2-3 items on to your AMCAS activities list.
Example: Dean’s Honors List- The Dean’s Honors List recognizes students who display exemplary academic performance. I received Dean’s honors for Spring 2010, as well as all three quarters of my Junior year (Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012).
2. Publications/Presentations: Have you conducted research that resulted in a publication? Have you ever made an academic presentation? Made a poster for a research fair? These are all potential events to list in your AMCAS activities section.
Example: During my third year at UCLA, I made a poster presentation through the genetics department regarding stem cell models for aneuploid syndromes which was then adopted to be used in the revised curriculum for one of their upper division classes. The presentation lasted 2 hours, and was one of my first professional scientific offerings. Using Turner Syndrome (Monosomy X), I introduced the concept of studying aneuploid syndromes by germ layer utilizing stem cell derived neurons, hepatocytes, and cardiomyocytes as models to measure the symptoms of the genetic disease in response to certain drugs or genetic targeting. Through making this presentation I gained some of my first independent experiences with organizing, delivering and defending a scientific presentation.
3. Hobbies: Hobbies and sports are still activities, and although I wouldn’t include many of these, adding interests and hobbies such as surfing, hiking, dancing or knitting can be added to your AMCAS activities list if you have the room. It can be a good way to give readers a better idea of what you enjoy doing, and what you do in your life to achieve balance.
Example: Baking- I find myself sometimes getting lost in my undergraduate studies, but one thing I always try to take time to do at least twice a week is baking. I find it incredibly relaxing, and also consider it one of my artistic outlets. I enjoy experimenting with new recipes, or modifying recipes to try to create new types of baked goods. It’s an activity that I look forward to every week, and I enjoy baking for friends, family and classmates. I originally used to bake with my mom while I was growing up, and I’m proud that I’ve been able to keep up that hobby throughout my time at Brown.
4. Work: If you have held a job, even if it is just being a busboy or working for your student union, include it. Any work experience is a great way to show that you possess some level of responsibility and work ethic. Also, depending on the job, you may have developed or refined some skills that may prove valuable for your transition into the medical profession.
Example: During my third year at UCLA I was employed by Brighter Minds Tutoring as a high school tutor. I tutored mostly SAT/ACT preparation as well as high school math and science. The students came from very affluent backgrounds, so it served as an interesting counterbalance to my tutoring at Bridgeman Highschool. By comparing and contrasting these two experiences I was able to develop a better perspective on how affluence and societal positioning affect the learning process, while at the same time tutoring and mentoring young students on both ends of the spectrum. I learned about cultural advantages and disadvantages and how to serve in a positive capacity in both settings. It also allowed me to gain a better understanding of my own style of teaching science, which is something that I imagine I will be doing for the rest of my life in some capacity.
5. You do not need to fill out all of the fields. I know this may sound like a shuddering thought to some, but there is nothing that keeps you from leaving a few blank, and it may not affect you in the ways that you think. You will hear this time and time again, but it’s the quality of your activities, not the quantity that really makes the difference in your application. That being said, these activities are still opportunities to show medical schools who you are, so if you can do this through adding more activities, I would do that until you hit 15.
Keep in mind throughout this section that you should be focused on showing who you are through your AMCAS activities, not just showing them what you’ve done. Keep in mind throughout this section that you should not just be focusing on describing the activity. The part that is actually going to resonate with admissions committees is how you describe the transformative nature of the experience, or its personal value to you. Try to avoid being flowery and hyperbolically passionate about every single thing that you do, and be honest about your work and interests. It is expected and understandable that there are many groups that you may have just been a member of, and participated in for an hour or two a week. That is fine. If you can accurately explain its role in your life and demonstrate maturity and balance it will likely be more effective than trying to make everything you do sound superhuman. Keep in mind that a week has 168 hours in it (119 if you take out 7 hours a night for sleep), so make sure that your extracurriculars alone don’t add up to an implausible amount of weekly time. Make good use of your 15 activities, maintain balance, display maturity, and give the admissions committees a better idea of you as a prospective doctor.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ProspectiveDoctor. Follow ProspectiveDoctor on Twitter @ProspectiveDr