As emerging young adults, high schoolers are often unsure of which career path to pursue. However, in some cases (like my own) students may already have a general idea of their field of interest. If that is the case for you, you may be wondering which extracurricular activities to do in high school to prepare you for the pre-med track in college while improving your chances of college admission.
Here are some ideas for extracurricular activities to do—some of these I did in high school myself, while others I wish I had done more of.
Volunteer in a clinic/hospital.
To start with the most obvious activity, I would recommend any high school student interested in the pre-med track to volunteer in a hospital or clinic. This is a great way to both fulfill your school’s volunteer requirements and gain early exposure to a clinical setting. To do this, visit the website of your local hospital/clinic, search for the page on volunteer opportunities, and follow the instructions to apply. I personally volunteered for several years as a “candy-striper” volunteer in a hospital, helping to discharge patients, deliver specimens from the inpatient units to the lab, among other menial tasks. While this may seem like an insignificant role, it played a huge part in acquainting me to the hospital setting and gave me an up close and personal view into the lives of physicians in different departments.
Participate in community outreach for a specific cause in the medical field.
Most high schools have specific interest clubs for raising awareness/conducting outreach efforts for a specific cause—e.g. breast cancer awareness, Hepatitis B, etc. If your school doesn’t have a club for the cause you are interested in, start one! Get connected to a local organization working in that cause and ask for resources and help in starting a chapter in your school. I personally did this in high school by starting a Hepatitis B Virus awareness club affiliated with a larger national organization. As the founder and president of this club, I organized student-led outreach events on and off campus to raise awareness for Hep B—a major epidemic in my hometown. This activity gave me valuable leadership experience and early insight into preventative care and education, and the cultural barriers to care—which planted seeds of interest in the medical field.
Shadow a local physician (in any specialty).
I personally believe that it is NEVER too early to get shadowing experience. In fact, I would say the earlier the better. Even if you are unsure if becoming a physician is right for you, I would suggest that you still seek out shadowing opportunities to help you make an informed decision. You can also seek out shadowing opportunities with other healthcare workers: registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants—to see what options are out there in the medical field. This can be done by simply calling the informational desk of a hospital and asking for shadowing opportunities or asking family friends in the medical field to help refer you directly (you’d be surprised by how many doctors are willing to take on shadowers!).
Pursue an interest outside of medicine.
Something I wish I had done more of in high school is invest time in my non-academic, non-medical interests. For instance, I was very interested in art and writing but decided that these activities were less important than my other extracurricular activities. In hindsight, had I done more art/writing in high school, they would have helped me immensely with stress-management later in college. Ultimately, your career is only one aspect of your life, and you want to learn how to achieve a balance of work, rest, and play. If you can get the hang of doing these activities while you are in high school, it can also give you a healthy outlet when you do end up working in the medical field—a field notorious for burnout and stress.
I hope this article helps you in deciding which extracurriculars to pursue in high school. In later articles, I will also be highlighting activities that are NOT necessary or overkill in high school and college.
Best of luck,