It is no secret that extracurricular activities are a necessity for getting into medical school. Even with the highest GPA and MCAT score, medical schools will not consider an applicant without any experience in the medical industry. The rationale is simple and obvious: why should a medical school commit on a student, when the student has not proven he or she can commit to medicine? Knowing this, hundreds of thousands of students each year apply to positions that will give them exposure into the health field. Unfortunately, many students accept opportunities that will do little to enhance their medical school resume, sometimes even hurting it.
Medical school is extremely competitive. So naturally, getting worthy extracurricular positions are going to be competitive as well. It is not uncommon for students to apply to multiple hospitals, numerous labs, and countless clinics, all to find out that none desire his or her services. Due to this struggle, students often jump on the first opportunity they are presented with. Though at the time it might sound like a good idea, students should carefully consider whether accepting a particular job is in the students’ best interests. Life is short, and the time you have to prepare for medical school is even shorter. You need to maximum your potential by making sure that every hour you spend, is an hour well spent.
Below is the list of the three most unhelpful extracurricular activities (yet popular) that a pre-med can engage in.
1. Lab Research “Technician”
Everyone knows that research looks great on a medical school resume. It proves that you are capable of advancing the field of medicine through innovation. It will be especially impressive if you can have your work published in a research journal. However, many students believe that “working in a lab,” is the same as “doing research.” This could not be further from the truth.
Oftentimes, professors and doctors hire lab technicians to join their lab to help researchers do their jobs. In other words, technicians are hired to clean beakers and flasks, do data entry, organize equipment, etc. In other words, they area hired to do stuff that nobody else wants to do. This is not research and will never be considered research.
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Before accepting a position in a lab, make sure that you will have research responsibilities. Some labs want you to work your way up; they start you off by making you do menial tasks and give you more research responsibilities as time goes on. This is fine as long as the lab holds their side of the bargain. This is a good rule of thumb: if an average high school student could do what you are asked to do, then it probably is not the lab you want to be working in.
2. Volunteering at a hospital, but having no patient interaction.
Volunteering at a hospital is undoubtedly the most popular extracurricular activity for pre-med students because it not only shows that you are interested in medicine, but that you have the heart to become a doctor. However, the type of volunteer work that you do also matters to medical schools. You want to be doing work that allows you to gain at least a decent exposure to medicine. Your volunteer work description should include working with health professionals and/or interacting with patients.
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It is not uncommon for hospitals to bring on volunteers to do basic tasks. They can be anything from working as a cashier at the gift shop, to greeting people in and out of the hospital, to performing janitorial duties. This will not help you get into medical school, and is therefore a waste of your precious time. If you are asked to do these things, you might as well get paid doing them at a retail store.
3. Working in a health setting without any physicians.
Pharmacy technicians. Dental assistants. Opticians. These are some of the jobs you do not want if you want to go to medical school. There are two main reasons why. First, it will not help you gain an understanding of what physicians do. In medical school, you learn how to be a physician, not a pharmacist, not a dentist, not an optometrist, not anything else. Working in these settings will not enhance your medical school application, and is therefore a waste of time.
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Second, medical schools will wonder whether you are fully committed to becoming a physician. Naturally, if you have worked as a pharmacy technician in college, people will assume you want to become a pharmacist. If you worked for a dentist, you probably want to become a dentist and if you worked for an optometrist, you probably want to become an optometrist. Medical schools will arrive at the same conclusion about you as well. They will question your motivation of becoming a doctor, which can have a negative effect on your medical school admissions.
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