4 Rules for Choosing the Experiences to Highlight on Your Application  


4 rules for choosing experience

4 Rules for Choosing the Experiences to Highlight on Your Application

Preparing to apply to medical school is rigorous. Every medical school hopeful spends their undergraduate career preparing for the application process. If you are applying to medical school this cycle, here are just a few things you have been working toward: 

Earning top grades: The average matriculant to medical school last year had a 3.74 GPA (3.67 Science; 3.83 Non-Science).  

Studying for the MCAT in hopes of scoring in the top percentile of test-takers: AAMC recommends that students spend 300 hours studying for the MCAT. The average MCAT score for matriculants in 2022 is 511.9, or around the 84th percentile.  

Completing clinical experiences: Medical school applicants should have at least 100-150 clinical hours to record on their application. 

Staying active in your community: Applicants also complete community service hours, and medical schools typically want to see that a student has an ongoing commitment nearing 10-15 hours a month. 

All of these commitments compound, and by the time you are applying to medical school, you have amassed an impressive list of qualifications backed up by your experiences. At Code Blue Essays, we are experts at helping you decode the process of recording your experience on your medical school applications, and we will do it with four basic rules: 

Rule #1: List all of your significant experiences and accomplishments under the “Work and Activities” section of your application. 

Section 5 – Work and Activities – of your application is precisely the place to impress admissions committees with the list of accomplishments you have been racking up for years. Remember, though, that medical school admissions committees are impressed with the quality entries over the quantity of entries. Ensure that the entries you select are significant. 

For each entry in Work and Activities, you are asked to name the experience and list the dates, type, location, contact information, and total hours. You are then allowed to describe the experience. If you have been keeping track of your clinical experiences using our Clinical Experience Journal, much of this information is already at your fingertips!  

You might also highlight experiences in your personal statement, but you want to avoid being repetitive. Consider the two sections of your application to be valuable real estate. You would not want redundancies to prevent you from adding value to your application. 

Rule #2: Maximize the space you are given to list entries and describe them. 

Arguably, you have the most room to communicate your experiences and accomplishments here. Even so, you are limited to 15 experiences listed in total (though you can cite four instances of each), and you can only write up to 700 characters for each activity’s description. Because you’re limited, you want to make the most of the space you are given.  

For example, if you volunteered at a hospital for two summers, that would only be one entry with two sets of dates. You would complete one description for both instances. By doing so, you only use one of your fifteen entries instead of two. An expansion of this strategy would be to list awards and honors all under one entry unless you were to choose one as a “most meaningful” experience, in which case you’d record that one alone.  

You can also list awards/honors gained in conjunction with another activity in the description of that activity. For example, if you won “volunteer of the year” when you served at a soup kitchen, you would list the award there instead of on its own.  

These strategies help secure space to make sure you are recording the necessary components of your application. While you do not need to record activities for each category, you need to ensure you record all of the following where applicable: physician shadowing, community service/volunteering (medical and non-medical), and research, so you can meet your clinical experience requirements. 

Rule #3: Choose your three most meaningful experiences 

You have the opportunity to provide a lengthier description of three “most meaningful” experiences. Use that opportunity wisely! When you write the description for each Work and Activities listing, you’re getting a chance to speak to admissions officers before they see your personal statement. Use your “most meaningful” three experiences to show the officers who you are and what matters to you most. Capitalize on the opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Even if you choose a common clinical experience as your “most meaningful,” find a way to make the experience unique to you in the description.  

Once again, use your Code Blue Clinical Experience Journal notes when you can and add detailed descriptions for entries to help paint a picture for admissions committees and can be very helpful in deciding which activities are your “most meaningful.” When selecting them, you should give weight to experiences with large time commitments that influenced your feelings about becoming a doctor. 

Rule #4: Make sure you link your “most meaningful” experiences to medicine 

The descriptions of your Work and Activities entries are not meant to be a benign description of “what you did.” You should explain the impact that the experience had on you and describe what it taught you. Further, our final rule for your experiences section of your medical school application is that you attempt to link the bulk of your experiences to medicine and why those experiences brought you to this point: applying to medical school.  

Ultimately, your medical school application should explain why you are an ideal candidate for medical school. You can and should link non-medical (but meaningful) activities to the desire to practice medicine. For example, if you had a cathartic experience during a community service experience that showed you some healthcare challenges that your community is facing, you could speak to that.  

Code Blue Essays is here to help guide you through your medical school application process, especially as we enter primary application season. Contact us for details on how we could help you and subscribe to learn more about the medical school application process.


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