The Value of Volunteering for Medical School


person extending hand, volunteering for medical school

Why Volunteer for Medical School?

It is well known that medical school admissions are competitive. In order to gain admission to medical school, you must have a strong application. Although solid grades and a high MCAT score are positive features of an application, admissions decisions are based on more than academic performance. A medical school applicant must show that they possess personal traits and characteristics that are shared by physicians. Medical schools  look for students have developed several pre-professional competencies. These include service orientation, reliability, dependability, and cultural competence. Fortunately, by volunteering for medical school, you will be able to demonstrate many of these skills.


Choosing a Volunteer Experience

It is important to select an appropriate activity when volunteering for medical school. In general, volunteer opportunities can be classified as clinical or non-clinical. Clinical volunteer opportunities allow you to work directly with healthcare professionals and patients. In addition,volunteer experiences are sorted by by their level of community service. The best volunteer experiences for medical school applicants are those that are clinical and are also community-service oriented.

Clinical Volunteering

There are several benefits to volunteering in a clinical setting. First, you will see physicians at work. This will allow you to see what doctors actually do. Practicing medicine in real life is much different than what is depicted on tv. You may find that it is much less enjoyable than you expected. Medical training is a long and difficult process. It is always sad when someone realizes that they do not enjoy medicine after they are already in training. Therefore, use your volunteer time to determine if a physician career is the right choice for you. In addition, clinical volunteering demonstrates to medical schools that you have informed yourself about what a physician career entails.

Non-Clinical Volunteering

The disadvantage of non-clinical volunteering is that you will not gain experience in the healthcare field. However, non-clinical volunteer experience can be useful to show that you have interests outside of medicine. Medicals schools like students that have diversified interests. Therefore, non-clinical volunteering does have some value. The key is to ensure that your non-clinical volunteering for medical school does not prevent you from gaining clinical experience.


Considerations When Volunteering for Medical School

One of the more important considerations when volunteering for medical school is the time you will spend doing it. Medical schools appreciate students who want to experience many things and seek multiple short-term volunteer experiences. However, admissions committees really want to see at least one long-term volunteer experience lasting at least six months.

In addition to duration, you should consider the location of your volunteering. Many students feel that they must travel abroad and assist patients in developing countries. While there certainly is nothing wrong with this sort of activity, you will not get extra credit for traveling to a remote location. There are patients in need who live in your city. Medical schools are interested in what you learned from the experience rather than how far you travelled. Therefore, if you feel compelled to work abroad, that is great. However, if you do not have the resources or desire to travel, do not worry. You can gain experience and help others locally.


How to Find Volunteer Opportunities

Some medical school applicants have difficulty finding volunteer work. However, there are many opportunities to volunteer if you know how to locate them. Your first step should be to discuss your volunteer interests with the premedical adviser at your college or university. In most cases, they will be very aware of volunteer opportunities for students. Another way to find volunteer positions is to call hospitals. Most large hospitals have a volunteer services department that can assist you. If not, call the hospital’s medical staff office and inquire about volunteer opportunities.


Get Maximum Benefit from Volunteering

Plan ahead to make the most of your volunteer experience. Although you may not be earning money for your time there, you are gaining valuable clinical experience. Furthermore, you will meet physicians who could write you a strong letter of recommendation for medical school.  Therefore, take your volunteer position as seriously as you would a paid job. Be punctual and reliable in arriving for your scheduled shifts. In addition, strive to be as helpful as possible. You may find that there are few things that you are qualified to do without medical training. Therefore, you will likely be performing menial tasks. However, if you are helpful and pleasant to work with, your supervisor will be more likely to teach you and invite you along on interesting cases.

Keep a journal of what you see and learn during your volunteer time. There are several uses for this journal. First, it will help you remember topics that you may want to study further. Also, you will be able to draw from these experiences when you write your personal statement. Finally, your volunteer experiences may be helpful during your medical school interview.

Volunteering for medical school is a useful tool to demonstrate your pre-professional competencies. In addition, volunteering gives you valuable clinical experience. If you are planning to apply to medical school, you should look for volunteer experiences long before you apply. Applicants with good clinical volunteer experience have an advantage in the application process.

Are you applying to medical school this year? Learn how to give yourself the best chance of admission.
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