Work/Activities: Everything You Need To Know

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March 16, 2020

Work and extra-curricular activities are an integral and decisive part of your Primary Application during the medical school admissions process. Unfortunately, many candidates with a strong MCAT score and Personal Statement Essay miserably falter when it comes to filling up the work/activities section of the primary application. Just like a perfect personal statement cannot be achieved without investing thought and time into it, you need to properly plan ahead your work/activities section.

The purpose of Work/activities section:      

purpose of Work-activities

In many ways, your Work/Activities section is the most important and fundamental in ensuring a successful application that leads to a an interview invitation. The purpose of the Work/Activities section is to help the Admission Committee determine:

  • If you have optimum knowledge and understanding of the challenges involved in the medical profession.
  • Your passion and commitment for a career in medicine, especially since it is one of the most demanding professions emotionally, physically and mentally.
  • Work/Activities also help in shedding light on your social and community life. They are often more deterministic of your aptitude as a future medical professional than your personal statement. In short, your experiences and actions speak louder than your words in the essays.
  • Work/Activities tell the admission committee about your exposures and experiences within the medical field, especially what lessons you learned from them. These also shed light on your personal motivations for getting in to the medical field.
  • If you look closely, all the categories of Work/Activities are reflective of one or more core competencies required in a prospective medical professional.

Work/Activities play an important role at all stages:

  • Many pre-med students overlook the essential fact that the basis for a successful application are having personal life experiences related to medicine to talk about and discuss.
  • Work/Activities section helps you lay the ground-work for writing good secondary application essays.
  • The Work/Activities section requires as much work as your personal statement. As a pre-med student, you should remember that any inconsistencies in primary and secondary application can significantly reduce your chances of getting admission in a medical college. Admission Committees are very serious about these things.

Types of Work/Activities and Experiences:

Here is a list of Work Activities that pre-med students tend to write about:

  • Shadowing a Physician
  • Clinical Experiences
  • Research Experiences and Conferences
  • Volunteerism, especially in the local community, such as retirement homes and working with the undeserved.
  • Paid employment in the Health Sector
  • Paid Employment in the non-medical sector or quasi-medical sector
  • Publications
  • Teaching Assistantship
  • Presentations or Posters
  • Athletic achievements and related extra-curricular Activities
  • Hobbies such as music, instrument playing, directing plays etc.
  • Military Services
  • Occurrences and opportunities where you demonstrated leadership skills
  • Personal Endeavors such as start-ups, independent volunteerism and Blogging

How to approach the Work/Activities Section: Guidelines

approach for Work-Activities Section

The primary application is comprised of many parts, and section 5 specifically deals with the Work-activities section. Like all the other parts it is highly advisable that you prepare the content for this section beforehand.

The most common problem that all pre-meds face with this part is the word limit. The word count makes it necessary to articulate your experiences in a synthetic and impactful way. Here are the basic rules and guidelines:

  • Chronology: The work-activities that you list should ideally start from your undergraduate time, and not before, unless you have something exceptional to list. By exceptional we mean something that demonstrates a core competency desirable in a prospective medical professional.
  • Number of experiences: You can select a maximum of 15 experiences overall to write about. These 15 experiences can comprise of things such as research and publication, clinical internships, shadowing internships, employment, volunteer experiences, or any awards, honors, extra-curricular activities etc. Not all pre-med students fill all the 15 slots available. The AAMC portal encourages quality over quantity here.
  • Work/activity Requirements: For each work/activity entry, you are also required to mention the title of the work/activity, the type, the duration for which you worked in it and total hours, the organization’s name, city, and also contact information of the organization or your supervisor, in case the school decides to verify your information. Needless to say, you cannot lie about any of your experiences.
  • What to focus on: You can describe each work activity in 700 words, and this is inclusive of spaces. Therefore, you have to be really synthetic, but at the same time be articulate and impactful with your words. Remember that each category of work/activity is indicative of some core competency. Think deeply and figure out which work/activity and occurrence will help you demonstrate:
    • Pre-Professional competencies such as service orientation, social skills, cultural competence, teamwork, oral communication, ethical responsibility towards self and others, reliability and dependability, resilience and adaptability, capacity for improvement;
    • Thinking and reasoning competencies such as critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, scientific inquiry, written communication;
    • Science aptitude and competencies such as understanding and knowledge of living systems, human behavior etc. One experience can demonstrate multiple core competencies as well, and such experiences are your golden tickets, that is, you must highlight them through-out your application, especially the work-activities section
  • “Most-meaningful Experiences”: After you are done filling your standard work-activities, you are required to choose three “most meaningful experiences” out of all your experiences and then further elaborate them in 1325 characters, including spaces. You can also pick less than three experiences as most meaningful if you desire. It is quite possible that the application screener only skims through the rest of your application, but this part is closely scrutinized and therefore can be very important.Apart from demonstrating core competencies, you are expected to elaborate on how the “most meaningful experience” led to a change or transformation in your attitude towards medicine and healthcare in general. These experiences are stories of growth and development, especially towards becoming more professional and cultivating characteristics that would make you a good medical student and doctor. It can also be about any skill that you learned or mastered that opened the doors for further learning experiences. Fundamentally, the “most meaningful experiences” leave a lasting impact on you and come to define your motivation to pursue a career in medicine.
  • Managing the word-count: Since you have only 700 or 1325 characters, it is extremely important that you use the space wisely. Each entry is an opportunity to argue in favor of your candidacy, and therefore you should make the most out of it. A simple technique is to make sure that your elaboration highlights:
    • any core competency that you were able to learn or experience,
    • the impact the activity or experience had on patients or people around you
    • How the experience helped you appreciate the various challenges of a career in medicine.
    • How the experience motivated you to further pursue a career in medicine.
    • How the experience fulfills your personal goals or aspirations in terms of personal development.

You can include other important insights that you gained from the experience as well, but ideally these are most important.

Conclusion:

Similar to your essays and personal statement, your work-activity section has to be edited and re-written multiple times before you can prepare a final draft. Taking inputs from advisors or a Pre-med Mentor is very crucial. Make sure that you have a proof-reader who can assist you with editing the multiple drafts.

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