Activities and interests
can make a great impact on a medical school application,
if the student has a grasp on how they can be shown as
assets to their story, rather than just a list of
accomplishments. Students have a wide variety of
interests and experiences; they don't need to be
medically-oriented in order to be 'relevant' to an
Take the story of a recent client of mine, Chris. He was
an athlete during his undergrad days – a football
player, in fact. However, he was very reluctant to
include this in his application packet because it seemed
very irrelevant to a medical degree.
However, participating as an athlete in a collegiate program can
very much be a great extracurricular activity to put
down. Being a college athlete shows some great qualities
to admissions boards. It shows determination and
leadership. It communicates a high level of
accomplishment and a strong work ethic. Taken all
together, it shows positive indications of character –
something an admissions committee is always looking for.
Chris' football experience wasn't going to make him a
lock for medical school. Fortunately, he had a GPA of
3.5 and a MCAT score of 32, which
qualified him for all his target schools. Yes, his GPA
was a little low, but with his college football
experience, it showed that he still had a solid handle
on academics; even with all the time consumed being a
top-level athlete, he still had the mental stamina to do
well in academia.
Being a collegiate athlete builds several skills and
character strengths that are very much necessary for a
successful career in the medical field. Students who do
well in academics and maintain athletic status show they
can prioritize their time and live a structured way of
life. It takes dedication to handle such a dual role of
athletics and academics, not to mention a strong sense
of teamwork. Being successful in athletics and academics
demonstrates to an admissions committee the fitness of
the applicant for a career in medicine, which requires
the same habits on a core level.
Don't misunderstand, however – any applicant who is
successful in their extracurriculars, especially those
who attain a high level of achievement, demonstrates
these skills and habits as well. Being a successful
student-athlete is not an automatic ticket into medical
school. Many applicants have activities and achievements
that set them apart from others. The challenge is to
figure out how to frame these as relevant to the medical
school application process.
Admissions officers are not just evaluating how well a
prospective student will fit with the school; they're
also evaluating the student as a future practitioner. Do
they have what it takes to make the tough choices down
the road? Does the student show strong character traits
and a solid work ethic to be a positive influence in the
medical community during and after medical school?
I managed to convey the importance of this to Chris and
then we put all his activities and successes into
perspective. With his dedication to both academics and
athletics, he had the core foundation that admissions
officers look for in future medical students. We just
had to make sure that stood out for the committees to
notice, without overshadowing his other stats.
Combining his personal assets and interests with his
academic qualifications into a great story was what he
needed to do in order to stand out in his target
schools' application pools. And stand out he did – he
received admission offers from both of the medical programs
that he wanted to attend!
– Contributed by Senior Consultant Wayne Shelton, Ph.D. Wayne served for
twelve years as a member of a medical school admissions committee
and made thousands of accept / reject / waitlist
decisions during that time.
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