Although most medical school applicants realize that extracurricular and volunteer activities can play a decisive role in their admissions outcomes, many of them don’t really understand what admissions committees are looking for when they review a candidate’s activities record.

One common misconception is ‘the more, the better.’ That notion can drive a pre-med into signing up for an unmanageable number of activities, to the point that they endanger their grades because they are devoting too much time to clubs and volunteer work.

But the reality is that medical school admissions committees care more about the quality of extracurricular activities than they do about the quantity.

They know that people accomplish so much more when they pursue activities that are truly meaningful to them, rather than grinding through activities just to attempt to build a more competitive profile.

Applicants often ask us, “What sort of activities do I need to get on my resume to get into medical school?” But the better question to ask is, “How can I turn my personal interests and goals into concrete activities that will both help me get into medical school – AND, perhaps more importantly, allow me to have a great time doing them?”

Surprisingly to many, those activities do not always have to be directly linked to medicine.

Some of the most impressive applicants our consultants saw when they sat on admissions committees were people who combined their personal interests in fields like music, computers, and athletics into meaningful activities.

In fact, the most impressive candidate we have ever heard of was a gentleman who focused his love for computers on community service projects that set up computer labs in inner city neighborhoods and third-world countries. The applicant clearly pursued these activities for the love of it – not just to build his resume. This example of leadership, energy, and entrepreneurship is worthy of emulation by other applicants.

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