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"But that has nothing to do with being a doctor!" (Yes, it does!)

As you go along your pre-professional journey, you might have spoken these very words to yourself as you thought about what extracurricular activities you wanted to commit your time to. As a pre-health advisor, I have worked with many students who have mentioned this sentiment to me before, but my advice to all of them has been steadfast: pursue the things that you enjoy, and then reflect on their value added for becoming a doctor or other healthcare professional. You will often find that the activities you have done can actually be very beneficial on your path to medical school.

Remember that medical schools evaluate you holistically and like to see well-rounded candidates, so while clinical experience is important, not every hour you have outside of studying must be shadowing a physician, volunteering in a clinic, or working as a medical scribe. Think about what you want to get out of your undergraduate years, and be sure to prioritize those activities and commitments too. This can include student organizations, community service projects, internships or employment, and so much more. As you keep track of your activities, maintain detailed descriptions of what you did, what you felt, and what you learned. As application season approaches, you can then think more critically about the transferrable skills you gained in each activity. Let’s take a look at some examples to help get you thinking:

Finger PointYou as a Student


Finger PointYou as a Doctor

Member of intramural basketball league

Developed teamwork skills



Member of a healthcare team

Must be able to share responsibility with pharmacists, nurses, administrators, etc.

Tutor in an after-school organization

Developed communication skills by explaining concepts to children in a variety of ways

Developed empathy by working with students who may come from different backgrounds than you


Counselor to patients about their conditions

Must be able to explain complex medical issues in a way that patients of diverse backgrounds understand




Store associate at a clothing store

Developed people skills by approaching customers in a respectful and helpful way


Ambassador of medical community

Must be able to meet patients with respect, listen to their concerns, and develop a trusting relationship with them

Vice president of college government

Developed leadership skills by communicating with fellow officers and membership

Developed conflict resolution skills when leadership team needed to come to agreement


Leader in a healthcare setting

Communicate with members of the healthcare team to ensure quality patient care

Handle disagreements among staff that does not affect patient experience



As you can see from the examples above, there is always a way to relate what you are doing back to your journey to becoming a physician. For many students, it is easier to reflect on shadowing, health care volunteering, and community service experiences, as those things are more directly related to the life of a physician. Yet often, it just takes a bit of reflection to make those connections for all of your other pursuits as well. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you look back on your own activities:

  1. What was most memorable from this activity?
  2. What did I learn while I was a part of this organization?
  3. What skills or strengths do I have now that I did not before?
  4. Who worked with me on this activity or in this organization that I can talk with about my experience?
  5. How was participating in this activity or organization similar to being a doctor?
  6. How will this experience make me a better doctor in the future?

Answering these questions can help you reflect more deeply and write complete activity descriptions that fully encompass everything you experienced and learned. You will also likely be better equipped to share your experiences more clearly on secondary applications and in interviews. Finally, don’t forget to consult with your pre-health advisor regularly, as your advisor can also help you think more about how to bring out the best of your extracurricular experiences when it comes time for you to apply to medical school. So for now, continue making the most of your undergraduate journey and pursuing the things you enjoy, because they DO have something to do with being a doctor!


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About the author: The Texas Health Education Service amplifies TMDSAS and JAMP’s missions to serve students, collegiate advisors, and professional schools in Texas by providing students with accurate educational resources to enhance their preparation for a career in the health professions, and supporting efforts by advisors and professional schools to reach students and enrich the applicant pool.

Inside Health Education

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