It’s important for you to engage in activities outside of the pre-med or pre-health world and every health profession school wants students with a myriad of experiences, including research opportunities (or other forms of independent inquiry), volunteering and community service, and clinical exposure/experience. But how can you find it? How do you gain the experiences that are valued by the medical, dental, and other health professions admissions committees? We suggest you review the links on the left for ideas and suggestions and also meet with your Pre-Professional Advisor to further discuss your plans.
The Pre-Professional Office provides support in this pursuit of relevant experience, including:
- Meaningful summer opportunities
- Exciting study abroad experiences
- Engaging research opportunities
- Inspiring volunteering and community service, including international volunteering
- Relevant clinical exposure/experience
- And other relevant experiences, such a leadership, involvement in athletics, the arts, etc.
What are health professions schools looking for?
- Academic Achievement and Aptitude – Medical schools look for evidence that you can handle the challenges of a rigorous science curriculum. They review your cumulative GPA, BCPM (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math) GPA, and MCAT score. They also look for trends in your academic performance.
- Academic Breadth and Diversity of Interests – This is reflected in course selection and the depth and scope of your academic interests.
- Clinically-Related Experience – Medical schools place a strong emphasis on your clinical exposure to medicine and patient care, including time spent shadowing, working in clinics, and other patient-centered settings. Engaging in direct patient interaction (i.e., transporting patients, serving as a medical translator, etc.) will greatly enhance your experience.
- Community and Public Service – Good doctors are altruistic (that is, they are always ready to put their patients’ needs first). Good doctors also have a strong sense of service, of wanting to help people feel better, making health care work better, and, in many cases, giving back to their communities. Medical schools value engagement in community service as a way to demonstrate respect toward others with very different life circumstances, empathy, and cultural sensitivity.
- Research and Independent Investigation – Research is investigative in nature. It is conducted to learn facts, acquire new knowledge and draw conclusions. Medical schools like to see investment in and contributions to research, whether basic science or clinical. Independent investigation also occurs outside of the sciences and is very valued by admissions committees.
- Individuality and Passion – There are numerous ways applicants demonstrate their individuality, the diversity of their interests, and the individual passions that have shaped their lives. Medical schools look for demonstration of substantive and long-term investment in activities that distinguish an applicant, particularly those that include creativity, leadership, and exploration.
- Strong Letters of Recommendation – Letters of recommendation are a critical element in the health professions application process. Your goal is to have 4-6 letters of recommendation by the time you apply to medical school because schools value the perspectives of people who have observed your work and can speak to your abilities and personality.
Demonstration of personal competencies through your experiences is critical to your success as an applicant. As you think about a future application to health professions school and entering your Hopkins experience, consider how you would rate yourself in these competencies areas:
- Integrity and Ethics: Behaves in an honest and ethical manner; adheres to ethical principles and follows rules and procedures; resists peer pressure to engage in unethical behavior and encourages others to behave in honest and ethical ways.
- Reliability and Dependability: Consistently fulfills obligations in a timely and satisfactory manner; takes responsibility for personal actions and performance.
- Service Orientation: Demonstrates a desire to help others and sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings; demonstrates a desire to alleviate others’ distress.
- Social, Interpersonal and Teamwork Skills: Demonstrates awareness of others’ needs, goals, feelings, and the ways that social and behavioral cues affect peoples’ interactions and behaviors; adjusts behaviors appropriately in response to these cues; treats others with respect and demonstrates respect for diverse populations.
- Desire to Learn: Sets goals for continuous self-improvement and for learning new concepts and skills; assesses own strengths and weaknesses; solicits and responds appropriately to feedback.
- Resilience and Adaptability: Demonstrates tolerance of stressful or changing environments or situations and adapts effectively to them; is persistent, even under difficult situations; recovers from setbacks.
- Cultural Competence: Demonstrates knowledge of social and cultural factors that affect interactions and behaviors; shows an appreciation and respect for multiple dimensions of diversity; recognizes and acts on the obligation to inform one’s own judgment; engages diverse and competing perspectives as a resource for learning, citizenship, and work; recognizes and appropriately addresses bias in themselves and others; interacts effectively with people from diverse backgrounds.
- Oral Communication: Effectively conveys information to others using spoken words and sentences; listens effectively; recognizes potential communication barriers and adjust approach or clarifies information as needed.
Visit the AAMC website to review a full listing of “Core Competences” for entering medical students.
Finally, medical and health professions schools value such significant pursuits as athletics, theatre, music and the arts, and other interests that make you unique. They want to know about these involvements, what you do for fun, and how you’re engaged within the campus community. Get involved! It is strongly encouraged that you pursue activities that reflect the breadth of your interests and passions.
The Louis E. Goodman, M.D., Award (LEG Award)
One way the Pre-Profession Office supports this quest is through sponsoring the Louis E. Goodman, M.D. Award (LEG Award). This award was created to foster the sensitivity of prospective doctors to ideas and matters beyond the realm of medicine. Check out the website to learn more!
Keep in mind that your experiences should not look like a checklist; over time, your experiences should reflect your interests, curiosity, and passions. Remember to pursue you!