Don’t Neglect Your Volunteer Hours

As a pre-med student, your life is chaotic to say the least.  Between studying for the MCAT, working hard to maintain an excellent GPA and trying to get a half-decent night’s sleep, there is not much time to spare in your schedule.  Unfortunately, this results in many pre-med students overlooking a critical component in the process of applying to medical school— volunteer time.  Most medical schools expect to see a substantial amount of volunteer work from applicants… and have been known to reject otherwise superb candidates who were lacking in volunteer time.  So what do you need to know about volunteering?  Below are four tips to get you started in the right direction:

1) Don’t wait until you’re about to turn in your applications to start volunteering. Applicants who suddenly begin volunteering within a few months of application due dates aren’t going to impress.  More than simply looking for hours logged, medical schools want to see that their students have real compassion and dedication to those in need.  An applicant that begins volunteering at the last minute doesn’t appear sincere—they look like they are just trying to check off another requirement.  Begin volunteering as soon as you possibly can—even if it’s only a couple of hours each month.

2) Combine volunteer expectations with medical experience requirements. Most medical schools require medical experience, so volunteer at clinics, hospitals or other medical facilities if at all possible.  You’ll be using your precious time efficiently—and you’ll be helping out patients who legitimately need you.

3) If possible, volunteer in a situation that will allow you to interact with patients. In addition to looking great on your applications, experience interacting with patients in hospital or clinic settings will be an invaluable experience for you.  You’ll be volunteering in the same situations that you’ll encounter later in your career—and experience early in the game will be an advantage that many of your fellow med students won’t have.

4) Do something that you enjoy. When you’re doing something that you like, you’ll be more enthusiastic about it—and that enthusiasm will be evident to everybody around you.  And you won’t dread your volunteer time… you’ll enjoy it, instead of feeling like you have to do it.  You’ll be happier, and so will the people that you interact with.

Although the thought of adding more obligations to your already packed schedule isn’t pleasant, the reality is that volunteer hours are an important part of your medical school applications.  Keep these tips in mind as you make arrangements and you’ll be off to a great start.


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