I was recently accepted into LSA and wanted some advice on more of the extracurricular side of being a premed. I just wanted advice on certain activities like research, volunteering, shadowing, and leadership positions. Are there examples of these activities I should pursue and how to go about it. in the summer, is it common do continue to do research or are here other activities to do. P.s is it possible to put this in blocks like a class schedule to get a time frame of when I should pursue these just to get an idea as obviously you can miz and match?!?!
The short answer is that there’s not really a hard and fast rule for how to go about your extracurricular activities. Volunteering in a healthcare setting (clinic, hospitals, nursing home) is the main way most pre-meds get their patient interaction hours (super important for medical school!). Where you volunteer is really dependent on a combination of factors: where you can get a position, if the area is of interest to you, you class schedule, the population you’re interested in working with, etc. If you want an idea of what’s available in the Ann Arbor area, I would check out the Newnan Co-Curricular Activities page here. I would also check out our pages on student organizations and summer activities too!
The summer is your chance to really immerse yourself in something—pick something like research or volunteering for a specific organization. Since most volunteering opportunities require a specified number of hours before you can perform certain tasks, summer is a great time to get these hours in so you can do something more interesting during the school year. The same goes for research—building trust with a lab and demonstrating you’re competent and willing to learn will go much faster over the summer than during the school year. Shadowing is another good summer activity for the same reasons—you have more availability. We’ve been asked other questions about summer activities (here), student organizations (here), and have blog posts on shadowing and research. In the blog posts we’ve included how to find these opportunities and an email template!
As a small note: it might be difficult to find healthcare volunteering/opportunities because of the recent COVID-19 outbreak, so don’t be too discouraged if you can’t find anything. Keep looking for and reaching out to opportunities. All you can really do during the outbreak is get your foot in the door at some institutions and then email again after this clears up.
What many people often forget is that being pre-med does not just mean doing well in classes, shadowing, and doing research. Medical schools also want to know you’re well rounded, personable, and that they’re getting a student whose wealth and diversity of experiences will make them a successful doctor. It’s therefore imperative that you explore these interests through student organizations and volunteering too! You could even do research in a field outside of your major if you want, just make sure you can explain your reasoning behind doing these things. You want to make sure that interviewers understand you did it out of a place of genuine curiosity, not just to look well-rounded in your application. For example, I’ve volunteered at two different vegetable farms over the school year and summer; I think it’s interesting how much burden food deserts and poor diets place on the healthcare system and wanted to learn more about the roadblocks to health eating/fresh food distribution.
In terms of leadership, this is really just dependent on time. It’s perfectly normal to not hold leadership roles in your freshman year. If you want a leadership role in the future, all you really have to do is have demonstrated involvement in a club. Try to make your name one that people recognize within the club, even if it’s just “Oh yeah, I know Jeremy, he’s in ________ club with me. He’s really good about planning ____________ (ex. outreach events)!” Additionally, a lot of clubs at UM have subcommittees, so this adds another level of leadership that is potentially more attainable in your freshman/sophomore years. You can be head of a subcommittee but not necessarily be a part of the main e-board; it’s just another strategy to build the case for you to join the main leadership later. Keep in mind that leadership is a quality, not necessarily a position, so as with other pre-med things, be ready to explain how a club/experience fostered your leadership traits.
COVID-19 is making everything pretty uncertain right now, but I can speak to a non-COVID schedule for activities. Again, depending on what you’re inquiring about, the time you should reach out varies. It’s therefore pretty difficult to put this is block format, but here’s a list of factors to take into consideration when scheduling e-mails:
a. For research: if you’re interested in joining a human lab, I would reach out to the Principal Investigator 6-3 months before you want to start. For an animal lab, no earlier than 3 months. The reasoning behind this is that human labs require many more administrative hoops to jump through, i.e. HIPAA training, IRB approvals, etc. Animal labs are usually easier to get into because there are less roadblocks and more of them.
b. For volunteering: if you want to start as soon as possible, complete the volunteer application as soon as possible. Most places, including hospitals, are pretty good about responding to volunteer applications, it’s just again a matter of how much training you need to do prior to your start.
c. For shadowing: medical schools are starting to move away from relying heavily on shadowing. However, it’s still something you have to do, mostly for your benefit, as a way to check your interest in a medical career/specialty as you move through undergrad. Many doctors will want to know you have previous experiences in a healthcare setting (volunteering!) before they allow you to follow them around, so I would wait on this one (unless you have a personal connection) until you have some volunteer experience under your belt. Doctors want to know you’re familiar with hospital/clinic etiquette and that you’re going to learn something at the end of the day. Otherwise, it’s pretty frustrating for them to be followed all day by a person who is not willing to engage in learning. If you know someone, or someone who knows someone, this is preferable to cold e-mailing because there are strict guidelines in hospitals on shadowing. You’ll likely be able to get in faster this way.
Lastly, I recommend taking a look at some of our advisors’ exit tickets: they include details on how they went about their pre-med experience.
I know pre-med can be overwhelming at the start, but don’t overload yourself in your freshman year! Burnout is a serious problem, especially in healthcare fields. You’ll can get everything done, I promise. Just keep in mind that college is a big adjustment and the first few months are a time to explore and enjoy. Visit advising (either with Pre-Med Hub or Newnan) if you feel lost or just need some recentering.
Best of luck! Congratulations on your acceptance to Michigan!
Anni (advisor, Class of 2020)