Tips for Describing Most Meaningful Activities on Medical School Applications

On the primary medical school application submitted via the American Medical College Application Service, commonly known as AMCAS, you can write up to 15 activity descriptions with a maximum of 700 characters each. You also have the opportunity to write up to three 1,325-character essays about activities that are among your most meaningful experiences.

This is an opportunity for you to give medical school admissions committees another perspective about yourself.

Med school applicants often ask if there is an ideal combination of activities they should choose as their most meaningful. My general advice is to look through all your extracurricular activities and work experiences and choose three that have been instrumental in your personal growth.

[Read: 7 Tips for Completing AMCAS Experience Section.]

Some questions to ask yourself:

— Which activities have been influential in motivating me to pursue a medical career?

— Which activities have I given the most time?

— Which activities allowed me to learn skills that will help me when I become a physician?

After you create a short list of significant activities, here are some other considerations to help you choose three of your most meaningful experiences.

Demonstrate Your Strengths

Choose three activities that reflect your application’s strengths. For example, if one of your strengths is research, make sure to include a research activity as one of your most meaningful activities. In the activity’s most meaningful essay, you can write about how you created a hypothesis, designed the research study and analyzed the data. Detailed descriptions like these will showcase how you will pursue research during med school and as a physician.

Highlight Various Personal Qualities

Each most meaningful experience essay should showcase a different personality attribute. For example, working in the free clinic can show your compassion toward patients. Shadowing can exhibit your intellectual curiosity. Being a teaching assistant can highlight your patience and your ability to explain concepts to others.

[Read: Why Medical School Applicants Should Highlight Compassion]

Choose at Least One Clinical or Medical Activity

You are applying to medical school, after all. Choosing one medical-related activity will give you another opportunity, aside from your personal statement, to write about your patient experiences.

Here are some additional tips for writing your most meaningful experience essays.

Do not copy your personal statement. Remember, the most meaningful experience essays are opportunities to shed new light on yourself. Don’t copy the experiences and stories in your personal statement.

Tell stories. The adage “show, don’t tell” holds true for medical school applications. Telling stories can paint a picture of you in the reader’s mind. Through stories that show, med school admissions committee readers can visualize you interacting with others and persevering through challenges.

[Read: How to Document Premed Activities]

For example, rather than saying, “In the free clinic, I practiced culturally-competent care,” tell a story that shows it. Let’s say you are trying to teach a patient how to improve his or her nutrition. Describe a story in which, for example, you encountered an immigrant patient who was trying to lose weight and how you helped the patient incorporate traditional ethnic foods into his or her nutrition plan.

Complement your activities description. Each most meaningful experience essay should complement the shorter activity description for that specific extracurricular activity.

For instance, let’s say you write an activity description about varsity soccer in which you specify your contributions to your team and accolades your team received. In your most meaningful essay, you can write a specific story about how you helped a new freshman overcome a serious injury. This essay will show your leadership and compassion toward your teammates.

Remember to spend time carefully choosing and writing your three most meaningful experience essays so that medical school admissions committees can learn more about you.

More from U.S. News

How to Submit a Unique Medical School Application

Should You Include Religious or Political Activities on a Medical School Application?

How to Make Premed Nonclinical Experiences Relevant to Practicing Medicine

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