Believe it or not, medical school applications are all about showcasing experiences that demonstrate qualities that will make you a successful physician such as dedication, empathy, and the ability to lead.
While this may come as a shock for students who spent the majority of their time studying for the MCAT to ensure a competitive score, the truth is that great performance on the MCAT alone isn’t enough to get you into your dream school. Rather, applicants who have great MCAT scores and the capacity for leadership show preparedness for the responsibility of a physician.
Physicians often work as part of a team, and it is important to learn how to delegate work, maximize efficiency, and inspire and motivate a group. Medical schools are looking for applicants who will pioneer and advance the field, and a good leader will seek opportunities to exercise their creativity and serve as an educational role model.
So, where does a pre-med student seek leadership opportunities? Luckily, your college campus (whether in-person or virtual) is an excellent place to start! Below are four ways to get involved on campus that allow you to gain meaningful leadership experience and boost your medical school application:
1. Start a club!
School clubs are a way to take on new responsibilities in order to enrich your campus for yourself and your fellow classmates. Starting a club or organization that is aligned with your interests allows you to explore them further and creates a space for your peers to do the same. As the leader of a new club, you will have to take initiative in recruiting other students to join, organizing meetings and events, and presenting your idea to the club committee in a compelling way to gain their support. All of these responsibilities provide opportunities for growth as a leader in a way that is still centered around things you enjoy doing, allowing you to boost your medical school application while having fun!
2. Run for student government!
Student council or student government positions are another great option for pre-meds looking for leadership roles. Joining a student government is an opportunity to reflect on your values and take proactive steps towards making your academic institution an even better place, demonstrating initiative and positive problem solving skills. A great physician will take it upon themselves to improve conditions for others, and student government roles demonstrate the same level of dedication for your community.
3. Serve as a teaching assistant or tutor!
On campus, students consider teachers and professors to be leaders. They serve as educational role models who possess an expert level of understanding about their subject area. Educational leaders are people who are passionate about sharing their knowledge with others, and this applies not only to professors, but to physicians as well.
As a physician, you will need to communicate your expertise to patients in order to help them understand their diagnoses, follow treatment plans, and lead healthier lifestyles. To show medical schools that you are ready to assume this responsibility, you can start by taking on the responsibility of a teaching assistant or tutor! This role allows you to become comfortable with teaching others, communicating in potentially difficult situations, and helping lead others to knowledge.
4. Become a campus ambassador!
As pre-med students had to adjust to the loss of in-person shadowing opportunities due to COVID-19, many virtual platforms have emerged to offer immersive, online shadowing experiences.
One great platform offering free virtual clinical shadowing is the HEAL Clinical Education Network. HEAL now allows pre-med students to become campus ambassadors for the network, providing a unique leadership opportunity for students to become involved with. HEAL ambassadors volunteer to encourage more students to sign on to participate in virtual shadowing. This helps to lead others to meet shadowing requirements and strengthen their own medical school applications. Ambassadors collaborate with other pre-meds to share valuable resources, demonstrate problem solving abilities, and team-building skills–important qualities for excellent leaders and physicians!
These are four great ways to pursue leadership roles on campus and gain valuable experience, but leadership positions do not have to be limited to your academic life! Remember that your leadership skills can overlap with your other experiences.
For example, if you are a first-author on a research publication, you have likely demonstrated leadership in coordinating with your co-authors and presenting compelling ideas to your team. You can also demonstrate leadership in non-clinical or non-academic settings, such as on a sports team or within a group hobby, teaching an art class, or organizing a fundraiser with your local community center. You can also show initiative by seeking more responsibilities at your place of work by taking on new projects.
There are numerous ways for pre-meds to demonstrate leadership and grow to develop skills that can only serve to enrich your abilities as a future physician. Remember, the AMCAS allows prospective medical students to list 15 different activities, and it is strongly advised that applicants complete every field. Therefore, the importance of finding and participating in leadership opportunities cannot be overstated! So, in conclusion, not only are these leadership opportunities great for your medical school applications, but if you play your cards right, they can be a lot of fun as well!