As learning continues to shift online, because of both the pandemic and advances in technology, many people are struggling to keep up with the change in gears.
Many people don’t know how to find virtual opportunities or how to use online resources to their advantage.
People are continuing to lose their shadowing, volunteering, and research positions because of COVID-19 or can’t obtain in-person opportunities in the first place.
With pre-health schools curious how an applicant made use of this time during the pandemic, you can’t fall behind! I’m going to answer some of the commonly asked questions about finding virtual opportunities for pre-health students:
Why should I seek virtual opportunities to learn?
Virtual opportunities are a great way to explore different fields you didn’t consider exploring before.
For example, I was very set on neurosurgery my first two years as an undergraduate and only ever pursued shadowing in that field. When everything went online, I jumped at any opportunity I could to obtain shadowing hours because I didn’t know when I’d be able to shadow in person again.
I learned about many other specialities and health professions out there and was able to learn more about what interests me in medicine.
Virtual opportunities are a chance to broaden your knowledge and find exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life. It’s also a chance to interact with many different kinds of health professionals and get all your questions answered.
How do I find virtual opportunities?
They aren’t as hard as you think! My best recommendation is go on Instagram and follow as many doctors, PAs, nurses, whatever you’re interested in. Be on the lookout for anytime they are doing an IG live or teaming up with another organization.
Follow any and all virtual shadowing, volunteering, and research pages you can find. There are tons out there: just type in “shadowing,” “volunteering,” or “research” in your search bar on Instagram and many pages will pop up.
I also recommend looking at different colleges; they are always doing “Virtual Grand Rounds” or live webinars–Stanford, Columbia, and University of Miami are a few of the ones that I have found.
If you’re still stuck, check out my page for in-feed posts where I tag the accounts hosting the events for that day, story posts where I post information about an upcoming virtual opportunity, and my highlights where I break down each category of all the virtual opportunities out there (one of my highlights is pages to follow on Instagram; I highly recommend looking at that).
What kind of opportunities should I look for?
Anything that interests you! You can type in “cardiology” in your search on Instagram to find popular cardiology pages if that’s what interests you, or you can look for PAs or dentists. It’s really up to you in terms of what you want to learn more information about.
I also challenge you to look at fields you never considered before; you might find a new interest or specialty that excites you!
You can also look for any type of opportunity: shadowing, webinar, research, volunteering; any opportunity you think would be best for you as both a learning experience and for your resume.
If you don’t have that many shadowing hours yet, look for shadowing; if you have a lot of shadowing hours and just want to learn more about a particular field, look for webinars.
How do I get the most out of the opportunity?
Take notes and ask questions! I cannot stress that enough. Each health professional you interact with is willing to help you on your journey and has an interesting perspective to share with you. Ask them questions so you can learn more about their field, about them, and about their journey. This kind of information is invaluable, and it’s right in front of you. Take advantage of that resource!
Taking notes is another recommendation. Write about anything that peaked your interest and was just good information to know for the future.
I also want to suggest writing a reflection of the experience: What did you learn from it? How did you grow from it? How did it help develop and expand your interest in the field? These types of reflection questions will help you be able to look back on the experiences and be reminded of them when it comes time for interviews and applications.
How do I add them to my resume?
This is a very critical and commonly asked question. In terms of categorizing: anything that is marked explicitly as “shadowing,” and you obtained shadowing hours from it, put it down as a shadowing experience (I recommend differentiating between in-person shadowing and virtual shadowing on your resume).
If it was a webinar, you can categorize it as a webinar/seminar, extracurricular, or experiences. (I use the category “experience” in my own resume when I’ve done something that doesn’t fit neatly into one of my other categories.)
If it was volunteering or research, put it under the respective categories (again differentiating between in-person and virtual).
In terms of adding them, add them right after you attend! So many people don’t add them right away, so when they go to fill out their resume they forget many of the opportunities they took part in.
In addition, you want to include any and all opportunities that you attended that were valuable to you.
My best advice is: If you can talk about it in an interview or write an essay on it, you should include it in your resume. Anything you put on your resume is fair game to be asked about in an interview, so don’t put something down if you didn’t feel like it helped you grow.
Christina Grannie is a 3rd year undergraduate at the University of Florida. She is majoring in Kinesiology and minoring in Dance in Medicine on the pre-med track. Her interests in medicine include neurosurgery, trauma surgery, and sports medicine. She is a certified medical assistant, volunteer at GiGi’s Playhouse, a research volunteer at McKnight Brain Institute, and a dancer. In her free time she loves to go hiking, work out, and hang out with her friends.
Christina founded Pre-Med Opportunities in August of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. She had lost her shadowing, volunteering, and research opportunities and felt ill-prepared to be a strong applicant for medical school because of it. She had begun attending webinars and virtual shadowing events and realized there were so many opportunities to still obtain shadowing, volunteering, and research virtually. She created Pre-Med Opportunities as a way to organize all the virtual opportunities in one place. She is humbled by how much it has grown since she first started it and is eager to keep expanding to reach as many pre-health students as she can.