Extracurricular Opportunities FAQs
Jump to a question:
- How do I get involved in a shadowing program?
- How do I find out about volunteer/clinical /research/ summer opportunities?
- Can premed students study abroad?
- I volunteered at a hospital during high school; is that enough experience?
- Should I just do shadowing or a combination of shadowing and volunteering?
- Is volunteering in a non-healthcare setting valued?
- Does a research experience have to be in a lab?
- Could I get into medical school without doing research?
- Use your personal networks. Family friends, parents, parents of friends, your own physician - all of these folks may know physicians that would be open to allowing you to shadow!
- The Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) and the NU Alumni Association coordinate the NEXT- Externship program for students interested in shadowing an alum during spring break.
- The NU Alumni Association also provides CareerNET. Current students can contact alumni in their career interest area (although a shadowing experience is not guaranteed).
Check out our Extracurricular Opportunities section. We also encourage students to sign-up for our Weekly Update, which highlights premed/pre-health events, opportunities and information.
Yes, but it often requires advanced planning and flexibility. We encourage students to discuss their study abroad plans with a health professions adviser. For more information about study abroad programs, review the Study Abroad and International Program Development sites.
While high school experiences are useful, additional experiences during college will be most valuable for medical schools to assess. They want to see what experiences you engaged in as an adult. Post-secondary (beyond high school) experiences will demonstrate that you can manage a rigorous academic schedule and still have a life outside of school.
Ideally, students should have a combination of shadowing and volunteering. Shadowing is usually short term but a student is able to see many different facets of medicine through different shadowing experiences. Volunteering allows students to demonstrate a commitment to service over time. It's usually a more active experience than shadowing, which tends to be more observation.
Volunteering in any community service setting can demonstrate personal qualities that are valued in the health professions:
- Commitment to service
- Willingness to give of one's time and energy
- Capacity to work with and relate to people of different cultures/socioeconomic levels
- Ability to balance academics with outside interests
If your interest is in the basic sciences, laboratory research might be a good fit. However, you might prefer social or behavioral science research. While some med schools may have a preference for lab research experience, we've learned that the vast majority of med schools will value any research or independent scholarship (e.g., honors thesis, fellowship proposal). Research should be an activity in which you have a genuine interest and can show true engagement.
Yes. Some schools will place a higher value on research than other schools. It will be helpful to consult the MSAR and/or the specific school's website. Many med schools value an applicant who has tested their decision through clinical experience and community involvement but may not have research experience.