Importance of Extracurricular Involvement
Learn more about the types of extracurricular activities that can strengthen your application and prepare you for a career in medicine:
- Clinical experience and exposure to medicine - essential to your premed preparation
- Research - highly valued by all med schools
- Campus and community involvement - highly valued by all med schools
What is clinical experience and why is it important?
- Involves the care and treatment of patients
- Ideally involves observing the patient/doctor relationship
- Can be obtained through volunteer service, shadowing and other life experiences
Clinical experience is important because medicals schools want to be confident that:
- You have a good understanding of the realities of medicine
- You are service-minded and people oriented
- You are committed to the practice of medicine
Medical schools evaluate your clinical experience by:
- Length/time of commitment (some schools expect minimum of six months)
- Depth of experience
- Lessons learned from the experience
- 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?
Clinical experience opportunities
Our Extracurricular Opportunities section has links to a range of different opportunities. Choose experiences that will help you test your decision to enter the field of medicine. Remember, it's better to have fewer experiences that show consistent involvement over time versus many short-term experiences.
Why is research experience important?
Students participating in research:
- Contribute to the advancement of knowledge
- Engage in critical thinking
- Develop an appreciation for how research is done
- Gain skills in working in a team-environment
- Learn basic lab, survey and/or other research skills
- May have an opportunity to contribute to the publication of a paper
- May develop an interest in pursuing an MD-PhD
Support for students interested in research
UR@NU is a one-stop shop for information on research opportunities and funding for Northwestern Undergraduates.
On this site you can:
- Learn what research is and how to get involved
- Search for opportunities with Undergrad ARCH (accessing research and creative help)
- Find out how to approach faculty to work in their lab/study (scroll down)
- Apply for research grants
- and much more
- Does a research experience have to be in a lab?
- Could I get into medical school without research experience?
Our Extracurricular Opportunities section has links to a range of research opportunities at NU and elsewhere. Summer research opportunities usually have winter deadlines, so make sure you give your letter of recommendation writers enough advance notice (6-8 weeks) to write a letter of support.
Why is campus / community involvement important?
Medical schools are interested in applicants who have demonstrated that they can maintain a good work/life balance.
Campus / community involvement:
- Gives students a way to show medical schools that they're service-minded and can interact effectively with diverse groups of people
- Demonstrates qualities medical schools value in their accepted applicants (e.g. musicians and student-athletes can show discipline and teamwork through their respective activities).
- Allows students to step outside their comfort zones
- Helps students build a social network of friends interested in similar activities
- Gives students a way to release stress from academics
Campus and community involvement opportunities
Our Extracurricular Opportunities section has links to different ways to become involved here at NU and beyond. Choose activities you feel passionate about as medical schools are interested in understanding your motivation for pursuing your unique interests.