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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

All Pre-Health

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How do I find out about volunteer, clinical, and shadowing summer opportunities?

Many opportunities in which students engage during the year (e.g. volunteering at a clinic or hospital) can be continued during the summer months. You can also check out our Summer Programs section. We also encourage students to sign-up for our Events and Opportunities email, which highlights pre-med/pre-health events, opportunities and information. Or use the Explore Opportunities section of this site to see what have listed or the Experience-Finding Resources section to find your own.

Where can I find more information on scholarships or fellowships?

There are varied resources available to students via the Office of Fellowships. For example, the 'Fellowship Finder' is a searchable database containing information on undergraduate tuition support, research funding, internships and summer opportunities.

*Note, when using the Fellowship Finder you may see the search filter "Underrepresented Minority" (URM). This term is used to identify opportunities for Black, Latinx, Native American, and other marginalized groups in the health professions, including LGBTQIA+ and students from low income households.


Does a research experience have to be in a lab?

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.  

I volunteered at hospital in high school: is that enough experience?

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.

Can premed students study abroad?

Yes, but it often requires advanced planning and flexibility. We encourage students to discuss their study abroad plans with a health professions adviser.

Should I just do shadowing or a combination of shadowing and volunteering?

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.

Is volunteering in a non-healthcare setting valued?

Volunteering in any community service setting can demonstrate personal qualities that are valued in the health professions, such as:

  • 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.

Further, many medical schools prefer to see that applicants have engaged in both medical AND non-medical volunteer experiences.

How do I get involved in a shadowing program?

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! Also try:

  • Health Professions Advising and Northwestern Medicine have partnered to offer a five-week physician shadowing program to Northwestern undergraduates interested in exploring a career in medicine each quarter (fall, winter, and spring). For program details and to apply visit the program page.
  • 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 Northwestern Alumni Association offers the Northwestern Network Mentorship Program, a database of Northwestern alumni willing to mentor current students. The network includes many physicians and other health professionals, some of whom are open to being shadowed by Northwestern students.
Have an additional question? Make an appointment with an advisor.