AMCAS

The Medical School Application’s Work and Activities Section: Key Tips to Consider Before You Begin Drafting

Crafting a compelling Work and Activities Section is an important priority for any medical school applicant. It will allow you provide depth on your most meaningful experiences and communicate how a particular research position, teaching opportunity, or clinical exposure inspired your interest in the study of medicine. It will also give you the chance to show through anecdotes such characteristics as intellectual curiosity, adaptability, empathy, as well as your aptitude in critical and creative thinking, or your ability to thrive in a collaborative environment.   

The AMCAS application allows for a total of 15 entries, with three designated as “most meaningful.”  While all of the entries allow for a 700-character (including spaces) description of the activity, the three most meaningful entries include an additional requirement of 1,325 characters (including spaces) where you can provide further context on the perspective you gained and lessons you learned.

Key tips to consider before you begin drafting:

·       Take advantage of all 15 entries, considering the various experiences you have had that influenced your decision to apply to medical school. To start, brainstorm and write them all down in chronological order, limiting yourself to college or post-graduate experiences. This section is purposely broad and can include activities from a multitude of categories (listed below). If you find that you do not have 15, carefully consider even one-day community service events that had a particular impact on you. Keep in mind that while not all experiences will be equally meaningful, several experiences are probably still worth sharing if they influenced your path in some way.

·       After brainstorming all the potential activities, make note of the 15 most relevant, making sure to span a diverse array of categories. Pay particular attention, however, to clinical activities, research, and community service.

·       When selecting your three most meaningful experiences, highlight first those that demonstrate a commitment to medicine and service to others. After that, consider work/activities that are unique and, therefore, will help differentiate you to the admissions committee.

·       When you describe your work/activities, be sure to clearly articulate what you did and what the outcome(s) of your participation included. In your descriptions, highlight also the qualities that you used or developed through your involvement, noting your academic/intellectual growth, maturity, sound judgment, and compassion, as well as ability interact well with others. It is also important to include, where possible, the impact of the activity on your decision to apply to medical school.

·       After writing your descriptions, read them aloud, and edit. Confirm that you are within the allotted number of characters. Such a stringent character limitation emphasizes the importance of tight, clear language and perfect grammar.

The Work and Activities section gives the medical school admissions committee a summary of all those experiences that ultimately inspired your interest in and commitment to a rigorous, yet rewarding career path. Thus, it is vital to ensure each word moves your candidacy forward in a compelling way.

Set Yourself Apart with a Compelling Medical School Personal Statement

     The medical school personal statement presents a critical opportunity for you to bring your voice to the admissions committee and provide them with deeper insight into how your most meaningful experiences have inspired your commitment to the study of medicine. Part memoir and part strategic communication, the brainstorming and drafting aspects of the personal statement process can be as personally fulfilling as they are productive. We can’t wait to help you get started.

Brainstorming

·       Start with a white board or a blank notepad and think about your key experiences to date. Don’t limit yourself to strictly “medically related” experiences. Consider all those parts of your life that have been formative to your personality and development -- college courses, meaningful conversations with professors or mentors, sports, clubs, books or research are all great topics at this juncture. Write them down including any details that may eventually bring complexity, sophistication, and nuance to your story.

·       In looking at your list, highlight your top two or three formative experiences. Keep in mind that, ideally, these experiences should be both recent and unique. You want to demonstrate maturity as you elaborate on your decision to apply to medical school. While a childhood dream is sweet, the perspective you’ve gained as an adult is far more meaningful to the admissions committee.

·       Finally, write down your personal mission statement. Why are you interested in pursuing medical school? What draws you to this career? Make this as specific as possible and avoid clichés. Ask yourself, is it clear from my mission statement how medical school, rather than another graduate program is necessary for me to achieve my goal?  

Organize and write

·       Think through the best structure for organizing your formative experiences and future goals and create an outline. In looking through your most formative experiences, what are the common threads? Are there qualities that clearly come across in each of the stories? How are these linked to your future as a medical school student? Once you go through this exercise, it will be easier to identify the key themes and stories you will use to ‘anchor’ the narrative. You want to be sure to keep your statement cohesive and focused throughout.

·       Create the first draft by filling in your outline, which will entail showing the reader through specific anecdote and story why you want to go to medical school as well the skills and traits you possess that will allow you to succeed there. Remember, you want to avoid making general statements and claims about your skills and abilities. Don’t tell them, show them.

Read, revise, step-away and repeat

·       Read your personal statement aloud. How does it sound? Where did you find yourself stumbling on the words? Smooth those sections out so they read clearly. Give yourself a break, and then follow this practice again. We also suggest seeking out seasoned editors who can review your work.  

·       Does your statement present the best version of you? Is “your voice” present? Would a reader be able to pick up on the fact that you’re intellectually curious…a critical and creative thinker…an individual who can thrive in collaborative environments and meaningfully connect and empathize with those around you, who can think under pressure, who has an ability and eventual desire to innovate and lead in an ever-evolving field? If not, refine your personal stories to shine light on at least some of those aspects of your personality that will be relevant to medical school.

Clean up and finalize

·       Do a final review of your essay for grammatical or spelling errors.

·       For AMCAS submissions, you are given only 5300 characters (including spaces) to tell your story. Be aware of this restriction as you embark on the editing process.