So you’re probably gasping, “What! Jon! You’re a pre-med! There is no time for slacking!” I, however, strongly disagree with that statement. In fact, I think slacking is a vital component for getting into medical school. Still confused? Read on my friends…
We all know the typical pre-med stereotype: living in the library during midterms and finals, constantly do problem sets, or always in lab, class, or recitation. This sure prepares a student to be the best prepared applicant for med school, right? WRONG! Think about it, if one keeps up this lifestyle for the entirety of his or her education, this leaves very little time for other activities (relaxation, extracurriculars, FUN).
Why are these “other” activities important?
Because they make you different from the rest of the applicants!
Remember, you’re applying alongside thousands of equally qualified, if not more qualified, pre-meds. And admittedly, many of them will be exact cookie-cutter stereotypic pre-meds. While their stats are likely super-impressive, nothing makes them stand out from the others. Now, lets hypothetically throw in an applicant with competitive grades and scores, but who maybe didn’t shadow as many doctors, and doesn’t have as much volunteer experience (Wow, that sounds just like someone I know…hehe). Instead he pursued one of his life-long passions as an extracurricular, theater (for anyone who doesn’t know, theater as a hobby takes up RIDICULOUS amounts of time). To an admissions officer, this applicant may look unique from the others. He has something that makes him different than the rest. He may not have devoted all his time to his pursuit of becoming a doctor, but he pursued his passion and had fun. This not only paints a better picture of yourself for the admission committee, but it also conveys the fact that you are a real person, not some robotic pre-med drone.
Now let me be clear, I’m not downplaying the importance of the typical pre-med extracurriculars (shadowing, volunteering, etc). But PLEASE don’t just do them because they will “look good on an application”. Find a way to fulfill these requirements in a way that is passionate to you (for example, I performed in a few AIDS benefit concerts/performances). Combining a “pre-med” activity with something you’re passionate about adds so much power, meaning, and individuality to your application.
Finally, make sure to make time for yourself! Very often (but not always), your NON-pre-med activities are the best reflection of who you are as a person. They show you’re not a science-spewing robot (unless you are, in fact, a robot….in which case I’m not sure you should be applying to med school). So GO OUT AND DO THEM! It doesn’t matter if they relate to medicine or not. What matters is that they show the admissions committee that you are YOU, an individual unlike any other. It's like the admissions committee has a unfilled coloring book page with your picture on it. Sure, it looks good in black and white, but go ahead and color it in! Add some yellow from your performance experience, some red from pursuing computers as a hobby, and maybe some green from your experience working at an animal shelter. Before you know it, the admissions people have a bright, unique picture of who you are. These activities make you stand out from the crowd of other applicants, hopefully enhancing the chances of you getting into medical school.
So my friends, go slack off! It’s a lot easier to do now because it’s summer (unless you’re taking summer classes…in which case, slack off anyways!). Walk away from the textbook, the assigned summer reading, the MCAT study guide, and the med school application. Go be yourself, be unique, and be awesome.