Date of Publication: 28 May 2021
Appling to study Medicine at university? Wondering what you can do to help secure a place on your dream university course?
Thanks to the fiercely competitive nature of applying to Medicine at university, nowadays, students aren’t just required to have a strong academic background, but an equally impressive collection of extracurricular activities to demonstrate their commitment to the subject.
Admissions officers will be looking for students who can not only prove themselves academically, but have undertaken additional commitments and responsibilities over the past few years to help them grow personally and help others. And it’s this commitment that will really help you to stand out from the rest.
But what can you do to help you stand out against the rest? Which of the many extracurricular activities available to you will help you secure your place at a university and help you pave the way for your future as a medical student?
What are extracurricular activities?
Before diving into our list of the best extracurricular activities for Medicine university applications, let’s learn more about what extracurricular activities are and why they are so important for all university applicants.
When you finish school for the day, what do you enjoy doing to unwind? Playing sports for your school team? Volunteering for a local organisation? Reading around the subjects you’re passionate about?
Did you know that what you choose to do outside of the classroom can be hugely beneficial in helping you to secure a place on your dream university course?
An extracurricular activity can be almost any recreational activity that is separate from studying and paid employment (if you have a part time job). This can be a hobby, such as sport, playing musical instruments, or dance, or, a volunteering/community opportunity.
When the time comes for you to start looking at potential university courses or Medical Schools, you’ll soon discover that extracurricular activities are a critical part of your university application and personal statement, helping you to stand out from other students.
Why are extracurricular activities important for Medicine?
You may be wondering why extracurricular activities are so important to universities. But the reality is that universities and colleges have so many applications to read through, many of whom share the same grades and academic abilities.
In fact, for Medicine alone, there were a record number of applicants in 2021 as a result of the pandemic – a 21% increase on the previous year! That’s lots of applications to read through, and lots of students to consider for a Medicine course.
Part of the requirements for the Medicine application process in the UK mean you need to submit a 4000-character personal statement, outlining your reasons for applying to study medicine at university and offering reason why the admissions officer should accept your application over all the other applicants.
Extracurricular activities can really help admissions officers get a better idea of who you are, what interests you, and why you may be an ideal fit for their university. Where you and another candidate may share identical grades and qualifications, your extracurricular activities can really help to make you stand out and demonstrate why you should be chosen to study on that course, at that university.
Some universities or Medical schools may also request that you have certain extracurricular activities, such as a set number of hours spent volunteering in a health or care provision. This is so they can ensure that you are aware of the hard work that goes into caring for others, and have the passion for helping those in need. So, always check individual entry requirements when beginning your university research.
Take the time to prepare now to help your future career as a doctor, and you’ll take much of the stress out of the application process; you’ll already be equipped with the skills and experience needed to help you stand out against a pool of other Medicine applicants.
What Extracurriculars Should I Do for Medicine?
There are lots of extracurricular activities you can participate in that will help your Medicine university application shine. We’ve outlined 6 of the main below, with details on how they can help you stand out against other applicants.
1. Clinical volunteer work
One of the best extracurricular activities for university applications in medicine is to try and secure some volunteer work in a clinical environment or other relevant setting, such as a hospice or care home.
Prospective admissions teams will be looking for reasons why you want to be a doctor – both in your application and in your university interview – and nothing shows your dedication to the subject more than securing some experience in the very setting that you hope to work in one day.
Volunteering your free time to help others in clinical or care environments demonstrates to the admissions team at Medical school that you’ve undertaken the necessary research to see what working in that professional environment would be like.
Of course, this isn’t just important for prospective universities who will want to see your dedication for the subject, but it’s also a key opportunity for you to get a feel for the type of environment you’ll be working in. After all, you wouldn’t want to spend 5 years studying at university to discover working as a doctor isn’t actually for you.
If you can get the opportunity to, shadowing a doctor is one of the best ways to gain real insight into the working life of a hospital or GP surgery. You’ll be able to understand what a typical day for a physician is, ask questions, and see how interactions take place around a ward, and potentially, across other departments.
Of course, it can be difficult to find these types of placements, so any other clinical placement you can find will be just as beneficial to demonstrate your commitment and knowledge of the profession, including; working as a medical scribe, working as an assistant, or volunteering at a hospice or care home.
2. Research experience
Gaining research experience is another great extracurricular activity for Medicine applications, mainly because of the attributes future admissions teams can garner about you.
Undertaking research in the medical field shows the admissions committee that you are curious about learning more, interested in growing your knowledge, and have a desire for uncovering the unknown. And these are all excellent traits to have when entering into the world of Medicine.
This is particularly important for students who are hoping to go beyond their five-year Medicine degree and study for an MD or even PhD and pursue a career as a physician-scientist, lecturer, or lab assistant.
Prospective PhD students need to demonstrate extensive research experience in their applications, so it’s a good idea to find as many opportunities outside of school or college as possible where you can test hypotheses, prepare reports, and, if possible, contribute to academic journals and publications. Check websites such as The Royal Society of Medicine, who offer competitions for great pieces of research. They will outline any current research opportunities and offer further guidance on how to get started.
Beyond just helping you to strengthen your university application, gaining research experience can also be very valuable to you and your future prospects. As you delve into the world of Medicine and gain an appreciation for the different areas of interest, you’ll develop more of an understanding and focus of which areas of research you may want to pursue in the future.
3. Official programmes such as NCS or DofE
Another great opportunity for students to help develop their skill set and impress potential Medicine admissions officers is to undertake an official programme such as the National Citizen Service or The Duke of Edinburgh award.
Often, you’ll hear about these organisations through your school, who will often invite the local outreach teams to come and provide you with further information and talk you through the different opportunities you can undertake with them.
Essentially, both organisations can allow you to undertake skill-building activities and volunteer work to help you develop a robust skill set for the future and help you give back to your community; points of interest which are likely to impress admissions officers.
When writing your personal statement for Medical school, you can include specific examples of what you’ve done to demonstrate how these programmes have assisted with your self-development and helped you confirm your decision to study a subject that will commit you to a lifetime dedicated to helping others.
For example, you could write about how the volunteering aspect of your DofE award gave you the opportunity to experience first-hand, what it’s like to work and help those who are clinically vulnerable in a hospice or care home – and how this has confirmed your plans for the future. Alternatively, you could mention how learning a new skill, such as sign language, has helped give you a better skill set with which you can pursue your future career as a doctor.
But aside from the obvious reason for undertaking official programmes such as these, they’ll also give you amazing experiences while learning how to work as part of a team. You can expect to go on scavenger trips, assist people in the community, and even develop a skill or or hobby that you’re passionate about. They can be really fulfilling opportunities; giving you a chance to socialise with others, develop new skills, and help you to become a more rounded, conscientious student.
As a front-facing profession, Medicine demands a lot of skills from those who work in the field. Besides the obvious; needing to retain lots of information, being able to stay calm when under stressful situations, and having an expert eye for small details, symptoms, or other ailments, there are more skills demanded of Medicine students.
For example, when you start working in a professional environment, you’ll be interacting with lots of people everyday, both clinical and patient-wise. You’ll need to have clear communication, empathy for those who are sick, and strong leadership skills if you are managing a ward or team.
This type of skillset is incredibly important in the world of Medicine; if you can’t communicate with others clearly, you could cost someone their life. Therefore, any extracurricular activity you can do to help you build on your foundations will be highly favoured by Medical school admissions teams.
Tutoring or spending time helping to teach others new skills will help you master your ability to communicate well, develop empathy for struggling students, and take leadership; all skills which will carry over into your career as a Medic.
Often, the world of Medicine is filled with complex terminology. If you can help teach a young child how to master algebra, then you’ll find it much easier to explain complex medical diagnoses to your patients in a way that they can understand.
Your time outside of the classroom is yours to do with as you wish. And you shouldn’t isolate yourself by only committing to extracurricular activities which are going to help you get into Medical school. In fact, taking part in other, un-related hobbies and clubs will be just as helpful in your application as other medical-related activities.
Personal extracurricular activities that operate outside of the world of medicine can help admissions committees to gain an understanding of who you are as a person; what your interests are, what motivates you; and how these activities have shaped you into the person you are today.
You’ll be surprised at how many transferable skills you can gain from participating in other extracurricular activities. For example, being part of a sports team will often require you to communicate clearly, keep calm under pressure, and work as a team for the best outcome. Meanwhile, reading, writing, or even playing an instrument will help you to keep developing your cognitive skills – which is important for helping you understand and retain new information in the future.
When choosing what hobbies to take up, remember that it’s not important what hobby you choose – everyone has different interests, so it’s important to follow your own interests. Choose something that you’re passionate about. You need to find a way to de-stress outside of school, and doing something you enjoy is essential to helping you do so.
6. Attend a summer school
Finally, another great extracurricular activity for Medicine students is to attend a summer school! What better way is there to demonstrate your commitment to the subject than immersing yourself on an interactive course during your summer break?
Summer schools offer a fantastic opportunity to learn from an expert tutor about Medicine, often in a top UK university city, like Oxford or Cambridge. You’ll expand your horizons; meeting new people from around the world, staying away from home in a new and exciting environment, and, most importantly for you – getting to experience the subject before pursuing it at university.
Starting at two-weeks in length, our summer schools will equip you with a foundation of medical knowledge and give you the opportunity to start applying your skills and knowledge to real-life scenarios, just like you would in your first year of university.
Furthermore, when you complete one of our Medical summer schools in the UK, you’ll be awarded a certificate of completion at the end of your summer course, as well as a letter of recommendation from your tutor to demonstrate how far you’ve come – which many students use towards future applications and personal statements for university to demonstrate their passion for Medicine.
Medicine is a highly competitive subject, and quite often, your extracurricular activities can be the difference in helping you stand out amongst a pool of other highly academic candidates.
Choosing the right extracurricular activities will make it much easier for admissions teams to identify those who possess the skills needed to empathise with patients, communicate effectively, and have the dedication required to handle all the rigour that comes with studying a five-year medicine degree.
Remember to focus some of your time on yourself too though, and enjoy the hobbies which help you to let off steam after a busy day of school or college. All hobbies can help you to develop a range of transferable skills, but most importantly, they help you to de-stress; a key attribute to maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Study Medicine this Summer
As we mentioned earlier in this article, attending a Medicine summer school in the UK can be a great extracurricular activity to include on your personal statement or other important applications.
From helping you to explore your future subject before attending university, gaining a competitive edge over your peers, to even making lifelong friendships and networking with expert Medicine tutors, the opportunities you’ll gain from a summer course can shape your entire future.