How To Approach the Medical School Activities Section

how to write activities section amcas

The Activities Section of the medical school application process can certainly be overwhelming though let’s try to break it down to give you the best idea of how to tackle this section:

Components of the Activity Section

  • Experience Type
    1. There is a drop-down menu available for you to select the type of which is most applicable to your experience. 
      1. AMCAS:  
        • Artistic Endeavors
        • Community Service/Volunteer – Medical/Clinical
        • Community Service/Volunteer – Not Medical/Clinical
        • Conferences Attended
        • Extracurricular Activities
        • Hobbies
        • Honors/Awards/Recognitions
        • Intercollegiate Athletics
        • Leadership – Not Listed Elsewhere
        • Military Service
        • Other
        • Paid Employment – Medical/Clinical
        • Paid Employment – Not Medical/Clinical
        • Physician Shadowing/Clinical Observation
        • Presentations/Posters
        • Publications
        • Research/Lab
        • Teaching/Tutoring/Teaching Assistant
      2. AACOMAS:
        • Extracurricular Activities 
        • Non-healthcare Employment
        • Non-Healthcare Volunteer or Community Enrichment
        • Healthcare Experiences 
      3. TMDSAS:
        • Academic Recognition 
        • Non-Academic Recognition
        • Leadership
        • Employment
        • Research Activities
        • Healthcare Activities
        • Community Service
        • Extracurricular and Leisure
  • Experience Title 
    1. Be as descriptive as possible since this will take characters away from the actual description while cluing the reader into what the experience actually entails. If there is an acronym for something, you might spell it out here and introduce the acronym so that you may use it freely later in the description. For instance:

Medical Assistant (MA) at The University of New Mexico (UNM)

This might be the element which captures the reader’s attention, leading them to read more. 

  • Experience Dates 
  • Total Hours
  • Organization 
  • Location (Country, City, State)
  • Supervisor’s Contact Information
  • Description 
    1. AMCAS: 700 characters, up to 15 entries. Also offers a Most Meaningful Experiences (MME) Section with an additional 1325 characters to explain why for (3) entries
    2. AACOMAS: 600 characters, unlimited entries
    3. TMDSAS: 300 characters, unlimited entries and (3) Most Meaningful entries with an additional 500 characters to explain why.

Outline/Essential Components

  1. A brief description of your role in this experience
    1. If it is easier, including a specific example/anecdote that resonates with you and paints a picture of your overall experience, might be beneficial to include.  Remember to “show, don’t tell.”
  2. Overarching lesson that you learned and/or characteristics that you have acquired as a result of this experience. 
    1. Be reflective when writing this part as it can often relay the relevance and significance of an activity in your journey to medical school.
  3. How might this experience be applicable to your future medical education or career in medicine?

Activity Entry & Description Example

Paid Employment – Medical / Clinical [EXPERIENCE TYPE]

Research Assistant in Dr. Smith’s Biochemistry Lab [EXPERIENCE TITLE]

August 2017 – June 2019 [EXPERIENCE DATES]

350 hours [TOTAL HOURS]

The University of New Mexico [ORGANIZATION]

Dr. Smith, 777-777-7777, ssmith@unm.edu [SUPERVISOR’S CONTACT INFORMATION]

Albuquerque, NM, USA [LOCATION]

In continuing my previous research with Dr. Smith’s, I was promoted to a position in the mouse lab and was afforded the opportunity to write a miniature thesis over supplementation in the folate pathway and its effects on mouse lifespans. I have been trained in mouse handling and techniques when conducting animal experiments. I gained not only strong critical thinking skills but having been entrusted to perform complex experiments on my own, I also gained confidence in myself and my capabilities. I am hopeful the skills I have acquired will permeate my future efforts in both medicine and clinical research.

Most Meaningful Experience (MME) Example

I slipped into the lab and grabbed my petri dish with the C. elegans as well as my worm hook. It was a typical day and I began to count which worms had survived and which did not when I realized the only worms left alive were the ones treated with methotrexate. I approached my professor, immensely excited and grinning ear to ear as I indicated that methotrexate seemingly elongated the worm lifespans, via inhibition of enzymes more than any other amino acid supplementation had. This finding was that which allowed us to begin similar testing in mice. This finding was exhilarating and is the first time I experienced the power of scientific inquiry. Through my time working with Dr. Smith, I have become stronger in both academic writing and critical thinking. Learning to ask questions and take on leadership roles in the laboratory broadened my scientific curiosity and reaffirmed my goal to be a lifelong learner. I found a passion for research and hope to continue this as a medical student and physician. Similarly, the skills and growth I have acquired from my research experience form the foundation with which I hope to selflessly serve patients in the future.

Overall Tips and Insight

  • Be concise but specific! Too many details can make your entry convoluted and hard to follow. 
  • Use examples and details of which delineate your experiences from other students of whom may have participated in similar experiences. 
  • If you are describing a well-known experience for pre-medical students such as EMT, scribing, medical assistant, etc. you might bypass the basic description of your role and focus on the impact of the experience on you as well as potentially an anecdote demonstrating this. 
  • If not a well-known experience, summarize your roles and responsibilities as opposed to listing every single one. 
  • Be certain to relay the importance of the experience in one way or another. Perhaps the reader can infer this, though with such limited characters, this is something we want to tell the reader upfront.

You will find that through writing these entries, you will need to do a lot of reflecting on your experiences. Including these details in your writing will allow the admissions committee additional insight into who you are and your overall candidacy for medical school since your experiences will often follow a theme such as underserved populations, education, mentorship, etc. Think hard about the culmination of your efforts in each of your activity entries as this may not only produce thoughtful writing in your application but a foundation to build off of for your secondary essays!

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