January 2013: Volunteering and Research (Pulse)

Aloha Mentees,

Happy new year! Thank you all for completing our semester evaluations. We have taken your suggestions into consideration and are working on implementing the ones that we can for this year. One suggestion we especially liked was the idea of having a MSMP “theme of the month”.

Therefore, starting this month, we will be beginning to send you all a “theme of the month” email. This will just give you an idea of some possible topics to talk to your mentor about each month. You do not have to talk about these suggested topics, but it can help guide your questions to your mentor if you cannot think of something to ask yourself.

This month’s topic: Volunteer Work and Research.

Please read the suggestions below to see if you might have some of the following questions: 

  • How to find volunteering/research opportunities (some common programs you can look into, common resources or databases used to find volunteering or research opportunities)
  • What kinds of volunteering or research did your mentor do?
  • How much do medical schools emphasize doing volunteering and research? How important is volunteering and research in general to your overall application? Will it hurt your chances if you are not involved in any projects?
  • Do you need to do medical or science related volunteer work or research? Does it matter what kind of volunteering or research you do?
  • How to find a program that matches your interests and how to approach the researcher or program director
  • How does volunteering and research factor into your medical school application? Where on the application will you be able to talk about your experiences and what do you have to write about them?
  • Incorporating your experiences into your personal statement and your interview (maybe best done through PS review or mock interviews)
  • Is there a certain length of time you should be involved in a project? Should you have a certain amount of research or volunteering before applying?
  • Do you need a contact person to list volunteer/research experiences on your application?
  • Are you on the right track when it comes to your volunteering and research experiences?

Some things to keep in mind: 

  • Look for quality not quantity. Get involved in projects you are interested in and are passionate about. When you talk or write about your experiences on your application, it will be much easier to discuss ONE project you enjoyed (and were very dedicated to) rather than ten projects you could care less about and didn’t spend much time with. You also will find more fulfillment in your work this way.
  • Don’t try to fit a mold. There is no Step A, B, and C to getting into medical school. Just because your mentor or your classmate is doing certain things, don’t feel like you have to be just like them to get into medical school. Do something you enjoy, not something you feel like you HAVE to do to get into medical school.
  • Take advice with a grain of salt (including this email…). Your mentors, your advisors, your parents, and your friends may all tell you that you should be doing certain things to get into medical school. While advice should sometimes be heeded, know what is right for you. Don’t feel pressured to do something you don’t enjoy.
  • Be proactive. Send emails. Make calls. Network. You need to be the one to take the initiative and seek out opportunities. Don’t rely on other people to find opportunities for you (including your mentor). Utilize the resources available to you.
  • Dedicate yourself: This goes back to the first point a bit, but make sure you are dedicated to your program or project. Ask yourself how much YOU have influenced the programs or projects you were involved with.


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