Press "Enter" to skip to content

More Than Just an MCAT Score

This is a guest post from Elsevier Health

If you are thinking about applying to medical school, then you know the hard work and dedication it takes to fulfill that goal.  Endless hours of studying and lab studies, writing term papers, and succeeding in all areas of your studies are hurdles to overcome to gain acceptance into the medical school.  Everyone knows the importance of MCAT scores and undergraduate GPA, but is that all it is about?  Do you need anything else to get in?

I do think there is an area that is not tapped into by the majority of applicants.  Activities beyond the scope of the classroom are a great way to gain knowledge and hands on experience. These experiences a volunteer gains from their selfless actions is something that cannot be taught in the classroom.  Although some people may choose volunteerism to bolster a resume and to look good on an application, the feelings of satisfaction felt from volunteering are major motivators for participants to continue to volunteer. Below are some topics that, aside from undergrad grades and MCAT scores, give medical students a competitive edge when getting into medical school


Volunteerism encompasses many areas of life both on campus and off campus. From cleaning up communities, serving meals to the poor, spending time with seniors, to tutoring disadvantaged students there are so many people and organizations in need.  Any type of volunteerism is going to make you a better person and eventually a better doctor. For example, volunteering at a local blood drive can help you familiarize yourself with the blood donation process. As a volunteer, you can calm people down who may be afraid of needles, monitor a donor’s vital signs or even help distribute cookies and juice after the donation. Although you do not have to focus on the medical aspects of volunteering, the experience you will gain in that area will help you in the field. Blood donation services such as, United Bloog Services, help you to see the positive work that is being done to help people in need of blood donations.

Local assisted living facilities, nursing homes and senior care centers are always looking for young volunteers to help out with various activities.  Sometimes the light and enthusiasm that a young person brings to a lonely senior is something that can touch a patient far beyond medicine.  The intimacy of getting to know someone in such a weakened state can give you that human touch and empathy needed to connect future patients.  As a doctor, you will be working with patients that are very diverse. Developing exposure, compassion and communication skills through volunteering is an excellent opportunity to grow in one’s profession.

Charity Work on a Global Scale

There are numerous global organizations that help connect a willing participant with a medical mission of their choice.  Sites like: make it easy to see what missions are available.  If you choose a mission based on your interest, you will have more success while there and enjoy the experience.  Having the opportunity to witness firsthand the medical challenges that others in third world countries face is a reality check for many pre-med students, who may not know this pain and suffering exists in the world. For example, when medical students go to third world countries, they are responsible for disbursing medication and completing simple medical tasks, such as cleaning infected wounds. Many people have been unable to cleanse their wounds or treat themselves with simple antibiotic ointments. Your visit to their remote village can save them from developing gangrene or another flesh eating bacteria.  You will bring back experience that can be shared with fellow students and educators, as well as a new found gratitude for advancements in medicine.

Using Volunteer Experience to Develop Basic Interview Skills

We are all sums of our life experiences. When a student is preparing for a medical school interview, one should reflect upon their own experiences as a volunteer. Take the skills you learned as a volunteer: compassion, empathy, teamwork, communication, determination and perseverance and apply them to your interview. The ability to be human and relatable is also an important factor when on an interview.  Be sure to showcase your personality, teamwork and communication skills, as these are critical skills for medical professionals to have.

When in the interview, be sure to paint a complete picture of who you are as a person. Your grades and test scores are important, but having a personality is equally crucial. Be sure to check the nerves at the door; keeping in mind, the interviewer was once in your shoes! Remember to tell engaging stories and share examples of your work ethic though prior experiences, perhaps explaining a particular experience from a volunteer mission trip.

Follow Medical News and Journals

Finally, when on an interview, be sure to let the interviewer know you are staying abreast on medical news and medical reading. There is a chance the interviewer may ask you what medical books and magazines you read. It is importance you familiarize yourself with important journals such as  The Lancet and Science Daily.


When you are selected for an interview for medical school, your MCAT scores will speak for themselves.  Everyone knows that those who are dedicated and work hard will earn high grades and high MCAT scores.  A well rounded applicant needs to be able to relate to his or her future patients and medical staff. A calm, self assured individual are desired traits for prospective doctors. Emulate this within your interview.  Interviewers are looking not only an intelligent individual to cure and prevent illness, they are also looking for personality traits, such as a calming bedside manner, patience, compassion and empathy. Medical schools want to know that the students they are training to become future doctors will represent all of these qualities.

About the author:

Elsevier Health is a leading publisher of medical journals and textbooks such as The Harriet Lane Handbook and Goldman’s Cecil Medicine, used in universities around the world. Elsevier Health has also extended a promotional code to Medaholic readers. Please enter the code 61015 at checkout to recieve 10% off your purchases from Unlimited use. Offer expires 1/1/13.

(Visited 1,130 times, 1 visits today)
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.