Community Service (Medical School Admissions)
Your involvement in community service will be a major factor used by medical schools in the admissions process. This should come as no surprise to you given that the medical profession is all about service to the individual and the community. Community service can be divided into two types:
Community service (medical)
Community service (non-medical)
In this section, we will be discussing the importance of non-medical community service, ways in which you can participate in this type of service, and how medical schools assess the depth and breadth of your involvement.
"Just as important as academic achievement is the applicant’s character, desire to serve others, and understanding of the medical profession...Involvement in community service is an advantage in that it demonstrates a concern for others and an ability to manage time efficiently."
Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine
In an AAMC survey of U.S. medical schools, researchers asked schools to rate the importance of non-medical community service as a factor in making interview decisions. Respondents were asked to rate its importance on a scale of 1 (not important) to 5 (extremely important). Non-medical community service was rated "important" with a rating of 3.1, above such factors as leadership, completion of premedical requirements, and experience with the underserved. Of note, it was ranked slightly lower than community service medical (3.2 rating).
Medical school interviewers often ask about community service. In another AAMC survey of U.S. medical schools, researchers asked about personal characteristics assessed during the admissions interview. 89% of schools reported assessing service orientation while 86% assessed altruism.
Remember that medical schools are also looking for students who will make contributions to their community. There is evidence to indicate a relationship between premedical community service and involvement in community service while in medical school. In one study, applicants who had volunteered with multiple organizations and had done so for an extended period of time were more likely to devote more time to community service efforts as medical students.
"Will community service and/or volunteer activities make my application more competitive?
Community service and/or activities, especially relating to underserved populations will be highly valued."
Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University
There are many opportunities for applicants to help in their communities. You should talk to physicians in the area in which you live or in the area you go to school or work. Clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and outreach programs need volunteers. Don't limit yourself strictly to health related work. Every opportunity to interact with people who need your help will influence your life. Explore the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, youth groups, Habitat for Humanity, literacy programs, mission trips and many more.
Texas A & M College of Medicine
Although you may have a deep interest in serving others, medical schools will not just take your word for it. In fact, unless you give them evidence in your application to support your service orientation, you may never even have the chance to talk about your desire to help others in an interview.
Fortunately, there are many opportunities to participate in service in every community. Some examples include:
Church service missions
The above list is certainly not an exhaustive one, and you are encouraged to find opportunities that excite you.
Remember that medical schools will look at the depth and breadth of your involvement. We encourage you to take part in at least several activities, and immerse yourself to the best of your abilities in those that are most meaningful to you.
As you participate in service, take time to reflect on your experiences. Why did you choose the experience? Why did it excite you? What impact did you have on others? Why was it so satisfying? These are important questions to answer for you will be asked one or more of these questions during the medical school interview.
Your involvement in non-medical community service will also help you build important skills in such areas as communication, cooperation, and collaboration. In serving those who are in need, you will also be able to further develop your empathy and compassion. Such skills and qualities are of obvious importance to medical schools.
"Community/Volunteer service is defined as involvement in a service activity without constraint or guarantee of reward or compensation. The medical profession is strongly oriented to service in the community. Applicants should demonstrate a commitment to the community by involving themselves in service and volunteer activities."
University of Utah School of Medicine