AMCAS Hobbies—What Schools Look For and How to Stand Out


Your medical school application has several different components, and each plays a vital role in your success. You know you need a stellar personal statement, strong letters of recommendation, and a solid MCAT score, but why would schools care about your hobbies? What hobbies do schools look for? Will the AMCAS hobbies you select in the Work and Activities section affect the outcome of your application?

Your hobbies may not be as important as other experiences on your application, such as notable clinical or research experiences, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. Effectively utilizing hobbies in the experiences section of your application can show that you are a well-rounded candidate who has a lot to offer the student body of the schools you’re applying to.

In this post, we break down why medical schools care about hobbies, which hobbies add value to your application, and how to effectively describe hobby experiences.


Why Do Medical Schools Care About Hobbies?

Medical schools want to know who you are, not only as a future professional and someone who can succeed in academia, but more importantly, who you are as a person. Hobbies can show your well-roundedness much more than statistics or letters of recommendation can. Even if you share hobbies with other candidates, your unique experience and take on it can help you stand out from other applicants.

Schools want to build a well-rounded class, and this goes for any school, from something brand new to something as prestigious as Stanford or Harvard. Schools want to build a balanced and diverse class who will be effective future colleagues and peers to one another. Hobbies give admissions committees special insight into who you are and what you can contribute to your school.

For example, a medical school is unlikely to select athletes exclusively, as this won’t add diversity to the thoughts and conversations of the student body. It’s better for schools to have a blend of voices, including athletes and also creatives, such as writers, artists, people with travel experience, etc.

Medical schools intentionally craft diverse classes so that students learn not only from the school but also from each other. Your hobbies provide admissions committees with special insight into what you have to offer and how you can contribute to the diversity of their student body. So, effectively discussing one or two unique hobbies in your application will help admissions committees take a more active interest in you and help them determine if you are a good fit for their school.


What Hobbies Add Value to Your Application?

There’s no such thing as a bad hobby. That said, you only have space to mention 15 experiences in the AMCAS Work and Activities section, including research, extracurriculars, jobs, etc., so don’t go above two or three hobbies. It’s also vital that these hobbies indicate a lifelong passion. If you started the hobby in the last year or so, don’t include it. Choose a hobby you’ve had since high school, as this better shows your passion for it and commitment to it.

If you choose a more recent hobby that you developed in college, be prepared to be able to illustrate why you have such a passion for that hobby and why it has had a significant impact on you in a short time.

Examples of Hobbies include:

  • Playing an instrument
  • Choir
  • Team sports
  • Weight lifting
  • Martial arts
  • Running
  • Cooking
  • Travel
  • Creative writing
  • Filmography
  • Gardening
  • Theatre
  • Improv
  • Drawing
  • Painting

What hobbies have you continued throughout all of your studies? Schools want someone with longstanding hobbies, as this shows them you’re able to find balance in your life. If all you make time for is your studies, you’re going to burn out, and the last thing medical schools want is a class of students on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Choose hobbies that have had a profound impact on you. You must be able to reflect on the hobbies and demonstrate how the hobby has altered the course of your life. Who would you be if not for your hobby?

It’s natural for students to second guess whether or not to include hobbies. Is being an avid film buff really relevant to your medical school application?

You don’t have to include hobbies that are exclusively related to healthcare. You want to demonstrate you’re a well-rounded person. Hobbies allow admissions committees to see who you are outside of the classroom, outside of research, and outside of volunteering.

Hobbies aren’t an escape; they’re how you recenter, connect back to the world, and refresh your mental health. Hobbies set you apart and lend insight into how you see and connect with the world around you.

For example, you might be passionate about documentaries. On the surface, this could feel like a lazy hobby. But why do you have that passion? What makes you turn to documentaries instead of reality TV? Connect your passion for documentaries to a thirst for knowledge and a quest for a deeper understanding of the world—a good passion for all doctors to have.

Remember, you also include hobbies to help admissions committees determine where you’ll have the most opportunities to meet people and network at school. You may think your passion for cooking isn’t relevant, but it could be that there’s a passionate community of amateur chefs within a school’s student body. Admissions committees will remember you better, thanks to your descriptive hobbies.

It’s not so much about which hobbies you choose; it’s more about showing depth, passion, and the length of your participation. Choose hobbies that form the building blocks of your identity—ones you can speak about in-depth during interviews. Interviewers will be much more interested in discussing your unique hobbies as opposed to your MCAT score.


The AMCAS Hobbies Section

AMCAS Work and Activities Section

The Work and Activities section, where you can mention the hobbies you want to include, is the first place admissions committees look to get a sense of your personality and whether or not you fit the mold of the medical student they’re looking for. You can select up to 15 premed experiences, ranging from extracurricular activities to jobs to volunteering experiences to hobbies and more.

You have 700 characters of space to discuss each of these activities and their impact on you. Of those 15, you can select up to three most meaningful experiences, which grants you 1325 characters of extra space to speak about these experiences in more detail.

First and foremost, admissions committees are looking for activities in a few core areas: research experience, clinical exposure, and community involvement. Most of your activities will fall into these categories, so we recommend only including two or at most three hobbies.

You don’t have a lot of space to discuss these activities, so ensure your titles are as descriptive as possible and make every word count when you describe the activity. Don’t describe the activity itself, but rather your experience with it. Use one or two sentences to describe what you learned or gained from the experience.

Learn more in our comprehensive Guide to the AMCAS Work and Activities Section.

What it Looks Like on Other Applications (AACOMAS and TMDSAS)

If you’re applying to osteopathic (DO) schools or medical schools in Texas, you will need to apply through their respective application services—The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) and The Texas Medical and Dental School Application Service (TMDSAS).

While similar, the application requirements of each service differ slightly, and the Work and Activities section is no different. AACOMAS has no limit to the number of experiences you can mention, but it does not have a Most Meaningful Experience section. TMDSAS has applicants create a Chronology of Activities, which includes everything between high school graduation and the summer of your application.

Learn more about each of the AMCAS vs. AACOMAS vs. TMDSAS Med School Application Differences.

For osteopathic applicants, read our AACOMAS Experiences and Achievements Guide, and for Texas medical school applicants, read our TMDSAS Activities Section Guide.


Effectively Writing Medical School Application Hobbies

In order to write about your hobbies effectively, you must connect the activity to your personal growth and how it has impacted your relationship to medicine.

Admissions committees are looking for depth. Don’t provide superficial reasons, such as, “I like to travel,” or, “I just play basketball for the fun of it.” Dive deep into the specific elements of the hobby—a hobby you’ll continue to practice throughout your future medical career. Explain the what and the how of the hobby, but always leave room for the why. The why is the most important aspect to break down, and it will make the hobby unique to you.

If you’ve participated in a lot of team sports, regardless of the level you played at, you can connect your experience with working as a team and being a team player to medical school and your future career.

Doctors work as part of a team on a daily basis, and your ability to be a functioning member of the team is crucial to your future success. You must know each team member’s strengths and weaknesses and how best to utilize them in order to function optimally. Explain how your participation in team sports has shown you the value of teamwork and how to work as an effective part of a team.

If your interests are more artistic in nature, such as music, art, or acting, you might speak about how your hobby has taught you to live in the moment and be present.

So much of being a premed and medical student is looking toward the future. It takes a long, long time to become a professional physician, and it’s easy for medical students to constantly look to the horizon, never keeping their minds on where they are and what they’re doing. You may explain how a passion for the arts has helped you cultivate an ability to appreciate the little things in life and focus on the journey, not the destination.

Not only can this help you with your studies, but your artistic passion and insight could also help your bedside manner, as you’ll be able to engage with patients about music, movies, or art. Your ability to be present and make the most of the moment could also help you ease the mind of a patient you had to deliver bad news to.

Or let’s say you’re interested in global health. You can speak about how your travel hobby has helped you learn how to be open-minded about and mindful of other people’s cultural differences—a major asset to your career if you plan to work with communities around the world.

No matter what your hobby is, highlight the amount of time and effort you’ve put into it. If your hobby is traveling, how many places have you traveled to? If you’re a chef, how long have you been cooking? If you’re into team sports, how many years have you played?

Now, it’s possible you haven’t spent much time thinking about how your hobbies have impacted your development or why they’re so important to you. A great way to reflect on this is by journaling (something we also recommend you do throughout your extracurricular activities.)

Journaling provides a resource to fall back on when you’re asked questions about how an activity has impacted you, and it can help you remember anecdotes or insights you might otherwise forget. Take time to reflect in a journal on the hobbies that have most shaped your identity, the ones you’ll use to help balance your life in medical school and beyond.

Learn How Students Can Harness the Powerful Benefits of Journaling.


How to Keep Up With Hobbies as a Premed

Finding balance between your studies, extracurricular positions, social engagements, and hobbies is key to maintaining your energy, enthusiasm, and mental health. You won’t find time for your hobbies—you must make time for them. Hobbies you are passionate about are not a waste of time so long as you can keep up with your studies. With the right routines and time management practices, you can succeed in school and have a life outside of it.

While your studies are extremely important, you can’t study every minute of the day. Your brain needs time to rest. Crafting a solid routine will help you ensure you get to all of your priorities. Build your hobbies into your downtime, which could be during your morning routine, your night routine, or when you take a break in the afternoon.

It all comes down to creating a daily routine and schedule that you can follow day after day. Don’t wait to see if you’ll get to it; intentionally block time in your week for the hobbies you’re passionate about.


What If You Don’t Have Any Hobbies?

Get Outside of Your Comfort Zone activities

While it’s probably unlikely you don’t have anything that you do for fun, this question is part of the reason it’s so important to start thinking about these aspects of your application early on as a premed.

Schools are looking for well-rounded students who can demonstrate they know how to work hard while still maintaining their balance and wellness. Medical school is extremely challenging; without a way to decompress, you could easily burn out. Admissions committees know this, which is why it’s important to include at least one hobby in your application.

If you’re looking for a hobby, remember not to force it. A hobby you don’t like and can’t speak positively about won’t help you. Check out what clubs your school has available. Ask friends about their hobbies. Step outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Reflect on each of the activities you try in a journal to determine their impact on you. Did you have fun? Did you learn anything about yourself? Could you see yourself participating in the activity regularly?

If you don’t have any hobbies, it’s important to get outside and find one. Admissions committees aren’t only considering your grades; they’re considering who you are as an entire human being.

Don’t neglect your own personal growth believing your strict, exclusive focus on medicine will make you stand out from the crowd. Medical schools want well-rounded, balanced individuals. What hobby or activity have you always been curious about but felt like you never had time to try? Now is the time to give it a shot and challenge yourself in ways you never have before.

Learn more: Why You Should Step Outside Your Comfort Zone—Student Guide.


Crafting the Path to Success

Med School Insiders offers one-on-one advising that pairs you with a physician advisor who can answer your questions about medical school applications, what to do with the time between your studies, how to transition into your first year of medical school, and much more. It’s our goal to help you create a future that aligns with your vision, which includes your hobbies, studies, career goals, lifestyle, and habits.

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