AMCAS Work and Activities Examples From Sought-After Matriculants

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In this post, we provide eight AMCAS Work and Activities examples, including three most meaningful experience descriptions. We’ll also discuss how to choose your activities, how many to include, and how to write effective activity descriptions.

The AMCAS Work and Activities section summarizes the extracurricular activities you participated in during college. You can include up to 15 different activities, but the space you’re given to discuss these experiences is very limited. Choosing the right experiences and utilizing effective communication are crucial to a successful application.

Read our examples below that come from premeds who received multiple offers and successfully matriculated into their top choice medical school.

 

The Work and Activities Section

Along with your personal statement, the Work and Activities section is the first place admissions committees look to get a feel for your personality and whether or not you fit the mold of the medical student they’re looking for. The activities you chose to commit to during your years as a premed demonstrate both what you have experience with and what you’re most passionate about. Where did you choose to dedicate your time?

Work and Activities summarizes the wide range of extracurricular activities you participated in during your college career. You can select up to 15 premed experiences, ranging from extracurricular activities to volunteering experiences to jobs to hobbies and more.

You have 700 characters of space to discuss each of the 15 activities and their impact on your decision to become a physician. Of those 15, you can select up to three most meaningful experiences, which gives you 1325 characters of extra space to speak about these experiences in more detail. Since the space to discuss these experiences is quite limited, choosing the right experiences and utilizing effective communication are imperative to your application’s success.

 

Successful AMCAS Work and Activities Examples

Work and Activities Example #1 (Including Most Meaningful Experience)

Biophysics Research Lab Assistant

The focus of the biophysics research lab in which I have worked for almost 2 years is to develop new viral delivery systems with the ultimate purpose of providing corrective genes to children with blood disorders. Specifically, I synthesize antibody-producing constructs that are subsequently expressed in bacteria to label HIV infection during the budding process in conjunction with advanced immunofluorescence imaging. As new discoveries are made in the field, I adapt my experiments to more effectively achieve the lab’s goals. In addition to utilizing cell and molecular biology techniques to create novel vectors, I collaborate with graduate students on their projects.

Meaningful Experience Description

Upon joining the biophysics lab at the beginning of sophomore year, I expected to learn a useful set of cell and molecular biology techniques as well as familiarize myself with the approach of traditional “wet lab” research. In reflecting on my experience however, I realized that the projects taught me more than how to pipet, ligate, and transform. Each day presented a set of new challenges to overcome, which required me to think critically and, more importantly, work together with my colleagues in a dynamic environment. I learned to view failure as merely the narrowing down of possible options and began to appreciate the amount of careful work that goes into every published article of research. These experiences helped foster a new appreciation for and positively impacted my view on translational research and the advent of novel treatments. In addition, I mentor other undergraduate research assistants on their own projects. Being a part of the flow of knowledge and watching the students succeed was just as satisfying as my purifying a clone for protein expression. Such a feeling confirmed one of my passions that ultimately led me to pursue medicine: to teach and coach others so that they are empowered to improve their own lives as well as those of the community in which they live.

Work and Activities Example #2 (Including Most Meaningful Experience)

Pioneer Leadership Program

Each year, the Pioneer Leadership Program (PLP) selects 88 highly qualified students from an incoming class of over 1,400 undergraduates to join a specialized living and learning community with the goal of developing leaders for the 21st century. In addition to unique classes on social justice, civic engagement, and ethics, the program provides opportunities for service and community projects that seek to address “wicked problems” and teach citizen-leadership. Ultimately, completion of the program results in a Leadership Studies minor accompanied by a transformative set of skills, including the evaluation of situations through a critical lens and sustaining crucial conversations.

Meaningful Experience Description

As a science major, PLP was influential in my development as a mature, socially conscious leader. Specifically, the projects we completed, such as the Community Change Initiative, provided valuable experience in identifying a problem, formulating a plan of action, and swiftly executing that plan. My group addressed the toxic stressors that plague low-income high school students and stymie the development of “non-cognitive” skills like visioning and code switching in an effort to close the achievement gap between such students and their more affluent peers. We created a program called Forward Focus for a cohort of local high school freshmen and sophomores; composed of a series of modules, it focused on fostering success outside of the classroom to indirectly but effectively impact success inside it. Reaching a set of diverse students required leveraging a critically conscious mindset to evaluate and adapt to their attitudes; more importantly, achieving our learning goals hinged on establishing trust between our team, a group of “outsiders,” and kids who must balance school with a job to support their families. In retrospect, PLP provided the unique opportunity to serve and learn simultaneously, which in turn fueled my passion to pursue a career that marries the two elements in a similar manner.

Work and Activities Example #3 (Including Most Meaningful Experience)

DU EMS Club

In partnership with DU Campus Safety, the student-run DU EMS Club provides volunteers for the nightly SafeWalk escort program and opportunities for CPR/AED and EMT training. Additionally, it serves as a pre-hospital care and emergency medicine interest group, with meetings and continuing education for both EMTs and non-EMTs. While still in its infancy, the club is working with the university to establish a student EMT rapid response unit to aid in responding to distress calls on campus. This summer, the club is scheduled to provide CPR, First Aid, and AED training to the DU community. Other future goals include expanding educational workshops to other local organizations and fundraising for EMT training scholarships.

Meaningful Experience Description

As one of the founding members of the EMS club, I have been involved in our maturation from a small group of action-oriented individuals to a dedicated cohort of students serving the DU community. Expectantly, the growth of DU EMS was punctuated by periods of challenge and conflict stemming from administrative red tape and disagreement over our mission and purpose, and in each instance I learned a valuable lesson. For example, when we first began, it seemed like all that was needed to establish a student-run EMT program was to propose the idea to the right people and sign a few waiver forms. Over two years later, we are still working alongside Campus Safety to receive approval for the unit. While such as an experience fostered persistence and ingenuity, I believe the failures and arguments that comprise our struggle more importantly taught me the value of anticipating challenges and being flexible when problem solving. Fortunately, the club has made a positive impact on the campus through the creation of the SafeWalk program and partnership with Denver Health to reserve EMT training seats specifically for DU students. In short, the hours spent building and improving this club have resulted in the embodiment of values and ideals that will undoubtedly serve me in the trials of the future.

Work and Activities Example #4

Collaboration Grant

A $5,000 award available semi-annually to select Boettcher scholars who collaborate with Boettcher investigators in their research. The grant provides funds for supplies and a stipend with the purpose of allowing the scholar to contribute to cutting-edge research unencumbered by a lack of resources. To date, I have been awarded three of these grants, totaling $15,000 for salary and supplies. With the means to spend my summers at DU, I can push forward cloning projects and work in a healthcare setting simultaneously; this balance of activities has allowed me to remain a perpetual learner while also developing a greater level of emotional intelligence.

Work and Activities Example #5

Ongoing Shadowing

I began shadowing healthcare professionals as early as high school and continue to learn from such experiences even today; in reflecting on the breadth and depth of each interaction, I gleaned many of the qualities physicians possess to care for patients beyond treating the pathophysiology at hand. Each day brought a new lesson, regardless of whether I was observing how an internist interacted with a family who elected to put a patient on comfort measures or analyzing the dynamics of team-based care through the perspective of pharmacists and other non-M.D. providers. In sum, I learned to appreciate the plethora of factors such professionals must consider in achieving better health outcomes.

Work and Activities Example #6

Skin Cancer Prevention Coalition

As a part of a diverse team of faculty and staff, I collaborate with the university medical director, health and counseling center, and other campus leaders to provide sun safety related education and resources to students. The coalition’s most effective tool is a Reveal Imager device that is staffed by volunteers at campus events to raise awareness about sun damage. Specifically, the imager is used to promote self-care; by seeing melanin deposits on their own faces, students are more inclined to take steps to protect themselves from UV radiation. In retrospect, this coalition has taught me to value small victories when confronting intimidatingly large problems.

Work and Activities Example #7

Service Learning at University of Glasgow

In pursuing service learning while studying abroad, I volunteered at a local community center that provided resources for low income residents of the surrounding high rises. Drawing upon my passion for health and fitness, my main responsibility was to create a “Guide to the Maryhill Hub Gym.” This task brought with it the unique challenge of learning a new set of cultural norms and overcoming communication barriers as I surveyed service-users to shape the goals of the project. Ultimately, the Hub pursued funding to print the guide and include it as a benefit to the gym membership. This experience was supplemented by lessons on critical consciousness in the context of “A Hero’s Journey.”

Work and Activities Example #8

ER Volunteer

In working directly with nurses and other ER staff, I helped ensure each patient received an optimal level of care. My responsibilities were many, including the preparation of rooms, restocking of IV trays, and inspection of medical equipment. I also tended to patients’ needs and served as an ambassador between them, their nurses, and their physicians. In doing so, I experienced the satisfaction that comes from putting a smile on someone who is suffering; sometimes, all they needed was a warm blanket or an equally warm companion to share their stories with. Overall, this experience taught me the significance that attending to someone’s emotional needs has on their health outcomes.

 

How Do You Choose Which Activities to Include?

Students working and volunteering for Gap Year Jobs

It’s important to think strategically about what you want to include so that you feature a diverse collection of activities that demonstrate the essential qualities admissions committees look for in prospective medical students.

The first thing you should know is admissions committees are primarily looking for activities in a few core areas: clinical exposure, research experience, and community involvement. Participating in activities in each of these areas shows you have the kind of well-rounded experience and relevant interests to know whether or not you actually want to pursue upwards of eight years of medical education and one day become a doctor.

Choose experiences that show longitudinal commitment. Don’t include one-off volunteering activities, no matter how amazing they were. Focus on in-depth experiences that you were immersed in for at least a month, but hopefully much more. Only include a one-off event if you committed yourself to it year after year. Bottom line—Show you are committed to things.

While the bulk of your activities should deal with medicine, such as research and clinical experience, it’s also important to speak about passions related to medicine or completely outside of medicine.

How has your lifelong commitment to learning and practicing the violin prepared you for the rigors of medical school? Help the admissions committee see who you are at this moment and how that will inform your life and values as a future doctor. Demonstrate you are a well-rounded applicant with diverse interests but relate everything back to medicine.

Keep the focus on activities more so than awards, but be sure to include any notable awards, achievements, or scholarships. Numbers are convincing and easy to write about. Scholarships show you’re a strong student, and grants for research shows you’re already on the path to becoming a researcher.

If you’re struggling to decide what to include, remember you can lump certain activities together. For example, your shadowing experiences, in particular, should be grouped together. In the description of the activity, you can speak about the breadth and diversity of medicine you witnessed first-hand. Another example of when to group activities together is if you worked on a few different research projects in the same lab. You could include these experiences as a single entry.

It’s all about finding a balance between what’s unique and what’s longitudinal. Time spent abroad helping underprivileged communities is a unique experience sure to impress admissions committees, while years of research with the same lab shows longitudinal commitment.

When choosing your activities, consider the number of hours you dedicated to the activity, your longitudinal commitment (months to years), and unique experiences. Many of your fellow applicants will have experiences that are very similar to your own.

How can you choose activities that help you stand out and describe them in a way that is unique to you?

 

Do You Need to Fill Out All 15 Sections?

If you spent your premed years wisely, you should have more than enough experiences to fill out all 15 spots in Work and Activities. That said, it’s not a problem if you don’t fill out all 15, so long as you are able to demonstrate you have a variety of experiences, including ones that span multiple years. Admissions committees want to see you are committed to your activities, and the best way to demonstrate this is with the amount of time you’ve spent participating in the activity.

While you can include 15 activities, you do not need to. You should complete at least 10, but ensure that you only include the experiences that made the greatest impact on you.

You are better off having fewer than 15 activities filled out than including weaker activities, such as ones you spent very little time on, didn’t play a large role in, or completed a long time ago (pre-college.) Just like with your letters of recommendation, including a weak activity is worse than not including it at all. You’re looking for quality not quantity, but hopefully, by the time it comes time to apply, you have both.

Keep in mind that hobbies and non-academic interests can be included in your list of activities so long as you can illustrate how they have positively impacted your life. Admissions committees want to get to know who you are beyond your grades because they are interested in establishing a diverse student body. What will you add to the program and campus?

For example, say you’ve studied piano for years and love to play music. Not only does this show commitment to learning, it could be that the admissions committee is aware of a music club or student band at their school in need of more students. By including this hobby, you’ve just made yourself a more attractive candidate for two reasons.

Learn how to optimize your AMCAS Hobbies, including what schools look for.

Begin gaining experience early on as a premed so that when it comes time to apply, you’re able to show commitment to a few core activities that you have kept up with throughout college. These lengthy experiences show you’ve taken the time to understand what it’s like to work in a medical field.

 

How to Write Effective Medical School Application Activities

Close up of person journaling - Benefits of Journaling

1 | Reflect Back on Your Notes and Journal Entries

The notes and journals you kept during your extracurricular experiences are invaluable when it comes time to write about them on your application. It could be years between when you participated in an activity and when you apply to medical school, so it’s very important to write down relevant details and anecdotes rather than relying on your memory alone.

Our memories are fickle things, so it’s imperative that you keep a journal throughout your extracurricular experiences.

What stands out to you? What anecdotes did you include, and how can they be used to demonstrate your commitment to medicine?

Learn more: How Students Can Harness the Powerful Benefits of Journaling.

2 | Put Yourself Into the Activity Description

Don’t just explain what the activity is—detail your role and experience specifically. What did you learn? How did it affect you?

There is a character limit of 700, so it’s important to follow a formula. Go beyond a resume description. Focus on your responsibilities. Use action verbs. Use numbers. Paint the picture with descriptive language.

Describe what you did. Lead with this, but don’t leave it there. At the end, help the reader understand what it means in the context of medicine. Provide a descriptive overview, then provide small anecdotes. You can’t go into much detail, so how can you make it unique to you?

Avoid generic sentences that admissions committee members will see time and time again, like “This experience taught me leadership skills.” How did it teach you leadership skills? Make every word count. Use one or two sentences to describe what you gained from the experience.

Many students spend too much time describing the activity and not enough time reflecting on and detailing their individual learning experience. You only have so much space, so choose your words carefully. For example, everyone is going to have shadowing as an experience. What was unique about your experience?

3 | Write Your Activities Before Most Meaningful

If you are struggling to decide which activities to choose as your most meaningful, begin by writing all 10-15 of your experiences. This is a task you need to get done anyways, and doing so will give you insight into which experiences you find the easiest to write about.

As you reflect on your experiences, which ones felt the most important to you? Which ones did you feel like you didn’t have enough room to say all that you wanted to? Which ones illustrate length of commitment?

 

Take Your Application to the Next Level With Med School Insiders

We encourage you to read our complete Work and Activities Section Guide, which includes how to approach this section, mistakes to avoid, and frequently asked questions. We also have guides on the entire Medical School Application Process.

Sign up for our newsletter and follow our blog for the latest medical school application news, guides, and resources. Our content library is filled with articles that will help you prepare for every aspect of your application, as well as how to succeed during medical school and residency.

Med School Insiders can help you create a stand out medical school application. Our team of doctors has years of experience serving on admissions committees, so you’ll benefit from essential insights from people who have been intimately involved with the selection process.

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