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As a medical school applicant you may be bewildered by the American Medical College Application Service or AMCAS work and activities section which is a very important part of your primary application and should complement your medical school personal statement. You may not be sure what to write, whether to use bullets or narratives, and how much detail to go into. You are probably looking to AMCAS activities section Reddit or r/premed on Reddit for insight. At MedEdits, we have worked with hundreds of successful applicants and therefore know what approaches yield the best results. Follow our proven system to earn more medical school interviews.
AMCAS work & activities entries give you the chance to let medical schools know how much you’ve accomplished during your premed years so admissions committees understand who you are beyond your MCAT and GPA. This section of the AMCAS application offers the opportunity to write about up to 15 activity descriptions that are up to 700 characters in length. You can then select three of those activities as most meaningful activities which gives you an additional 1325 characters to elaborate on the activity. We encourage you to use this space to your advantage, elaborating as much as possible about your roles, responsibilities, the insights you gained, as well as what you have learned from the experience. You should also write in detail about the impact or “difference” you have made through the experience.
Med schools place great emphasis on evaluating candidates’ based on the AAMC core competencies and I can tell you from experience that applicants who write fully about the experiences that had the greatest influence on them and their path to medicine have an advantage in the application process. Reviewers are looking for compelling evidence that you are worthy of an interview invitation, and activities descriptions, especially for an applicant who doesn’t have “over the top statistics,” can make or break this decision.
I can tell you from experience that applicants who write fully about the experiences that had the greatest influence on them and their path to medicine have an advantage in the application process.
In fact, a few schools openly state that they now place greater emphasis on the AMCAS work and activities descriptions than on the personal statement. You should devote as much time to composing your experience descriptions as you do to writing your personal statement. And keep in mind that reviewers typically read your activities descriptions before your personal statement since this is the predetermined order of the application. You want them to read your statement with a “good impression” of who you are based on what they have already read. This “halo effect” will then influence the way they interpret your personal statement, increasing your chances of being invited for an interview.
AMCAS Work and Activities Tutorial
The most important tool to help you conquer AMCAS.
Part 2: AMCAS Work & Activities Categories
The 18 AMCAS work and activities categories you can select from are listed below.
- Artistic Endeavors
- Community Service/Volunteer – Medical/Clinical
- Community Service/Volunteer – Not Medical/Clinical
- Conferences Attended
- Extracurricular Activities
- Intercollegiate Athletics
- Leadership – Not Listed Elsewhere
- Military Service
- Paid Employment – Medical/Clinical
- Paid Employment – Not Medical/Clinical
- Physician Shadowing/Clinical Observation
- Teaching/Tutoring/Teaching Assistant
AMCAS Work & Activities Categories
Part 3: Which Categories Should You Choose?
Oftentimes, a single experience may fit into more than one category type. In this case, we encourage you to select the category that best represents the activity or that might otherwise be lacking in your application. For example, a research experience that you were paid for could be listed as Paid Employment or Research. We would encourage you to list this activity as Research since all medical schools value research experience in applicants.
Do not be concerned if you don’t have an experience for each category. Medical schools would much rather see that students have sought out meaningful and long term experiences in a few areas rather than multiple, superficial experiences in many different areas.
Part 4: How To Complete Each AMCAS Experience
For each experience entry in the AMCAS work and activities section, you will need to complete the following fields, listed below. As with everything in your application, be as honest and accurate as possible.
1. Experience Type
For each experience, you will need to select the experience type from a drop down menu.
Should I List All My Shadowing Experiences As One Entry?
For some experiences, you might merge experiences. For example, if you have listed multiple doctors for short periods of time (1-2 days) you might combine these experiences in to a single entry and simply list each doctor you shadowed and what his or her specialty was. However, if you spent a significant amount of time shadowing a single doctor, you might want to give this experience its own entry.
2. Experience Title/Name
Write an experience name that is descriptive yet accurately describes the experience. We discourage applicants from getting to creative when writing this description so you don’t mislead of confuse your reviewer.
3. Start Date/End Date
You will list a start and end date for each experience. AMCAS automatically lists you experiences in chronological order so you do not have control over the order in which experiences are listed.
How Should I List The End Date If The Activity Is Ongoing?
If an experience is ongoing or has a future end date, you can enter that end date with the latest date being August of the year you will matriculate.
4. Total Hours
For each experience you will enter the total hours spent on the activity. If you participated in the activity multiple times for different periods of time, you can enter several start/end dates and hours spent during each interval. Approximate the hours worked, which may have varied over the course of your involvement in any given activity. As with everything in your application, be as honest and accurate as possible.
Should I List Expected Hours If I’m Currently Doing The Activity?
If an activity is ongoing and you aren’t sure of what the total hours will be, do your best to approximate! Medical school admissions committees know that plans change and you may not know exactly how the year will proceed.
How Should I Enter Hours For Awards & Recognitions?
For awards and honors, it is fine to enter “zero” hours. We have called AMCAS in the past to confirm this.
5. Organization Name
Enter an organization name that is most closely associated with the experience.
6. Location (City/State/Country)
It is important to enter the location of your experience accurately.
What If My Activity Took Place In Multiple Locations?
If an experience took place in multiple locations, choose the one that dominated the time spent.
7. Contact Name & Title
I have never heard of anyone calling an experience contact, so, list the contact that is most closely related to the activity.
What If There Isn’t a Contact Available?
If there wasn’t a clear supervisor or advisor, consider listing the contact for the parent organization or institution. For hobbies, list yourself as the contact!
8. Experience Summary
Don’t Use Bullet Points
Many medical school applicants do not take full advantage of the work & activities entries, and use bullet points to describe their experiences. These students typically do not earn as many medical school interviews. What can you learn from this? Even if you have excellent stats, you must compose compelling and convincing documents to earn medical school interviews. Grades and MCAT scores alone won’t earn you interviews. We also find that some applicants template entries writing about each entry in the exact same way. This will make for fairly boring reading for your reviewer which is not ideal. Never lie or write something that isn’t true and don’t over embellish. If, for example, you worked in a lab and spent your summer only pipetting and entering data in a computer, then say so. But, to enhance the entry, you could also write that this experience provided the foundation for a laboratory experience you had later on in which you did have greater responsibility.
With only 700 characters, you don’t have much room for introspection, but you still can add some insights if you have the space after explaining your activity. What should you include in your experience summary?
- Write about your roles and responsibilities.
- When possible, try to demonstrate “results” or “impact” for your experiences. For example, if you worked on a fundraiser, mention how much money you raised. If you were the leader of a club, organization, or group, mention by how much membership grew while you were in charge.
- What qualities and characteristics did you demonstrate?
- Finally, if you have the space, write about what you learned, what insights you gained and offer some introspection about the experience.
AMCAS Work and Activities Example
How Many Experiences Should I List?
Most applicants list between 8-12 entries. However, as more and more applicants are applying as nontraditionals, applicants have more experiences. We discourage writing about high school experiences unless they were very significant. It is important to list experiences that were important to you and we discourage using any “filler” experiences such as single day volunteer experiences.
Most applicants list between
Part 5: AMCAS Most Meaningful Entries
ACMAS applicants can select up to three of the 15 entries that they consider their “most meaningful experiences.” You can use up to 1,325 characters (including spaces) to elaborate on why your experiences were meaningful. For each experience, applicants select one of the categories AMCAS specifies.
As you write about these three activities, think not only about what you did during that activity but what it meant to you, what you learned, and how it influenced your path and choices. You should also write about how the meaningful experience influenced your ideals, insights, perspectives, and goals. Medical school admissions committees use your application to evaluate your personal characteristics and the best applications demonstrate passion, enthusiasm, insight, and introspection. Committees also want to be convinced of your commitment to and understanding of the practice of medicine. Your participation in activities should not be superficial, which gives the impression that you take on activities just for the sake of doing so. Particularly for the three experiences you choose to describe more fully, demonstrate that your involvement is deep and that you actually learned something from your participation
Which Most Meaningful Experiences Should I Choose on AMCAS?
Deciding which experiences have been most meaningful to you is entirely personal and depends on several factors. When it comes to experiences, applicants typically fall into one of two categories:
- They have had multiple meaningful experiences and cannot decide about which to elaborate or
- They have had only a few meaningful experiences and worry they don’t have enough experiences to write about.
If you are in the first category, it is best to first decide which experiences you will highlight in your personal statement. Ideally, you should then write about your other meaningful experiences as your “most meaningful” experience entries. Applicants who have had fewer meaningful experiences are in a more difficult position. These applicants may be forced to write about the same experiences in both their personal statement and as their “most meaningful” experience entries. They then face the challenge of writing about different aspects of the experience in the two documents and avoiding use of the same turns of phrase.
Ideally, two of your “most meaningful” experiences should be related to medicine, volunteerism/ community service, science, research, clinical experiences, or teaching. It would seem suspect, for example, if your three “most meaningful” entries were about extracurricular hobbies or activities that had nothing to do with endeavors that medical school admissions committees value most.
Can I Recycle My AMCAS Personal Statement?
While it is fine if there is topic overlap between your most meaningful entries and your personal statement (this is the case for the majority of applicants) you want to write about each experience differently in the two documents.
Working on your AMCAS Work and Activities? Understand these key medical school admissions stats.
AMCAS Work and Activities Example
Part 6: AMCAS Work & Activities Examples
AMCAS Most Meaningful Entry Example #1
Experience Type: Teaching/Tutoring
Experience Name: Education Project for Underserved Children
Dates: 9/20XX – 5/20XX
Total Hours: 200
Organization Name: City Education Center
Location (City/State/Country): United States, New York, NY
Contact Name & Title: Bill Smith, President.
Contact Email: BillSmith@dontwriteme.com
Contact Phone: 999-999-9999
Most Meaningful Experience? Yes
As a tutor, I worked with many underserved children, helping them complete their homework and understand concepts. I tutored the same child over the course of the year for four hours per week. Not only did I learn about the academic challenges these children faced, but I also understood the hurdles they had to overcome outside the classroom. Many didn’t speak English or spoke limited English and therefore their education helped their entire families.
Most Meaningful Experience Remarks:
Jose’s family immigrated to the US from Honduras. His father was a custodian, and his mother stayed at home with his six siblings. When I first began working with Jose, he was reluctant to speak English since he spoke only Spanish at home. Jose had to simultaneously master oral and written English. We painstakingly completed his grammar exercises, read Dr. Seuss, and practiced writing his letters. Initially he was unable to scribble the six letters in his name, but only eight months later, he had become one of the best readers in his class.
Jose was a student in downtown Houston whom I tutored while participating in the Education Project, one of the oldest and largest service-learning projects in the country. I mentored groups of two to five students weekly; we reviewed academic concepts and discussed a variety of social issues they faced. This program immersed me in the community and gave me a greater understanding of the challenges immigrants face. I discovered that to help others learn and understand, I must be knowledgeable about their home environment and personal challenges. Further, patiently sitting with Jose as he sounded out words and congratulating him on his success.
AMCAS Work and Activities Research Example #2
Experience Type: Research/Lab
Experience Name: Oncology Research
Dates: 12/20XX – 6/20XX
Organization Name: Medical Center
Contact Name & Title: Dr. Smith
Most Meaningful Experience? Yes
I worked in an oncology lab’s cell culture core lab, where I assisted in development of new cell lines from tumor samples, which were then tested in mouse models. After establishing and characterizing cell lines and assuring their purity, we distributed them worldwide to be used by other labs for research. I participated in the genetic fingerprinting of cell lines by conducting multiple DNA and RNA PCR, learned many other laboratory procedures, and maintained the database of thousands of frozen samples.
Most Meaningful Experience Remarks:
My interest in learning more about medical research led me to Dr. Excellent Mentor. The focus of Dr. Mentor’s laboratory, and the program that he leads, was to develop more effective treatments for certain types of cancers. This lab serves as the reference lab for a national and local cancer group for establishing new cell cultures and testing agents against cancer on these cultures. Members of the lab designed phase I and II trials for potential new drug treatments. I gained a thorough understanding of clinical trials and how long it takes to make progress. It helped me understand the importance of appreciating the clinical implications of work that is done and motivated my interest in research. On several occasions, I was able to shadow oncologists, which helped me understand how desperate patients and their families are to find cures. The compassion these doctors demonstrated is something I hope to emulate. Although I would have loved to continue working in this lab, Dr. Mentor relocated to New York to lead the new Cancer Center at Prestigious Medical School.
AMCAS Most Meaningful Entry Example #3
Experience Type: Community Service/ Volunteer – Medical/Clinical
Experience Name: Adult Day Health Volunteer
Dates: 8/20XX – present
Contact Name & Title:
Most Meaningful Experience? Yes
The Adult Day Health Center is a comprehensive facility that offers a variety of services to members of the community. My duties at the Adult Day Health Center are to make sure patients are comfortable, address their basic needs such as thirst or hunger, or to simply offer them company. The Center serves a largely underserved and homeless population so I also help clients find places to stay, sift through our donated clothes pile to help them find clean garments, and seek out transportation for them.
Most Meaningful Remarks:
I look forward to the Sunday mornings I spend with HIV patients. My conversations with them have revealed these patients’ great physical suffering; I have also learned how HIV steals independence and inflicts solitude. These patient interactions illustrate the human toll of disease and enhances my dedication to serving others as a physician.
I make the most of the time I spend with these patients because I know that these interactions have great potential to make a difference. I reach out to the individuals who always sit alone, making sure they remember to order lunch. I enjoy making the child of a patient feel comfortable as his mom receives her medication. I encourage the patient working with his speech pathologist to use his alphabet card to better enunciate words while he discusses his favorite pop star with me over lunch.
Having come to learn and use the names of the Sunday crowd, I know I offer them an enhanced sense of security and belonging. Witnessing how diseases can affect mothers with small children and people of all races, ages and backgrounds and seeing the changes in the health of the patients I serve week to week have made me aware of the bleak realities of illness. This experience has increased my respect for individuals in need as well as my desire to serve them.
Use your AMCAS work and activities entries as opportunities to thoughtfully showcase what you have accomplished, the impact you have made, that you possess the qualities and characteristics medical school admissions committees seek. The biggest mistake we observe with regards to this AMCAS section is when applicants write too little or in not enough detail therefore selling themselves short.
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