A Year by Year Plan for Pre Med Extracurricular Activities | MedEdits

A Year by Year Plan for Premed Extracurricular Activities
A Year by Year Plan for Premed Extracurricular Activities



A Year by Year Plan for Pre Med Extracurricular Activities

Students and parents often ask me how many hours of each “type” of extracurricular experience they should have. The reality is that there is no preset formula for what a premed student should engage in extracurriculalry and how much time they should spend on each experience.

Keep in mind that the AMCAS application has space for only 15 experiences and medical schools want to know which three of those are your most significant. We discourage students from taking a “check box” approach to their candidacy by engaging in experiences they think will look good to admissions committees. Instead we encourage students to be purposeful and focused when deciding what activities to pursue so when it is time for them to complete the application, they have three experiences that distinguish them. 

Something you will hear me say repeatedly is that medical schools want authentic and genuine students, each of whom has their own interests and values. For example, the student who has spent every waking hour in the bioengineering lab helping to develop a new mitral valve will be just as valued as the student who has spent her time exploring an interest in narrative medicine, even enrolling in a masters level program to broaden her skills and knowledge.

Here is a basic plan for students to think about as they decide what activities to pursue as premeds:


Freshman year is largely spent adjusting to college life, finding a support network, exploring interests, and learning how to manage your time! Consider getting involved in the following ways:

  • Join your college premed organization or club as well as any other clubs that interest you.
  • Get a sense of what other successful premeds have done during college.
  • Go to club fairs and start to think about how you might spend your time during college.
  • Start thinking about what subjects and disciplines you might like to explore outside of the classroom.


Depending on when you are applying to medical school, what you do this summer may not “make it” to the medical school application on which you will have the opportunity to highlight 15 experiences. For the student who wants to apply to medical school at the end of junior year, however, what they do this summer is very important. Here are some ideas:

  • Engage in research in an area of interest.
  • Pursue clinical work as an EMT, scribe, nursing assistant or medical assistant.
  • Shadow physicians.
  • Contribute to a cause or societal issue through a community organization.


This is when things start to get a little more serious. Why? You have had time to settle into college, you have learned to manage your time, and hopefully you have given some thought to your interests. This is when you want to start thinking about the impact you can make through your activities and in which activities you might be able to demonstrate leadership even if not through a formal role. Keep in mind that you only want to take on as many activities as you can without compromising your academic performance. You also want to think about dropping any activities that are not important to you. Some activities to think about becoming involved in include:

  • Is there any research you can pursue that is related to a curiosity either on campus or off campus?
  • Are there any clinical programs nearby campus?
  • Is there an on campus EMT service?
  • What causes are you most curious about? Think about how you can get involved at your college or in the local community to advocate for those causes.
  • What clubs and school-related activities can you become more involved with and make an impact?


At this point, you have hopefully identified some curiosities related to medicine, research, service, or advocacy. Do your best to immerse yourself in only a few very meaningful activities where you can make valuable and tangible contributions. Think about how you can explore these interests even more deeply this summer. 

  • Are there any new or existing research projects you can become more deeply involved in? Is it possible this can continue into the school year? 
  • Can you find some clinical work that you might be able to continue into your junior year on a part time basis? 
  • What about community service? Can you get more involved in an opportunity related to your interests?


If you plan to apply to medical school at the end of this year, you will have to make time for MCAT preparation so make that a top priority. At this point, hopefully you have some clearly defined disciplines, topics, causes and on campus activities that interest you. As you are getting closer to submitting your application, you want to make your academics a priority while also demonstrating your interests. 

  • If you are involved in research, continue this even if on a part time basis. If you haven’t yet done any research, try to find an opportunity that relates to your interests.
  • Make a quantifiable impact in your other involvements related to service, advocacy, and outreach.
  • Take on either formal leadership roles or lead by taking initiative in whatever you are committed to.


If you are applying to medical school this summer, a lot of your time will be spent completing your applications! However, you want to make sure you “stay the course” with whatever you are involved with already. If you are lacking experience, this is also the summer to try and “fill in the gaps.”

If you plan on applying to medical school at the end of senior year, this summer will likely be spent preparing for the MCAT.

What you do beyond completing applications and MCAT prep is very important this summer. Think about how to make a greater impact in whatever you decide to engage in and how you can demonstrate leadership and initiative. What are lkley to be or become your three most significant and meaningful activities? Dive into those. 


If you are applying to medical school during senior year, keep your grades up and stay focused on your coursework. This year you want to continue making the greatest impact possible in whatever you have committed yourself to thus far. Try to take on any leadership roles available to you.

If you plan on taking a gap year, it is fine to pursue new activities or involvements this year as long as you can continue them during your gap year!

Medical School Advising Session

Beyond stellar academics, medical school admissions officers want to see that applicants have devoted themselves to at least three meaningful activities. So, as you explore your interests, try to find activities where you can make a real impact that are related, even tangentially, to those interests. And, don’t forget that it is okay to drop activities that aren’t “going anywhere.” The key is to periodically review your CV/resume and objectively evaluate which of your experiences are most important to you where you can make the most significant and meaningful contributions.

MedEdits Medical Admissions Founder and Chairwoman, Jessica Freedman, MD
MedEdits Medical Admissions Founder and Chairwoman, Jessica Freedman, MD

JESSICA FREEDMAN, M.D., a former medical school and residency admissions officer at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, is the founder and chair of MedEdits Medical Admissions and author of three top-selling books about the medical admissions process that you can find on Amazon.


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