Whether you have chosen to major in biology, chemistry or something completely unrelated to the medical field, you have chosen to pursue medical school after you graduate. Congratulations on being up to the challenge and being willing to take on the health of our country through the study of medicine. By now, I'm sure you have heard about the importance of gaining experience during your undergraduate years so that medical schools will take your application seriously. While it can be difficult to know where to start, there are many ways to get ahead in the med school application game. Here are some ways to explore your future career before you even take the MCAT.
1. Become a trained EMT.
Even if you aren't planning on becoming a doctor in the emergency department, becoming an Emergency Medical Technician in college is an awesome way to get hands-on experience. EMTs respond to medical emergencies and provide life-saving care for those who call 911. This will require extra classes and training but the payoff is worth it. Not only will you gain experience, you can also make a well above average salary for a college student. The National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Foundation keeps a list of universities all over the country that have ambulatory services on their campus. Contact your local emergency service to see if a program for college EMTs is available.
2. Study abroad.
There are several study abroad opportunities available that cater specifically to pre-med students. The Atlantis Project offers summer study abroad sessions that allow you to shadow a doctor in countries like Italy, Greece and Spain. Ask your advisor if your college offers any study abroad trips within your major, or for pre-med sessions. You can earn college credit and travel the world, all while showing future medical school admissions officers that you are willing to go outside of your comfort zone.
3. Volunteer at a hospital.
This is definitely a "start from the bottom" type of way to gain experience, but it is still a great one. Hospitals are always looking for volunteers to visit with patients, deliver gifts and perform simple daily tasks around a ward. While these tasks are not directly related to medicine, this is a way for you to meet doctors and other health professionals. You never know what connections you could make by simply giving a few hours of your time. Your best recommendation letters or internship opportunities could come from the people you meet while serving others. Call your local hospital and ask what volunteer opportunities you may be eligible for.
4. Become a medical assistant.
Like becoming an EMT, a medical assistant requires extra training and requirements will vary depending on the state you live in. MAs take patient vitals and histories, as well as perform clerical work in a medical practice. This is a great way to get hands-on experience to prepare for medical school, as well as make extra money while in college. The American Association of Medical Assistants has more information about the credentials needed to be an MA, as well as job outlines here.
5. Become a medical translator.
This option is especially for those minoring in a second language or who are already fluent in a language other than English. Medical translators are liaisons between doctors and patients who speak another language. Being a medical translator would allow you to have first-hand experience talking to patients, learning medical terminology and a way to make new connections with health care professionals. This option of work only requires 40 hours of additional training but requires you prove proficiency in the language you want to translate for. The Cross Culture Health Program offers in-person training across the United States. Find your closest location and get started.
6. Go on a medical missions trip.
Combine your love of traveling and helping others with this incredible option. Medical schools love to see students who travel outside of the United States to do medical work. International Medical Relief offers several trips each year designed especially for students. These trips are short, only lasting one to two weeks. Here you can not only earn college credit, but you will get 80-110 clinical hours as well as the chance to explore a new part of the world. Visit their website to plan your next trip and apply for scholarships.
Navigating the world of pre-med and medical school applications can be intimidating and frightening. These tips can help you to explore your options and get the experience you need to blow away your admissions officers in the next few years. Best of luck; the health of the world is in your hands.
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