Hours of Volunteering and Research

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I’ve received inquiries in the general format: “What are my chances of getting into Baylor Med with a ___ GPA, ___ MCAT, and ___ hours volunteering at a hospital/doing research?” A part of me cringes when I see the last statistic. 😛

To reiterate a common saying – it’s about quality not quantity. Don’t make the number of hours you’ve spent doing something the focal point of that activity. Think about content! What did you actually do in all that time? I don’t think admissions committees care whether you spent 100 hours or 1000 hours in a research lab. They care about the questions you investigated, techniques you learned, thought processes you utilized, etc.

I remember volunteering at a hospital during undergrad. I spent hours upon hours changing glove boxes and filing records in the pharmacy, yet as a student interested in surgery, none of this compared to the first laminectomy I shadowed (~1 hour).

The medical application itself isn’t helpful in this regard. When I applied, there was a box requiring students to indicate the number of hours per week they participated in the activities they listed. In all sincerity, I think two things are important above all else when it comes to extracurriculars – loyalty and unique experiences. Sticking to a handful of activities and acquiring a few, unique experiences (which you can discuss at length during an interview) easily trumps the student with a laundry list of accolades, in my opinion. Remember to use the events which spurred you towards and/or confirmed your decision to pursue medicine as the cornerstone of your application, not the gross volume of hours you dedicated to a given organization.

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