Premedical Handbook: Experiences

Premedical Handbook

General Recommendations


High School Students

Postbaccalaureate Students


American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS)

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)


Academic Preparation

Premedical Requirements


Medical/Clinical Experiences

Community Service Experiences


Group and Leadership Experiences

Research Experiences


Personal Qualities/
Professional Behavior

Letters of Evaluation


Financial Aid

Application Review Process


Scheduling an Appointment with an Admissions Counselor

Self-Assessment Guide

Assessing your Application


Personal Record of Experiences

Sample Time Line for Preparation



Medical/Clinical Experiences

Your goal to become a physician must be based upon experience. Long term, in-depth medical/clinical work or volunteer experiences will help you understand yourself and the medical profession while serving others. Seek out medical, clinical, and shadowing opportunities, whether paid or volunteer, within your community and at your college or university.

  • Train and serve as a hospice volunteer (see the Yellow Pages).

  • Contact volunteer coordinators at your local American Red Cross, hospitals, geriatric centers, or clinics.

  • Secure a position providing home health care services.

  • Work as a Certified Nurse’s Assistant (CNA), an EMT, or at a camp for disabled or chronically ill children.

  • Secure a physician mentor. Contact your own physician or physicians who practice in the medical career areas that most interest you.

  • Keep an journal detailing the insights you have gained from your medical/clinical experiences. This can assist you when writing personal statements and secondary essays.

Community Service Experiences

Physicians serve people from a variety of economic and educational backgrounds as well as a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Become more culturally competent while offering your time and talents to others.

  • Volunteer for service organizations; become an active participant. Consider the American Red Cross, your local Chamber of Commerce, Habitat for Humanity, community recreational facilities, faith-based organizations, homeless shelters, food banks, domestic assault centers, public schools, etc.

  • Contact the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (or equivalent) at your college.

  • Contact the community organizers of Special Olympics or Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

  • Volunteer at a summer camp for disabled or chronically ill children.

  • Participate in Alternative Spring Break.

Group and Leadership Experiences

Become involved in activities that interest you; make yourself a contributing member. Eventually assume leadership roles in some of your activities and organizations. Leadership can be demonstrated through formal positions in organizations such as your premedical society, cultural or religious groups, or a cooperative living setting. Informal leadership is also recognized. Reliable participation and thoughtful contribution to the community in positions such as a Big Brother/Sister or a tutor is also valued.

Leadership skills can be developed and recognized on the job as a shift leader or in a management position. Pay careful attention to your role in each setting. Are you able to accept the responsibilities of a leadership position and inspire the support of your colleagues? Can you serve as an enthusiastic, cooperative team member for another leader? What are your teaching and learning roles within each setting? What are you giving and gaining from your associations with other group members? How is what you are learning relevant to working in teams as a physician?

Research Experiences

Spend time thinking about the topics or courses about which you are most excited and curious. Seriously consider becoming involved in research. Remember, research is not limited to science and medicine. There are multiple research opportunities in nonscience areas.

Speak to your professors and advisors about research. Contact the academic department(s) you are most interested in and explore their websites. Make a list of professors with active research projects. Carefully read about their research studies. Decide on two or three studies in which you are most interested and make appointments to talk with these research study directors. Provide them with a copy of your résumé and a letter stating your interest in their project.

Undergraduate students who have proven their talents, dependability, and interest in a research project by volunteering may eventually be paid for their work in research settings.

Personal Qualities/Professional Behavior Development

The Committee on Admissions carefully evaluates applicants for their commitment to standards that are associated with exemplary professional behavior. Think about the behaviors expected of professionals and speak to your mentors about these expectations. Examine your current behavior in light of these expectations.

  • Seek enriching and challenging life experiences.

  • Perform ongoing self-reflection to learn from your experiences.

  • Take a medical ethics course, if possible, or read about medical ethics.

  • Become familiar with CHM's Professional Behavior Standards and do your best to follow them.