For any student on the pre-medical track, it is important to have a great deal of volunteer hours. Serving others in the community gives you the humble opportunity to prove that you’re a compassionate and committed person who would make a great physician in the future. Even if you are a good-hearted person by nature, medical schools are firm on seeing proof and volunteering is a great way to meet that expectation on your application. It is a good idea to start volunteering as early as your freshman year, if possible. School can surely take up a lot of time itself but finding a nursing home to visit during free time on the weekends or taking one volunteer shift in the emergency department every week can help build up your hours of service over time. Volunteering for a long period of time is a good quality to demonstrate on your application to medical school. This shows your ability to stay committed and also your passion to serve a particular organization. At times, you may feel pressured to do things you don’t enjoy to appear as a more qualified applicant, however, it’s important to remember that med schools don’t have an ideal applicant. They encourage diversity which means that you shouldn’t do something because others are doing it. Instead, pave your own unique way by doing something you are passionate about and committing to it for a few months or even up to a few years. Your passion and long-term commitment are highly valued by admissions committees.

““One thing that I always tell students is to make the most of the opportunity they participate in by advocating for themselves,” says Lisa Kooperman, assistant dean of studies and director of the Office for Fellowships and Pre-health Advising at Vassar College. “If they find themselves in a hospital for instance, pushing papers, I tell them to befriend a nurse, a PA, a radiologist… or other health care practitioner and ask if they can get more involved. ”

Lisa Kooperman, assistant dean of studies and director of the Office for Fellowships and Pre-health Advising at Vassar College.

Finding a place to volunteer can be hard if you don’t know where to start. It’s good to remember to take advantage of the resources offered to you by your campus. This can mean setting a meeting with your advisor to have your questions answered. If they can’t answer it directly, they will likely refer you to someone who does. In addition to contacting your advisor, you can ask upperclassmen about their past/current volunteer experiences, contact local hospitals and nursing homes directly, or join service-based campus organizations. Common activities pre-meds take part in include volunteering at hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes, however, there are countless more opportunities, even those that are not medically related. You are not limited to just these options, however, it may be a good place to start for those starting to volunteer as a pre-med for the first time. As mentioned before, there might also be areas outside clinical settings that peak your interest. For example, students might become tutors or find homeless shelters and food banks to volunteer at. Ultimately, finding a volunteer opportunity is based on your interests and passions. Med schools like to see well-rounded students that are committed to helping others and there are countless ways to demonstrate your capabilities as a future physician by giving back to your community.