The American Medical College Application Service, or AMCAS, allocates 15 slots for applicants to fill in extracurricular activities. Of these 15, you will need to pick three as your most meaningful activities. Each activity is categorized based on its nature (leadership, research, etc.), with a short description of your role. Many students feel that they have to use every space, or use all 15 boxes to tell admission committees more about themselves. Don’t force yourself to use all fifteen blanks! Well, why does the AMCAS provide fifteen slots then?
Let’s take a step back for context. Medical schools like to see well-rounded applicants with experience conducting research, shadowing in a clinical setting, and volunteering. The actual number of activities is not important. It’s about the quality of your experiences, not the quantity. They want to hear about your passions and skills. They want to see continued growth. Choose activities that interest you and leave you fulfilled. Be prepared to actually talk about them and how they fit into your path to medicine. Indeed, many of these experiences will be asked about on your interviews, so you should be prepared to talk about them. If you’re just doing things just to be able to fill in all fifteen blanks, it is unlikely that you are invested enough in all or any of them to be able to speak effectively to what you gained from the experience during your medical school interviews.
But some of you may be thinking: fifteen activities seems to be the perfect number! You love volunteering at the children’s hospital as much as writing for their school’s newspaper, and you can’t put down studying mice in a lab. Your activities can all fit together into a mosaic that explains your commitment to medicine, showing how you have honed certain skills and pushed yourself out of your comfort zone. Others may have a harder time coming up with fifteen. You have had trouble getting lots of research opportunities at your small college and you have been very involved with the campus coffee shop. You have grown immensely through what you are involved in. Or maybe you’re somewhere in between. You have engaged in a significant number of extracurricular activities, but they don’t quite add up to fifteen. Guess what? In all of these scenarios, you will be totally fine.
The medical school admissions committees really just want to know what you’ve been up to outside of studying for the MCAT and all your pre-med requirements. Because at the heart of things, these committees are responsible for building a healthy community of students, and eventually colleagues as doctors – so they’re really just trying to fill the medical field with real, intelligent, and empathetic people. In other words, you should see the activities section of the AMCAS as your chance to show them what you enjoy and what you care about. In fact, you can list several positions in one organization as separate entries if you’d like to elaborate more on one of your experiences.
In conclusion, do as many or as few activities as you’d like. Just make sure that you get research, shadowing, and volunteer experiences. Pursue what you enjoy (although maybe don’t mention your passion for Netflix binge-watching as a Meaningful Activity!), and your application will fall into place.