How many leadership roles do you need for medical school applications?
For many pre-meds, the answer is “as many as possible.” I was no different. By junior year, I had two large leadership roles and a laundry list of smaller positions in different organizations. Truthfully, I only cared about two of them. The other roles were in organizations I should’ve quit, but didn’t because I thought four-year commitments and leadership roles would look good to med schools.
When med school applications finally came, I was in for a nasty surprise. While AMCAS did have a section to list all my extracurriculars, that section was nowhere near as important as my essays and interviews. Because I didn’t care for many of my extracurriculars, I didn’t have anything to say about them. Moreover, there wasn’t space or time to discuss many of them. In my essays and interviews, I talked about just three extracurriculars. The rest were wasted. So in this post, I’ll share my key takeaway about leadership roles.
Quality over Quantity Matters
When it comes to leadership roles for medical school, I recommend prioritizing quality over quantity.
It may sound like common sense, but I’ve seen too many over-committed pre-medical students (I’m sure you can name a few). Instead of filling your resume with meaningless titles, spend more time with the activities you care about, so you’ll have something interesting to share in your essays or talk about on interview day.
For example, I was the president of a cultural club. At one point, I was working with the board to execute a new event I proposed. After I delegated tasks, one officer came to me and expressed frustration with the work I had given her, threatening to quit. I talked to her and got to the root of the problem: she was stressed about her upcoming MCAT – and we worked together to create a timeline that fit both her needs and the event’s deadline. This experience fit many essay prompts and interview questions, including ones that asked about:
- A group project/activity I was proud of
- A leadership experience I had
- My greatest strength
- A challenge I faced
- How my experiences have prepared me to be a physician
This scenario was only possible because I put a lot of time into this club: brainstorming and planning new events, building relationships with officers, and improving my leadership skills. I was happy to put in this time because I genuinely cared about the club and enjoyed it. With other extracurriculars, I didn’t care about as much; I simply did what I needed to and nothing more. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I had no big learning lessons or experiences to share about them. They were invisible on my application; I was better off not doing them.
To answer the original question, there is no set amount of leadership roles you need to fulfill. Do at least one, but stick to the ones you really care about. When it comes to leadership roles, less can be more.