January 25, 2020
Medical School Applications
Non-academic activity entries on medical school applications generally require activity name, start/end dates, hours per week and description. Many medical schools also have boxes to include Additional Clarifications for each activity, and/or an Additional Information box to explain irregularities in your schooling. This blog will discuss what information is appropriate and not appropriate to include in these boxes.
Let’s start with some application examples where clarifying information should be added in order to not mislead admissions reviewers.
Example 1: Jeremy
Start date: July 2, 2008
End date: Aug 31, 2010
Hours per week: 40
According to the information provided, one would reasonably interpret Jeremy worked 40 hours per week for 2 years and 2 months. This is incorrect! Had admissions called his verifier they would be surprised to learned Jeremy only worked full-time during those 3 and did not work during the school year. He could have prevented this possible red flag by clearly specifying: “I worked full-time seasonally during July-Sept 2008, July-Sept 2009, and May-Aug 2010.” Providing this additional clarification allows admissions to properly score this application item knowing Jeremy worked 40 hours per week for 10 months during that time period.
Example 2: Lisa
Position: Peer Tutor
Start date: Oct 1, 2010
End date: Oct 1, 2012
Hours per week: 2
As a reviewer I would wonder if Lisa had actually tutored 2 hours every week consistently from the start date to end date. Perhaps she averaged her total hours over the number of weeks but that would be an assumption on my part. Lisa could have helped me properly score her application by including the additional clarification: “Weekly hours varied depending on the part of the school year. Overall, I have accumulated 150 hours of peer tutoring experience.” Similar cases requiring clarification of total hours could be weekly or annual events.
Example 3: Joey
Position: Patient Support Volunteer
Description: Working in the renal dialysis unit of the hospital, my volunteer role was to visit patients and provide social support to brighten their days. I also provided supplies and snacks and assisted in signing in patients.
Additional Clarifications: In addition to courses in anatomy and physiology, my discussions with patients and healthcare staff in the renal dialysis unit further inspired and motivated me to learn more about renal diseases and their management.
In this example, Joey inappropriately used the Additional Clarifications box as if it were extra space for the activity description or his autobiographical essay. This information would be entirely ignored and shows Joey cannot follow instructions.
Additional Clarifications boxes are only for objectively stating additional information to prevent the reviewer from having unanswered questions or having to contact verifiers to confirm work history.
Your application may also have an optional section to explain anything unusual about your application. If applicable, schools will want to know why your education has not been continuous, why you took one or more part-time semesters, or why you are not currently attending university (if you have not graduated). This section is a great place to explain gap years, connect significant non-academic commitments to part-time semesters, or identify which semesters were co-op terms, for example. Make it easy for the reviewer to connect the items on your application to times you were not a full-time student, or semesters where your marks were lower due to other commitments.
Most medical school applications include an optional extenuating circumstances section in which you may explain serious, unforeseeable and unpreventable situations that have significantly impacted your performance. Click here to read what constitutes an extenuating circumstance.
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