By Larry Jackson, Assistant Director, Student Career Advising, serving students in McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science and the science fields in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
If you are interested in attending medical school, it is important to try to build career related experience during your time at Northwestern. There are several opportunities that exist where students can gain exposure to the field of medicine and healthcare.
- Volunteer roles at health service organizations. Volunteering is the most hands-on way to gain experience interacting with patients. Many volunteer roles exist in local hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. Medical school admissions committees enjoy seeing volunteer roles in these settings as it shows you have a commitment to patient care and that you are less likely to be unsettled by the sight of bodily fluids and other physical ailments. Also, medical schools value applicants that have volunteered in settings with diverse patient populations as it demonstrates the ability to interact with people from different cultural backgrounds and build relationships. Your NCA career adviser can assist you with identifying patient care settings and opportunities.
- Participation in pre-med focused student groups. These groups allow you to get more exposure to the healthcare field to determine if you want to pursue a career in medicine. Wildcat Connection is an excellent resource to learn about these pre-professional groups.
- Shadowing opportunities. Medicine has different practices and it can be useful to shadow physicians in practice areas that interest you. The Northwestern Externship Program (NEXT) and the Northwestern Mentorship Program can be useful resources in exploring shadowing opportunities during the academic year and vacation breaks.
- Academic research roles. Research work, whether independent or with a faculty member, is a common professional development activity for pre-med students. It offers the chance to strengthen one’s communication, analytical and project management skills while contributing to significant work that can make a lasting impact upon society. Students can explore research opportunities by talking with faculty in their areas of study, or contacting the Office of Undergraduate Research for assistance.
- Health-related fellowships and corps programs. There are several corps programs and fellowships available where students can get exposure to the healthcare field during and after their undergraduate career. The Office of Fellowships can be a great resource in helping to identify opportunities.
Overall, exposure to clinical and research environments is just as important in the med school application process as your GPA and MCAT scores. Try to participate in as many of these activities as possible as it can help build your professional skills, knowledge and experience prior to becoming a healthcare practitioner.