Medical

Writing Your Most Meaningful Experiences

If you haven’t started already, now is the time to begin writing your AMCAS activities section and your personal statement. Your AMCAS application—or the primary application submitted to allopathic (MD) schools—serves a significant role in the path of applying to medical school. This is where admissions committees will gain an understanding of your academic abilities, extra-curricular activities and personal strengths. It cannot be stressed enough that the primary application should be taken seriously and ample time should be spent preparing it.

The AMCAS consists of several components, with one area allowing you to list out 15 of your extra-curricular activities, and provide a 700-character count description of each of them. In addition to this, you are allowed to designate three of these experiences as ‘most meaningful’ where you are allotted 1325 more characters to expand on this activity.

Although the most meaningful activity designations may not seem particularly impactful on your entire application, they are. When admission committees review thousands of applications, they may only read the activities that you designate as most meaningful. Therefore, you should take time to think through your experiences to figure out which ones impacted you most significantly.

Start by making a list out your experiences. Many applicants will have more than 15 activities that they want to include on their application, but it is important to figure out which ones should be included. Make a list of the activities that you have participated in since high school. If you can, combine similar activities—for example, make one entry for hobbies, one for awards, etc. If you don’t have 15 experiences, make sure you include enough extra-curricular activities on your application to show that you are a well-rounded applicant.

Next, really think about which activities stick out to you. Which one really shaped your desire to become a physician? Or where did you learn most about yourself or others? Was there an experience that allowed you to hone your skills? Activities that embody some or all of these aspects will most likely make for a strong most meaningful experience. Remember, if this is all the admissions committees read of your activities section, you want to make sure the experience demonstrates your strengths and best attributes as an applicant.

Finally, write out the description of the experience. The description should focus on the technical aspects of what you really did. For example, your job description, your tasks and accomplishments. The extra space that you have for the most meaningful experience should focus on what that experience did for you. What skills did you gain and why was it so valuable. Discuss what strengths you may have gained, how you may have shown improvement in an area, or how the experience set you on a particular path.

If you are at a loss when writing out your experiences, ask others that know you well for help. They may be able to tell you what seems to have impacted you the most or experiences that you have really put effort into. And if you need a little inspiration, check out this example below on how others have put it all together in the past.

Experience Description (700 characters allowed):

As a research coordinator, I helped the principal investigator to lead a clinical trial focusing on identifying the benefit of treating patients suffering from multiple sclerosis with Vitamin B. My duties included screening and recruiting potential study participants, administering the informed consent, following the patients throughout the study, and documenting results. I also directly worked with the principal investigator and communicated critical information with collaborating physicians and healthcare staff. I was the primary contact for the study participants when they had any clinical concerns, scheduling conflicts, or questions related to the trial.

Most Meaningful Experience (1325 characters allowed):

Working as a research coordinator has been a significant experience for me as I not only learned important research principles, but also worked closely with many patients. In contrast to my previous bench research, the clinical trial required meticulous reporting and record keeping to meet FDA-requirements and ensure patient safety. As I strove to make the process of patient enrollment and follow-up streamlined, I greatly improved my skills to stay organized and effectively prioritize responsibilities.

In addition, as I constantly communicated with the study participants, I formed genuine relationships with them. I ensured that they always felt comfortable during their visits and addressed any concerns about the trial or treatment. Following their exam with the principal investigator, the patients and I often spent over an hour together as I answered questions and discussed various options. I made every effort to find answers to their questions or offer solutions to common problems such as coordinating transportation to office visits, offsetting insurance fees, and providing community support resources. I am confident that these experiences will serve as a strong foundation to further develop my ability to establish positive relationships with patients as a medical student and future physician.

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Renee Marinelli, MD, is a primary care physician and serves as the Director of Advising with MedSchoolCoach. Renee has extensive experience mentoring ...