Amidst the stress of preparing for the UCAT and studying for your other exams, it may be tempting to not spend time on extra-curricular activities, so that you can focus on getting the marks you need to get into medicine. After all, they won’t contribute directly to your score, right?
However, participating in extra-curricular activities, whether it be joining your local cricket team, volunteering for a soup kitchen or being captain of the chess club or delivering pizzas, will help you not only be a better person, but be a better candidate for medical entry. Don’t believe me? Here are three reasons to not forget about extra-curriculars:
1. Personal development and enjoyment
There are no set rules about which extra-curricular activities are best to join if you want to get into medicine, so you should pick activities you enjoy and find rewarding. Like any other profession, medical students and doctors have a wide array of interests. Choosing extracurriculars that you actually like will give you time away from study to simply have fun, relax and gain new skills and experiences.
Different extracurriculars have their own advantages and it is worth considering what you might get out of joining a certain club or activity. For example, you may want to join an activity that improves your fitness, enhances teamwork skills or helps disadvantaged people. What is most important though is that you enjoy doing it!
2. Time management
Due to the demands of a career in medicine, doctors often struggle with maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Although trying to get into medicine is a stressful and busy time, being involved in extra-curriculars will build your time management skills and serve you well for the future. Learning to juggle multiple commitments and prioritise well is an important life skill, and there is no reason why you can’t start now. Trust me, university life isn’t necessarily any less busy:
That being said, it is important to be aware of your limits. If you’re more than a year out from finishing high school, get involved in as many activities as you can while you still have the time. As you approach your final year, the time you have available to spend on extra-curricular activities will decrease and you may even find that you need to temporarily drop some activities that you really enjoy.
3. Stand out from other candidates
The interview is an important, but often underestimated, obstacle for getting into medicine. The skills and experiences you gain from extracurricular activities can help you stand out from other applicants.
Who do you think would impress an interviewer more – the student who spent all of high school studying, or the student who talked enthusiastically about leading their soccer team or organising a charity bake sale? Many common interview questions (e.g. “Tell us about a time you demonstrated teamwork”) can be difficult to answer if you don’t have any relevant experiences to draw from.
Therefore, don’t discount extracurricular activities as irrelevant to medical entry. Participating in extracurricular activities gives you a richer life experience, which not only makes you a better person, but a better candidate for medical school!