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Use Of Extracurricular Activities?

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Hi, I'm wondering how much extracurricular activities (or the lack of) affect your chances at matching to competitive specialties/schools? By extracurricular activities, I mean class council, interest group positions, health advocacy groups and such. How much do they matter in comparison to research/publications? 

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Bump - would you say extracurricular involvement is now more important as compared to those who matched in previous years? Just wondering how much extracurricular involvement matters, assuming canmeds roles are still evaluated at the residency application stage (i.e. leadership, advocacy)

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The value will be in the eyes of the beholder - but in general, it is about what you accomplished in the role. Established an initiative making a valuable contribution to the community, which will continue after your graduation? That would be memorable and impressive (and not very common). Spent several hours participating in a club or volunteer effort that most people in the class do? It is nice to be an active citizen in your class, but that's not going to matter as much for residency applications.

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I agree they likely matter very little to not at all.  That being said, when I was in med school I remember feeling the urge to do some ECs just so I had something to put down, even though I didn't really want to. I would say youre almost for sure better off spending that time doing research, reading, or doing nothing.  The issue is you cant be 100% sure.

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1 hour ago, goleafsgochris said:

 That being said, when I was in med school I remember feeling the urge to do some ECs just so I had something to put down, even though I didn't really want to. 

Everyone has ECs prior to getting into medical school, and can continue to list them on their CV. It seemed that ECs at my school were more of a social vehicle, and those who didn't participate as much were labelled as "doing nothing but study" - not that such comments should, or do, matter after leaving the preclerkship milieu.

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Take this with a grain of salt, it's my opinion based on what I've read on the internet: Overall, ECs don't have a huge impact on getting into residency... Why? Because most people do (useless) club activities such as joining an interest group and maybe organizing a wine and cheese once a year, or worse, being part of the student association and sending out class announcements every week. If your ECs are impressive, such as being a high-level athlete, starting a business/non-profit, developing a medical device, etc., it could easily make you stand out from a bunch of "average" applicants with 1 pub, and give you an interesting talking point during the interviews that can allow you to tie your hobbies with your interest in the specialty. It gives you an identity that they can remember you by.

 

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9 minutes ago, MD_2021 said:

Take this with a grain of salt, it's my opinion based on what I've read on the internet: Overall, ECs don't have a huge impact on getting into residency... Why? Because most people do (useless) club activities such as joining an interest group and maybe organizing a wine and cheese once a year, or worse, being part of the student association and sending out class announcements every week. If your ECs are impressive, such as being a high-level athlete, starting a business/non-profit, developing a medical device, etc., it could easily make you stand out from a bunch of "average" applicants with 1 pub, and give you an interesting talking point during the interviews that can allow you to tie your hobbies with your interest in the specialty. It gives you an identity that they can remember you by.

 

I think that having impressive ECs or non-traditional ECs on C.V definitely distinguishes from the rest of crowd...If you happen to be the class president, or CFMS president, it is still very impressive in terms of student politics involvement than being the president of radiology interest group for ex. 

Being a semi-professional athlete, or starting a non-profit organization or developing a health care initiative in marginalized population would definitely make you stand out, definitely something to talk about during the interviews.

If you happen to have published as first-author in good journals, it would definitely weight more than being the president of interests groups or representative for clerkship rotation. 

As we don't have objective measures for residency selection, anything that makes you stand out in terms of E.C, research would boost you up when the PD has > 100 files to browse through on a busy Monday night just my two cents :) 

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I think programs definitely like the bigger things on ECs, they like to get a sense of who you are. If you have done a lot of research in medical school, they will ask you about it and that is where you can shine. They know no one is going to be truly interested in everything, so they definitely would rather have someone who has a demonstrable passion for research or for education or advocacy etc. rather than a lot of "fluff". However, having something is definitely still better than nothing. Residency programs do also like to see that you keep busy. 

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I was told that ECs carry limited weight. I think it's definitely speciality specific. That said I did some work in areas that were of interest to me as well as some advocacy type roles and the strength was being able to speak about these in interviews. I don't think they necessarily mattered on paper but they allowed me to talk more about non medical experiences in interviews that I think were helpful. 

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Class president...the popularity contest where you elect someone in the first two weeks of school when you dont even really know everyone yet.

Most of the roles are chores, and the most qualified people dont end up wanting to waste their time with them.

 

You can be involved outside of medical school too. 

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Certain ECs do carry weight, for example class president, whether deserved or not, does carry some weight. Residencies want to employ someone who is well liked, because that means they will be easy to work with. Being class president for example, does show a reviewer that you are well liked enough to win a popularity contest, which, lets face it, is a good thing to have in a future co-worker. Additionally, being class president isn't an easy job either, it does take leadership and managerial skills as well as require some time dedication. Whereas, being co-chair of an IG, unless you can show you did a lot for your IG, doesn't mean as much because a lot of IGs don't do all that much.

I think residencies really do just want someone nice, friendly, hardworking and easy to get along with, someone who won't cause any headaches for faculty basically. After they satisfy that requirement, they start looking for things like a talent i.e. research, teaching, advocacy etc. 

The best way to do CaRMS is to really put yourself in a faculty members shoes and think about what you would look for. Truthfully, you can probably spin a lot of ECs into something that is residency relevant and at the same time you can spin them in the wrong way so they don't make you look so great, so a lot of it is also about how you sell what you have. 

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1 hour ago, MD_2021 said:

What's your program?

Smaller surgical specialty. Most desirable program in the country for our specialty. Consistently got our top picks.

I say that in the past tense because I'm not there anymore.  

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4 hours ago, NLengr said:

Smaller surgical specialty. Most desirable program in the country for our specialty. Consistently got our top picks.

I say that in the past tense because I'm not there anymore.  

Out of curiosity, can I ask what you did focus on when choosing candidates? Would publications or reference letters be more important? 

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22 hours ago, FlameGrilledChicken said:

Out of curiosity, can I ask what you did focus on when choosing candidates? Would publications or reference letters be more important? 

Elective performance. That was 99% of our matching algorithm.  

Key features:

1. Work ethic

2. Fit/likeability. 

3. Knowledge base re: specialty

 

Everything else counted for very very very little. 

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2 hours ago, NLengr said:

Elective performance. That was 99% of our matching algorithm.  

Key features:

1. Work ethic

2. Fit/likeability. 

3. Knowledge base re: specialty

 

Everything else counted for very very very little. 

How do people stand out during electives? I feel like everyone performs about the same....

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2 minutes ago, MD_2021 said:

How do people stand out during electives? I feel like everyone performs about the same....

A lot of it is luck. If you manage to "click" with the people around you. Some are naturally very good at that - social butterflies. 

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4 hours ago, NLengr said:

Elective performance. That was 99% of our matching algorithm.  

Key features:

1. Work ethic

2. Fit/likeability. 

3. Knowledge base re: specialty

 

Everything else counted for very very very little. 

I agree with this 100%.  And IMO there was a pretty big difference in how people performed.  Especially with respect to knowledge base.  

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From personal experience, I echo this: Work ethic goes a long way. 

I had the misfortune of doing my first away elective before all core rotations, and it was in my preferred specialty—and yet, I was able to obtain a reference letter from that elective. 

I would go home and read nightly, liaise with the teams and allied health staff I worked with while at work, and just worked hard while I was there. 

And while ECs probably really don’t count for much,  especially those dime a dozen ones, don’t stray from including longstanding interests and hobbies—these came up more than once in my interviews!

(for the record, I applied to non surgical fields...YMMV).

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