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ljbaron

Why Bother With Extracurriculars?

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Just curious,

 

I was looking at U of M application breakdown, 40% mcat, 45% interview, 15% GPA. 

 

As you can see, the don't look at your extra curriculars at all. Just wondering if it's worth it to bother doing extensive extra curriculars if they don't even take them into consideration. 

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While it's true that some schools don't formally take your ECs into consideration during the admissions process, I think you'd be limiting your options if you chose not to do them. Some schools do evaluate ECs, so you wouldn't be as competitive if you chose to apply to those schools. Also, I think ECs provide an awesome opportunity to gain skills, experience, and exposure to different populations, all of which you can't gain to the same extent by just doing school. Those experiences and skills are tremendously helpful for interviews, where drawing from them is helpful in answering the questions. I hope that helps!

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If you live in-province and only plan to apply to U of M you could risk that approach.

 

ECs (and what you learn from doing them)  can still come into play multiple ways.

 

  - You need to provide reference letters that may be from EC related activity. 

  - You may want to draw on ECs in the MMI scenerios.  

  - If you are applying using biographical sketch for indigenous or rural,  ECs would be weaved in

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My reply is related to med school applications generally, not for any specific school to which this may not apply.

 

Medical schools are not interested in a brain in a box. Without CanMEDS competencies, without communication skills, leadership, advocacy et al., you are essentially a brain in a box, and they are not interested in such persons. The reasons schools are looking for those who take a full course load and are involved in active citizenship are they are seeking those students who demonstrate academic excellence with a rigorous course load AND are active within their community contributing to it. I know such students who were refused acceptance because despite having all this, their communication skills were below par, they were unable to think quickly on their feet in solving problems. 

 

I got into medical school on my first attempt with only the MMI. I did no preparation because I went in with the attitude that I had prepared for the MMI my entire lifetime. My life experiences had prepared me in my view and I went in to have fun. Now, let's examine some of my ECs and volunteering. I was involved in emergency medical response for years, starting out as a trainee and ultimately, training others. I dealt with injuries due to vehicle traffic accidents  attempted suicides, heart attacks, strokes, carbon monoxide poisoning, diabetic shock, etc. and had to maintain calmness, be professional, act swiftly and with developed expertise, was responsible for training others. In the performing arts for years, I went form ugly duckling to swan, I developed poise, coordination, patience, collaboration skills, expertise, learned to be calm in stressful situation, performed competitively too, I performed in public for years, including for the elderly, I taught others in my group. I was involved in sales for years where the first thing I had to do was to attain the trust of a total stranger so the person would listen to me and be interested in buying the product after I made a meaningful sales pitch describing the benefits. I was the top salesperson for years and trained others. This is all to say that when I went into a MMI, it was like a fun game, I was clam, friendly, communicative, quick thinking, an ethical problem solver. It was a fun experience for which my life experiences had prepared me my entire life. I was not tongue tied, nervous, at a loss for words, I did not suffer from performance anxiety, it was easier than my many life experiences.

 

I discovered that the busier I was, the more efficient I became. When in rehearsing, during breaks, I would take my laptop and do an assignment. I used my time to advantage always. I learned to be a multi-tasker. All this was excellent for medicine.

 

In undergrad, I became a self learner. So, I skipped many lectures when I knew I could learn more efficiently on my own. I was a straight A student, so my method worked for me. And in med school, I did not attend any of the lectures, rather I scanned the lecture notes that were provided which I could do quicker than attending the lectures and I used the time to study on my own. All to say, that I had an open approach to life which I think I learned from my ECs - which positively impacted upon my studies and my approach to studying.

 

So, you ask why ECs. Simply, to prepare you for life, to expose you to all sorts of experiences with transferable skills, to develop communication skills, to learn active listening, to be sensitive to body language. I am a relatively small female. I learned to ride a horse and went into jumping. It is not an easy task to control an animal many times your size and weight. They sense fear, if you have any. You learn to control the animal, to read body language, you develop confidence in yourself. Now, I am a surgical resident. I am constantly learning, especially in the O.R. when I do new procedures. I love challenges and look forward to new procedures! When on breaks, I go on adventure mini vacations where I experience new challenging sports for the first time, be it scuba diving with the sharks or skiing down what others might consider dangerous hills. Be it professionally or personally, I am active, fearless, enjoy life and enjoy pushing myself. I have never been the brightest light bulb in the class nor have I ever sought to be. I am comfortable in my own skin and love new experiences that push the envelope. Overall, I am reasonably intelligent but far from brilliant, I am a hard worker, enthusiastic, friendly, collaborative, easy to get along with, a good communicator and it is these skills that got me acceptance into my surgical residency. I am far from being a brain in a box. I am engaged in life as an active participant - which is what they are looking for. 

 

Had I no ECs/volunteering, I would have been shy, reclusive, a poor communicator and this would have worked against me during my interviews. Having been forced to problem solve on my feet for many years, the MMI was just another fun experience, not really a test for me. I hope I have given you some insight. Good luck! :P  

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Bambi really gives an excellent narrative of how ECs can be beneficial to individual applicants. I know if I were on an adcom, I'd be drawn in to the medical and intra&inter-personally related examples that she uses based on her extensive non-academic accomplishments.

 

Some people may be more naturally extroverted or have led balanced lives their whole life. These characteristics will help in interviews as they are seen as attractive in med school candidates. Even though McMaster doesn't directly consider ECs, for example, to do well on CASPER, one has to be an excellent communicator and have good decision making skills. So ECs can indirectly play a role - since if used properly, they can strengthen self-reflection, empathy, and communication in general. They can also help improve decision making processes which are also evaluated in MMIs and help articulate the reasons for considering medicine.

 

In the OP's situation, maybe try to focus on activities that truly interest you as a person, and that can help you grow as an individual. Regardless of med school, these activities if chosen properly can broaden your horizons, and likely help in your med school aspirations.

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I definitely agree with above commenters that ECs can help balance out your studies, and give you more things to talk about in an interview.

 

However, if you're only looking into schools that don't require an ABS (or similar) then you're probably better off just focusing on your GPA. Totally anecdotal, but I also know 3 people who got interviews to Toronto & Calgary this year with dismal ECs. 

 

Anyway, my personal opinion is that if there are ECs that you are truly passionate about doing, then definitely do them! I wouldn't have survived my undergrad without the experiences I got from the clubs community & volunteering. But if you're happier putting all your time into studying and can pull a kickass GPA & MCAT scores, then I really don't think resume padding is going to make a difference.

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If Manitoba is your only goal, then ECs are not necessary. Many people get in just fine with limited volunteer experiences. That being said, it would be nice to bring something personal into the interview. This can be an extracurricular activity or a personal experience. I don't think its actually necessary for U of M.

 

However, I was thankful I did extracurriculars cause my MCAT score was so poor, I had to bank on getting in somewhere else. So don't sell yourself short. I was really happy I did the extracurriculars I did. They seem to be quite helpful even in med school.

 

Moral of the story: Do some extracurriculars. The application process is unpredictable... You might need to apply to multiple schools to get 1 acceptance letter.

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I think you need life experience to be a good physician which you can get through ECs.

 

I skip most of my lectures like Bambi, do the work required to get straight As, but spend the majority of my time focusing on things I really enjoy like research, community service, and spending time with my family. I think a lot of personal growth can occur from meaningful ECs that you won't necessarily get from just focusing on school. 

 

Personally, I learn way more outside of the classroom than in it.

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Outside of Manitoba, there's other schools that don't look directly at ECs as well, but you don't do ECs just to fill out your med school application, you do it (at least in part) to make you more rounded and be able to relate to a larger variety of situations. If you don't have the time or money to do a ton of ECs, even getting a job would be valuable experience to develop aptitudes outside of being good at studying, and hopefully develop better interpersonal skills that will show in your interview (I'm still horribly shy, but have noticed a huge improvement from before).

 

Besides, it's important to consider that admissions criteria are subject to change from year to year; only a few years ago, even U of M also considered ECs pre-interview. 

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Just curious,

 

I was looking at U of M application breakdown, 40% mcat, 45% interview, 15% GPA. 

 

As you can see, the don't look at your extra curriculars at all. Just wondering if it's worth it to bother doing extensive extra curriculars if they don't even take them into consideration. 

 

 

During the interviews, they will be assessing your communication skills and your experiences.

 

If you don't have ECs then this may affect your interview score. Additionally, ECs really helps you see the world from a very different perspective.  Through my volunteer work, I was very privileged to make a difference in the lives of so many people in my community.  I made a lot of friendships with the people that I was serving, and each week a client comes in to my office to tell me about how much I helped them during one of their most vulnerable times.

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