Hi! I love your blog and am so glad I found it! I found loads of helpful information! I’m a freshman studying pre-med and bio sciences. I read in one of your posts where you were advising us not to burn ourselves out before med school, but I think I can handle all that :P So I wanted to ask you what are some good volunteering jobs, etc… to do before med school? I know I can volunteer in a hospital which I’m currently doing now but what else?
It doesn’t matter where you volunteer. This is a concept that people seem to struggle with, but it is true. What matters is commitment. Rather than volunteer at one place for a week and then another three weeks later, find a place you enjoy where you can put in lots of hours.
When trying to decide where to volunteer here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Do something you enjoy - if you don’t enjoy elderly people then don’t volunteer at a nursing home. Volunteer work is just that, voluntary. So why would you spend free time doing something you don’t enjoy? Don’t do something just to check it off your pre-med list. Do something that you like.
2. Show commitment - find a project you can do for months, and maybe even years. I volunteered at a mental health facility for an extensive period of time. This gives you the ability to really speak about your work and also lets your interviewer know you cared about it.
3. Find ways to demonstrate leadership - this is something you should always do as a pre-med, but people tend to forget that you can often do this while volunteering. Take some initiative, offer up a way to improve the place you are volunteering. While volunteering at a science center I offered to make a binder full of information for new volunteers, something that hadn’t been done. This gives you an opportunity to practice these skills but also sets you apart from other volunteers. This leads me to my next tip.
4. Treat volunteering like a job - that means professional behavior, attire and attitude. I often had supervisors make comments like, “you don’t have to do all of that, we know you are just volunteering.” But I wanted to do it because I was at a place I enjoyed. It also made me stand out and I got a phenomenal letter of recommendation from them. Regardless of whether you want a letter out of it, you should be on your best behavior. You never know the connections people have and you don’t want to lose opportunities down the road because of your performance.
5. Finally, have fun - don’t forget to have a little fun. All work and no play makes for a dull pre-med. Volunteer positions can be a great way to socialize and blow off some steam from your onslaught of tests. One time I brought all the women I worked with at the free clinic macaroni pictures for Valentine’s Day. They loved it. Find small ways to have fun.
The ultimate goal of a volunteer position is to gain experiences that you enjoy and can later share with an interviewer. If you don’t do something you like then you won’t speak well about it. But if you are excited about your work the passion will show through when you speak and write about it.
Thanks for your kind words about the blog. All the best,