The Work and Activities section of the AMCAS application lets you include up to fifteen experiences that are important to you. Within these fifteen, AAMC asks you to choose three experiences that you consider “most meaningful.”
First, let’s start with examples of the thirteen “less meaningful” experiences.
Choosing and Describing Your Experiences
I strongly advise you to include up to 10 to 12 experiences; you can do more if you have them, but be careful about including random items just to fill up room. Once you have your experiences, you need to classify them in one of the following categories:
- Paid employment (not military)
- Paid employment (military)
- Community service / volunteer (not medical / clinical)
- Community service / volunteer (medical / clinical)
- Research / lab
- Teaching / tutoring
- Honors / awards / recognitions
- Conferences attended
- Presentations / posters
- Extracurricular / hobbies / avocations
- Leadership (not listed elsewhere)
- Intercollegiate athletics
- Artistic endeavors
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Now, for the most important part… describing your experiences! For the entries you don’t consider your “most meaningful,” you only have 700 characters to explain yourself.
An example of a bad description
Experience: Debate Team
Description: Member, won second place at a convention
What’s wrong with this? It doesn’t explain responsibilities or accomplishments. Each of your descriptions should focus on the results of your experience.
An example of a description done well
Experience: Debate Team
Description: Participated in rigorous weekly debates regarding current political issues.
Met with students from all over the United States at seasonal conventions; Won 2nd Place at the Spring 2014 Conference, which had a turnout of over 700 students from the top schools in the nation.
Notice that the last sentence makes the activity look impressive since it gives context to the achievement. It gives a “result” to your experience of being on the debate team.
Your Three Most Meaningful Experiences
Out of your 15 activities, you should check off three “most meaningful” experiences that you feel had the greatest impact on you personally and explain them in 1,325 characters each — an extra 625 characters. This is your opportunity to show off your strengths. Your most meaningful experiences should be:
- A unique or unusual story that others have not experienced
- An experience that had a profound impact on who you are
- It should include a lesson that you learned
Although you are required only to check off one experience as your most memorable, go ahead and take advantage of the opportunity and pick the maximum of three.
Your most meaningful experience summary should show rather than tell. Keep this in mind and try to structure your descriptions in the following way:
- Begin by explaining the activity and what you did
- Why you did the activity
- What you learned from the experience
Example: A “Most Meaningful” Experience Description
I mentored a thirteen-year-old boy from an under served area of Orange County. Each week, the boy came to UCI to do themed activities created by the leadership team. My responsibility was to encourage him to do well in school, show him the importance of higher education, and give all-around support. Then, after a challenging interview process, I appointed to lead the middle school program on the leadership committee for the next school year.
The Mentorship Program pairs 110 K-12 students from the Orange County area with UCI students. The program promotes education with activities addressing culture, science, and health. I spend 10-15 hours each week as the program coordinator, and my primary role was to create and launch activities for 50 middle school mentees and 50 student mentors. I had to create an engaging learning environment that ensured that the mentees were participating and the mentors were being good role models.
I also recruited and interviewed prospective mentors; raised funds through bake sales, planned off-campus events for mentors and mentees; planned a retreat for the mentors; and attended meetings. This was a meaningful experience because I got to see all of the high school seniors receive scholarship money for college. It proved that what I did helped these disadvantaged students believe in the power of education.
This structure covers all the bases and should be done concisely — roughly three paragraphs. Along with being concise, keep your summary honest. The application committee can likely tell if you’re not telling the truth and you might be asked to explain these experiences in-person during an interview.
Do You Have the Kind of Experiences That Count?
Before you can write standout experience descriptions in your AMCAS application you’ll first need to earn the experiences. What kind of experiences do medical schools want you to have, and how do you find those?
My online self-assessment for premeds demonstrates how to evaluate and improve the quality of your experiences, so as your next step I recommend that you take the self-assessment.