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Extracurricular Preparation

While academic metrics such as grade point average (GPA) and entrance exam scores help professional schools to evaluate your potential as a future student, experiences that occur beyond the classroom are equally integral to the admissions process. These experiences assist you in developing your knowledge of the profession, commitment to serve others, and scientific curiosity, as well as competencies specifically related to your potential as a future healthcare provider. 

Healthcare Experience

As a student pursuing a career in healthcare, it is important to have healthcare experience. You want to have opportunities to understand the nature of a provider-patient relationship and see how you act around those who will depend on you for their well-being. Health professions schools will look for demonstrated exploration of healthcare through involvement in observation, as well as patient interaction opportunities. Reasons for this include:

      1. Most students indicated they want to “help people.” They are convinced they love working with people and want a career where they make a difference in people’s lives that is meaningful and of value. Working with people who are ill, stressed or in crisis is very different from working with those who are healthy and feeling well. Students may determine they truly like working with people. Some will find they enjoy working with those who are ill; others will find they don’t.
      2. It is imperative to understand and respect the need for teamwork within healthcare. Students need to experience this type of teamwork and recognize working as a team is expected and necessary.
      3. Healthcare professionals assume a great deal of responsibility for others. Volunteering provides a glimpse of this to students but offers enough to help students identify and begin to appreciate this aspect of the profession they wish to pursue.
      4. The healthcare professions are constantly changing. Volunteering in a clinical setting allows exposure to these changes and provides a realistic understanding of the field.

Student experiences range from shadowing and volunteering to hands on patient care after completing a certification in their area of interest. This is a great way to become more familiar with the challenges and expectations of the profession. You will need to find professionals to shadow yourself. Start by asking your own doctor, family friends, or ask for recommendations from other pre-health students. Shadowing experiences can last anywhere from a day to a semester or more. Typically once you find a professional to shadow, this person is then able to recommend others in the field.

Campus and Community Engagement

Demonstrate campus and community engagement through involvement and leadership in extracurricular activities such as community service, student organizations, and research. Students should engage in activities that develop skills such as time management, conflict resolution, initiative, accountability, and perseverance.

Community Service: Healthcare is community service. You should express your personal interests and passions through the community service activities you choose. Experiences for community service may be done at schools, homeless shelters, non-profit organizations, or a variety of other settings. They provide experience beyond superficial aspects and demonstrate your personal interests and commitment to work within the community. Activities are usually more meaningful if you continue them for a year or more.

Student Organizations: Explore your interests and strengths through on and off campus activities and experiences. We encourage getting involved to increase your leadership skills and demonstrate initiative. You can gain leadership experience in a variety of ways including employment, being a camp counselor or TA, or participating in student organizations. Participation is not limited to healthcare related organizations; any organization that interests you is fine.

Research: Students often ask, “Do I have to do research to get into medical, dental, veterinary, etc school?” Research is not an admissions requirement, although it demonstrates intellectual curiosity, critical thinking skills, and team work. Engagement in research can lead to presentations or publications, which demonstration communication skills.  Even if you do not intend to pursue research in your career, many health professionals are life-long consumers of research. Therefore, developing an appreciation for it will be useful in the future. Research does not have to be science based but can be within your non-science major interests. You should pursue research with consistency and commitment, not just as a way to “look good.” Consider Creative Inquiry as one way to explore research opportunities at Clemson.

Experiences Abroad: The opportunity to study and/or volunteer abroad can add tremendous value within the admissions process for health professional schools when proactively and carefully planned. Some schools will not accept prerequisites completed at non-US institutions. Be sure to investigate how your particular schools of interest evaluate coursework taken abroad prior to planning prerequisite coursework during your experience. Our general advice is to plan your prerequisite coursework outside of your abroad experience. In order to get the most out of your abroad experience, you need to study for your entrance exam here, completing it prior to or well after returning from your experience. Consider how this impacts your abroad timeline, especially if you are considering a spring or summer opportunity in your third year. Be sure to consult with Clemson Abroad as you plan your experience.