How Many Volunteer Hours Do Premed Students Need?

When applying to med school, everyone wants to maximize their chances of getting in. Med school admissions are highly competitive. 

Volunteer experience is one of those categories that med schools pay a lot of attention to. After all, it demonstrates the desire to help others, a commitment to medicine, and the overall good nature of an individual. 

But how many hours of volunteering do you need? The answer is not so simple because there isn’t a strict rule. In this article, we will dissect the way med schools view volunteer hours so that you can make an informed decision on how much you should volunteer before applying. 

Why Volunteer Experience Is Important For Medical School Applicants

As a future doctor, it’s no secret that volunteering is a crucial aspect of the medical school application process. Here are the 4 most important reasons why:

  1. Volunteering demonstrates a commitment to serving others and a true passion for the field of medicine. Medical schools want to admit students who not only excel academically but also have a strong desire to make a positive impact in their community. By gaining hands-on experience through volunteering, applicants show that they’ve taken the initiative to pursue their passion and understand the realities of the medical field.
  2. It’s an opportunity to gain valuable skills and experiences. Volunteering in a hospital or clinic, for example, can give applicants a better understanding of how healthcare systems function and provide the chance to observe and interact with patients and healthcare professionals. These experiences can also help applicants develop important soft skills such as communication, empathy, and problem-solving – all crucial skills for a successful medical career.
  3. Volunteering can provide this insight and help applicants decide if a career in medicine is truly the right fit for them. With the demanding path to becoming a practicing physician, applicants must have a sense of what it’s like to work in the medical field. 
  4. Having volunteer experience can set you apart from other applicants and showcase your unique characteristics and experiences. The med school application process is incredibly competitive. Volunteering is another way to stand out in the pool of similarly qualified applicants.

Volunteering is a win-win for med school applicants. It demonstrates a commitment to service, provides valuable skills and experiences, helps applicants decide if a career in medicine is the right path for them, and can set applicants apart in a competitive applicant pool. 

Don’t underestimate the power of volunteering on your med school journey!

How Many Volunteer Hours Do Medical Schools Require Or Recommend?

Most med schools do not have a technical volunteer requirement for applying. However, virtually every med school strongly recommends that you have volunteer experience of some sort. 

To make sure you’re competitive for the med schools you are interested in, it’s important to check with each school to find out their specific volunteer hour requirements or recommendations.

Even if a school doesn’t have a strict volunteer hour rule, having volunteer experience can still help you stand out. 

It shows that you are dedicated to serving others which is a good quality for a doctor. Also, many medical schools like it when applicants have a variety of experiences, so volunteering can be a good way to show this.

To make a volunteer experience worthwhile, you should devote at least 50 hours to it. But it’s important to note that this isn’t a box to check off. Your volunteer gig should be something you enjoyed and gained valuable experience from. 

Ultimately med schools want to see that your volunteer experience helped shape the kind of doctor you will become. They are looking for well-rounded and diverse individuals, not students who are putting in the hours without a second thought. 

Great Volunteer Activities Examples For Premeds

Looking for inspiration for your next pre-med volunteer activity? Here are some examples::

  • Healthcare-related volunteering: This could include working as a volunteer at a hospital or clinic, assisting with patient care, or participating in a healthcare-related research project. This type of volunteer gives premeds exposure to the healthcare field.
  • Community service: This could include volunteering with organizations that serve disadvantaged populations, such as homeless shelters, community clinics, or food banks. 
  • Tutoring: Premeds can volunteer as a tutor to help students succeed in school, improve their self-esteem, and pursue their aspirations. This is also a great example of leadership which is another valued quality for med school applicants. 
  • International volunteering: Some premed students choose to volunteer abroad in countries with less developed healthcare systems. A couple of my friends from college did this and I can’t stress how valuable the experience was. 

There are all kinds of volunteer opportunities out there. If you still feel lost, reach out to your advisor or premed clubs. There are plenty of students out there who are in the same boat and would be happy to help. 

Tips On Volunteering As A Premed Student To Get The Most Out Of Your Volunteer Hours

I highly recommend you don’t simply volunteer to check off a box on your med school application. Here are some tips:

  • Choose activities that align with your interests and goals: When looking for volunteer opportunities, it’s important to choose activities that align with your interests as a premed student. This will not only make your volunteer experience more enjoyable, but it will also make it more meaningful and valuable for your medical school application.
  • Seek out opportunities that provide hands-on experience: Look for volunteer opportunities that provide hands-on experience working with patients or in a healthcare setting. This will give you a better understanding of the medical field.
  • Get involved with research: Consider volunteering in a research project as a way to gain exposure to the scientific method and learn about research design and ethics. This can be a valuable experience for your medical school application and can also help you decide if research is something you want to pursue in the future.
  • Look for leadership and mentoring opportunities: Look for opportunities to take on leadership roles or mentor others. Leadership is a highly valuable quality to have as a med school applicant. 
  • Keep records of your volunteer hours and accomplishments: Be sure to keep detailed records of your volunteer hours and accomplishments, including the name and contact information of the organization where you volunteered, the dates you volunteered, and a brief description of the activities you performed.
  • Make sure to reflect on your experiences: Reflect on your experiences, what you learned, and how your volunteer work has helped you grow as a person and as a premed student. This can help you with your med school essays as well as interviews.

Keep Track Of Your Volunteer Hours

I recommend you keep track of all the time you spend volunteering. When it comes time to fill out your application, you will want to know how many hours exactly you spent volunteering.

Here are some ideas for keeping track of that time:

  1. Use an Excel spreadsheet. You can make a list in Excel with the date, where you volunteered, and a brief description of what you did. 
  2. Get an app. There are many apps available that are specifically made for tracking volunteer hours. 
  3. Use a paper-based log book. You can use a notebook or a binder where you can write down the date, the organization, contact information, and a brief description of the activities you performed.

Not only are these methods great for keeping track of the number of hours you spent, but they also keep track of what you were doing. When you start filling out your med school application, you can refer back to your records to write down more meaningful descriptions of the activities. 

Can You Get Into Med School With No Volunteer Hours?

It can be difficult to get into med school without any volunteer hours since many medical schools value volunteer experience. 

However, it’s not impossible and depends on the school, your GPA, MCAT scores, interviews, and other experiences you may have. It’s worth talking to medical school admissions counselors and researching the requirements of different schools to see what they’re looking for in applicants.

For more information on this topic, read this article we wrote for premed students with little to no volunteer experience. 

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