How To Describe Your Shadowing Experiences On Your Medical School Application

You’ve worked so hard as a premed student to be competitive and now it’s time to put all your experiences and accomplishments in the medical school primary application. 

Whether you are filling out the AMCAS, AACOMAS, or TMDSAS it can be a stressful experience. You have done all the heavy lifting, now you need to figure out how to articulate everything to make your application as competitive as possible.

Let’s tackle one very important topic: Your shadowing experience. 

How To Describe Shadowing Experiences

When describing your Shadowing experiences in your Work/Activities section of the medical school application, you want to focus on what you learned from the activity. Premed students tend to simply describe the experience itself. Admission committee members want to know what you got out of the experience and how that will make you a better doctor.

Also, it is helpful to provide specific examples from your shadowing experiences. 

There is debate about whether you should include a description or just list the kinds of doctors you shadowed. Some argue that medical school admission committee members don’t have the time to read through hundreds of shadowing experiences. The personal statement is the time to get wordy.

Although brevity is important, you should still include some kind of reflecgion that impacts your view on medicine. It never hurts to use up the 700 character limit to write about your experience. 

Should I List All My Shadowing Experiences In One Entry Or Split Them Into Multiple Entries?

You should list all shadowing experiences in one shadowing entry. If you shadowed one physician in particular for many hours, you can make a separate entry for that physician. 

You are limited to up to 15 work and activities entries, so if you shadowed a bunch of different doctors, you may not have enough entries for other extracurriculars. 

Also, the process of putting in entries gets very repetitive and will take up unnecessary time on your behalf and the person reviewing your application. 

AMCAS Shadowing Description Example

If you are looking for more specific example of how to describe your shadowing experience on your AMCAS application, I’ll walk you through it here.

We recommend this format:

First list the doctors you shadowed, their specialty, their facility, when you shadowed them, and how many hours you shadowed them for.


Dallas Presbyterian Hospital (July 2018 – August 2018) – 40 hours

Dr. John Doe, Orthopedic Surgeon

(Then you would list each other physician under a similar format)

Then include a brief reflection on your shadowing experiences.


What struck me the most while shadowing these physicians was the dynamic between the physician and his or her patient during a time when they are vulnerable. I was also amazed by the number of unique cases that came through and how the physicians I shadowed worked with such a diverse group of patients while giving each person the best possible healthcare. I also witnessed the hardships of being a physician that I could encounter in my career: Giving patients bad news, being on call in the middle of the night, and being unable to save someone after trying everything. 

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    How Do You Describe Your Online Shadowing Experience?

    How do you describe your online shadowing experience

    If you are applying during the COVID pandemic you may be forced to do some online shadowing. 

    The key to describing your online shadowing experience is to try to describe the experience like you are actually there and not a removed passive observer. 

    Admission committee members know that the pandemic made it hard for many premed students to receive in-person shadowing experiences. Instead of mentioning how the pandemic restrictions made it difficult for you to shadow anyone, focus on describing your online shadowing experience like a real shadowing experience. 

    Remember, excuses are never a good thing when it comes to applying to medical school.

    Should You Include Shadowing Experiences In Your Primary Or Secondary Essays?

    This really depends on how much your shadowing experiences impacted your decision to pursue medicine. Your medical school personal statement should include the most meaningful experiences you had that led you to decide to apply to medical school. 

    Every medical school will have different prompts for your secondary essays so you may find that you will have more opportunities to include your shadowing experiences in those. 

    Remember, you are allowed to describe your shadowing experiences in the work and activities section of the medical school application. Therefore, don’t feel like you need to include it in any essay unless it can add serious value to your statement. 

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