October 12, 2016
Macaulay pre-health students pursue a range of disciplines and majors: from chemistry to anthropology to biology or the humanities. They work in research labs, volunteer their time in service of others and study abroad. Our Pre-Health Programs Advisor works holistically with pre-health students, looking to identify and hone in on the kinds of experiences that are most meaningful to them. Through individual advising sessions, students can better identify opportunities for self-directed learning, and can explore their own unique path to medicine, and other healthcare-related fields.
Learn about healthcare through extracurricular activities and community service
You should engage in activities outside of academics! In choosing extracurricular activities, keep in mind that admissions committees at the various health profession schools are looking for more than strong academic qualifications. Physicians have to be smart — but they also have to be good listeners, capable leaders, team players, flexible, compassionate, culturally sensitive. . . and so much more! At its core, medicine is a service-based career. Physicians must be able to establish rapport and trust with patients and their families. You can strengthen your ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds and cultures through community service activities.
Be careful not to become over-extended! Depth and continuity of a few activities are preferable to joining many activities with minimal involvement. Macaulay has many opportunities for students to develop leadership skills, so take advantage of them.
Many opportunities exist for clinical and research experiences on and off campus. Most deadlines for summer research programs are in January through March, so start your research in the fall.
Here are a few examples:
Area hospitals are always looking for volunteers. Some have established volunteer programs for college students and most will at least have a volunteer coordinator who can help you gain a position. The more patient care and observation of hospital staff you can get, the better. So working in the emergency department, or playing with children in pediatrics, for example, would be more meaningful than working in the gift shop or doing data entry. Most volunteer positions are fairly basic at first but as you get to know the doctors, nurses, and other staff, and show your enthusiasm and trustworthiness in the environment, you may gain access to more hands-on opportunities. Summer is a great time to volunteer since you have more hours to work with.
Shadowing can be formal or informal, long-term or for a single day. Shadowing basically refers to working one-on-one with health professionals to see what they do in a regular work day (or week, or other time period). Shadowing differs from a formal volunteer program in that you’ll work directly with the health care professional to determine your level of participation and what you hope to gain from the experience. Most shadowing occurs when the student is already familiar with the health care professional. For instance, you may know some doctors who are family friends, or your pediatrician may be willing to let you work with him or her for some amount of time. Shadowing is most useful when you have a chance to interact with patients, observe procedures, or otherwise have a fairly hands-on role. Keep in mind that not all shadowing is clinical experience.
Internships differ from shadowing and volunteer work in the formality, and the compensation for your participation. Internships can be paid or unpaid, and the amount of time and level of responsibility also varies widely. Internships tend to have specific learning goals that you are meant to gain from your experience. There are a wealth of internships available, in clinical work, research, and many other medically-relevant settings.
EMT training is available through several venues, and an EMT license can be used when working for other employers including fire departments.
Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program (REUs) funded by the National Science Foundation, these summer research experiences take place at a number of different colleges and universities throughout the country. Most include housing and a stipend. Deadlines tend to be early so if you are interested, we recommend visiting this site throughout the fall/spring.
Research and Training Opportunities at the National Institutes of Health is a page that highlights summer research opportunities at the NIH and more.
Clinicaltrials.gov is a searchable database that includes all of the federally funded clinical research trials going on throughout the country. You can search by city/state, and you can then browse the studies and contact the physicians/scientists conducting them to see if research positions are available.
The NIH Clinical Center (CC) Summer Internship Program selects 50 students to participate in the Clinical Center’s internship experience. At the Clinical Center— the nation’s largest hospital devoted entirely to clinical research—students work with mentors who are researchers and health professionals; participate in the NIH Research Poster Festival with results generated by their work in this summer program; and attend weekly lectures presented by NIH investigators. Application deadline is March 1.
The AAMC’s SMDEP is a free (full tuition, housing, and meals) six-week summer medical and dental school preparatory program that offers eligible students intensive and personalized medical and dental school preparation. The programs include academic enrichment activities, clinical exposure, and other activities. Each of the 11 programs has different entrance criteria and all are interested in first- and second-year college students with a demonstrated interest in issues affecting underserved populations. Applications are competitive.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Group on Graduate Education, Training and Research (GREAT) maintains a website with links to its members’ summer undergrad research programs (SURPs) . These programs allow students to participate in cutting-edge research, and often offer a stipend, room and board, and travel allowance. The applicant pool is competitive and you’re encouraged to apply early. Most deadlines for application are in January and February.
Explorehealthcareers.com has an option on their home page to find enrichment programs, many of which are summer programs.
Most medical, osteopathic, dental, podiatry, and optometry schools belong to a central online application service and initially require only one application, which is received and processed electronically and forwarded to indicated schools.
The books listed below include a summary of admission requirements of each allopathic and osteopathic medical and dental school in the United States and Canada. In addition to admission requirements, they have valuable information regarding state residency preferences, foreign medical schools, and financial aid, as well as profiles of accepted applicants from the previous year such as GPA, MCAT, and DAT scores. We recommend that all students order or download the appropriate book the spring prior to submitting their applications.
The print and e-book versions of “The Official Guide to Medical School Admissions” (including the United States and Canada) can be purchased from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). A free preview of the book is also available.
A print version of the “Osteopathic Medical College Information Book” is available for purchase from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM). The PDF version is free to download.
Print and e-book versions of “The ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools” can be purchased from the American Dental Education Association (ADEA).
Macaulay’s pre-health advising program is unique and separate from advising programs at CUNY home campuses.
Macaulay pre-health advising serves students interested in medical, dental and veterinary schools, but there are many other health related concentrations! Your advisor can help you steer your studies and experiences to prepare for a profession in nursing, physical therapy, public health, optometry, occupational therapy and many more.