The Ultimate Guide to Medical School Extracurriculars: Leadership

FIND OUT WHAT’S IMPORTANT FOR MEDICAL SCHOOL APPLICATIONS, HOW TO STAND OUT TO ADMISSIONS COMMITTEES, AND WHAT YOU ACTUALLY NEED TO DO TO BE COMPETITIVE

In this post of our medical school extracurricular guide, we’re going to discuss leadership as it pertains to medical school. If you haven’t already, check out the initial post for a broad overview of extracurricular activities and general advice for how to make any experience standout.

Leadership is defined as a position, assigned or otherwise, with a purpose and direct responsibility for others.

WHY IS LEADERSHIP IMPORTANT TO MEDICAL SCHOOLS?

Leadership is often an overlooked component for many premedical students as prioritizing shadowing experiences, research, and community service is more clean-cut.  Leadership is a little more vague.  Nonetheless, leadership a very important skill to cultivate for aspiring physicians.

Becoming a physician endows you with leadership roles often whether you ask for it or not.   The days of the solo-independent practitioner are fading away. Instead, healthcare is increasingly delivered through care-teams of which a physician is often at the center.  Learning to manage personalities, delegate work, and maximizing efficiencies are important skills to develop for in and out of clinical practice.  Outside of clinical work, physicians serve as leaders in educational roles (to residents and medical students), in research projects, and in public health arenas.  Medical schools want physicians who are capable of doing great things and advancing the field forward.  

HOW MUCH LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE DO I NEED?

Shadowing must be done with a USA based MD or DO.  The University of Utah School of Medicine has long provided recommendations for prospective applicants to better understand what medical schools are looking for in extracurriculars.  They recommend having at least 1 leadership experience lasting 3 months within the last 4 years at a minimum.  In order to be competitive, they recommend 3 different leadership experiences each lasting 3 months within the last 4 years.  Ideally, we recommend at least 1 of these experiences be at least 6 months in length to be competitive in order to show dedication to a singular cause.

EXAMPLES OF LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCES

Leadership can come in many forms.  Premedical students can demonstrate these skills in multiple ways.  Remember, activities that aren’t directly related to medicine still count!  What’s important is the skills you will develop from your leadership experience.  The below are some ideas:

  • Starting a campus club, nonprofit, or other organization
  • Taking leadership roles in a student organization/student council
  • Serving as a teaching assistant or tutoring
  • Leadership roles in your community such as church or athletic endeavors
  • Create a specific project that addresses an existing need to serve your community
  • Lead a research project

Ready to master the rest of the major extracurricular activities? Check out the remainder of our extracurricular guide posts about service, shadowing, research, and clinical experience.  If you find yourself needing any help, our advisors love working with students to help them make the most of their experiences.