The Ultimate Guide to Medical School Extracurriculars: Shadowing

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 the theme is shadowing. 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.

Shadowing is defined as observing a physician as they care for patients.

WHY IS SHADOWING IMPORTANT TO MEDICAL SCHOOLS?

Becoming a physician is an intense commitment of time, effort, and resources.  Medical schools want to be certain that you don’t just like working with people, but you understand what a physician does.  TV shows and the lay public may glorify the medical mystery, the thrilling surgical case, or the dramatic life-saving heroics.  But what about the day-to-day?  

Understanding the role of a physician in various practice allows applicants to quickly assess if becoming a physician is more appealing.  It allows hands on understanding of the responsibilities of taking care of patients, the dynamic of working in medical teams, and the requirements outside of patient care. We recommend shadowing multiple different specialties, including primary care, to get an idea of the variety of physician workflows.  

Note, direct patient exposure is different than physician shadowing.  Patient exposure is actual interaction with patients while physician shadowing is observing a physician as they care for patients.  

HOW MUCH SHADOWING 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 a minimum of at least 8 hours and 24 hours for competitive applicants.  To be an all-star, we recommend a minimum of 40 hours spread across at least 2 specialties for maximum personal and application benefit.

Ready to master the rest of the major extracurricular activities? Check out the remainder of our extracurricular guide posts about service, leadership, 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.