In this next section, I’ll be covering the value of extracurricular activities, work and volunteering and explaining how you can use them in your personal statement.
Extracurricular activities, work or volunteering can be used to strengthen your application to study medicine and can help prepare you for the course and job ahead. Almost every extracurricular you do can be used to display some sort of skills or personal quality pertinent to studying and practicing medicine. Having paid work shows a level of independence, responsibility and teamwork whilst volunteering shows compassion and can be linked to your medicinal aspirations. For example, if you are interested in working in elderly care it may be useful to have experience in such a role thus volunteering at a care home may be useful. Universities also like to see commitment to your chosen volunteering so I would recommend a minimum of 6 months volunteering in one place. It doesn’t have to be full-on during those 6 months, but little and often is seen to show more commitment than once for a longer period of time.
As for extracurricular, the sky is the limit for what you have learnt from them! There’s all the usual suspects; commitment, teamwork, patience, communication, organisational skills but I’d encourage you to think more outside the box (whilst still citing the above skills). For example, sport-related activities might improve your physical endurance. Anyone who has done work experience will know that doctors spend a hell of a lot of time on their feet, so mentioning that you could cope with the long hours without faltering or tiring is actually very relevant. As for learning an instrument, this might help with your coordination and dexterity which would come in handy if you’re interested in becoming a surgeon. At my school, some future surgeons even learnt to knit to acquire that very same skill!
Let’s not forget how important leadership and independence are as skills for making a good doctor/medical student. As a doctor you will spend much of your time as part of a team, but you will also spend a lot of it as a leader. It is therefore important that you are adept in both teamwork and leadership skills as both are put to the test during a medical career. Independence is also a biggie as university is very different from A levels. The university will not be metaphorically holding your hand throughout the course the way sixth form schools/colleges often do and an awful lot of time will be spent working through those masses of content in the medicine course alone. So it’d be a good idea to indicate that you will be able to work independently; I found a good example of this was in conducting my EPQ which is hugely left up to the student to plan and execute.
Now, I would personally recommend doing as many extracurricular as you want or can. I know some universities like Oxbridge have expressed in the past that they do not require lots of extracurricular as part of our medicine applications so will not really take mentions of extracurriculars into account, but many other universities are the exact opposite. As you will be applying to 4 universities to study medicine, the chances are at least one will not be interested in extracurriculars and one will be. Therefore, its best to hedge your bets and be sure to include them anyway in your personal statement. What’s more, extracurricular activities aren’t only used in your personal statement- it’s important to look at the bigger picture. The extracurricular could either indirectly help you get into uni, by giving you skills which can be used in your interview, or those skills you gain could be how you actually stay in uni. Remember, universities are looking for these skills for a good reason: because the medicine course and career is extremely tough. So whether or not they specifically ask for them, you should have those skills either way if you really want to succeed.