Path to Medicine

Research and Volunteering


The majority of medical schools want to see that you have been engaged in at least “some” research. The definition of some varies, my general rule is to be involved in a few different projects so that you have a lot to talk about at interviews.

When seeking out research try to find something that will allow you to publish and/or present your studies. If you are able to publish and present your studies then it displays your ability to follow through the entire process. Even more importantly it demonstrates that the work you have done is worthy to be put on center stage and shown to the world. This will also give you fantastic things to discuss at interviews, and allow you to fill your application with quality topics.

The majority of medical schools want to see research, but I will say that some schools don’t care to see research and would rather you spend time volunteering or doing something else. So check out your respective schools website and figure out if they want research, and how much. With that being said, research shouldn’t hurt your application to any school, and at the end of the day it may be an experience that you will remember forever.

Setting up your research can be a daunting task at some institutions. The easiest way to do this is to contact any professors that you would like to do some research with. Contact them long

before a semester starts, as they typically begin new research at the beginning of semesters. Often they begin new research every fall, so contact them in the summer or late spring to get involved. The best way to contact your professors about research is to stop by their office or send them an email. Just be upfront about it, let them know that you plan on applying to medical school at X time and would love to get involved in some research with them. Get to know them a little bit too, this helps a lot because this is another unique opportunity where you can learn a lot and get a quality letter of recommendation.

You want to be as actively involved in the research process as possible, so focus on finding professors that will allow you to be part of the write ups and publishing/presenting. The big things that medical schools admissions boards want to see is that you were involved in hypothesis driven research, discuss the purpose of the studies, your involvement in the studies, and also be able to discuss the research in general terms (what you wanted to do, what was accomplished, how you did it). You want to get a lot of quality research time in. I had the opportunity to work on two separate projects, I spent a total of probably 100-150 hours on research. They were both presented numerous times and one was published in a national journal. The presentations and publication were things that I talked about a lot at various interviews, but most of all the entire research process was written about in great detail in my secondaries and I am sure they helped get me interviews.


Medical schools want you to volunteer and give back to humanity to see that you really do care about other people. Being a medical professional involves so much of caring for other people… you have to enjoy it. So here is a list of good volunteer ideas:

  • Soup kitchen
  • Homeless shelter
  • Free medical clinic
  • Local hospital
  • Sporting events
  • College groups
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Red Cross
  • Big brothers, big sisters
  • Youth mentor
  • Special needs mentor
  • Search and Rescue
  • Local emergency response team
  • Organize a can drive
  • Charity events

Some big ones that helped me on my path to medicine were my time in a free medical clinic and a soup kitchen. Find places that you can enjoy your time and also give back to your community. I believe the big key is to enjoy your experience and really appreciate the growth that you will get from volunteering and giving your time. I will be honest and say that there are some volunteering gigs that I hardly enjoyed, but beforehand I thought I would. There have been a few volunteering opportunities that I have completely loved and its upsetting that they had to come to an end. I have grown and leaned a lot from those experiences that I found enjoyment in, and because I enjoyed them so much I had a lot to discuss at my interviews and it helped me grow.Don’t forget to keep records and contact information, this will come in handy during application time and hopefully requesting a letter of recommendation.