AMCAS Work and Activities Example

AMCAS Work and Activities Examples: How to Stand Out

Our Cracking Med School Admissions team has read literally tens of thousands of AMCAS Work and Activities descriptions. Each year, our team strategizes new ways to help our students stand out on their AMCAS activity section. We update this blog post several times before the AMCAS application opens on May 1 so that you have the latest high-yield tips.  Our most recent update was April 2022 and we included several more AMCAS activities section examples. Read our tips to write an outstanding medical school application. Learn from several AMCAS work and activities examples from successful applicants!

Learn how to write excellent AMCAS work and activities descriptions: 

  1. How to Write an AMCAS Activity Description
  2. AMCAS Work and Activities Examples
  3. AMCAS Work and Activities Tips
  4. FAQs about AMCAS work and activities
  5. Cracking Med Medical School Application Packages – get edits for your med school applications!

Need help with your AMCAS application, including the AMCAS activity section? Send us a question below.  We can help you shine on your medical school applications, secondary essays, and interviews!

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How To Write an AMCAS Activity Description

The Basics: How To Fill Out the Work and Activities Section 

On the AMCAS application, one of the major sections is the AMCAS Activities section. You have space to fill up to 15 work and activities entries. For each extracurricular activity, you can identify which category best describes your experience, and you have 700 characters to describe the activities, known as the “activity description.”  Additionally, you can designate three of your activities as your most meaningful experiences. For these 3 most meaningful activities, you have an additional 1325 characters to write why this activity is meaningful to you. We have an entire blog post dedicated on how to write your AMCAS most meaningful experiences.

How to Write an AMCAS Activity Description

An AMCAS activity description contains several pieces of information, including demographical info and descriptive info.

  • Experience Type (Look at AMCAS Activity Categories right below)
  • Experience Name
  • Organization Name
  • Date
  • Hours per Week
  • Contact Name, Title, email, and phone number
  • City / State / Country
  • Experience Description – 700 characters each
  • 3 Most Meaningful Activities – 1325 characters each

The experience description on the AMCAS is where students can really shine and stand out. It is absolutely critical that you try to optimize the 700 characters allotted. When you look at the AMCAS example below, you’ll see the various elements of a good AMCAS activity description. 

As of the 2021-2022 cycle, premedical students can now have multiple date ranges.

Look at the AMCAS activity description example below to see how an AMCAS activity description looks like to an admission committee application reviewer! 

This is what an AMCAS activities section description looks like filled out

AMCAS work and activities leadership example

Elements of an AMCAS description:

Your 15 AMCAS activities descriptions need to complement each other. In some, you may highlight your clinical knowledge. In others, you may talk more about your research and analytical skills. Here are elements you can incorporate into your AMCAS work and activities descriptions. 

  1. Organization overview: If it is not obvious what the organization what the organization is, then you can write one sentence MAX about the organizations goals and mission. This will help provide context about your extracurricular activity experience. 
  2. What you did: Write a description highlight what YOU did for that specific work or activity. Focus on impact. One common mistake our Cracking Med School Admissions team finds is that applicants talk too much about the organization and not enough of what the applicant did during the activity.
  3. Story: You may want to discuss a challenge you overcame or a memorable patient. Stories bring you and the individuals you help through your activities to life. We strongly recommend incorporating a story! The stories you include in your AMCAS experience description should not be the same as the stories that you include in your medical school personal statement
  4. Reflections and Lessons Learned: You can add specific lessons learned and insights from your experience. The key to standing out is to be very specific.
  5. Leadership Role: Highlight any leadership roles you had, especially if you were a Founder or President. 
  6. Awards / Publications / Impact: If you won any awards, make sure to note them. Finally, if you can tie the activity with how you can relate it to your future career in medicine, you should mention it in the end. You can use a few characters to say “1st author publication” or any other notable presentations or publications. But, you should also have an entire AMCAS activity description dedicated to your publication(s) and another AMCAS activity description dedicated to presentation(s).

As you can see, you can write a lot in 700 characters! It is definitely an art to bring together a solid AMCAS activity section. 

How Many Activities on AMCAS? 

You can put up to 15 activities on your AMCAS application. No, that does not mean you had to be involved with 15 school activities. AMCAS activities include: gap year activities, including gap year jobs and gap year volunteering; summer internships and other summer opportunities; part-time work experiences; and other special talents you possess. 

FAQ: How Many Activities Should I Put on AMCAS? 

Our Cracking Med School Admissions team only wants you to stand out. So, we will only advise you to submit strong applications. From our experience as admissions readers and medical school admissions experts, we see that strong applicants write 13 or more AMCAS activity entries on their AMCAS applications.

AMCAS Work and Activities Categories

In the “Experience Type” field of the AMCAS activity section, there are several AMCAS activities categories that you can choose from for each of your activities. 

  • Artistic Endeavors
  • Community Service/Volunteer – Non Medical/Clinical
  • Community Service/Volunteer – Medical/Clinical
  • Conferences Attended
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Hobbies
  • Honors/Awards/Recognitions
  • Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Leadership – Not listed elsewhere
  • Military Service
  • Other
  • Paid Employment – Medical/Clinical
  • Paid Employment – Non Medical/Clinical
  • Physician Shadowing/Clinical Observation
  • Presentations/Posters
  • Publications
  • Research/Lab
  • Teaching/Tutoring/Teaching Assistant

One common question our Cracking Med School Admissions team gets asked by applicants is: Do I need to have an experience for each category? 

Definitely not! You do not have to fill out an activity for each one of the categories. For example, you can have 4 “extracurricular activities” and 0 “artistic endeavors.”

The AMCAS application makes sure that you have a proper category to fit your activity into, no matter how unique it may be. There’s always the “other” category for the really rare and valuable experiences you may have. If you applied before, the categories are now different from previous years’ application. While not all AMCAS extracurricular activities carry the same weight, they should give the medical school admissions committees a good picture of what you did for each activity. Additionally, the application reviewer should learn why it was meaningful to you and what you learned.

There is a lot of strategy related to choosing categories and activity type, so contact us if you want help with strategizing and editing help with your AMCAS application. We can help you with all parts of the application process! 

AMCAS Experience Hours

As of the 2021-2022 medical school application cycle, med school applicants can add disparate dates for when they were involved in an activity. For example, if you did an activity two different summers in college, you may have dates ranging 06/2020 – 08/2020 and 06/2022 – 08/2022, and include the hours for each time span. 

There’s an entire strategy as to whether you should split your hours into numerous time frames or put is as one continuous date. In general, we recommend students to split their activities into different date ranges when applicable.

What should you do if you are expecting to do the activity this upcoming year? 

If you are doing this activity only in the next year, then you would put one date range, with the end date as the last month you expect to do that activity. For example, you would put the experience date range like 05/2022 – 08/2022 (# of expected future hours).”

But what if you have already been doing the activity? In this case, we want to showcase the amount of time and dedication you have already done the activity and the amount of work that you will continue to do for the experience. Therefore, our team recommends putting two date ranges: the past and the future. For example, you would put something like 09/2021 – 05/2022 (# of past hours) AND 06/2022 – 08/2023 (# of expected future hours). 

Contact us or email us at info@crackingmedadmissions.com if you have questions about your AMCAS activity hours! We are medical school admissions experts who strive to make every applicant stand out!

FAQ: Should my AMCAS Descriptions be in Bullet Points or Paragraph Style?

There are two main ways an applicant can write the work activities descriptions for the AMCAS.

  1. Bullet points: Think about this as “resume” style. These descriptions tend to be to the point and emphasize what an applicant did for each activity.
  2. Paragraph form: This allows medical school applicants to write more stories and describe their activities. We now recommend this format for the AMCAS and AACOMAS. 

It is a personal preference and there is not one correct format to write your AMCAS extracurricular activities descriptions. We’ve seen students succeed both ways! We strongly suggest that you stick to one format, and not alternate between bullet point and paragraph form.

AMCAS Work and Activities Tip:

We recommend our students to write most of their AMCAS work and activities descriptions in paragraph form because you can more easily incorporate a story and reflections. 

Must have Elements for Each Activity Description
  • What YOU did: What were your responsibilities? What impact did you have in this organization? Oftentimes, we read descriptions that describe the program or project, and barely touches on what the applicant did. Leaving this out is one of the most common mistakes we see.
  • Reflection is KEY: Reflection shows maturity and growth. Some reflections you can discuss in your description – What lessons did you learn? Did you face any difficulties? How did this experience impact you or change the way you think about patient care and healthcare? What did you gain from this experience that you will bring to the medical field? 
Step Up Your Game: Make Your Activities Descriptions From Good to Great

Add these components to strengthen your AMCAS activities descriptions.

  • Awards: Did you win any awards? Did you publish? Accolades are external validations that support the strength of your medical school application. 
  • Leadership: Especially if you were founder, first author, or president, highlight your leadership role in your activity description and make it bold.
  • Impact: Discuss the impact you had on the organization, project, or people you served. You can think about these questions: How did you impact the patients or individuals you helped – how did you change their lives or health? How did you individually drive your research project? How did your leadership and effort affect that organization’s performance? 
Most Meaningful Experience Remarks

You choose 3 activities that are your “most meaningful activities” and you have an extra 1325 to write a short essay in the “most meaningful experience remarks” description box. Think of your most meaningful experience remarks as mini personal essays. At least one of your most meaningful activities should be a clinical experience / clinical activity. Your most meaningful experience remarks should also complement what you write in the experience description section. Read the research activity example below to see how the “most meaningful experience remarks” and “experience description” can complement each other.

Additionally, we have an entire blog post dedicated to AMCAS most meaningful experience tips! 

If you need to add context about the organization or program, then you can write a short description about the organization or activity background. You do not need a description of the organization if you are writing about a "Teaching Assistant" position; medical school admissions committee members know what teaching assistants do. If you are going to write about the organization in your AMCAS work and activities description, then we typically recommend it to be one sentence in length. We strongly recommend 2 sentences MAX.

There is no better way to get your question answered than to email us at info@crackingmedadmissions.com or contact us below. However, we want to give you some examples of common premed activities and under what category you can list them on the AMCAS. 

Leadership - Not Listed Elsewhere

  • Student club officer
  • Student activism/government/Greek activities
  • Starting a non-profit/student organization/business

Honors/Awards/Recognitions

  • Academic awards (e.g. honor societies, dean's list)
  • Certifications and recognitions you received, including non-clinical certifications (e.g. a black belt in a martial arts, placing in a competition, certified as pilot, EMT certification, CPR certification)
  • Competitive research position or grant funding which you had to apply for
  • Phi Beta Kappa, Cum Laude, Dean's List

Community Service - Medical/Clinical

  • If you are working in close proximity with patients, it is clinical.

Community Service - Non-Medical/Clinical

  • If it doesn't fall into the above, you didn't get paid for it, and it isn't a leadership or teaching opportunity, it probably falls here. For example, volunteering for non-profits or charitable organizations, volunteer work you have done at your university.

Teaching/Tutoring/TA

  • Activities that fall under these AMCAS work and activities categories not only include formal TA-ing and tutoring, but also mentoring and coaching.

Conferences Attended

  • Use this if you were a keynote speaker, received major recognition, or attended a medical conference related to your interests or research. 
  • Typically, we do not suggest students to fill out an activity description that falls under the "conferences attended" category because it's a passive activity. However, if you have fewer than 12 AMCAS activities, we strongly suggest that you think about filling a "conferences attended" description.
  • Important Note: If the conference gave you an opportunity to present a poster or presentation, consider labeling it as Presentations/Posters instead with the name of the conference attended so application screeners can easily find it.

If you’re going to write in bullet-point fashion, make sure to use strong action verbs. Additionally, applicants use the same verbs for multiple bullet points in a row. Don't do this - it does not appeal to the reader.

Here's an example...

Not Ideal Description:

  • Helped my research professor in collecting samples for our experiment
  • Helped analyze the data for our research paper

Instead, here's a better way to write this description:

  • Developed a bioengineered composite scaffold capable of promoting cellular proliferation 
  • Analyzed 3,000 samples using STATA to discover that our new scaffolding technique was 30% more efficient than the current standard practice

There’s a lot of strategy with filling out the work and activities section AMCAS. We’ve helped numerous students strategize about how to present their activities and work experience. And we can help you transform your AMCAS descriptions to your AACOMAS application and TMDSAS application.

If you need a second opinion or need help with how to best position your activities, don’t hesitate to schedule a call with us by filling out the contact form below. 

AMCAS Work and Activities Examples

We want to give you samples of common medical school application activities and excellent AMCAS work and activities examples. We want to share our advice on popular premed AMCAS work and activities! Want more examples, download our AMCAS Work and Activities workbook here or fill out the form below. It is also a brainstorming tool to help you figure out what to write in your activities descriptions! 

AMCAS Work and Activities – Shadowing Example

A common question the Cracking Med School Admissions team receives is, “how to write about shadowing experiences in the AMCAS work and activities section?” The example below shows one approach to writing about your premed shadowing experiences, which is an important clinical experience. 

AMCAS Work and Activities Example – Shadowing

AMCAS Work and Activities Example - Shadowing Physicians
Step Up Your Game: Make Your Activities Descriptions From Good to Great

One thing you can do in your AMCAS work and activities description is to describe the significance of each shadowing experience or highlight key points. Looking back on the above example, the following sentences definitely stand out on their own:  

  • “ observed open heart surgeries” (You’ll never see this in Family Medicine!)
  • “patient consultations…dialysis centers” (Again, unique to nephrology)
  • “attended international infectious disease conferences” (Sounds like an exciting opportunity, and makes one think of the 1995 film Outbreak, starring Dustin Hoffman)

Your AMCAS shadowing experience can give the application reviewer a sense of the broad clinical exposure you have had as a premed student.  For example, this applicant has shadowed in 5 different clinical settings across at least 4 different medical specialties. As evident by the periods of time identified in each shadowing activity, the applicant took advantage of summer breaks and her gap years to shadow various doctors. Her clinical exposure shows her that she was interested in learning more about medicine over a long, sustained period of time. 

Analysis: The applicant has had several shadowing opportunities throughout college, so she decided to mention several of them. The applicant was specific about procedures, types of chief complaints, and patients they encountered in certain shadowing experiences, as much as space would allow. 

The benefit of having a wide range of shadowing experiences is that you can clearly convey that you’ve acquired a multifaceted perspective of healthcare. The best way to do this is to incorporate experiences unique to each specialty in your description.

Other shadowing AMCAS examples:

  • OB/GYN: Shadowed live births or fetal ultrasound sessions
  • Radiology: Shadowed dark room sessions during an ER shift and learned to differentiate matter based on density on MRI scans.
  • Orthopedic Surgery: Shadowed rounds at clubfoot clinic
  • Plastic surgery: Shadowed cleft palate repair surgery and follow-up outpatient care clinic.

For more AMCAS activities examples, download our FREE AMCAS work and activities workbook

FREE AMCAS Work & Activities Workbook

Use this workbook to write STELLAR AMCAS descriptions. This section is as important as your personal statement.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

AMCAS Work and Activities Example – Shadowing

Experience Type: Physician Shadowing/Clinical Observation

Experience Name: Neurosurgery and Nephrology Shadowing

While shadowing residents and faculty neurosurgeons, I observed morning rounds and observed several ventriculoperitoneal shunt surgeries, lumbar spinal fusions, and skull base tumor resections. During one surgery, I was asked to reset a 3D brain mapping device. My requested participation illustrated how treating a patient is not just a one-person job, but a team effort. I also had the opportunity to round with nephrologists at an in-patient hemodialysis clinic. I learned that for patients with chronic kidney disease, maintaining proper phosphorus levels is vital to prevent the weakening of bones and calcification of blood vessels.

Our Cracking Med School Admissions team wanted to show you an AMCAS shadowing description experience example in paragraph form. 

Step Up Your Game: Make Your Activities Descriptions From Good to Great
  • Give specific procedures and clinical skills you learned – the more specific, the better!  
  • You can highlight your favorite patient encounter or procedure

Analysis: This applicant is very interested in neurosurgery and neurology. Therefore, he focused one clinical experience story on a neurosurgery he witnessed. Additionally, this student shows strong clinical acumen, as he discussed the phosphorus levels with dialysis patients. The more insights you can bring about clinical medicine, the better! But remember, you might get asked about these in your medical school interview

AMCAS Work and Activities – Research Description Tips

Many med school applicants will have research experience as one of your AMCAS extracurricular activities. We have stressed again, this is one of the most common fields in which applicants FAIL TO EFFECTIVELY SELL THEMSELVES. We met students who’ve invested three years into a research lab, but failed to effectively convey those experiences. And we’ve coached them through our application advising services to make sure their AMCAS activities help them stand out.

Step Up Your Game: Make Your Activities Descriptions From Good to Great

In your AMCAS research activities description, you should highlight the following elements:

  • Your specific research study question and goals. Oftentimes, people make the mistake and talk too much about their overall labs’ missions and not enough about their independent research project’s goals.
  • What YOU did
  • Skills you applied and learned. This can include: basic research techniques gained; how to write IRB approval applications; grant writing; patient recruitment into clinical studies; research design; analysis; special programming skills like R and STATA
  • Publication & presentation mentions (although you should also allocate an entire AMCAS experience  for “publications” and another AMCAS experience dedicated to “posters & presentations.”
  • How you independently led the research project, and what specific parts of the project.
  • Highlight your critical thinking.
  • Impact and transformative nature of your research project – what impact will your research have in medicine?
  • Leadership, including mentoring junior lab members: Don’t forget that this description can also highlight your leadership. Did you create a research project of your own? Did you mentor somebody in your lab? Make sure to write about these because it shows initiative and leadership!

    Did you create a research project of your own? Did you mentor somebody in your lab? Make sure to write about these because it shows initiative and leadership! 

AMCAS Work and Activities Example – Research

Insights to learn from this research AMCAS work activity example: 

From the above experience, note how the research study is limited to one brief – yet extremely descriptive – sentence. Then, the applicant highlighted the laboratory skills & research techniques he gained. As a reader, we can envision this applicant dissecting tissue samples in lab! 

Second, the applicant’s research example in the AMCAS Work and Activities emphasized two points:

  1. Learning from his mistakes (“I never wasted my failures”)
  2. Establishing a pristine work ethic (“scrubbed flasks, washed counters, keeping my mind busy to rub away regrets, rinse thoughts, and repeat…”) and discipline “methodical discipline, meticulous organization…”

Third, look at how the most meaningful experience remarks description complements the experience description. The individual focused much more what he did in the experience description. The most meaningful experience remarks did not repeat the AMCAS activity experience description. Instead, the applicant told a story about a time when he failed and how the procedure (and the research experience overall) helped him become more disciplined and resilient in research.  

FAQ: How much of my research experience has to be technical jargon?

You should be able to describe key points of your research, i.e. relevant information, utilized techniques and procedures, etc. in your activity. (Keep in mind that you may have to elaborate on your research during the interview). However, you need to write your description geared towards an individual who does not have a science background and knowledge about your field of study. Additionally, our Cracking Med School Admissions team thinks it’s very important to also describe what you learned from this research project. You can add personal reflections and insights.

AMCAS Work and Activities – Volunteer Experience Description Tips

Many premeds have volunteered in both clinical and non-clinical settings. To differentiate yourself, you need to write about your experiences with insight and demonstrable passion. Therefore, while it is important to describe your responsibilities, the bulk of your description should focus on the impact you had and lessons you learned. Furthermore, remember that medical schools want to recruit mature students with rich life experiences. Ultimately, being a doctor is about connecting with patients on a human level, so take advantage of discussing your volunteer experiences and describe what you learned about working with people. 

 

AMCAS Work and Activities Examples – Volunteer Experience

Experience Type: Community Service / Volunteer – Non-medical/clinical

Experience Name: Volunteer head basketball coach for at-risk and low-income middle schoolers through Coaching Corps

As a volunteer coach, I ran practices and games. I became a dependable mentor for kids who lacked a consistent figure in their life. Most recently, I created a virtual basketball class that kept 15 kids across Orange Unified School District physically engaged throughout the pandemic. Working with kids from low-income communities also illustrated the need to increase health education. In one instance, I explained basic preventative health strategies, the importance of vaccines, and what a head injury is to Zane, an 8th grader who shared my teachings with his family. As a physician, I will push policy that opens more free clinics and increases public school funding for health education.

Step Up Your Game: Make Your Activities Descriptions From Good to Great
  • Add a story if you can – especially if you write in paragraph form. 
  • Include your impact and initiatives you led. This will help the reader understand your leadership. 
  • Relate the activity to what you learned or how this activity relates to what you will do in your career. Why was this an important life experience? 

For more AMCAS activities volunteering examples, download our free AMCAS work and activities workbook below

FAQ: Should I include community service activities I only did for a few hours or one day?

If space permits in your AMCAS work and activities section, then yes, you should include community service activities you were involved with for a brief period of time. Sometimes, we recommend students to group their smaller community service activities into one category, with the number of dedicated hours as the total number of hours you participated in all the small community service activities. 

If you include these smaller-length community service activities, the reader can still learn a lot about you! Stick to the AMCAS work and activities tips we’ve been preaching throughout this blog post.

  1. Include stories
  2. Tell the reader what you gained from the experience

FREE AMCAS Work & Activities Workbook

Use this workbook to write STELLAR AMCAS descriptions. This section is as important as your personal statement.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
 AMCAS Work and Activities – Paid Employment Description Tips

Many premeds have full-time and part-time work experiences, including tutoring and summer jobs. Some applicants think that these non-clinical work experiences are not relevant, but they definitely are! Additionally, working a job during the school year shows medical school admissions committees that you can handle several responsibilities at a time. 

Dr. Rizal wrote an article for the U.S. News that shows how students can leverage their non-clinical experiences: How to Make Premed Non-Clinical Experiences Relevant to Medicine

AMCAS Work and Activities Example – Paid Employment

Activity: “Undergraduate Work Experience”. Category: Paid Employment

Starbucks Barista – August 2007 – May 2008

  • Responsible for training new employees, customer service, and product ordering.
  • Worked 20 hours per week while attending school full time

Paid Intern – Summer 2008

  • Worked at the Mayor’s Office for the City of Memphis.
  • Responsible for…
  • Worked 40 hours per week while taking 1 summer class

Grocery Store Worker – August 2008 – May 2010

  • Worked as a cashier for a major grocery store chain
  • Worked 30 hours per week while attending school full time
  • Responsible for….

Tip: As you can see in this AMCAS activity description, the applicant combined 2 work experiences. We suggest students do this when they can fill all 15 activities. By combining multiple jobs into one activity, you are able to save 2 spaces in the Work/Activities section, but still are able to show that you have significant work experience and have the ability to juggle a job and school.

AMCAS Work and Activities – Publication Description Tips

If you do not have a publication, do not worry! You can still get into medical school!

If you do have a publication, kudos to you! It will certainly help increase the strength of your medical school application. It is important to put all your publications in the AMCAS work and activities section. 

Shorten the author list. You do not need to list all the authors in the paper. Because there are very few characters, we advise students to shorten their AMCAS publication description by not listing all the authors.

Our typical format we recommend for listing publications on your AMCAS is the following: What author order (1st author among 3 co-authors), Article title, Journal name, Year publication. PMID # so someone can find your abstract on PubMed.

For example: “1st of 6 authors, Increasing Vaccination Access in Middle-Income Countries, Journal of Global Health, 2021. PMID #######.”

If you need to shorten further, you could remove the title, but definitely keep the PMID number. 

Step Up Your Game: Make Your Activities Descriptions From Good to Great
  • While we typically recommend all your journal publications be listed as bullet points in one activity, there are certain circumstances where you can split your publications into different AMCAS experience entries. For example, let’s say you have multiple publications in two broad topics (health economics & OB/GYN). You might want to put one AMCAS experience entry for your publications in health economics and one AMCAS experience entry for your OB/GYN publications.
  • If you have space, write a short paragraph or 1-3 sentences about the publication. You can address the following:
    • What did you learn about the publication process? 
    • What motivated you to study this topic (these topics)? 
    • How is this research related to your career?

AMCAS Work and Activities Example – Publications

To maintain privacy and confidentiality, we did not want to use the actual publication from our advisee’s application for an example. The AMCAS publication example below emulates a strong AMCAS publication description.  

1st of 6 authors, Increasing Vaccination Access in Middle-Income Countries, Journal of Global Health, 2021. PMID #######.

I was inspired to conduct research on vaccination access because I learned during my “Vaccines” seminar at Princeton that successful vaccination campaigns required an interdisciplinary effort among pharmaceutical companies, public health officials, health policymakers, & physicians. I aim to continue doing research on access to preventative health services in my future career. 

Analysis:

As we mentioned in our AMCAS publication description tips above, you should include utilize any extra space for any insights about your motivations and/or lessons learned. 

In this AMCAS publication example, the application reader learns that this individual is passionate about vaccinations and conducted a senior thesis in college. The admissions committee members or med school interviewer may be prompted to ask you about your senior thesis, which is great! The application reader also learns that the person understands the various stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem. 

 AMCAS Work and Activities – Poster and Presentation Description Tips

The same tips and strategies apply for posters & presentations as what we discussed in the AMCAS publication description tips above. 

First off, what is considered a presentation? Typically, presentations include: 1) poster presentations and 2) oral presentations.

In poster presentation sessions, there is a room full of individuals who each showcase a poster about his or research. In oral presentations at conferences, a conference participant does a podium presentation in front of a room and presents on his or her research topic. Then, the presenter answers questions from the audience. Oral presentations do not include presentations you make for a college class or a school club. You can include university-wide research symposiums for undergraduate students.  

What if I did a virtual presentation during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Poster presentations and oral presentations have been virtual throughout the COVID pandemic. You should definitely include those in your Work and Activities section! 

Our Cracking Med School Admissions team has advised students in which we broadened the definition of presentations. Some of our students have given presentations for City Councils, State Legislatures, and international bodies like the World Health Organization. We typically recommend that they include these accomplishments under the AMCAS Posters and Presentations category. 

How do you write posters and presentations? 

Because there are very few characters, we advise students to shorten their AMCAS poster presentation description by not listing all the authors.

Our typical format we recommend for listing publications on your AMCAS is the following: What author order (1st author among 3 co-authors), Poster or presentation title, Conference you presented at, Year. 

For example: “1st of 6 authors, Increasing Vaccination Access in Middle-Income Countries, United for Sight Global Health & Innovation Conference, 2021.

If you need to shorten further, you could shorten the name of the conference as long as it will still be recognizable. 

Lastly, if your presentation relates to one of your activities, you can include the poster or presentation as part of another activity description.

Here is an example of how an application included a presentation at the World Health Organization: 

AMCAS Work and Activities Example – Poster Presentations & Oral Presentations

To maintain privacy and confidentiality, we did not want to use the actual publication from our advisee’s application for an example. The AMCAS poster presentation example below emulates a strong AMCAS publication description.  

1st of 6 authors, Increasing Vaccination Access in Middle-Income Countries, United for Sight Global Health & Innovation Conference, 2021

During this conference, I met global health researchers who asked me specifically why I studied vaccination access in middle-income countries and not developing countries more broadly. I honed my presentation skills and gathered new ideas for future research on vaccination access; I am interested in understanding the role of nurses and other healthcare professionals to improve access to care. In medical school, I want to continue learning health policy research techniques and methods. 

Analysis:

As we mentioned in our AMCAS poster presentation description tips above, you should include utilize any extra space for any insights about your motivations and/or lessons learned. 

From this AMCAS poster presentation example, the medical school admissions committee learns that the applicant is personable and loves speaking with other like-minded individuals. We know the applicant is driven to learn new skills and conduct research as a medical student. Finally, the applicant is also thinking about how to push the field further by discussing “future research” topics. 

 

Step Up Your Game: Make Your Activities Descriptions From Good to Great
  • We recommend all your posters and oral presentations be listed as bullet points in one AMCAS activity.
  • If you have space, write a short paragraph or 1-3 sentences about the publication. You can address the following:
    • What did you learn about the presenting your research? 
    • What motivated you to study this topic (these topics)? 
    • How is this research related to your career?

What if my presentation is not in the medical field? 

We typically recommend med school applicants to include presentations in non-medical fields. We have had students include presentations at poetry readings and history conferences on their AMCAS applications!

How Will You Stand Out?

How will you make your medical school application stand out among the 50,000 other applicants? 

The two big pieces of medical school application tips we give to premeds so that you can stand out are:

  • Highlight a niche in medicine you are interested in: Make sure your entire medical school application highlights a niche in medicine you are interested in. It doesn’t have to be a specific medical specialty, like radiology or pediatrics. It can also be an aspect of patient care or a problem in the medical field that you are passionate about. Are you a global health guru? Love research? Figure out your niche. And highlight these strengths throughout your medical school application. For example, say you are interested in health education. You should highlight this passion in your personal statement, AMCAS activities reflections, secondary essay applications, and your medical school interviews.
  • Paint a picture of yourself through stories:  Our Cracking Med School Admissions team has found that stories are the most powerful way to display an applicant’s relationships with other individuals, teamwork, compassion, and empathy. Your AMCAS personal statement, AMCAS letters of recommendation, and secondary essays should all include stories.

More AMCAS Work and Activities Tips

AMCAS Work and Activities Tip #1:
Don’t talk too much about your extracurricular activities themselves. Instead write more about what YOU did and the impact YOU had.

One of the common mistakes we see applicants make is that they do not focus their AMCAS activities section on THEM. Instead, they write too much about the organization or what the team accomplished as a whole. While it is important to show that you are a team player, it should not be at the expense of the reader learning about YOU. When filling out the AMCAS activities section, remember to explain WHY you did something and your personal motivations. One of the key components of a good application is the ability to weave the entire application into a coherent story. Explaining your motivations is a great way to connect your past experiences to your future goals and aspirations. It’s also a great place to talk about your personal reflections on how you’ve grown as a person.

For examples of great AMCAS activities descriptions, download our AMCAS work & activities workbook here

 
AMCAS Work and Activities Tip #2:
Don’t duplicate information on your primary application and your secondary applications

To be successful on your AMCAS application, you must combine a variety of stories together to explain why you are a good match for a medical school. Avoiding redundancy is key here, which goes to say that you do NOT want to be repeating information an admissions committee already knows about you. This seems obvious, yet you’d be surprised how many pre-med applicants either re-state information in their secondaries, or complain that they don’t have enough unique stories to craft a winning application.

If you want to write about the same activity in your personal statement, AMCAS activities section, and your specific medical school secondary essays, we definitely support it. However, you should highlight different aspects about the activity. For example, you could use a hospital shadowing opportunity to write both about the rigors of the emergency room, and in a separate essay, you can talk about a personal interaction you had with a patient in the emergency room. Although both of these experiences came from shadowing, they reveal totally different yet essential qualities of a medical professional.

 
AMCAS Work and Activities Tip #3:
Spelling and grammar mistakes 

No matter how many times some people are told to proofread and get essays edited, spelling and grammar mistakes always seem to slip through the cracks on the AMCAS application and on secondary applications as well. Unfortunately, that doesn’t give them an excuse, and spelling and grammar mistakes will be looked at unfavorably and taken as carelessness. It’s simple – get your essays edited!

 
AMCAS Work and Activities Tip #4:
Don’t forget to put ALL your activities down in your AMCAS activities section

This happens more commonly than you think.

Some premed applicants have expressed that they feel they shouldn’t put non-medical related activities in their application because non-clinical activities may be perceived as a lack of focus and doesn’t contribute to their medical school candidacy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, going “too deep” on a certain activity and not showing a variety of experiences can contribute to not getting any secondaries! Don’t feel bad to show you are well-rounded! However, also remember that there is a difference between a well-rounded applicant and an unfocused applicant. You should be able to explain how your diverse experiences have shaped you as a person and how these experiences will help you succeed in medical school and beyond.

 
AMCAS Work and Activities Tip #5:
Don’t forget to put ALL your honors and awards

On a similar note to med school applicants forgetting to write down their activities, many premeds forget to write all their leadership positions and awards.  We are often on the phone with our premed advisees making sure they don’t forget about a lab presentation or a “Dean’s List” nomination.

The most common information premeds forget on their primary medical school applications: Students forget to put awards, honors, and leadership positions for each activity. Don’t forget to add your presentations, posters, or any other recognitions you’ve had! Even presenting in a lab meeting or to a small group of students should be recognized!

 
AMCAS Work and Activities Tip #6:
Show depth and commitment through your activities

One of the common medical school application mistakes students make is that they do not show enough depth and commitment through their activities. From an admissions committee members’ perspective, this results in generic-sounding AMCAS extracurricular activities descriptions and essays. 

There are many opportunities for you to show commitment and passion with your activities throughout your medical school application.  First, your AMCAS work and activities section is a good place to show depth. Be sure to enter the number of hours you’ve committed to each activity, as well as a detailed description of the activity and any leadership roles you’ve taken on. It goes without saying that you should choose activities you’ve spent a considerable amount of time on across a long time period.

Read: activities picked up 3 months before applying to medical school are usually not strong activities.

Furthermore, your description of the activity is just as important as the activity itself. 

A second way to show your commitment to your activities and people around you is through your essays – both your personal statement and your secondary essays. As we stated above in our 2 biggest medical school application advice section, be sure to tell stories. You can tell stories about how you have made a difference to an individual, how you have helped your community, and how you have made changes in an organization you lead. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Responses by Dr. Rachel Rizal and Dr. Rishi Mediratta – your Cracking Med School Admissions premed advisors

We love helping students with their medical school applications! Simply leave us a message in the contact form below.

If you want personalized advising and detailed help with your medical school application, including personal statement edits and activities description edits, then check out our medical school application packages

Here's our best practice - we advise students to have at least 13 activities. If you don't have this many activities, make sure you aren't forgetting any of your part-time jobs, awards, or extracurricular activities.

Remember, you can add non-clinical employment, like working as a barista or as an executive assistant to your AMCAS activities!

Most commonly, people forget that they did a volunteer activity and won an award from freshmen or sophomore year. Don't forget to use a space for awards, hobbies, and work experiences.

We have other strategies to increase the number of activities you have, like separating your honors / awards into multiple activities description. Feel free to contact us if you have questions or issues. 

Work experience is definitely important for you to list. 

The Work/Activities section is there for you to show off all of your skills. Holding down a job while doing well as a student, is a huge accomplishment that not everyone can handle. It also shows a well-rounded applicant that can move beyond the lab bench.

The most common mistakes we see applicants make are:

  1. Talk too much about the organization and not enough about what THEY did.
  2. Write too little. Some applicants only write 200 characters per activity.
  3. Forget their activities!

If you do not have 15 activities already, then yes, we recommend using 1 or 2 of the activities descriptions as hobbies. They oftentimes make students sound interesting.

However, if you are short on activities descriptions and you have 15 or more strong extracurricular experiences, we do not advise you to add hobbies here. You can always write about your hobbies and interesting personality qualities in your secondary application essays. 

If you want more examples of AMCAS activities descriptions, download our AMCAS workbook!

Another trick for entering your activities is to group several different activities under one heading so that you are not wasting multiple spots.

For example, you can put all your works, poster presentations, or awards under one activity. 

Another popular activity that is grouped together is shadowing. In the shadowing example, the applicant groups all their shadowing experiences together. 

There are several ways to list your shadowing experiences on the AMCAS work and activities section. Here is what we see commonly among applicants:

  1. Write an activities description for each of your shadowing experiences. Since you have a lot of space, you can talk about what you learned, what type of doctor you want to be based on your observations of other physicians, and interesting patient cases.
  2. Group multiple or all your shadowing experiences in 1 AMCAS activities description. See the example above. 

 

Yes! In fact, we have many tips and pieces of wisdom to share with medical school applicants. We wrote an entire blog post dedicated towards the AMCAS most meaningful experience descriptions.

In case you missed it, there is also a research most meaningful experience remarks in the research activity description example

Write down an individual who can vouch for you and can verify that you participated in that activity. Be sure to include the individual's contact information, such as an email address and phone number, even if it's an international number.

The only time we have heard medical school admissions committee members reach out to your AMCAS experience contacts is a) if they know the individual personally and want to ask about you (we hear this happen often with med school interviewers) and b) if the activity hours and information is egregiously extreme that they want to verify the accuracy of your application.

In general, medical school applications are an honor system. Medical school admissions committees do not want to waste time on figuring out whether your AMCAS application is accurate or not. 

You should put your end date as your perceived end date. For example, if you are applying in the 2022 medical school application cycle, then your end date could be 07/2023. Additionally, estimate the number of hours you expect for each future activity. Read more details in "How to Write an AMCAS Work and Activities description" above.

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