AMCAS Work and Activities Example

AMCAS Work and Activities Example: 2021 Applicant Guide

Our Cracking Med School Admissions team has read literally 1000s of AACOMAS and AMCAS Work and Activities descriptions. Read our tips to write an outstanding medical school application, including several AMCAS work and activities examples from successful applicants!

Learn how to write excellent Work and Activities Descriptions: 

  1. How to Write Work/Activities Section for AMCAS
  2. AMCAS Work and Activities Examples
  3. AMCAS Work and Activities Tips
  4. FAQs
  5. Medical School Application Packages – get edits for your med school applications!

Need help with your AMCAS application, including the work and activities 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 AMCAS Work and Activities

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

On the AMCAS application, you have space to fill up to 15 work and activities descriptions.  For each description, you can identify which category best describes your experience, and you have 700 characters.  Additionally, you can designate three of your activities as a “most meaningful experience.” For these 3 most meaningful experiences, you have an additional 1325 characters. We have an entire blog post dedicated on how to write your AMCAS most meaningful experiences.

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

Elements of this AMCAS description:

  1. Program goal: In activities in which the goal or mission of the organization / project is not obvious,
  2. AMCAS activity description: Write a description, whether in bullet points or paragraph form, of what YOU did for that specific work or activity. Focus on impact. One common mistake our Cracking Med School Admissions finds our students doing is they talk too much about the organization and not enough of what they did for the organization.
  3. Awards / 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.

As you can see, you can write a lot in 700 characters! 

How are activities categorized on the AMCAS Application?

There are several AMCAS activities categories that you can choose from for each of your activities. 

AMCAS Work and Activities Categories:

  • Artistic Endeavors
  • Community Service/Volunteer – Not 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 – Not Medical/Clinical
  • Physician Shadowing/Clinical Observation
  • Presentations/Posters
  • Publications
  • Research/Lab
  • Teaching/Tutoring/Teaching Assistant

Note: 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, they should learn why it was meaningful to you and what you learned.

There is a lot of strategy related to choosing categories, so contact us if you want strategy and editing help with your AACOMAS or AAMC application. 

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.

It is a personal preference and there is not one correct format to write your 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.

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

Add these components to strengthen your activities description.

  • Awards & Publications: Did you win any awards from this activity? 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 leadership in your activity description and make it bold.

If you need to add context about the organization or program, then you can write a short description about the organization or activity background. We recommend 2 sentences MAX.

We wanted 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 activities and work section of the AMCAS Application. We’ve helped numerous students strategize about how to present their activities and work experience.

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. 

FREE AMCAS Work & Activities Workbook

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

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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 do we write about our shadowing experiences in the AMCAS work and activities section?” The example below shows one approach to writing about your premed shadowing experiences.

AMCAS Work and Activities Example – Shadowing

AMCAS Work and Activities Example - Shadowing Physicians

Analysis: Here, the applicant has had several shadowing opportunities throughout college, so he decided to mention several of them. One thing you can do with your AMCAS Work and Activities description is to describe the significance of each shadowing experience or highlight key points.

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.

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)

Other shadowing description 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.

By conveying these experiences, you’re painting a bigger picture with fewer words.

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

AMCAS Work and Activities – Research Example

Many med school applicants will have research experience as one of your 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.

AMCAS Work and Activities Example – Research

Insights to learn from this research AMCAS work activity example: 

From the above experience, note how the description is limited to one, brief sentence.

Additionally, 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…”).

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.

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! 

AMCAS Work and Activities – Volunteering

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. From the above example, notice how only one sentence describes responsibilities of the position “[ensuring] that staff and residents… have access and daily meals and needed resources,” while more space is taken to describe impact, such as the implementation of a “breakfast/lunch program,” and lessons learned about the “implementation of theory into practice.”

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 your clinical experiences and describe what you learned about working with people. For example, the above description reflects on how “medicine is not only about treating illness but also connecting with others.” Recognition of the humanistic aspects of medicine is looked upon highly by medical school admissions committees!

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

FREE AMCAS Work & Activities Workbook

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

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 AMCAS Work and Activities – Paid Employment

Many premeds have work experience, including tutoring and summer jobs. Some applicants think that these non-clinical work experiences are not relevant, but they definitely are! 

In fact, 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 – Non-Military

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.

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 field of medicine, like radiology or pediatrics. It can also be an aspect of patient care or healthcare 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 essays and extracurricular activities descriptions. 

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.

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.

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We typically respond within 1 business day.

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

Elements of this AMCAS description:

  1. Program goal: In activities in which the goal or mission of the organization / project is not obvious,
  2. AMCAS activity description: Write a description, whether in bullet points or paragraph form, of what YOU did for that specific work or activity. Focus on impact. One common mistake our Cracking Med School Admissions finds our students doing is they talk too much about the organization and not enough of what they did for the organization.
  3. Awards / 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.

As you can see, you can write a lot in 700 characters! 

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