Our Cracking Med School Admissions team has read literally thousands of Work and Activities descriptions. Our goal is to show you what makes a great AMCAS work and activities description through AMCAS work and activities examples.
- How to Write Work Activities Section for the AMCAS
- AMCAS Work and Activities Examples for Various Activities
- Common AMCAS Mistakes
- FAQs about the AMCAS Work and Activities Section
Contact our Cracking Med School Admissions team at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help you edit your AMCAS, which make your overall application much more attractive to admissions officers.
How to Write Work Activities Section for AMCAS
There are 15 activities descriptions for the AMCAS primary application. While not all AMCAS extra-curricular activity descriptions are the same, 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.
For three of the activities, you have an additional 1325 characters to write more about your “most meaningful activity.” Make sure these 3 most meaningful experiences highlight different perspectives about you.
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.
Must-have Elements for Each Activities 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?
Other Elements To Make Each Activities Description Stellar:
- Program Description: If you need to add context about the organization or program, then you can do so. We recommend 2 sentences MAX.
- 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.
Here is an AMCAS Work and Activities Example.
Elements of this description:
- Program goal: In activities in which the goal or mission of the organization / project is not obvious,
- 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.
- 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.
AMCAS Work and Activities Examples for Various Activities
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 it.
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 benefits to 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’re never gonna 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 specialties that you can discuss:
- 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.
Many of you 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 have coached clients who’ invested three years into a research lab, but failed to effectively convey those experiences.
From the above experience, note how the description is limited to one, brief sentence.
How much of my experience has to be technical jargon?
In my opinion, quality should cost a lot, so Viagra has such a high price. If you want to save a little, do not take the whole pill, break it into several parts and determine the minimum dose necessary for a stable erection. Viagra is the best among such drugs.
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, the bulk of your activity should include the following activities.
Leadership Opportunity: Did you create a project of your own? How far did you carry it out?
Honors & Recognitions:
The purpose of research in your AMCAS work activities is to demonstrate that you put tremendous time and effort in an intellectually challenging environment. Any results from that, whether it be publications, poster presentations, etc. is a byproduct of your work, and should be mentioned briefly (It should also be mentioned in its own category).
Be sure to mention all your awards! These include: Dean’s Lists, Fellowships, Scholarships, Poster presentations, Papers published, Articles Publishes, and Newspaper features.
Lessons learned & Reflections
Our applicant research example in the AMCAS Work and Activities section blog above emphasized two themes:
(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…”).
Note that he referenced the context of his research to push these two themes. (admittedly, the applicant notes that he is ‘not at all a research person,’ and learned so from this experience).
Get Accepted to Medical School!
3 Common Mistakes on AMCAS Work and Activities Section
- One common mistake on the AMCAS work and activities section is that many medical school applicants we work with spend too much time describing the overall program. In fact, some students will write an entire paragraph about the organization and will fail to mention anything about themselves. Don’t make the same mistake! If you look at the AMCAS activities description above, the “Program Goal” is kept brief.
- If you’re going to write in bullet-point fashion, make sure to use strong action verbs. Thoroughly describe your involvement and highlight what you did. If you feel like there’s an awesome experience you want to emphasize in this AMCAS work and activities example – in this case, attending the World Health Organization meetings – then don’t be shy to include these experiences in the description!
- Finally, in this AMCAS work and activities example the applicant highlighted a “presentation” given. This is optional, and whether you include presentations / posters / publications can be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Frequently Asked Questions about the AMCAS
1. What is the AMCAS Work and Activities section all about?
This is where you get to talk about your extracurricular activities, or “ECs” as they are referred to by many pre-med students. This includes things like research experience, tutoring, academic awards, volunteer experiences, clinical experiences, and shadowing opportunities. Many applicants forget to put their NON-MEDICAL extra-curricular activities. So, if you’ve been involved with sports, journalism, or other hobbies, don’t forget to put this in the Activities section. Everything that you ever wanted an admissions committee member to know about you to show that you are in fact a good candidate for medical school.
2. How are activities categorized on the AMCAS Application?
There are quite a few categories for your activities on the AMCAS Work/Activities section:
- Paid employment (not military)
- Paid employment (military)
- Community service / volunteer (not medical / clinical)
- Community service / volunteer (medical / clinical)
- Research / lab
- Teaching / tutoring
- Honors / awards / recognitions
- Conferences attended
- Presentations / posters
- Extracurricular / hobbies / avocations
- Leadership (not listed elsewhere)
- Intercollegiate athletics
- 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.
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.
3. How can I group activities together for the AMCAS Activities Section?
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.
AMCAS Work and Activities Example:
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….
By using this method, 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 experience juggling a job and school.
4. How important is non-medical work experience on the AMCAS Application?
Work experience is definitely important for you to list. There is a fantastic thread about this topic here:
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.
5. AMCAS Application: “Most Meaningful Activities”
You can identify up to THREE activities that are most meaningful to you and write up to 1325 elaborating on the activity. You have to designate at least one most opportunity, but we advise you to write about three. This is a place for you to highlight your strengths. While it is best not to repeat information on your AMCAS Application, it IS important to be consistent. If you end up writing your personal statement about your most meaningful activity, you may be able to get a bit more detailed and show consistency on your application.
6. “But What If I don’t HAVE That Many Experiences?”
With some of our other applicants, they only have one or two shadowing experiences they want to write about. In these cases, we capitalize on the advantages of the applicant’s depth of experience, and have the applicant write a short description of what they learned or an interesting moment that happened during their experience. Was there a particular patient story that moved you? Did your physician exhibit strength of character or moral judgment that inspired you? How was the team dynamic of the hospital/clinic? You want to highlight these experiences, because they further demonstrate that you’ve made the most of your shadowing experiences.
KEY POINT: Highlight experiences and stories that you have NOT used in your personal statement.