Whether you are first starting out in college and looking to apply to research or volunteering positions or preparing your application to medical school, making sure you have a premed resume that stands out is essential. While you may have had a resume that you used in high school, a premed resume that impresses may require you to approach discussing and ordering your experiences differently. You might find yourself asking: “How should my resume look? Is X, Y, or Z activity important to include? How can I make this sound more impressive?”
Oftentimes, we see students who, in an attempt to show all that they have done, include every experience they have had, down to the lemonade stand they ran in elementary school. Information that may have seemed relevant to our high school selves are not be as relevant to medical schools, research mentors, or volunteering coordinators and it is important to keep these readers in mind.
We want to make sure people see how amazing you are and what you can contribute!
In this post, we answer two questions:
- How should I build my premed resume to have it stand out?
- How should I discuss my experiences to leave an impact?
We also included some sample premed resume templates for you to get started and some comparisons to give you an idea of what to do and what not to do.
Sections of a Premed Resume
One of the most important parts of your resume isn’t even what is written down, but instead how it is organized! Put yourself into the mind of whoever is reviewing your resume. If they look at your resume and see that it is poorly formatted and filled with spelling errors, they will assume that you are disorganized and do not pay attention to detail. In contrast, if your resume is clean and crisp with clear sections and formatting, they will assume that you are highly organized and conscientious, both qualities that are highly valued by employers and admissions readers. This is a well-documented psychological phenomenon known as the halo effect (look it up!).
We have found a very important aspect of the resume to nail is how you organize your information. Rather than listing a bunch of bullet points, we recommend that you organize experiences by type and context. In our experience, premed resumes that typically stand out have the following sections:
- Work Experience
- Skills and Interests
Education Section best practices:
- Make sure to highlight all of the major educational experiences that you have had.
- If you are at the collegiate level, this would include your college and any college-level courses that you have conducted at institutions other than your home one (you can also include your high school if it is local or particularly well known).
- If you are a post-baccalaureate or non-traditional student, make sure to include all educational experiences from college onwards.
- Make sure to list each school, the years during which you attended, the degree or certification that you were working towards, any honors you may have received, and your GPA. If requested, you can also include any testing scores (SAT/ACT or MCAT) here.
Work Experiences Section best practices:
- Work experiences include recent and relevant jobs and internships.
- Popular work experiences found in a premed resume: research positions; scribe at a clinic or hospital department; public health program coordinator; EMT; pharmaceutical companies (either in research & development or business development); health-technology companies, particularly at startups; teaching assistants and tutors.
- Unless you are a freshman or sophomore in college, we do not advise adding your high school experiences. There is one exception: if you have a significant work experience or activity that you continued throughout college, then you can should note that you started the program or organization in high school.
- Non-traditional students (or anyone who has taken a gap year) should also include information about their previous careers or any other significant experience between college and the current time.
- You can use the description part of each work experience entry to connect your experience to what you are applying for.
Extracurriculars / Leadership Section best practices:
- Remember to include activities both inside and outside school, and what roles you had in them.
- Popular extracurricular activities found in a premed resume: participation and leadership position in school clubs, sororities, and fraternities; writing for publications, including university newspapers or scientific journals; athletics; and music.
- Highlight activities where you have held a meaningful leadership role and those that highlight your interest in medicine and science.
- Ensure that the activities that you are discussing are ones that you have been a part of for a good amount of time and avoid those that were only transitory (only a month or less). Showing commitment is a great way for you to demonstrate that you will be committed to this future role as well and are not looking for a short-term engagement.
Volunteering Section best practices:
- As an aspiring medical professional, dedication to serving your those around you and underserved communities is very important.
- Popular volunteering found in a premed resume: Volunteering can take on many forms and range greatly based on each student’s interest. Some popular volunteering activities include: coaching a local youth sports league, tutoring and mentoring at an afterschool, working with the elderly at senior citizen homes program, volunteering at free clinics; volunteering with global health organizations.
- Sometimes, there may be very few experiences in this section, especially if you included some of your volunteering or ones that overlap with work experiences. Use your judgement to determine if having this section highlights your volunteering work or if it would be better served in another section.
Skills and Interests Section best practices:
- The skills and interest section is a short one designed to allow you to showcase less formal aspects of your personality
- List certain technical skills, such as: competency in programming languages or certain computer software; other languages you speak; data analytics; and proficiency at Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Include skills that will be relevant to the specific job. For example, your language skills may make you more qualified to work with a specific population and will help you stand out as an applicant.
- When discussing your interests and hobbies, make sure to include appropriate ones and ones you would not be embarrassed to talk about! Also, consider unique hobbies and talents. These are always catchy and great conversation starters!
FREE Premed Resume TEmplates
How to Make An Impact On Your Premed Resume
Now that you have a solid structure for your premed resume, it is time to discuss individual experiences to make sure that your descriptions make an impression on the reader and make it more likely that you are invited to take the next step in your application.
When describing your experiences, the most important thing to keep in mind is to be concise. Since the resume is designed to be a one-page snapshot, it is made to only highlight the most important experiences. If you were like me, you must be thinking “I really want them to get a full picture of me – how can I do that in one page?” While it may seem extremely short at first, being concise in your descriptions will allow you to maximize your space and get the relevant details for every experience out more quickly. A good rule of thumb is to limit each experience to 3-4 bullet points with each bullet point only being 1-2 lines, preferably 1 line.
Sample Resume Descriptions & Analysis
Let’s consider the premed resume example below:
- Responsible for preparing, serving, and cleaning up elderly patients’ three daily meals. This included collaborating with the culinary team to communicate patient preferences, organizing and laying out seating arrangements for patients, and assisting patients in serving and consuming prepared meals.
Although this provides a lot of detail, many of your readers can imagine what volunteering in a nursing home may look like.
Instead, consider this shorter version:
- Assisted culinary team in preparing individual meals, managed serving, and assisted elderly patients during meals
This line conveys much of the information in the bullet above while being direct and concise.
Another important consideration is to demonstrate your agency in whatever your responsibilities were at your job or volunteer position. This allows the reader to readily picture you in this scenario and emphasizes that you played an important role and were not merely a bystander. A simple way to emphasize your agency is the style of narrative voice you use. For example, “The food was prepared by Steve” is in the passive voice. These sentences are longer, more difficult to read, and produce a weaker impact on a reader. By placing the object after the verb, you use the active voice, which leaves more of an impression on your reader. Instead, “Steve prepared the food.”
- At Happy Days Ice Cream shop, I was a member of the team that scooped ice cream and operated the cash register. I would have to alternate between the two tasks.
- Operated and assisted customers in managed ice cream product line a and payment process
Lastly, you want to demonstrate growth in whatever you have been involved in thus far. Showing that you thrived in your role and were recognized for your contributions will show that you have potential to grow and adapt to the needs of your role, making you a very attractive candidate. Oftentimes, supporting these bullet points with quantitative evidence (i.e. increased sales 25%, trained two employees, etc.) will demonstrates the magnitude of your contribution without taking up too much space.
A few good examples for this could be:
- Assigned new responsibilities of training new student members of the lab research team
- Ran promotional campaign that doubled ice cream sales over a two-month period
- Updated and improved the lab’s ordering process to cut costs by 15%
To return to our initial questions, we have seen how to build your premed resume to have it stand out, whether it is for a research position or when applying to medical school. This means using clear and descriptive categories to sort your experiences and organizing them effectively. When deciding how to discuss your experiences to leave an impact, remember to be concise, use active voice and action verbs, and show your growth.
FREE Pre-med Resume TEmplates
Blog post written by Prateek Sahni and the Cracking Med School Admissions Team