Experiences

Gaining Meaningful Experiences

MAPS Group Photo

Joining Pre-Health Clubs on campus is a great way to learn more about various fields, get access to information and network with peers. Here is a directory of the current pre-health clubs on campus.

Many students believe that they must complete a "checklist" of experiences that often include:

  • Shadowing/Volunteering/Internship
  • Research
  • Joining Clubs
  • Study Abroad

These are wonderful activities to consider, but when deciding what to do, please keep one idea in mind: What you do with your time helps define who you are in your application. Experiences are part of a personal brand. Medical schools will learn what applicants care about and who they are through experiences that align with interests, goals and passions.

There are many ways to gain experiences through campus resources, including:

Be sure to keep track of your experiences using this helpful template. Whatever you choose to do, be sure you are dedicated, passionate about it, and motivated to pursue it for the right reason!

Choosing Experiences

Choosing Experiences

Supplemental content

Gaining Clinical Experiences

Gaining Clinical Experiences

Health Related Internships

We encourage everyone to start with a Health Related Internship to explore health careers and get foundational knowledge about what it means to work in a particular setting. HRIs will help you learn more about any of the following fields:

  • Chiropractic
  • Dentistry
  • Dietetics/Nutrition
  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Optometry
  • Pharmacy
  • Physical Therapy

HRIs require 4 hours per week with one or two quarter committments. You receive transcript notation, and shuttles are available for the UCDMC locations.

Visit the ICC website

Choosing Experiences

How important are extracurricular activities?

Extracurricular activities and any experiences that are meaningful play a large role in your application, making up the experiences piece of what we call the “holistic pie.” While metrics may demonstrate how well you do academically, meaningful experiences demonstrate who you are as an individual. When choosing activities, please keep one idea in mind: What you do with your time helps to define who you are in your application. Experiences are part of a personal brand. By reading about your experiences, schools get a chance to learn what you care about and who you are. Extracurricular activities can also contribute to your growth and help you develop important skills and qualities, such as interpersonal communication, leadership, teamwork, and organizational skills.

When should I start extracurricular activities?

While there is no right time to begin extracurricular activities, we do suggest that you ensure you have at least a 3.0 GPA before committing to many extracurricular activities. Having many meaningful activities will not make up for a GPA below 3.0. You need to focus on your grades, earn at least a 3.0, and then begin adding experiences. You can always take a year or two off after graduation to gain more experiences. However, this does not mean forgoing all activities for the sake of a 4.0 GPA; meaningful experiences are still very important, both as an applicant and as an individual.

Is it better to have fewer extracurriculars that last longer or more extracurriculars that don’t last as long?

This can be a tricky question as sometimes an experience that was short can have a lot of impact on a student. It is generally said that it is good to have a number of experiences that allow for exploration and growth. Regardless of the number though, it is ultimately the experiences that are the most meaningful and that have the most impact that are the best experiences. Your experiences define who you are, so always keep that in mind when looking for experiences. Also keep in mind that although short experiences can be impactful and meaningful, schools may view the duration of the experience as a demonstration of  your commitment and how much the experience meant to you.

What is clinical experience and how do I gain it?

Clinical experience can be any type of exposure to healthcare (e.g., interactions with health professionals, patients, etc.) in a hospital, clinical, community, or private practice setting. Clinical experience is valuable and very important as it allows you to explore health careers and get foundational knowledge about what it means to work in a particular setting. It is a way for admission committees to assess if you know what a career in the health field actually entails and to assess your desire to be involved in healthcare. Some health professions actually require at least 200 hours of clinical experience. PA schools in particular can require a couple hundred hours.

 

We encourage everyone to start with a Health Related Internship (HRI), which are offered by the Internship and Career Center (ICC). They require at least 4 hours per week with one or two quarter commitments. You receive transcript notation and shuttles are available for internships located at the UCDMC. HRI’s will help you learn more about any of the following fields:

  • Chiropractic
  • Dentistry
  • Dietics/Nutrition
  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Optometry
  • Pharmacy
  • Physical Therapy
What is a shadowing experience and how do I gain it?

Shadowing involves following a health professional as he or she carries out daily activities. Shadowing experiences will offer you a realistic view of what a health profession entails. However, it is often limited in interaction with patients, so it is best to supplement shadowing experiences with other clinical experiences. Shadowing experiences can be attained by directly contacting health professionals. It can be very helpful if you know someone who can help you contact a health professional indirectly as well. Ultimately though, you will have to speak with the health professional yourself as you must become familiar with that professional to determine if he or she would be willing to let you shadow. Please be aware that some privacy laws may prevent you from observing some situations and some patients.

How do I gain research experience?

The first step is to brainstorm what areas of research interests you as that will make a research experience more meaningful. Once you have narrowed a field of interest, a great way to find faculty who is researching in your field of interest is checking out the UC Davis faculty websites, or even speaking to your own professors. Once you have identified faculties, you may contact them by writing them a nice letter or catch them during their office hours to ask if you can set up an appointment to see them in person. Many students seek faculty simply for the research experience, so be sure to show them that you truly are interested in their research and that you sincerely want to be a part of it. Other methods include looking through Aggie Job Link for opportunities and signing up for the Undergraduate Research Center (URC) listserv to be notified of events and opportunities. The URC also has many advisors that you can speak with to learn more about gaining research experiences.

A research requirement varies among health profession schools. Some schools do look for research experience, while others do not require it at all. We recommend giving research a try, but like with any other experience, if you do not enjoy it or find meaning in it, then you can decide to not continue any further with research.