Extracurriculars are definitely a part of the application that have a lot of misinformation and stress surrounding them. You may have heard a rumour you need to play 3 different sports to secure a place at medical/dental school, or some random guy on an online forum said a grade 8 in piano is the way to go. Regardless, here we are to put your mind at ease and lay down the facts 😉
What are extracurriculars and what’s their point? 🤔
Extracurriculars are legit just any activity that you do outside of studying at school. Now, their relevance to your medical/dental school application is in 2 main ways:
- To show your personality off – the admissions teams don’t want to recruit a bunch of robots as doctors or dentists, but instead actual humans with real lives who like things other studying- I know it sounds stupid but it’s true 😆
- To show your skillset off – the admissions teams uses ‘values-based recruitment’ when assessing medical students. Put simply this just means they want to see if you’ve developed a set of skills that are directly transferable or relevant to a medical/dental career. One of the main ways of showing that is through your extracurriculars!
What kinds of extracurriculars are there? 🪞
Let’s break extracurriculars up into 3 different types:
- One off events – This could be something like a charity event you did, or a project you worked on outside of your studies. You can definitely use these to show off skills/qualities you utilised to make these events successful.
- Skill development – These are more longer term activities you do/have done. Things like tutoring, having a part time job, being in a debate club etc are all examples. Just like it says on the tin, these activities are primarily used to show where you’ve developed a particular skill or quality that’s relevant to a medical/dental career.
- Hobbies – There’s overlap here with the skill development type of extracurriculars since things like sports and tutoring might also be your hobbies. But whatever else there is you like doing as a hobby, whether that be horse riding or painting, don’t think it has no relevance to your application!
What is their use in the personal statement? 📁
As we mentioned earlier, one big use of extracurriculars is to use them to reflect on skills you’ve developed and qualities you’ve shown that are in line with what makes a good doctor or dentist. The one off extracurricular events and the skill development extracurriculars you guys have are perfect for this. You can write about them in your statement to show how you’ve worked on and developed skills over time such as communication (even more specifically verbal, non-verbal, paralanguage, listening), teamwork, leadership etc. Most importantly, you should make the link back to medicine and dentistry clear and show why exactly the skills you’ve developed are important in the career.
Moving onto hobbies, contrary to what some may think they can play a very important part in your personal statement! You can talk about them from the perspective of maintaining a work-life balance and having certain outlets to destress and enjoy yourself. Again, linking this back to medicine/dentistry and explaining why such a skill is required to deal with the challenges of the career will be the icing on the cake.
We actually have a wholeee other guide detailing exactly what needs to go in a personal statement and how to structure it where you can learn more about this, so do check that out too!
What is their use at interview? 🗣️
The way you can bring extracurriculars into interviews is actually very similar to your personal statement- to reflect on them to show you’re already developing the same skills and qualities of a doctor/dentist! The main difference is here you’re verbalising this to support your reflections from your work experience or when talking about your knowledge of a career in medicine or dentistry.
Other than supporting other reflections, there are whole stations/questions at interview asking you about where you developed X skill or showed Y quality, so you have a chance to exclusively talk about your extracurricular experiences there.
The art of storytelling becomes very important in being impactful when talking about extracurriculars. You’ll need to practise talking through your personal experiences from your extracurriculars so you can keep the interviewer engaged, be concise in your recount and make it clear what exactly that skill or quality was that you developed/showed and howyou did it. Check out our guide on communication in interview for more tips on how to do this 😉
Final words 🗣️
Let’s finish off by answering a question I know you’re all itching to ask 🤣
Q: How many extracurriculars do I need?
A: There is no set amount! Honestly, even if you only do 1 there’s a lot more juice you can extract from it than you may think. Sit and think, what extracurriculars do I do, or have I done, and what have I learnt from them? What skills have I developed? Where specifically are these skills important in a medical/dental career?
That being said, trying to actively build your skills portfolio is never a bad idea! If you feel like there’s a gap in your skillset e.g. you don’t have an example of teamwork, have a think about what you could do to develop this. Doing something as simple as getting together with your friends and doing a fundraising event for charity at school can give you so much, both in skill development and benefitting the community
Anddd that’s it! The final important point to keep in mind is- you are each your own person, and that is a big part of what medical and dental schools want to see about you. So be proud of your achievement and hobbies and make full use of them as a tool to boost your application! 🚀
If you’re ever stuck too, for example unsure about how to reflect on your experiences, you know who to come to 🤩