Student questioning how to fill out the AMCAS work and activities section of their application.

AMCAS Work And Activities: The Complete Applicant Guide

July 5, 2021
Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. What is the AMCAS Work and Activities Section Part 3. AMCAS Work and Activities PurposePart 4. How to Choose the Best Activities to Include Part 5. Standard Entries vs. Most Meaningful Entries Part 6. How to Fill Out the Work and Activities Section + Examples Part 7. Common Mistakes to AvoidPart 8. FAQsPart 9. Final Thoughts

Introduction

You’ve maintained a strong GPA and taken the MCAT. Now, it’s time to get started with the application. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) helps make the process of applying to different medical schools smooth and easier; it provides the AMCAS, a centralized application service allowing for one application to be sent to most medical schools in the US.

Today, we’re going to discuss one of the sections you’ll encounter in the application: Work and Activities. The section’s name is pretty straightforward, but it’s an extensive part of your application. 

You’ll need to strategically decide which activities to include, how to fill each entry, which activities you deem as the most important and significant, and how to avoid some of the most common mistakes applicants make when filling out this section.

We’ve got you covered. In this complete guide, we’ll go over the most important things you need to know to successfully craft the AMCAS Work and Activities section.

What is the AMCAS Work and Activities Section 

The AMCAS Work and Activities Section is one of nine sections in the application. Work and Activities cover a lot more than you might think. This section includes research experiences, volunteer and clinical experiences, employment, awards, extracurricular activities and hobbies.

You’ll be able to select up to 15 experiences, but you can only include four occurrences of each activity type. For example, you can’t include more than four extracurricular activities. For this reason, you need to be careful about which activities you decide to include and assess whether they are meaningful enough or not.

The different work and activities you decide to include will always appear in chronological order, regardless of the order in which you’ve added them, and you will have 700 characters to describe each one of them. 

Once you are ready to fill an entry, you’ll be given several categories from which to choose:

As you can see, while the list is wide and varied, it can give you an idea of what medical schools expect and can help you decide the appropriateness of experiences.


AMCAS Work and Activities Purpose

The purpose of the Work and Activities section of the AMCAS application is not to merely list your experiences. Medical schools want to learn about who you are through them, how much time you committed, the qualities you showed, the impact you made, and the things you accomplished.

How you convey these experiences and their impact on you and your decision to get involved in the medical field can make your application stand out from the crowd and create a good impression. This is an excellent opportunity to provide deep insights about yourself and let the admission committees know how these experiences made you learn and grow.

How to Choose the Best Activities to Include 

Choosing the best activities to include is not easy. It is even more difficult if you’re an active person and have a wide variety of experiences you would like to include. Here are some helpful steps to follow when considering which activities are the best for your application: 

Consider the amount of time you’ve spent involved in an activity.

If you include fishing as an activity or hobby but have only done it twice a month for three months, you’ll leave the admission committees wondering if it was truly significant to you. Focus on those activities to which you’ve dedicated a substantial amount of time, activities you’ve done throughout the years.

This will show your consistency and commitment and will make a good impression. That doesn’t mean that you can’t include an activity you’ve only done for a year or two; as long as it shows your dedication and your desire to keep growing – traits medical schools are looking for in candidates. 

Choose activities that show your best qualities and competence.

There’s nothing better than being able to talk about something you’re truly good at, and that brings out the best in you. Before adding an activity, ask yourself if it showcases your strengths.

You might want to pay attention to the following competencies and qualities: science, communication skills, professionalism, cultural competence, community spirit, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Medical schools highly value these, and most of the activities you add need to show at least one crucial quality. 

Evaluate if the activity in question has made you grow or is making you grow right now.

The growth can be either personal, academic, or professional. Medical schools enormously value any growth type; it demonstrates your ability to do more and your drive to excel.

Resilience is a quality that goes a long way in medical school applications; enduring through difficult times and letting growth happen from these situations, either good or bad, can make a difference between a mediocre physician and an excellent, dedicated professional. 

Consider how relevant the activity is to your decision to be a physician.

Has this activity helped you realize you have the drive to help others? Has it made you interested in the medical field? It is recommended that at least two of the activities you include are relevant in that matter. 

We just discussed the four components that make an activity worthy of being included in the AMCAS Work and Activities section. Every activity doesn’t have to follow the four recommendations, but it’s an excellent way to determine whether an activity is worth including or not.

In a nutshell, in order to choose the best activities for the Work and Activities section of the AMCAS application, consider if you’ve dedicated a significant amount of time, if it shows your best qualities, if it has made you grow and learn, or if it has helped you decide on becoming a doctor and getting involved in the medical field. 


Standard Entries vs. Most Meaningful Entries 

As an applicant, you’ll be asked to identify up to three experiences you consider the most meaningful out of all the entries you decide to include in the Work and Activities section. This will make a difference because in addition to the 700 characters, you’ll be given an extra 1325 characters to write about them, so making an informed decision is crucial. 

When considering which experiences are the most meaningful, think about how transformative the experience was, the personal growth experienced as a result, and its impact. You can select an activity you mention in your personal essay as the most meaningful, but you don’t necessarily have to do this.

Some applicants stress too much over this and try very hard to strategize. Don’t do this.

While we advise not to repeat yourself, it’s okay to talk about the same experience as long as you’re describing or talking about a different feature of said activity. If you have thoroughly discussed an experience in your personal statement, don’t choose this as a most meaningful entry.

The key is to avoid repetition and to keep things simple, fresh, and consistent with your decisions and what you write in the application. Do make sure that at least one of your most meaningful experiences is medicine related, ideally a clinical experience

How to Fill Out the Work and Activities Section + Examples 

Before going into detail about how to fill out the Work and Activities section, let’s take a look at the format of the entries.

Example AMCAS work and activities entry

As you can see, the structure and how the application readers will see each entry is pretty straightforward. 

Once you have decided which activities to include and are ready to start working on each section’s entry, AMCAS will let you designate the experience type from the list mentioned earlier. From this list you can identify your “most meaningful” experiences.

You’ll need to fill out some necessary information about each before you jump on to the description. The basic information includes the type of experience, title, duration, total hours, organization name, city, and contact information for verifiers. 

You’ll have 700 characters to describe the experience for your standard Work and Activities entries. This description should be clear and concise, but informative and with a professional tone. 

First, describe the goal of the activity or program. This should be only introductory and not longer than two or three rich sentences.

Second, write a detailed description and specifically talk about what you did. Be sure to include what abilities you demonstrated and what skills you developed. 

Last but not least, explain the impact it had on you or your community, what you learned, and list any awards you may have won. Ask yourself, why was this experience significant? What did you learn during the experience and how will it help you move forward? 

Also, don’t forget to mention how you relate this activity to your future career in the medical field. Discuss how this experience makes you a better candidate for medical school, and always focus on how and to what level the experience has shaped you. 

For your most meaningful experiences, you’ll have 1325 additional characters to discuss three experiences and their impact in detail. Be sure to discuss what you learned and how that experience made you grow.

The idea is to expand the previous description and be more detailed about interactions with patients, people, skills that you developed, and your feelings and thoughts. You want to convey how and why these experiences are the most meaningful ones. 

Following these steps will help guide you through the process of drafting an excellent description that includes all of the information and insights medical schools want to know about you. While it seems like you get plenty of room to talk about your experiences, it’s actually a very tight space.

For this reason, it’s important that you take time to thoroughly think about what you’re going to write, and to make every word and every sentence count. 

AMCAS work and activities -min


Common Mistakes to Avoid

In this section, we’ll go over some of the most common mistakes candidates make when filling out the Work and Activities section of the AMCAS. These mistakes can be easily avoided to ensure your entries are strong. 

Filling out the Work and Activities section late.

Many applicants tend to hyperfocus on the personal statement and put off this part of the application because they think it’s either not that important or is very easy to fill out. The truth is, as we’ve seen, the Work and Activities section is very comprehensive and requires you to spend time thinking and writing, especially for the most meaningful entries.

So, start filling it out as soon as possible. 

Including an activity about which you can’t speak in depth.

In other words, refrain from including activities and experiences just to fill out the section. You should be able to confidently discuss all the experiences you write about in your application, as they could easily be a question topic for the interview part of the process.

Not being able to talk in-depth about something that you included in your written application during the interview won’t reflect you well. Always be honest, genuine and don’t contradict yourself. 

Spreading out activities that you could group together.

You may have shadowed three doctors and might be wondering if you need to take up three different entry spots. The answer is no. You should group similar and less impactful activities.

Doing this will not only save you space but will also make a better impression on the application readers, since spreading experiences that could easily be grouped is usually seen as a way to “fill” the application. 

Trying to fill the maximum character count even if it’s not necessary.

Quantity doesn’t always mean quality. If what you have to say about an activity doesn’t fill the entire 700 characters or all the additional 1325 for the most meaningful entries, don’t panic.

Trying to write as much as possible can make the description wordy and hard to follow. Keep it as simple, clear, and concise as possible while clearly explaining and describing the experience and its impact. The bottom line: don’t ramble. 

Not proofreading.

A description that could be stellar after a few revisions might end up being mediocre, wordy, and full of grammar and spelling errors. Always proofread before submitting anything and, if possible, try to get feedback from an unbiased professor or medical school admissions consultant.

Constructive criticism will allow you to notice your recurrent errors and make sure your writing is clear, correct, and easy to follow. 

FAQs

1. Is it okay if I don’t fill all 15 Work and Activities entries?

Yes. While you want to include many substantial achievements and important experiences, admission committees are good at spotting application “fillers.” These are activities that are just included so the application looks better.

If you have 15 activities, including all work, clinical, research, and volunteering experiences, as well as hobbies and achievements, that are genuinely meaningful which you can talk confidently about, then totally go for it.

Do you have 8 in total? Also great! Focus on quality versus quantity. Application readers will appreciate your relatability and conciseness. 

2. Is the Work and Activities section more important than the personal statement?

Many applicants wrongly believe that they should focus more on the personal statement than in the Work and Activities section, or vice versa. Both are essential parts of the application, and you want both sections to be solid and strong. Both of them provide crucial information about you, so take time to craft them.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that the Work and Activities section goes before the personal essay. Admission committees will read it first, so making a good impression earlier is essential as they keep assessing and considering your application. 

3. Can I add more activities after I submit the application?

No. After you submit your application, you won’t be able to make any changes or add any other activity, so allow yourself plenty of time to complete it and be sure that you’re content with it before you finally submit it. 

4. Should I use bullet points to describe an activity?

That’s entirely up to you and what you feel will work best for a particular activity. However, it is encouraged to compose rich and compelling documents to make a better impression and stand out from the crowd.

Many applicants use bullet points in this section. While it can work for standard entries or less meaningful activities, to take full advantage of the Work and Activities section, we suggest using paragraph format instead of bullet points. Composing a description of the experience and its impact will help convey the message professionally and personally.

Final Thoughts

The AMCAS Work and Activities section is one of the most extensive and important sections in your application. While it might seem like it’s easy to fill out, you’ll need to allow yourself plenty of time to carefully decide which experiences to include, how to describe them correctly, and which ones to choose as your most meaningful ones.

Be ready to engage in a lot of reflection and self-assessment. Following our guide will help you through the process of crafting this section of your medical school application and assist you in having a complete, well-rounded, and rich application. 

Schedule A Free Consultation

Plan Smart. Execute Strong. Get Into Your Dream School.
Thank you! Your submission has been received and one of our consultants will be in touch soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

You May Also Like