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AMCAS Activity Description Tips

One of the components of the AMCAS application is the “Work and Activities” section, in which applicants help medical school admission committees understand how they have chosen to spend their time outside the classroom. There are 15 spaces for activities; each experience must have a short (<700 character) description and applicants also select three of these as their “most meaningful” activities and write longer (<1325 character) essays about them. For more information about the “most meaningful” AMCAS activities please refer to this blog post.

Applicants must make decisions about what to include in the Work and Activities section; whether they should group activities of the same ilk together; and how they should describe each experience.

Should applicants simply report the facts?  Should they provide reflection? How much detail should they include?  For the short descriptions you will be limited by space; there is only so much you can include. Here are some tips for writing the best possible activity descriptions in the AMCAS application:

  • Report the facts.  Help the reader understand what you actually did in each activity. If you were conducting research give a brief description of your focus. If you had a job, what did it entail?  If it was an award, why did you get it/what were the criteria for getting the award?  If it was community service, what did you do?  If it was a leadership position, describe your responsibility.
  • Give your rationale. Help committees understand what drove you to pursue the activities you did. If space allows include information as to why you chose certain activities (research, leadership, a particular community service endeavor, clinical experience, etc.) What were you hoping to learn?  How were you hoping to contribute to your community?
  • Provide reflection. Where appropriate (and this will depend on the actual experience) you should provide reflection as to what you learned from the experience, how it helped you grow as an individual, or if it helped you understand the medical profession in a more fundamental or comprehensive way. While you will not have much space to reflect in detail, one or two sentences are always helpful since they allow admission committees to see what insight you gained from an experience and how you developed as an individual. Reflecting on your experiences helps admissions committees get to know you as an applicant and individual.
  • Be factual but eloquent. The best experience descriptions are a blend of factual reporting and eloquence. This is achieved by reporting the details and providing real thought and reflection.

The experience descriptions are an important component of your AMCAS application. Write them carefully and with thought, as they give shape to your entire persona as represented in the medical school application process. The personal statement tells your story in narrative fashion, while the experience descriptions flesh out your actual activities and give life to your background and passions.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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