Community Service Experience
Admissions committees seek to admit applicants with a commitment to serving others, and they look for evidence of this commitment in an applicant's record of volunteer service. If you apply to medical school and write in your personal essay about your desire to help others through your role as a physician, but your background and activities actually show no experience working with people, you will not seem credible to an admissions committee. Admissions committees prefer applicants who have demonstrated abilities at working with people in a social service or medical-related setting. Experience working with people under a variety of conditions is crucial to knowing if a career in medicine is really for you.
As a physician you will work with a wide variety of people, many of them facing disease, injury, terminal illness or the death of loved ones, substance abuse, domestic violence, and many other stressful situations. In short, your job will be to provide care for people at possibly the worst moments of their lives. Experience working with people disadvantaged due to illness, poverty, or other circumstances is especially valuable in helping you prepare for the demands of working as a physician. Volunteering in a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, or an agency that serves disadvantaged youth can provide uniquely rewarding opportunities to build the interpersonal skills you will need as a physician.
Admissions committees prefer a few meaningful experiences over a long period of time rather than a more extensive list of scattered, superficial activities, like participating in an occasional fundraising event. The purpose of community service experiences is not just to get you admitted to medical school, but to give you a chance to see if you really do like working with people and to help you build the interpersonal skills you will need as a physician. Direct person-to-person community service can provide invaluable experience to help you prepare for a medical career.
The Indiana University Service-Learning Program coordinates a variety of programs that can help you connect with organizations in our area that need volunteers, including service-learning courses, The concept of service-learning is simple: students provide service in their community that is directly connected to their academic coursework and the community provides an educational experience for the student. Since you volunteer within the framework of a college course, it can be less intimidating for students who are new to Bloomington. Students can also apply to become an ACE (Advocate for Community Engagement), volunteers who serve as liaisons between service-learning students and local agencies and organizations.
In addition, the City of Bloomington Volunteer Network website provides a comprehensive list of volunteer opportunities in our community, and is updated every week.
For more information on community service opportunities consult the HPPLC Volunteer Opportunities page.