How important are extracurricular activities?
Extracurricular activities are very important for a
number of reasons. First, they make your time at Tufts
happier and more relaxed. Second, they show your
interest in non academic pursuits. Third, they help you
develop important qualities such as communication,
leadership and organizational skills. Interviewers are
often eager to learn how you spend your free time, and
they often look for solid commitment to a few activities
(quality rather than quantity). Do not sacrifice good
grades for a long list of extracurricular, but do not
aim for a 4.0 GPA at the expense of your personal
enjoyment. Find a happy balance in between the two
Tufts has many active student organizations that relate
to health professions. Among them are The Tufts Premed
Society (which includes an AMSA chapter), the Tufts MAPS
(undergraduate of chapter of the SNMA, minority medical
student society focused on health disparities)
Pre-dental Society, Pre-vet Society and Public Health at
Tufts (PHAT). They offer many interesting programs and
tips for their members. Click
for a list of all Tufts pre-health clubs.
What should I do with my summers?
You should use them to learn as much as possible about
our health care delivery system and patient care. This
can take the form of hospital volunteer positions,
research or clinical internships, or participation in
many other programs which you can find on this website,
other sites or through personal contact. Interviewers
and admissions committees often focus on summer
experiences, as summers are a good time for in depth
work, demonstrating your motivation and interest in
medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, or whatever field
you are choosing. If you travel or work in a non-medical
setting, these experiences are good to talk about and
learn from as well. For example, you could learn as much
about interacting with a wide variety of people by being
a waiter or waitress as you would as an ER volunteer.
In general, explore the opportunities available to you,
and take advantage of what you can. Opportunities do not
need to be full-time, nor do they need to be formal
internships in order for you to learn and benefit from
them. Often students will combine a paid job in a
non-career setting (e.g. lifeguarding) with a volunteer
opportunity in a local nursing home or community health
clinic. There is no reason you cannot gain some further
exposure and understanding of health care in your
summers, even if you are working full time or taking a
lab science course. Every experience builds on your fund
of knowledge and overall understanding of the profession
you are choosing.
Be sure to check out our listings, in particular summer
camps for special needs children, and the internship
listings on the Career Services website:
http://career.tufts.edu/. Also be aware of the
funding opportunities that Tufts offers to its
Do I need to do research?
Research is not a requirement for medical school or
other health professions school. However, research
experience can enrich your undergraduate experience and
deepen your appreciation of healthcare delivery. As an
intellectual enterprise it is a wonderful complement to
your classroom study. All Tufts departments encourage
and support their students in incorporating research
into their education. Professors doing research,
especially in biomedical settings, generally want
students to work with them. Professors also get to know
the students with whom they do research and will often
write a more informative recommendation to health
professions schools. For some students, research can be
exciting and rewarding. Research is much more than just
biomedical bench research. There is community-based
public health research, social psychology research,
translational research, historical research to name a
few. Students may be able to work with a professor here
in Medford on a volunteer basis or perhaps for credit.
Some students do research on our Boston or Grafton
campuses. Some apply for and receive funding through the
Summer Scholars Program. Still others find research
opportunities elsewhere over the summer. See the
listings on the left side bar of this page and be sure
to check out
departmental websites and the
Career Services website.
The AAMC Group on Graduate Research, Education, and
Training (GREAT) Group has a list of summer
undergraduate research programs affiliated with medical
schools on the GREAT Group site at:
Do I need
to volunteer in a hospital or shadow?
If you want to discover more about the profession you
are choosing, you should seek out clinical experience.
Health professions schools will expect that you have an
interest, and are motivated to spend time in health care
delivery settings. Almost all hospitals, and many other
health facilities, have a coordinator for volunteers.
That person can tell you what is available and what the
time commitment will be. Some alternatives to the common
Emergency Room volunteer ship include assisting in a
nursing home or in a mental health facility, at an HMO
or a community clinic, at a rehab center or a birthing
center. You may really enjoy these experiences and your
help may be more valued. See the left sidebar of this
page to find local volunteer opportunities, and look for
similar organizations near your home in the summer.
Also consider broader community service work as a way of
developing the important qualities of compassion,
interpersonal communications skills, cultural
competence, and humility that will serve you well as a
health care provider. Consider joining the
Leonard Carmichael Society which serves as an
umbrella for close to 40 community service activities.
Or look at some of the other health-related clubs on
campus that do service – see the left sidebar.
Do not confuse shadowing with volunteer or service work.
It is very reasonable to shadow physicians or dentists
or other providers. They can share their experiences
with you, and you can get a view of their work life. Try
Career Services Alumni Career Advisory Network as
one way to make contacts and possibly arrange a
shadowing experience. But shadowing does not allow you
to do something directly for patients or others in need.
Shadowing is only one component of your preparing
yourself experientially for your future health
Finally, if you tell schools that you want to be a
doctor because you want to help people, you should be
able demonstrate that in the activities in which you
have participated. Volunteer work or community service
activities are concrete ways of following up your
What about international medical programs?
There are a plethora of opportunities for legitimate
international health work, and also for “voluntourism.”
Be honest with yourself about why you want to do these,
and about how they impact the people they are supposed
to be helping. Recent concerns about ethical issues
raised by some of these experiences and activities have
prompted guidelines from both the AAMC and ADEA. Please
read them before proceeding:
Guidelines for Premedical Students &
Guidelines for Predental Students
Tufts University is an institution with a commitment to
active citizenship and global awareness and involvement.
Hence you can find multiple opportunities through Tufts.
In the near future, a new site will be launched by Tufts
that will attempt to pull all these together and will be
a good starting point for you. In
addition, you can look at the international
opportunities listed on the left sidebar of this page.
has a section under their job listings for
short-term opportunities that are often international
and health or service oriented.
All of these have the potential of being wonderful
experiences for you while still truly helping those in
the places where you go. But remember that there is
great need in this country as well, and that
understanding our own health care delivery system (the
one in which you are most likely going to train and then
work) is important. You should be sure to have some
domestic experiences as well.