Extracurriculars and Secondaries in AMCAS


Welcome back to Bryan’s Black Bag everyone! This piece focuses on the extracurricular portion of the AMCAS application, as well as secondary applications. Don’t worry though, there are a whole series of videos and blogs to come with respect to building a solid extracurricular resume. Instead, this narrative focuses on how to present your accomplishments in the application itself. So, the extracurricular element of the AMCAS application allows you to write about 15 extracurriculars. First, it is important to point out that you absolutely need to fill all 15 of these slots. Think of this as motivation to build a solid backdrop of extracurriculars. Not every single one of them needs to be an unparalleled deed. Remember, simple things like awards and honors can be listed here too. Moving on, three of these will be coined most meaningful experiences, giving you the opportunity to expound upon them with additional characters.


Let’s touch on the 12 non-meaningful (since that is kindof award phasing haha, let’s call them the standard extracurriculars). There are three important things to remember when writing about these. First, you need to give some context. If you worked or volunteered for a particular organization, you must state its purpose. This is often captured eloquently in a mission statement. This cues the reader into what exactly they do. Second, you need to clearly and coherently define your role within that organization. The reader cannot read your mind, so you must tell them what you did there. Side note, when discussing research, explain it in very, very simplistic terms, as the reader often lacks that particular scientific background. Also, be sure to give the big picture application, as that is what they will easily be able to sink your teeth into. Save the fancy mumbo jumbo for your interview if you happen to be interviewed by an expert in the field. Last, and perhaps the most important, is to highlight any and all positive impacts you had. It is one thing to be a part of something, but definitely another to enact positive change while doing so. Remember my show, don’t tell mantra, well this fits here too. Examples of your positive impact are much stronger than you merely saying you were a beacon of change. This is harder within the standard extracurriculars given the character constraint. Therefore, don’t fret if it doesn’t happen. This is what the most meaningful extracurriculars are all about! Think of these like the body paragraphs of your personal statement, where you show a stellar trait through a convincing anecdote rather than just saying you possess X, Y, or Z. Comprende?


So that wraps up the extracurriculars, or at least the their written element. After you submit your AMCAS application, seconardies will flood your inbox. Although not technically categorized as such, I would think of them as those that don’t require a thesis and those that do. The question stems not requiring a thesis are the ones that are much, much shorter. There are a couple of important things to highlight here. First, please answer the question. There is nothing worse than droning on and on and not even getting to the point you are supposed to address. Second, show, don’t tell comes into play here yet again. Surprise, it pervades every element of the medical school matriculation process. Last, try not to be too redundant. The show, don’t tell approach does wear on you as you try to think of anecdote after anecdote, but keep striving. Some overlap between stories is natural, but you don’t want too much. You want to cast yourself as broad an applicant as possible. Dig deep, I know it’s in there!


The second secondary is that which requires a thesis. These are the ones that grant you much more characters. Basically, you want to utilize whatever character limit you are given, unless you find yourself truly rambling. That is where a thesis comes into play though, as it keeps your body paragraphs organized and succinct. With this in mind, you could kindof think of these are reiterations of your personal statement, although tailored to whatever the prompt may be. The same principles for non-thesis requiring secondaries apply here too: answer the question, show, don’t tell, and don’t be too redundant.


Alright, so by now you are a primary and secondary application wizard, but if you run into any problems, don’t hesitate to reach out.

About Me

Hey everyone! My name is Bryan. I am a M4 at Medical College of Wisconsin. I am excited and eager to share my insights from my journey through medicine with you! 

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