Four Steps to a Winning Med School Resume

12/10/2013 01:50 pm ET | Updated Feb 08, 2014

The medical school application process is arduous and time-consuming. Pre-med students spend countless hours perfecting their personal statements, tweaking their answers to secondary application questions and carefully completing administrative tasks such as transcript ordering and recommendation requests. However, some students are not quite prepared for an often overlooked, yet critical component of the medical school application -- the activities and extracurriculars section.

Students that have both depth and breadth of medical and non-medical experiences may excel in this section, while others will be quite anxious that their non-academic achievements are sparse. Yet, the strategy for filling out this section is the same for all students: rephrasing one's undergraduate and post-baccalaureate resumes. A well-organized resume that highlights one's strengths is a key aspect of an effective medical school application. Ideally, a student should approach resume-building with a degree of farsightedness, choosing and staying committed to a few work, research, volunteering and clinical experiences that embody a passion for medicine. However, whether a student has methodically built his resume or not, following a few tips for resume-writing can make a huge difference in the extent to which the student presents himself in the best possible light.

1. Be professional.

This may sound a little obvious, but it is imperative that the resume has a formal tone. The medical school resume is a reflection of oneself, and a good impression must be made in a very limited amount of space. Furthermore, as medical school is a serious pursuit, it is only appropriate that a prospective applicant have a polished resume. The resume should be in size 8 or 10 font, include all personal contact information and be logically organized, including line breaks between sections.

2. Be age appropriate.

Students often make the mistake of including high school activities and achievements in efforts to bolster their resumes. However, these efforts end up detracting from the medical school resume, as outdated information comes off as unprofessional. Medical schools are interested in the recent, mature, long-lasting experiences that an applicant has had, not high school volunteering or SAT scores. Focus on your achievements from throughout college.

3. Cater to your audience.

Students should be mindful of the fact that, ultimately, the achievements and experiences highlighted in one's medical school resume will be read by medical school admissions committee members. Committee members will come from a plethora of backgrounds, so, while students should highlight their strengths, and may devote slightly more resume space to their most personally meaningful activities, they should aim to appear balanced. You might have studied emphysema in a lab for three years, but that doesn't mean your resume should solely include lots of technical jargon; this would not come off as impressive, but as one-dimensional and inappropriate instead.

4. Show, don't tell.

In an effort to impress with your medical school resume, you'll need to appear balanced, yet passionate. Surely each resume will list clinical, research, work and volunteering experiences, but one doesn't want to come off as wooden. So, instead of just listing your activities, show how they fit together cohesively, rendering yourself scientific, altruistic and fully set on a career in medicine. Display excellence in the classroom by including all major and minor academic achievements (G.P.A, Dean's List, Phi Beta Kappa, etc.). Show leadership ability by including activities in which you had important roles. Illustrate willingness to work in a team, a skill valued in the medical sphere, by bringing an interdependent bent to your description of volunteer experiences. Finally, as medicine is closely tied to altruism, demonstrate empathy by highlighting your clinical activities.