Shadowing & Volunteering

There are several ways you can get involved. Get involved in what you are interested in, this is key! There are many things you can do to build your application these can include but are not limited to: Volunteering, Shadowing, Studying Abroad, and/or participating in a summer program. Get Involved on campus, TutorMentor, participate in Rec Sports, the list goes on and on. Always remember to be yourself and do what you enjoy.

The following is a sample of the health professions student organizations we have. They are all registered with the Dean of Students Office and are shown in I-Engage. Information on meeting dates, locations, and times can be found on the student organizations website.

Any experience giving back to the community will be looked upon favorably by professional school admissions committees. It would be ideal if some of your volunteering was in a healthcare setting.  This would combine volunteering with exposure to the field.  Get in the habit of tracking your volunteer hours, as most professional school applications will ask for an estimate of the time you spent volunteering.

HOW MANY VOLUNTEER HOURS DO I NEED?

Unless specifically stated on the website of a particular health profession program, there are no minimum or maximum levels of expected volunteer hours. While many Physical Therapy programs will state minimum numbers of hours spent observing a licensed Physical Therapist most health professions will expect that you have spent enough time volunteering, shadowing, or observing that you begin to more fully understand the profession you seek to enter.

For example, just because you have spent 500 hours observing a dentist doesn’t necessarily mean you can fully articulate a desire to become a dentist yourself. Remember, you will be held accountable for discussing your volunteer and work experience in your essay and ultimately at your interview. Logging hours isn’t going to carry the conversation, true passion and understanding of the profession will.

WHEN SHOULD I START VOLUNTEERING?

Although your first inclination as a freshman might be to start volunteering immediately, it isn’t always the best course of action, or even necessary. You only have one first semester of grades, so make it count. Establish yourself academically during the first year of college, you’ll have time to work your way into a clinical setting later.  This first year is crucial  for building the necessary skills to make the grades needed for admission to professional school. Shadowing and volunteering is great, but without competitive grades to back them up the hours spent around patients aren’t being supported. Anyone can volunteer at a hospital or clinic, only competitive applicants can do it while maintaining a high level of academic performance.

Not sure where to start? Begin to build rapport with a health care professional by doing an informational interview. Informational interviewing is just what it sounds like. It is a great way to explore and research a chosen health professions pathway. It is the process of spending time with one of your network contacts in a highly focused conversation that provides you with key information you can use to decide which path is right for you.  Research shows that the best way to predict if you will be happy in a future profession is to talk to someone currently working in that field and ask them if they are happy with the work and why they are happy.

  • Informational Interviewing handout (under revision)

Shadowing means working directly with a health care provider in their professional environment. You have the opportunity to observe how they plan their day, how they interact with their patients, how they chose their career, and how they feel about current events!  Finding a healthcare provider who is willing to allow you to shadow can be a challenge, but it is worth the effort.  Many students start with their own health care providers. You may also network with other pre-health students to see where they have shadowed.

  • Finding Shadowing Opportunities handout (under revision).

It can be good to gain some hands on experience to add to your application. Check Out These Certifications.