Pre-Health Professions Experiential Learning
High academic achievement and exam scores are not the only important factors for admission into a health profession program. The AAMC notes 15 core competencies for entering medical students (although these translate to any student entering a health-related program), which fall into four broad categories: Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Thinking and Reasoning, and Science. These skills are developed through an intentional dedication of your time and effort to relevant experiences that interest you. Gaining hands-on clinical experience and getting involved in your community can bolster these competencies and provide you with insight about the real-world operations of the health profession.
Gaining clinical experience is extremely important for both strengthening your application to a professional school as well as helping you discern where your interests, strengths, and weaknesses lie in your particular health-related profession. Shadowing and volunteering opportunities, in which you interface with patient populations, are particularly helpful for your development as a health professional. The AAMC offers suggestions about securing and making the most of your shadowing opportunities. The AAMC provides additional guidelines for shadowing as well.
Shadowing is not the only avenue for gaining clinical experience. You may also consider volunteering as a caregiver or other direct care professional. The AAMC provides additional suggestions for clinical experience other than shadowing.