Health professional schools, and especially dental and medical schools, place importance on gaining community service/volunteer experience. Doctors and dentists are expected to be motivated by altruism, to be leaders in their communities, to practice their professions ethically, and to act with an awareness of the values of the patients they serve. Community service and volunteer experiences are excellent ways to stretch yourself and meet new people, understand different perspectives, develop leadership skills, and do what you can now to contribute to your community.
How to begin?
There is a wealth of opportunities to get involved in Rochester, both on-campus and off. When you have the time, commit yourself to causes you are passionate about. These need not be directly related to your career ambitions, but you should seek out ways to give back. As a University of Rochester student, you are in a position of great privilege compared to many people in our local communities.
Attend the Activity Fair that takes place at the beginning of every semester and look into service-oriented groups. Take the lead in beginning your own group, or organize community service activities in your living community, established student club, athletic team, church, or other organization. Visit the Center for Community Engagement to find ways to get involved in the local community. During summers and breaks, continue to develop commitments you made in your home communities.
How much is enough?
Service is not something that is easily quantified. A future health professional should be a person who does what he or she can for others when time is available. Still, some applications will ask you to tally the total number of hours you commit to each activity you list. So keep track. A long-time commitment to one community, organization, or problem likely says more about your values, maturity, and reliability than a smorgasbord of one-time events, but don’t be afraid to try new things as well.
Other Extra-Curricular Activities
While it is important to be productive with the time you have available outside of academics, you should not shy away from activities that are interesting to you just because you think something else might look better. If you are passionate about sports, dance, music, or anything else, do not give up on these interests because you think they will not help you get into a health profession school. When you are a college student you should take advantage of opportunities to pursue activities that you may not have so much time for later in life. Becoming a well developed human being, with personal passions and multiple ways to connect with other people can only help you as a future clinician. You will be expected to list extra-curricular activities on your applications and talk about your enjoyment of them in your interviews. This makes you a more interesting person and can help your application stand out.