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Atlantis students outside the hospital (Barcelona, Spain 2019).


The Complete Guide to Pre Med Shadowing | Atlantis

About The Atlantis Team

We offer helpful, informative content to the next generation of healthcare professionals, so that they can achieve their goals, avoid common pitfalls, and grow in their passion for healthcare.

The pre-med path is unique for every student. However, something that is certain is that pre-med students will often spend thousands of hours in the classroom learning what it means to work in the medical field.

And while this practical education is essential for becoming a physician, it doesn’t provide pre-meds with the knowledge nor the experience of what it’s like to work in a fast-paced hospital setting. Pre-med shadowing, though not a requirement to graduate, is the best way for students to further discern their vocations in the world of medicine with the closest thing to a hands-on experience available for their field. For many pre-med students, shadowing is a turning point in their careers.

Don’t take our word for it, read about what real students learned during their shadowing experience abroad in “10 Fundamentals About Shadowing A Physician I Didn’t Learn From my College.”

What is Pre-Med Shadowing

Shadowing a doctor is as straightforward as it sounds. Pre-meds are given the opportunity to follow a physician in a hospital setting, seeing with their own eyes what their daily routine in the medical field could entail.

It’s important to note that pre-med shadowing is not the same as providing care and is different from medical volunteering. Pre-med students are not licensed to practice medicine, and therefore can not provide care to patients. As they shadow a doctor, they are simply soaking in the experience, asking questions, and discerning if a career in medicine is right for them (and more specifically, which field may be of the most interest to them).

For a complete breakdown of medical volunteering vs medical shadowing and more information on what pre-med shadowing is, head over to our blog.

Benefits of Doctor Shadowing

While pre-med shadowing isn’t about providing care to patients, it does help students gain more insight into the medical field. Other benefits of pre-med shadowing include, but are not limited to:

Narrow their medical focus – Doctor shadowing encourages pre-med students to learn about different medical practices up close and personal. From pediatric care to oncology, shadowing a physician in a particular field helps pre-meds narrow their career focus to a particular field of medicine.

Assist with med school admissions – Shadowing a doctor shows that a pre-med is committed to a career in medicine. This experience can help students stand out during the med school admissions process, especially during the interview stage, as it gives them plenty to talk about.

Become better doctors – Doctor shadowing in a working environment helps pre-meds refine AAMC Core Competencies. Not only can this help them get into medical school, but it also makes them better doctors in the future.

Understand practical requirements – Learning about medicine in a classroom doesn’t allow pre-meds to get a physical feel for the career. Physicians are often on their feet for long periods of time and must switch focus at a moment’s notice. Shadowing a doctor allows pre-meds to know if they are cut out for the field sooner rather than later.

Don’t know where to start with your pre-med shadowing journey? Learn more about one premed’s successful strategy to ask how to shadow a doctor.

Or, check out these online resources that can help you better understand the ins and outs of shadowing a doctor.

What To Expect From Pre-Med Shadowing

Not all hospital shadowing experiences are created equal. When choosing to shadow a doctor, you should ensure the program you are choosing emphasizes the following:

Practical hours: You want to ensure you are shadowing for an appropriate amount of time without it interfering with other work you may be doing. A designated study abroad program for shadowing can ensure that you are receiving 60-140 shadowing hours without sacrificing your free time or other academic studies.

For more information on how many shadowing hours may be needed for medical school, see our additional resources on the topic ranging from 10 answers with a common thread to a summary of official answers.

Doctor ratio: A student to doctor ratio of 1:1 or 2:1 is ideal for the best, most personalized experience.

Small groups: Shadowing with a small group of students (usually around 10-15) allows everyone to bond, ask questions, and have their voice heard.

Various specializations: A program should provide pre-meds with the opportunity to observe various specializations to determine which they are the most interested in.

Wondering what the doctor shadowing experience is really like? Hear from students who participated in pre-med shadowing firsthand.

Pre-Med Shadowing Abroad

While there are many ways to shadow a doctor, traveling abroad can give pre-meds the most immersive and beneficial experience. And don’t be worried about learning in a new country, read one student’s take on “Atlantis Shadowing in Europe: Why the Language Wasn’t a Barrier For Me.”

Being immersed for several weeks in some of the top European hospitals gives pre-meds a truly global perspective on medicine. They become well-informed on how both national and international healthcare systems work, making them a more well-rounded healthcare provider in the future and allowing them to form their own opinions on how these systems should function.

Other benefits of pre-med shadowing abroad include:

  • Traveling and seeing the world while gaining practical experience
  • Standing out on med school applications by including experience at top international hospitals
  • Learning the nuances of global healthcare and different medical practices
  • Gaining instructions from leading international physicians

Still curious about why you should shadow international physicians

Dos and Don’ts of Pre-Med Shadowing Abroad

Of course, pre-med shadowing is what you make of it. There are plenty of steps you can take – and purposefully avoid – to ensure your experience shadowing a physician abroad is a good one.

Here are just a few of the dos and don’ts of shadowing a doctor that you should know before you begin your journey. Along with this information, you should also consider avoiding these 7 common mistakes you might be making when trying (or perhaps already shadowing) a physician. 

About Atlantis Pre-Med Shadowing Abroad

Atlantis is the global leader in healthcare experiential education. Atlantis has run programs for almost 15 years, and Atlantis alumni, after participating in Atlantis and graduating from college, have gone on to attend almost all medical schools in the U.S. Atlantis operates short-term programs (1-10 weeks) over school breaks, aimed at U.S. undergraduates, that take place primarily in the U.S. and Europe.

Want to see what real Atlantis alums have to say? Read ”My Best Advice for Shadowing on an Atlantis Program” to learn more about one student’s experience shadowing physicians abroad.

Medical schools (from top Ivy Leagues to local universities) look for three main things in applicants:

  1. Healthcare exposure
  2. GPA/MCAT scores
  3. AAMC competencies

Pre-med shadowing with the right program can provide students with all three. Read one pre-med’s review on Atlantis shadowing to learn more about this unique experience.

Explore shadowing opportunities with Atlantis by starting your application process, or by connecting with an Atlantis alum.


Want to learn more about pre-med shadowing abroad? Easily browse through the list of related blogs from Atlantis:


Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.

Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook guidebook — download yours.

Our Alumni Enter Great Medical Schools

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John Daines

  • Atlantis '17
  • Brigham Young University '19
  • Washington U. in St. Louis MD '23
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Zoey Petitt

  • Atlantis '17
  • U. of Arizona '18
  • Duke MD '23
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Yong-hun Kim

  • Atlantis '17
  • Stanford '19
  • Mayo Clinic MD '24
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Megan Branson

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Montana '19
  • U. of Washington MD '24
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Sarah Emerick

  • Atlantis '19
  • Eckerd College '20
  • Indiana U. MD '25
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Snow Nwankwo

  • Atlantis '19
  • Catholic U. of America '21
  • Georgetown U. MD '26
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Tiffany Hu

  • Atlantis '16
  • U. of Maryland '17
  • U. of Michigan MD '22
Lauren Cox headshot.

Lauren Cox

  • Atlantis '18
  • Louisiana Tech '20
  • U. of Arkansas MD '24
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Kayla Riegler

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Kentucky '20
  • U. of Kentucky MD '24

About Atlantis

Atlantis is the leader in pre-health shadowing and clinical experience, offering short-term programs (1-10 weeks) over academic breaks for U.S. pre-health undergraduates. Medical schools want 3 things: (1)healthcare exposure, (2)GPA/MCAT, and (3)certain competencies. Atlantis gives you a great version of (1), frees you to focus on (2), and cultivates/shows (3) to medical school admissions committees.

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Watch Video: The Atlantis Shadowing Experience and How it Helps In Your Med/PA Admissions Future

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Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.
Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook — download yours.