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Individual Pre-Health Stories

Pre-Med Volunteering: 5 Pros + 5 Cons: One Pre-Med’s View

Aldridge profile

About Aldridge

Aldridge is a recent graduate of Indiana University and finished with a B.S. degree in Human Biology, as well as a Religious Studies minor. Aldridge is currently applying to med schools in his gap year and is planning to start his journey to become a physician in fall of 2022

As a pre-med you may feel like you have no time. With strenuous classes like Organic Chemistry and Physics, research lab obligations, and (if you’re lucky) some free time to enjoy college, there are just days when 24 hours does NOT feel like enough. Now on top of that, you are hearing advisors tell you that you should be sprinkling in volunteer opportunities too? As a recently graduated pre-med, I’ve looked back on my own experiences as it relates to volunteering as well as those friends. Here is my list of 5 pros and cons of volunteering as a pre-med:


#1- Your Grades May Suffer

An inevitable part of spending time volunteering is that you may have less time to focus on your TOUGH pre-med courses. It’s not talked about enough, but the difference between getting an A+ vs. B+ on a big quiz can be just a couple extra hours of studying. This is a huge reason to pursue volunteering over the summer through programs like Atlantis overseas service driven trips, but in the school year this is something to prepare for!

#2- It’s Not Paid

Most people have heard the phrase ‘money makes the world go round’ and it can be a little disappointing not to have some financial reimbursement for all the time you’re spending. However, money isn’t the most important thing, and through things like scholarships and fee waiver programs you can hopefully compensate for doing unpaid volunteering. 

#3- Less Free Time

Really similar to #1 is the fact that you will have LESS free time because of your pre-med volunteering. Welcome to the world of a med student and also a physician. Remember you are SUPPOSED to be strapped for time, and this is why finding a good work-life balance is so important. 

#4- Tough to Get Started

It can be a daunting task to get connected with volunteering! You won’t know anybody or where to get started, and they’ll inevitably ask you to do things you’ve never done. Being nervous is NORMAL and your directors will understand that, I also would suggest checking out other parts of the Atlantis website for articles about tips on getting started.

#5- Am I Even Making a Difference?

You may feel like as a volunteer your role is minor or inconsequential but this is NOT true at all! Some organizations don’t allow volunteers the same helping privileges as other people, but others really rely on pre-med volunteers to fill important roles, and love having hard working, brilliant students around. Be confident in yourself and your impact.


#1- Shows commitment 

A major component of picking up volunteer hours as a pre-med is that it shows dedication. Whenever you cross this bridge, med school admissions counselors will be looking at your application as a whole, understanding that you were able to take on even more responsibilities, while also keeping your grades high. This will look FANTASTIC!

#2- Making an Impact in Your Community

The second pro, but what really should be the most important thing on any list, is that you are having a chance to make a real impact locally. While it may sound slightly corny, the satisfaction from dedicating time and effort to making someone else’s life better is unmatched. Look into clinical, but also non-clinical ways to make a difference and help your community!

#3- Leadership Abilities

Fairly similar to pro #1 is being able to show that you are a leader. It may not seem obvious, but having the courage and discipline to avoid distractions and help people when you can is a GREAT sign for any pre med volunteer going forward.

#4- Open to Learning New Skills

Important to any professional field, not just medicine, is the ability to quickly learn new skills, which you are directly demonstrating when you volunteer as a pre-med. Through opportunities like RAM COVID volunteering or Atlantis journeys, you are showing that you are a person willing to adapt to change! Taking on new tasks in a fresh environment is a valuable character trait.

#5- Integrity

Do you have the integrity to make the right choice, even when no one is watching? It’s something we’ve learned since we were in elementary school, with pre med volunteering is your time to SHOW it. The willingness to help people when you are not being forced or paid to do so, will always reflect positively on you, and give you a deeper sense of satisfaction anyways. I promise!

I don’t think anyone will deny that there are cons to pre-med volunteering, but what you will gain from your service may even be more than the help you are giving to others.

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Our Alumni Enter Great Medical Schools

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John Daines

  • Atlantis '17
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Megan Branson

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  • Atlantis '16
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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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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.