What is 360 Shadowing?
Atlantis 360 Shadowing is a unique, time-tested model we have developed with over 100 hospital partners around the globe. When compared with regular shadowing or typical clinical experience, 360 Shadowing has far greater depth, breadth, quantity of hours, and intercultural perspective. And it takes place over college breaks, usually for a few weeks, almost always as a study abroad program in a developed-country healthcare setting, in one or more countries.
What Do Med/PA Schools Want?
Med schools want applicants to have three things: (1) exposure to healthcare, to show vocational commitment; (2) a high GPA/MCAT, to show ability; and (3) certain personal competencies, also to show ability. The point of focusing on these three pillars is not just to get in anywhere; the goal is to have choices, ideally multiple offers with scholarships. Medical schools may talk about other things they would like to see in applicants, but for most schools, including top ones, everything else is subordinate to or less important than these three pillars (exposure, stats, and competencies).
Atlantis Alumni Have
What Med Schools Want
Of alumni accepted into med/PA school referenced Atlantis on their application and the vast majority said Atlantis “strongly” or “very strongly” impacted their admittance
Of alumni accepted into med/PA school said Atlantis impacted their passion for medicine
Of our pre-health alumni progressed on the AAMC Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students
Atlantis Covers a Lot
On Your Med School App
Shown above is a simplified screenshot of the AMCAS application. Highlighted parts indicate areas where Atlantis makes an impact. Most of the unhighlighted area is purely biographic – contact information, where you went to school, course history, etc. In areas like #5 (Work/Activities) and #8 (Essays), Atlantis can have a substantial impact.
“Can Do” and “Will Do”
If you were to put yourself in the shoes of a medical/PA School, you would want students with both “can do” and “will do.” You would want students who can actually do the job – “can do,” shown primarily by grades and the MCAT, but also by certain personal competencies) – and you would also want students with a passion for healthcare – “will do.” Without that deeper motivation, a student may easily drop out, or worse, be stuck as a doctor or PA who doesn’t love their job – unfortunately, a rising trend. Motivation is often assessed by an applicant’s level of clinical experience, such as shadowing.
Pillar #1: Healthcare Exposure
When compared with regular shadowing or typical clinical experience, Atlantis 360 Shadowing has far greater depth, breadth, quantity of hours, and intercultural perspective.
Atlantis is the Gold Standard
According to advisors at a 2021 pre-health advisor conference, Atlantis is the “gold standard” for pre-health study abroad.
Med/PA schools ideally want to see that your clinical experience has depth, breadth, quantity, and, if possible, intercultural perspective. 360 Shadowing fully captures all four.
Shadowing should ideally expose students to the more complex elements of medicine, such as surgeries. Atlantis generally offers not only that but also small group sizes. With a student-to-physician ratio of 1:1 or 2:1, shadowing for 20+ hours per week, you’ll have genuine depth of exposure.
It’s preferable to have seen multiple specialties and multiple doctors. At Atlantis, that’s our default. One specialty per week is the norm, and in each specialty participants generally interact with multiple doctors.
360 Shadowing with Atlantis gives you a large quantity of hours, and crucially, all of those hours are concentrated during breaks, allowing you to focus on academics during the year.
4. Intercultural perspective
Application committees do not just want talented candidates; they want a class with a diverse set of experiences for the sake of everyone’s learning. You should still seek domestic clinical experiences, but 360 Shadowing gives you more perspective than domestic shadowing in several ways:
- In Europe you’ll see similar patients and similar patient health issues, but culturally a different approach to medicine, one with many pros and many cons. One pro of the European approach to healthcare is its results: about five more years of life expectancy in the population for about 70% less cost than in the U.S. There are a lot of cultural reasons that relate to that too. And keep in mind that among the AAMC competencies that medical schools use to assess applicants, competency #3 is precisely cultural competence.
- It helps you be a thought leader on healthcare policy – most programs happen at universal healthcare systems in Europe, and students see the pros/cons of single payer systems firsthand.
- Atlantis is one way to step back and see what is essential about the medical profession – having seen other cultures’ approach to medicine, you will navigate changes and disruptions to the world of medicine with a mature, nuanced perspective.
In sum, Atlantis helps you understand healthcare and show that you are fully committed to it. As an added benefit, that level of exposure helps you discern if medicine is really for you.
Watch Video: Three Alumni Talk About The Breadth And Depth Of Their Atlantis Healthcare Exposure
Pillar #2: Grades/MCAT
The major obstacle to excelling in academics tends to be students spreading themselves too thin. The 360 Shadowing model of Atlantis programs accomplishes so much at the extracurricular level during a school break that it allows you the “luxury” (perhaps necessity) of focusing more on your academics during the school year.
Focus on Your Classes
Doing everything is hard. The problem at universities, including top ones, is that it is tempting to do many extracurriculars during the year, and that comes at the expense of grades (which then affects your MCAT readiness).
However, the consensus is that med/PA schools primarily care about three things: healthcare exposure, stats (GPA/MCAT), and certain competencies.
The solution is to take things one step at a time, and that is made possible with 360 Shadowing. The Atlantis experience is concentrated, taking advantage of breaks, but, more importantly, it is comprehensive (offering unparalleled exposure in terms of depth, breadth, quantity, and intercultural perspective), enough so that it frees you to cut out some extracurriculars during the academic year.
Better, Concentrated Healthcare Exposure Lets Pre-Meds Focus on Grades, While Still Increasing Relevant Experience for Interviews
There is very little in your premedical coursework which actually prepares you for the difficult task of taking care of sick people.
Each interview is different, but it’s common to be asked, “Why do you want to be a doctor?” To answer, you may want to tell a story about an experience or series of experiences that have led to your decision.
Watch Video: One Alumna’s Take On The Relationship Between Atlantis And GPA/MCAT
Pillar #3: Competencies
Atlantis lets you refine and showcase most of the 15 AAMC competencies which medical schools use to assess applicants. In a PhD-authored outcomes study with a large sample of Atlantis alumni, 93% of them progressed on the AAMC competencies.
Atlantis Helps Refine and Highlight Many of The 15 AAMC Competencies that Medical Schools Use to Assess Applicants
The AAMC has 15 Core Competencies for entering medical students, which we separate into 9 soft and 6 hard competencies.
If someone can focus on coursework during the school year, that person will naturally improve in hard competencies like scientific inquiry (AAMC competency #12), living systems (#14), and others. 360 Shadowing gives you that space to focus on coursework and therefore improve in the hard competencies.
360 Shadowing also helps you develop – and show through stories – 6 of the 9 soft competencies: service orientation (AAMC competency #1), social skills (#2), cultural competence (#3), teamwork (#4), oral communication (#5), and resilience & adaptability (#8). 97% of alumni accepted to med/PA school used Atlantis to show those in their personal statement, secondaries, or interviews.
Here are some specific examples of Atlantis students growing in competencies:
- 97% of alumni strongly agreed or agreed that they had a greater appreciation and respect for multiple dimensions of diversity
- 93% said they were better able to adapt effectively to stressful or changing environments or situations
- Overall, in this PhD-authored study of more than 1,000 Atlantis alumni, 93% of alumni overall reported that they had progressed on the AAMC competencies.
It’s not surprising, then, that our alumni in med school have told us things like, “This was always a topic of conversation in interviews” (Thomas C., UVA School of Medicine, ‘22) and, “I think a lot of schools found my experience unique, which contributed to me being accepted into medical school directly out of undergrad” (Leila Yazdi, USC School of Medicine, ‘23).
Alumni Show Competencies through Stories
|Competency||Atlantis Alumni Story in Interviews|
|“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor to help people. While shadowing in Europe I saw
a system where doctors are paid well, but not 10x what a bus driver gets, as in
the US. Doctors in Europe have to be motivated less by money and more by
service, and I’m attracted to that because…”
|“I have never been exposed to as many social situations in a healthcare setting as I
had with Atlantis due to the sheer quantity of hours and diversity of specialties.
I’ve now been exposed to many social situations in a clinical context, for example…”
|“Even though I volunteered in an inner-city clinic in the US, which opened my eyes,
that setting still had the same cultural, social, regulatory, and technical
environment as any other healthcare experience in the US. In going to Europe I
saw the same “level” of healthcare sophistication as the US, but in an entirely
new cultural environment; for example…”
|Teamwork (#4)||“In my 6 weeks with Atlantis I shadowed over 15 doctors, in 6 specialties, across 2
countries. If you asked me to list all all the examples I have seen first-hand of a
doctor working in a team, I think that list is many times larger after my
experience in Europe. Here are some examples…”
|“Atlantis does not require language skills, and I had the best of both worlds: there
were enough doctors speaking great English for me to learn, but naturally there
were some language barriers here and there. When I become a doctor and my
patients can’t speak English I’ll be better able to relate…”
& Adaptability (#8)
|“I thought of staying in my hometown and volunteering at a clinic, but opted to get
out of my comfort zone by shadowing in Europe: new country, new culture,
new timezone, new healthcare system…”
(#6, #7, #9)
|(Atlantis contributes here but less meaningfully so.)|
|“I spent more time honing my critical thinking, writing, and quantitative skills
because I focused more on academics (and a bit less on extracurriculars)
during the semesters.”
Alumni Explain Atlantis’ Impact On Their Med School Applications, Specifically on “Cultural Competence,” A Key AAMC Competency
Watch Video: The Atlantis Experience
Students leverage their Atlantis experience to gain admittance into medical schools including Duke, Columbia, Mayo Clinic, Harvard, WashU, Cleveland Clinic, Baylor, and many others. They’re also admitted to many PA, DO, and other healthcare programs.
Atlantis Alumni Set Themselves Apart
Atlantis alumni set themselves apart by having best-in-class healthcare exposure, the focus they need to excel in classes and on the MCAT, and the competencies that the AAMC suggests that medical schools look for in applicants.
Hear from one of our top alumni how Atlantis helped him in applying to medical school:
I believe that highlighting the Atlantis experience significantly bolstered my candidacy and helped lead to numerous eventual [medical school] acceptances I was fortunate enough to receive. Whether it was juxtaposing different healthcare models, witnessing a captivating medical procedure, meeting an extraordinary physician, or being deeply moved by a patient’s heartwarming story, the extended clinical shadowing experience offered by Atlantis provides fantastic opportunities for prospective health students in a variety of interests. I am very glad to have had the chance to broaden my medical and cultural horizons with Atlantis before beginning medical school.
Our Alumni Enter Great Medical Schools
- Atlantis '17
- Brigham Young University '19
- Washington U. in St. Louis MD '23
- Atlantis '17
- U. of Arizona '18
- Duke MD '23
- Atlantis '17
- Stanford '19
- Mayo Clinic MD '24
- Atlantis '18
- U. of Montana '19
- U. of Washington MD '24
- Atlantis '19
- Eckerd College '20
- Indiana U. MD '25
- Atlantis '16
- Amherst '19
- Columbia MD '24
- Atlantis '16
- U. of Maryland '17
- U. of Michigan MD '22
- Atlantis '18
- Louisiana Tech '20
- U. of Arkansas MD '24
- Atlantis '18
- U. of Kentucky '20
- U. of Kentucky MD '24
Watch Video: 20+ Alumni Now In Med School Explain:
Atlantis Is a Major Reason I Got In Here
25 More Reasons To Do It
Getting into med school is one reason among many to consider Atlantis programs. Here are the first 3 of the 25:
- Travel the world now while you still have time
- Fit multiple countries into a few weeks
- Study abroad in a way that’s relevant to your pre-health path
Take the Quiz: Is It For You?
We’ve built the “Shadowing and Extracurricular Readiness Score” calculator to allow you to look at several expert statements and track to what extent your current extracurriculars follow best practices. We believe this exercise to be very useful regardless of whether you end up considering Atlantis.
|Standard Break Options||Possible Advantages of Atlantis Over Each Option|
|Volunteer in a Low-to-Middle-Income Country
(sometimes doing hands-on work with patients,
which can result in automatic rejection by med schools)
|Do observation-only shadowing (AAMC compliant),
interacting closely with doctors who have jobs
more similar to those in the U.S. Add a diverse perspective
to your future medical school class, since pre-med international
experience in Europe is more rare
|Study abroad in a non-healthcare-related program||Make study abroad a major help for your pre-med path,
instead of something that does not contribute directly to your goals
|Work to earn money||Shadow for a few weeks and work
the rest of break – keeping in mind how valuable the investment
is and the available payment plans you have
|Shadow domestically||Supplement domestic experiences with shadowing in Europe
in order to gain depth, breadth, quantity of hours,
and intercultural perspective
|Research||Get clinical experience – required by all med/PA schools,
whereas research is usually not required. For schools that do not require
research, great healthcare exposure beats research,
if you have to choose.
Take this as just one set of reasons. Any option on the left is a fair and reasonable option for certain circumstances. However, we are seeking to equip you with data you can use to make the decision that is best for you.