Beyond the Classroom

Experiences outside of your coursework are vital to your career path.

 Your extracurricular and co-curricular activities will give you the opportunity to:

  • Learn about the profession and observe how individuals in this role interact with other professionals
  • Evaluate your fit with this career
  • Develop and demonstrate skills needed for success in your chosen profession
  • Demonstrate commitment to the profession and leadership

These experiences are not only important for including on your resume, but they will also give you valuable insight you can include on your personal statement or in the interview process as examples of situations  that confirmed your choice to pursue a career in that field.


Types of Experience


Shadowing involves observing an individual in their work setting and following their work schedule throughout a day or more. Shadowing allows you to learn what is really like to be in that role, and observe how the professional interacts with patients or clients.  Shadowing can confirm fit for that career and provide examples of the different opportunities that are available in a single field. 

Many health care settings, such as hospital systems and health care clinics have shadowing programs for interested students. Students can also start by contacting your own clinicians to ask if there are opportunities for shadowing available, or if they may have recommendations for you.

Here are a few more resources as you prepare to shadow: 

Informational Interviewing

Interviewing a professional in your field of interested to learn about their experience in the career provides insight into the profession as well. 

You can ask professionals to speak to their decision to pursue the career, obstacles they may have encountered along the way, and what they found most beneficial in preparing for their career. The interview may lead to additional opportunities, such as shadowing, volunteering, or paid employment in the field. Above all, informational interviewing will help you to build your network. 


Participating in research can give your an understanding of how information is shared and generated within the procession. It is encouraged for all pre-professional students, especially those interested in medicine. You can participate in research within your major field of study, or in a field related to your interests or future goals. Consult with your faculty mentor or your academic advisor for ideas about how best to get involved in research. 

To achieve the full benefit of undergraduate research, we recommend that you participate for the equivalent of at least one academic year. You can receive course credit for research participation, or you can participate through a Summer program or on a volunteer basis. Paid employment for research participation may also be available. 

Summer Programs 

With few to no courses in the Summer, this is an excellent opportunity to participate in internships, shadowing experiences, special preparation, and/or research programs. One resource that can be helpful is the National Science Foundation's Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)

Community Service

Students interested in applying to professional programs such as health care, law, or other related fields, can benefit from participating in community service and other activities to show their passion for helping others. If you are interested in volunteering, you can start with an organization that might be serving a specific community of interest to you, or an organization that is working to support a cause that is related to your future goals in health care or the legal field.


Healthcare providers, lawyers, and other professionals often work in teams toward the benefit of their patient or client. As a result, professional programs often look for demonstration of working collaboratively and effectively leading teams as they consider admission to their program. 

You can gain leadership experience in a variety of ways. Joining a Registered Student Organization (RSO) through the office of Student Involvement, taking on a formal or informal leadership role in that group. Or, you could help to organize a community service project or sit on  a committee related to your area of study or employment. Supervising others as part of your role is an excellent method of demonstrating leadership experience. Though, this type of involvement need not be directly related to your career path, as interpersonal skills often translate to all lines of work. 

Paid Work

A paid position, such as a part-time job or an internship, can provide a student with relevant experience that can benefit their application. Students interested in health care programs could consider positions working as a Medical Scribe, Medical Technician, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), or another position that allows them to gain experience in the healthcare field. Pre-Law students may consider working in a law practice, internships with a local representative or a position working for the legal representative for a local business. 

Documenting your Experience

We recommend keeping a journal to document your professional experiences as soon as you begin. Make a note of when you participate, who you are working with, the nature of your experience, and most importantly, what you learned from it. Your journal will be a valuable source for developing your personal statement, required for most professional program applications, and preparing for interviews. 

Some programs, such as Physician Assistant programs, require students to submit documentation of each experience. This may require you to download a verification form for each program of interest. Contact your pre-professional advisor for more information.