10 Unique Activities That Got People Into Medical School

By: Ryan Kelly

Although the information has been altered slightly, this list contains real activities from real former students--all of whom were accepted into medical school. Even though the entries are quite diverse, they all have one thing in common: they’re all unexpected pastimes that deviate from the pre-med norm.    

We hope this list will inspire you to pursue more interesting activities that will separate you from the pack. Even though some activities seem disparate from medicine, any truly worthwhile experience will implicitly show your potential strengths as a future doctor.

The best way to break the mold is to not fit the mold in the first place!

So get involved--get weird--get accepted.

1. Zenprov Comedy Troupe

  • Played out scenes on the spot based on audience suggestions, as seen in the popular TV show, Whose Line is it Anyway?

  • Traveled and competed at other universities.

  • Performed at summer camp for kids whose parents are suffering from cancer.

Why It’s Unique:

Since health is rarely a joking matter, pre-meds might be stereotyped as overly serious or a bit stiff. Many applications will be utterly devoid of comic relief or humorous anecdotes.   

What It Says About Your Potential as a Doctor:

You’re a good listener who quickly adapts in situations. You have strong verbal and nonverbal communication, especially when collaborating. You’re good at easing tension and making others feel comfortable. You can cater to patients the same way you cater to an audience.   

2. Pop and Lock Dance Studio

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  • Taught hip-hop dancing to middle school students in the public system.

  • Responsible for leading my own class and developing the curriculum.

  • Mentored students by discussing their struggles and referring them to resources such as tutoring, guidance counselors, and family services.

Why It’s Unique:

Besides Dr. Dre, people don’t associate doctors with hip-hop music. It’s more likely for a pre-med to be a classical pianist or violinist, so hip-hop dancing makes you look edgier.

What It Says About Your Potential as a Doctor:

You are a confident person who can lead by example. You can inspire others and encourage them toward success. You can engage with diverse patients who have diverse interests. You’re in touch with the kinetics and physical demands of the body.

3. A Coxswain Amongst Men  

  • Captained a racing boat of men as the only female team member.

  • The coxswain is the tiny person who sits in the back of the boat, steers, and yells out commands.

  • Executed race plans, oversaw workouts, kept my team motivated, and made crucial decisions while competing.

Why It’s Unique:

Not only is the coxswain an unusual athletic position, but in this case it also involved the difficulty of leading a group as the minority member.

What It Says About Your Potential as a Doctor:

You act in a manner that commands respect. You can work with people who are different than you. You’re not afraid of failure, and you can make difficult decisions on the spot when others are counting on you.

4. Chairman of the Surfboard

  • Surfed competitively at the college level against universities throughout California.

  • Served leadership role in running the surf team, helping to organize fundraisers, tryouts, funding, and competitions.

  • Expanded a small, unorganized group of diehard surfers into a team with double the members, more events, and a more diverse group of surfers from all skill levels.

Why It’s Unique:

Surfing is a subculture that’s rarely associated with medicine or healthcare, and it’s exclusive to coastal areas of the country.

What It Says About Your Potential as a Doctor:

You live your life with confidence and feel comfortable taking risks for big rewards. You can improvise in dangerous situations and remain poised. You know how to manage damage control when something goes wrong.

5. The Few, the Proud

  • Completed the Marine Corps’s rigorous 10-week course designed to screen and train potential officer candidates.

  • Completed intensive 6-month course on advanced leadership skills and led groups of up to 28 people in simulated combat

  • Received training in vertical envelope operations, amphibious navigation, logistics, martial arts, and marksmanship.

Why It’s Unique:

Most candidates will apply to medical school right out of undergrad, so this is a more unusual and interesting path. Shows maturity, leadership, growth, and expertise outside of medicine.

What It Says About Your Potential as a Doctor:

You have genuine real-life experience that goes beyond a resume on a piece of paper. Your resolve and commitment have been repeatedly tested. You’re a resilient person who can bounce back from failure or harsh criticism.

6. Can I Take Your Order?

  • Helped open Wolfgang Puck's first fine dining establishment in Southern California.

  • Developed patience while working with demanding, high profile clientele, learning their tastes, and matching them to food and wine.

  • Worked alongside talented chefs and explored my interest in the culinary arts.

Why It’s Unique:

Food service jobs--even in fine dining--aren’t common for pre-meds. Meeting and working with a celebrity chef is sure to catch any reader’s eye.

What It Says About Your Potential as a Doctor:

You can cater (no pun intended) to patients’ needs and preferences. You can handle demanding clients with tact and follow-through. You have a degree of humility, and you’re not above taking a job in the service industry.

7. He’s One Tough Mudder

  • Worked with a team to overcome 20+ obstacles and complete the 12-mile Tough Mudder obstacle course challenge.

  • Helped members of other teams who sustained injuries or were in need of help completing obstacles.

  • Trained consistently for several months in preparation for the event.

Why It’s Unique:

It’s not quite the same as running a marathon, and it borders on the intensity of a military bootcamp. It’s an extraordinarily muddy experience with an epic sense of accomplishment.

What It Says About Your Potential as a Doctor:

You have the resolve, patience, and dedication to train for months in order to achieve an important goal. You can work with others as both leader and follower, playing off one another’s strengths. You understand the meaning of delayed gratification.

8. Jury Duty

  • Communicated with a team of 6 students to oversee and make decisions on campus disciplinary cases.

  • Heard 120 cases ranging from substance abuse to prohibited dorm room items.

  • Developed public speaking abilities through my leadership role on the board, and enjoyed debating grey-area ethical subjects like medical marijuana.

Why It’s Unique:

It’s rare for a student to have so much power and influence over his or her peers. Wielding this kind of responsibility is uncommon for someone with limited life experience.

What It Says About Your Potential as a Doctor:

You can evaluate situations and people objectively in order to arrive at the most equitable solutions. You do not see life in black-and-white terms, but you’re also able to make difficult ethical decisions when necessary.

9. Make Friends, Not War

  • Served as president of Friends of Israel and wrote op-eds in school newspaper about achieving peace through two independent Israeli and Palestinian states.

  • Received slanderous criticism from Palestinian student writers; was passed hate notes in class and sent anonymous emails demanding apologies.

  • Served as a leader on the front lines to achieve peace and understanding through community dialogues on campus.

Why It’s Unique:

The campus mirrored the actual Israel-Palestine conflict, and drastic measure were needed in order to resolve an escalating and troublesome problem in the community.

What It Says About Your Potential as a Doctor:

You can exhibit cultural sensitivity, even when you might disagree with someone’s beliefs. You strive for compromise and mutual understanding during conflict. You’re capable of opening difficult discussions about loaded topics.

10. Grizzly Man

  • Wilderness First Responder Certified, 2010 - Present; served as primary lifeline for injuries and emergencies during hikes and outings.

  • Served as guide for outdoor leadership program that facilitated the growth and development of students and staff (increased roster from 10 to 35 members).

  • Planned and led week-long group trips to Mexico, Yosemite, Big Sur, and Death Valley.

Why It’s Unique:

It’s an exciting form of medical care which combines aspects of EMT training with Bear Grylls-esque survival skills.

What It Says About Your Potential as a Doctor:

You are an independent and self-sufficient person who maintains balance and control in life. You can respond appropriately and safely in the heat of the moment. You’re excited to explore the world and help others do the same.