October 28, 2020

How to Meaningfully Volunteer as a Pre-Med During the Pandemic

The Savvy Premed

By: Savvy Pre-Med Staff

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is nothing. Pre-meds do not like being idle, which is the difficult reality for many of them during the pandemic.

Whether you’ve already applied and are looking for gap-year activities, or you’re a younger pre-med who’s trying to meet requirements, you’re facing an unprecedented challenge in finding meaningful volunteer experiences.

Several months ago, we published our list of virtual and pandemic volunteering experiences, and we know there are many similar lists on the internet.

But admittedly, these lists are only so helpful. Are these organizations open to students in your area? Maybe. Are they still taking on new volunteers? Maybe. Will they match with your schedule and other responsibilities? Maybe.

These lists are a good place to start, but ultimately, you’ll have to do some legwork on your own to make sure the choices are right for you.

Beggars can’t be choosers, but you shouldn’t just sign up for the first available thing you find. Why not? Because your choices will be measured against all the other pre-meds who are in your same position.

So, what defines a “quality” volunteer experience during the pandemic, and which ones will make you stand out to admissions committees? 

How to Meaningfully Volunteer as a Pre-Med During the Pandemic  

During non-COVID times, when pre-meds ask us what kind of volunteering they should do, we often bring up a needle exchange.

Why? Because it’s always meaningful, it’s always interesting, and it gives you excellent stories for your essays.

We have similar criteria for choosing a pandemic volunteering experience.

Our Criteria for Worthwhile Pre-Med Pandemic Volunteering 

  • It builds on one of your strengths and/or improves a weakness
  • It gives you meaningful stories to tell in essays or interviews
  • It’s something you’ll continue doing even after the pandemic
  • Bonus: it gives you opportunities for leadership or initiative

Essentially, this informal rubric for meaningful pandemic volunteering can be captured in the Venn diagram below:

Venn diagram borrowed from the GAP YEAR ASSOCIATION

Some Additional Brainstorming Questions:

  • What am I especially good at? What is my “superpower?”
  • Do I have access to a large group of peers? Access to funds?
  • What resources are available at my college or in my community that I could use to make an impact?

Hopefully, there’s an endeavor that fits somewhere in the middle of these three areas (like the top three circles of the Venn diagram).

Even though you’ll have to find a volunteer opportunity that’s right for YOU, we wanted to provide some inspiration by giving you five examples that fit our criteria:


Pandemic Volunteering Example #1 - Live Well Senior Program


A free wellness program targeting individuals who are 65 and over that provides telehealth and web-based services; offers a vulnerable population much-needed social interaction while also familiarizing them with Zoom so that they feel more comfortable during future telehealth consultations. 

Pre-med Student’s Responsibilities:

  • Coordinating the transition to telehealth platform
  • Hosting webinar lectures with a geriatrician
  • Inviting different specialists to lecture about advanced care directives
  • Organizing Balance Fit and Chair Yoga classes
  • Running Zoom Training Workshops

Why It Stands Out:

  • Exposure to a vulnerable, underserved, immunocompromised population
  • Expertise in the emerging field of telehealth
  • Leadership and initiative

Pandemic Volunteering Example #2 - CovEducation


A free mentorship and academic support resource run by volunteer college mentors from MIT, Harvard, UT Austin, and Princeton during the pandemic. Their goal is to assist students from kindergarten through high school with coursework, college preparation, and standardized testing (SAT, ACT, etc). Student mentees connect with their mentors through video chat platforms Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype.

Pre-med Student’s Responsibilities:

  • Elected to regional executive board
  • Coordinating mentee recruitment in local area
  • Organizing a career exploration virtual speaker series
  • Developing a college application handbook for high school students

Why It Stands Out:

  • Transcends normal tutoring/mentoring with more responsibilities
  • Exercises creativity and people skills
  • Shows ability to work across age groups and audiences

Pandemic Volunteering Example #3 - Heart-Bridge Partners


A non-profit student organization that provides online emotional support for the underserved, elderly, and LGBTQ communities; fundraises for increased mental health awareness and provides free therapy sessions with therapists.

Pre-med Student’s Responsibilities:

  • Recruiting volunteers with a psychology background to provide emotional support for the elderly in nursing homes and registered LGBTQ communities
  • Developing and maintaining online platform
  • Planning events and performances to fundraise for mental health

Why It Stands Out:

  • Targets often neglected groups that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic
  • Shows a lot of experiential diversity

Pandemic Volunteering Example #4 - California CalFresh Program


The CalFresh Program, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), issues monthly electronic benefits that can be used to buy most foods at many markets and food stores. The CalFresh Program helps to improve the health and well-being of qualified households and individuals by providing them a means to meet their nutritional needs.

Pre-med Student’s Responsibilities:

  • Conducting a 15-week Zoom Series, “Eat Smart, Live Strong”
  • Instructing about various nutritional topics like “Building a Healthy Plate,” “Planning Healthy Meals,” and “Shopping on a Budget”
  • Organizing and presenting healthy cooking demonstrations 

Why It Stands Out:

  • Combats food insecurity and focuses on prevention
  • Shows intellectual diversity with knowledge on nutrition
  • Exercises skills in patient education

Pandemic Volunteering Example #5 - The Crisis Text Line


Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 support to those in crisis, covering all 295 zip codes across the United States; currently has over 4,000 Crisis Counselor volunteers and has fielded over 70 million messages.

Pre-med Student’s Responsibilities:

  • Completed the 30-hour web-based crisis counseling and intervention training
  • Met 200-hour total shift commitment within a year, guiding anonymous texters through a variety of crises
  • Became a Level 3 Crisis Counselor and gained a position on the Spike Team - an elite squad of Crisis Counselors who are on call for high-traffic times

Why It Stands Out:

  • Sustained involvement and trackable progress
  • Extensive training in de-escalation, sensitivity, and other useful skills for patient care
  • High-stakes responsibility for people’s wellness (and potential survival)

Have any questions about pre-med pandemic volunteering? Want to know if your volunteering activities meet our criteria for standing out? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll respond to you personally!

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