It is important that a school be convinced of your sincere interest in your intended profession, and also that you become aware of the realities of a specific career. You should begin as soon as possible to acquire experience directly related to your professional goal. If you are interested in medicine, this can take the form of shadowing, volunteer work or employment–during a regular semester, January, or summer–in a hospital, clinic, nursing home, hospice, or physician’s office, locally or elsewhere. For students with strong laboratory research interests and experience, it is important to be involved in medically related work that brings you into close contact with physicians and patients (particularly with patients) to supplement your research background. Medical schools place increasing importance on activities that indicate first-hand knowledge of the clinical practice of medicine. Pre-dental students will be asked in the application process to document the time and location of their clinical experience. Pre-veterinary students are encouraged to gain experience in a variety of veterinary care settings — small animal clinics, large animal clinics and farm visits, conservation animal care, and exotic animal care, for example. It is important to know what kind of experience is valued/expected in your health specialty.
Often, the easiest way to begin to gain this experience is by shadowing people you already know — your family physician or pediatrician, dentist or orthodontist, or veterinarian, for example. Others might be friends of your family, members of your church or other local organization, or parents of your friends. First experiences might be very short-term “shadow” experiences. Each experience you have makes it more likely the next experience will be more substantial.
Ideally, you should have medically related experiences that indicate a continuing interest in your specific profession. This does not mean that you have to spend an inordinate amount of time in medical settings, but rather that you should, during your undergraduate years, try to maintain as much contact with the profession as possible, on an ongoing basis. For example, if you “shadow” a physician for the month of January, subsequently you might want to volunteer in a hospital or clinic a few hours a week during semesters and during summers. As another example, you might (having completed Emergency Medical Technician training at Colby during a Jan Plan) volunteer with Colby Emergency Response, or in the emergency room of a local hospital during semesters, and then continue this or similarly relevant work during summers.
Pre-veterinary students may volunteer in a local clinic (there are several in Waterville), and then in a clinic closer to home during the summer months.
Pre-dental students may shadow a practitioner, or work in a dental lab. Even with a full course load, or a full-time (non-medical) summer job, most Colby students have been able to find a few hours a week to engage in medically related activities.
Of course, if you can find full-time employment or an internship in a medical setting, or if you are able to spend a larger amount of time in such a setting, this part of your background will appear even more substantial to a professional school.
The Career Center can help you find medical internships that are available during Jan Plan or in the summer. Interested students can access listings in the Colby CareerLink system (linked to the Career Center web site) and make use of alumni connection through the Career Center to network with helpful alumni in the health professions. Many Colby students have taken part in such internships, and have found them to be very valuable experiences.
The Career Center offers a four-year career planning program called PPEP and pre-health students are strongly encouraged to participate. Participating will provide you with skills in communication and career planning which will be helpful to you throughout your pre-health planning process.