Recognising the importance of this type of experience, universities such as Manchester now have specific requirements for applicants to have undertaken a Voluntary experience/ 'experience in a caring role' prior to applying. This needs to be for at least three months on a weekly/ fortnightly basis.
Universities find applicants with voluntary experience desirable as it is an excellent way to show that you have the 'non-academic' qualities necessary to become a doctor.
What type of volunteering can I do?
Voluntary experience is a broad term, it refers to time spent contributing towards a positive cause for free. Some common examples include:
Coaching at sports clubs: this is an excellent way to demonstrate that you are talented, have a way of relieving stress outside of medicine and can teach (a desirable quality for doctors)
Tutoring younger students: by doing this you will demonstrate teaching ability, academic talent and a commitment to passing on knowledge to the next generation
Volunteering in a care home: this type of experience is excellent for improving your communication skills and getting an insight into day-to-day life for many of your future patients! It's one thing to understand what is meant by disabling medical conditions, however spending time with someone affected by one will give you invaluable insight.
Volunteering in a charity shop: this will demonstrate your ability to work in a team, remain organised and solve problems both for customers and for the shop
Organising Voluntary Experience
Voluntary experience does not need to be organised specifically for your medical school application. It can be done as part of your Duke of Edinburgh award (which further enhances your application)! If organised through a Duke of Edinburgh scheme, your school should be able to put you in contact with certain organisations.
Many charity shops and care homes will have an option to apply as a volunteer on their website, if not, call them directly or visit them and drop off a CV/ explain what it is you'd like to do and why! Offering your time for free is generally very well received.
Voluntary Experience Questions for Medical School Interviews?
You may or may not be asked specifically about your voluntary experience, well reflected on examples from your voluntary experience are relevant for many common interview questions such as;
Tell me about a time when you have solved a problem for someone?
How would you deal with an angry patient?
Tell me about a time when you have demonstrated commitment
Universities will expect you to learn from this experience! If you need some help to get started with your own reflections, please check the blog linked below. If you have any further questions, please contact us directly at email@example.com