Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve maybe thought about putting a dishonest friend down as a reference on your med school application. “Med schools probably won’t check my activities”, you think. Whoops, that’s where you could be wrong.
You could be one of the unfortunate ones that does get checked.
In this article you’ll learn:
- How med schools verify your activities
- If they check things like work experience and shadowing hours
- If med schools check your references
- Why you don’t want to exaggerate or lie about your activities or extracurriculars
Med school is pretty reasonable in terms of the activities or extracurriculars you need. Actually doing them instead of lying about them? Going to save you a lot of stress further down the road.
Here are some other important answers to think about.
How Do Med Schools Verify Activities?
According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), each medical school has its own specific process for reviewing their applications. This means there’s no one way schools verify activities.
What does happen in most cases is that applications go to an admissions committee. There, the information is looked at – MCAT scores, letters of recommendations and activities or extracurriculars. This can happen before or after interviews are granted.
It’s in this process that activities could be verified if contact numbers (not obligatory to include) or email addresses are supplied.
Sometimes such screenings can also happen randomly.
The Verification Timeline
Checking each student can take a while. Usually the check will go through four stages:
- State law
- State medical licensing
- Hospitals and clinical sites
- Accreditation for school
Sometimes students can have their activities checked as late as the 4th year of study. After they’ve already become med students.
Do Med Schools Check Work Experience?
Most successful applicants argue that the chances are slim that med schools will actually check the work experience detailed on an application. This rings true if the experience seems standard or in-line with the average applicant’s information.
Here’s where med schools might check work experience:
- If the work experience appears exceptional or outlandish
- If there’s some kind of prize or award involved (that’s easily searchable)
- If you claim you received media mentions or newspaper coverage
9 times out of 10 however, especially if your work experience seems modest and easy to obtain, it won’t send out red flags indicating the information needs verifying.
And if you really did score an incredible gig running donor organs across states in hospitals, then make sure you provide a great contact that’ll validate your story.
Do Med Schools Verify Shadowing Hours?
Med schools might try to verify your shadowing hours, but usually only when the hours look exaggerated and too hard to believe.
Fudging hours is something pre-meds have been doing since the dawn of time to add a bit of extra spice to their applications. Because of the way it works, it’s pretty easy to do. Most of the time the people you’re shadowing or volunteering under are too busy to track and verify your exact hours.
Most med students will tell you it’s fine to round out your hours a little (to the nearest 10). But do tread carefully. Try to do it as close as possible to the actual amount of hours you shadowed.
Related: Shadowing A Psychiatrist – A How-To Guide
Do Med Schools Check References?
Because med school admissions teams are usually so busy, they probably check references far less than applicants expect.
To ensure you don’t get caught out though, it’s definitely best to prepare with the idea they will be checked. That means you’ll want to provide accurate information and inform your reference ahead of time that there’s a chance they’ll be contacted.
Some schools make it a thing to check all references of applicants at the post-interview stage. Sometimes they’ll tell you this in advance. Other times they won’t. It’s really case and school-dependent.
What Are the Easiest/Hardest Activities for Med Schools to Verify?
The easiest activities for med schools to verify are:
- Documented experience: work experience that’s been recorded by the candidates in notepads, computer systems or journal entries (preferentially even signed and dated).
- Activities that match up with a high profile or easy-to-reach individual that is contactable in many different ways (email, social media, phone etc).
- Things completed at well known institutions with large teams of staff that can account for you being present
Hard activities to verify include:
- Experience with disorganized or rushed doctors who sign off shadowing hours without a thorough review or inspection
- Future hours: hours projected to be completed after an application has been sent off
That last one is particularly important. There’s no way of knowing, without an interview, if those future hours were ever completed by the time a student sets first in med school.
What Happens If A Med School Can’t Verify Your Activities?
If a med school can’t verify your activities they’ll very likely go deeper into them at the interview stage. There they might ask you specific questions related to your listed information and get you to recall experiences or the names of people you worked with to ensure that everything checks out.
If you haven’t actually done the extracurriculars or activities you said you’ve done, you can very easily get found out.
Besides interviewing, med schools might wait a period after failing to verify your activities before trying again.
There’s also the odd chance they’ll accept you anyway despite being able to verify your information. But this is a massive risk.
I’ve Been Caught Lying About Extracurriculars: What Happens Now?
If you do get caught lying about your extracurriculars or activities then be wary. Each med school has a policy that false representations on applications can result in offers of admission being removed. This could happen the moment you get accepted until the day your degree is awarded.
Remember that when you sign both an AMCAS (med school admissions application) and a secondary, you also state that all your information is accurate. The same goes for when you take an offer of acceptance.
If all this happens before being accepted then you could also get banned from making any future application too.
Related: Can You Fail Medical School? Here’s Why It Might Happen
The best way to approach med school applications and the activities you detail is to do so honestly. Faking them could be near suicidal. If they stand out they stand a very strong chance of being verified.
Even the more subtle ones you’ll want to ensure you’ve been truthful about. Interviews are there to probe your activities and experiences further. Make sure you review everything on your AMCAS before you go through that process.
It’s always better to reach out and complete legit hospital volunteering opportunities rather than fake them!
Finally, consider the burden of going two years deep into med school and $80,000 worth of loans only to be kicked out due to false information on your application.
Surely that’s not worth the risk?
Image Credit – @nordwood at Unsplash
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.