When should you be volunteering is a question I am commonly asked. The short answer is often and for as long a period of time as possible. What does that mean in real terms?
BS/MD programs like to see regular, consistent health care related volunteering. The longer the better. That means six months of helping others is not as good as one year. One year is not as good as two years. And so on. Ideally, I like to see over 2 years of health care related volunteering preferably done at the same facility.
I also like to see that the volunteering occurs on most weeks throughout the year. This includes not only during the summer but also during the school year. Why is it important to volunteer during the school year? Colleges understand that you are busier during the school year but that is why it is all the more important to volunteer during that time. The best volunteering is that which is done when it isn’t easy to volunteer.
I can hear you already. “I am really busy taking those challenging classes you said I had to take. And I am involved in all sorts of activities in school. I don’t have time to do more.”
The good news about health care volunteering for BS/MD programs is that if you volunteer most weeks throughout the year, it is sufficient to volunteer for an hour or two a week. That’s it.
So, ideally when should you be volunteering? It should be for two or more years, most weeks of the year and for an hour or two at a time. If it is junior year and you don’t have any health care volunteering yet, does that mean you shouldn’t even both applying to BS/MD programs? No, get started as soon as possible and get as much experience with the volunteering as possible. Any experience is better than no experience.