How To Gain Clinical Experience Before Med School

What are you doing to become a better doctor? Today? Right now?

Med schools want the great, future doctors and physicians. They want undergrad students who are passionate about the medical field, those who are poised to succeed. The more you can convince med school admissions counselors that you will be a successful doctor, the better your chances are of getting in.

Clinical experience is the best way to prove just that. An internship/co-op is the traditional way to gain clinical experience. However, most internships are reserved for undergrad upperclassmen. If you’re a freshman or sophomore – or student who did not get a chance to intern/COOP – you can also gain clinical experience from job shadowing, summer lab classes, volunteer work, a part time job, etc.

Stanford University, for example, has a summer program designed to give undergrad students clinical exposure. Research schools in your area to see if they have similar programs. Pick programs that help you develop specific skillsets. You already have had exposure to chemistry and biology, but clinical experience is completely different. 

Use your connections to land these positions. Sometimes, if you just know someone who is a practicing doctor, he/she will let you shadow them for summer or they may even find an internship for you. Also, your academic advisor or department chair should have contacts in the field, which could help you.

You can do a Google search to find open internships or COOPs – but remember, with the advertised positions, there are going to be a lot more applicants and competition.

If that doesn’t work, just pick up the phone. Call around at local hospitals, nursing homes, labs, clinics etc. It’s best if you know someone there who can help introduce you to the right people. But, you might be surprised with what you can find.

Every position/job you will ever have builds off your last one. So, the sooner you can land any type of clinical position, the better. If you’re a freshman in college, try to shadow or land a part time job in a clinic. If you can show the top doctors there that you are motivated and willing to work hard, they’ll remember you. And maybe the next year they will offer you a great internship.

Even if you can’t get that, start a research project with one of your professors. This could be the easiest and best way to start showing people you’re serious about a medical career. Also, most professors would love to work with a passionate student. Ask around about outside-of-class research projects your freshman year of college.

Learn how MCAT tutoring can help you improve your chances of acceptance into a top med school. 


Earning that prestigious internship the summer before your junior year of undergrad should be your target; so you can add it to your med school application – assuming you are planning to attend med school the fall after your graduate. Taking small, odd jobs early or doing research can help you gain enough experience to land that prestigious internship, which very well could be the deciding factor in your med school application.

Some med schools even require practical experience as part of their application.

To be accepted, you must convince the person reading your med school application that you will go on to have a great medical career – that’s all you have to do…seems pretty simple, right?

But not exactly – only half of the students who apply to med school are accepted, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Your academics (GPA, MCATscore, undergrad college attended, degree earned, etc) can indicate what type of career you’re heading toward. But, you have to be more than a great student. You have to be a great doctor in the making.

Everyone you’re competing with is going to have great MCATscores, GPAs and recommendation letters from their professors. But, just imagine interning with a recognized doctor and making an impact on his/her practice. Imagine being able to talk about that in an interview or on your application. Imagine that doctor writing a letter of recommendation to your prospective college, saying one day, this person will make a difference to world through medicine.