Question of the Week: What Should I Look for in Service Opportunities?

Friday, Feb 1, 2019

I’ve noticed a lot of medical schools seem to really value community service, both medical and non-medical. I don’t have much free time but I want to show that I want to help others—what are the best ways to do this in an efficient way?
Finding the right match for yourself goes a long way to making it feel like serving others is worth the time. If you’re working toward a cause you care about—reducing poverty, educating others, addressing disparities, protecting others’ rights, caring for those with health needs—in a way that resonates with you, it won’t feel like something you “have to” do for medical school applications, but rather something that brings satisfaction in doing good.
That said, there are a number of the medical school competencies that you may aim to develop in your participation in service (in fact, service orientation is one of those competencies, so participating in any service endeavor, you’re already working on one!).  Cultural Competency is the most significant: it’s much more straightforward to help people who are like you. Your patients will come from a broad range of backgrounds, beliefs, values systems—the more that you can get out of your bubble (and the Princeton bubble) to learn to communicate with and serve those different from you, the better prepared you will be to practice medicine. Teamwork can also be developed through service if you’re working with others toward a common cause, as can social skills, communication skills, and ethical responsibility. Participating in any service opportunities offered through the Pace Center or PROCeS, you’ll be joining an endeavor with some infrastructure and support behind it, so as you seek opportunities, we’d recommend starting there. And don’t forget to not only participate in service, but reflect meaningfully on what you’re gaining by doing it. Both reflection and action are important elements of your personal development through civic engagement.

QOTW in 2017: The Power of Self Reflection
QOTW in 2016: Pharmacy School Prerequisites