Research is another method of learning which can take place across many disciplines. Although research is not a requirement for all medical or allied-health professional schools, many successful applicants demonstrate the ability to pursue an area of study in depth, whether it is basic science research or clinical research. The experience of critically reviewing data does not necessarily have to occur in a basic science research lab as it can be done outside the classroom, as well. One might pursue research because it is interesting and you may have a genuine curiosity about the topic. Professors also get to know the students with whom they do research and will often write them a letter of recommendation. In addition, research involvement can help you decide whether you might be interested in pursuing the M.D. /Ph.D. degree. Even if you are not interested in pursuing research as a profession, it is important that you understand such concepts as the scientific method, statistical significance, and the experimental process so that you are able to critically review research reports and use relevant valid results in your practice. At USC, the opportunities that you have for research are abundant and may require that you have some basic level coursework completed and/or a general understanding and skill set in the lab environment.
Clinical or Medical Experience
It is important for you to gain real-world perspectives by either volunteering in a hospital, doctor’s office, or a community health clinic, in order to help clarify the validity of your decision to pursue a career in the health professions. This should be a priority if you are considering a health professional school as it shows admission committee members that you have tested your career choice and that your commitment has been reinforced. If you do not find the time for health-related volunteer work during the school year, plan on it during the summer. Note: It is more beneficial for you to volunteer consistently over an extended period of time rather than for short‐term projects even if such projects are time‐intensive. There are several health-related opportunities and programs on campus through which you can learn about your chosen field as a volunteer, such as the Trojan Health Volunteers Program. In addition, a number of our students have sought volunteer opportunities at our nearby hospitals, such as LAC+USC Hospital, USC University Hospital, Doheney Eye Institute, and Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles., as well as in their hometown or elsewhere.
There are many opportunities available at USC, as well as in your hometown, to learn more about your community and afterwards put yourself in a service role. This may include tutoring or teaching disadvantaged youth, volunteering at homeless shelters or organizations that deal with issues of social justice. This can be an opportunity for you to be exposed to individuals in different walks of life and, in turn, can help strengthen your leadership, communication and critical thinking skills.
A number of our students have sought study abroad opportunities as they become aware that having international experience is crucial in today’s society. Study abroad can be an enriching and eye-opening experience where learning extends to the world beyond the classroom. There is no substitute for living and studying in a foreign country if you want to gain in-depth knowledge of another culture's language, people, and customs. Health Professional schools tend to regard study abroad participation favorably. With careful preparation, this can be accomplished by completing all courses necessary for the MCAT/DAT/PCAT/OPT and completing the exam before going abroad during your junior year. Otherwise, you can go abroad and then apply to a health professional school during or beyond your senior year. Contact Overseas Studies for more information about various study abroad opportunities.