Need some advice here

Advance note: I know this post is longwinded and a bit irritated sounding. Oh well, sorry about that in advance. Hopefully I am just going through some application frustration and it’s a passing phase.
Ok, I am just about to go crazy trying to fill out some of these secondaries, and here is the reason why:
Hobbies and extracurriculars.
A lot of the secondaries ask for me to basically repeat what I put in my AMCAS. And the AMCAS form is not exactly non-trad friendly. Being ten years older than most applicants, I’ve had more time to do things–jobs, projects, travel, hobbies, etc. I only listed things that really mattered to me, but I still filled up all 15 spaces. However it was almost impossible to quantify everything in the way AMCAS wants. Hours/week; start and end dates, contact names, etc.
I wasn’t as conservative as I could have been but I wasn’t completely liberal about it either. I listed photography and piano as two hobbies, and I do a lot of both of those. But now on the secondaries, I have to list them again, and once again, quanitfy them. Well, the hours vary! For ten or twenty years I’ve been doing these things, and obviously, there are days, even months when I don’t do either at all. And I am clearly not good enough to be a professional or I wouldn’t be filling out applications to med school. Now, after going through the transcript evaluation business with AMCAS, I am petrified to put anything, anywhere, in any application where I can’t document the hours or that can’t be verified by some authority figure. (I’m already planning to memorize a fugue in case I get any interviews–I heard about someone who was asked to play during their interview after listing piano as an EC! I don’t normally memorize music but for AMCAS I guess I better get started.)
Since this stuff is in my AMCAS, I have to keep going with it. I can’t remember how many hours a week I worked at my LAST JOB, let alone how many I spent organizing bake sales and the like in college (I listed a couple groups where I was a leader. But as an adult, I think those college EC’s are pretty silly anyway. I made them single line entries in my AMCAS). Also, the one truth I’ve learned about “work” in the working world is that for every 8 hour day on the job, there is usually about 20 minutes actual, productive work done. This is a universal truth! And what I’m learning about chemistry research this summer is that half of the time is spent waiting for glassware to be repaired by the glass shop and columns to be ordered from California. Oh, and ordering lunch. The amount of actual research going on the world is probably 15 minutes a week. I just do not feel honest writing 40 hours a week for anything.

I think this part of the applications is downright discriminatory, since you can only fill it out accurately if you are about 22 years old. Can anybody help me out with personal experience on this part? Or anyone who’s been on an adcom and has seen how this section is reviewed? I don’t want to come across as vain; but I also want to give a sense of my interests and personality. I don’t want to overestimate my commitment to activities, but I don’t want to underestimate it either. No matter how I try to fill these forms out I feel like I’m trying to square a circle. For AMCAS I just estimated, but with each round of apps, I feel more nervous about doing that. I have had secondaries sitting around for over a week and can’t get over this hump. Help!

Gosh, I can’t believe what a rant that post was. I hope people will understand. I’m just frustrated here, living in fear of these applications, and don’t quite know how to proceed. Anyway, thanks for reading…

Okay first of all you are waaaaay taking this to seriously…now seriously. Just put in for example for research if you are at the lab for 40 hours regardless of how much time you are actually doing a PCR/western/etc…put in the hours that you are required to be there. I hear you about a lot of waiting time in the lab but it is not like you can leave the lab and go “live la vida loca” ya know…no martinis during that time he he. Also for the other EC’s I just “rounded” like for example some weeks I volunteered 20 hours (during spring break etc…others like zero during exams) so I put on “average” it probably ends up to about 2-4 hours per week. Some I put N/A why? because there were no true hours per se per week so it was whatever…do not overthink this process. I know that it is frustrating but they are usually sending MASS secondaries to everyone so although it may not pertain to non-trad just fill it out as best you can w/o embellishing but also do NOT sell yourself short. Get them done ASAP and be done with it, recycle some of the stuff. For some secondaries I copied and pasted from AMCAS because it was the SAME questions and obviously it worked. So just relax put down what means most to you and guesstimate…

Andrea, wow, you have applicationosis bad, girl! Time to take a break! Seriously i hear ya about all these niggling details and your worry that everything matches up. Well, obviously, you don’t want to put some major research achievement on a secondary if it wasn’t on your AMCAS… yes, consistency is a good thing.
But you do NOT have to obsess to this level about little details. No one is going to check every last detail. You’re not applying for a top secret clearance at the State Department. Step back from this a bit and just think - what is the big-picture impression given by the list of activities on your application?
Or, to get even a little more flowery with the big-picture thing, consider each little EC entry as a dot in an impressionist picture. Each contributes to the whole and is considered as part of that “big picture.” Too much scrutiny of one dot would not give an Adcom the right impression - they know that.
Know that major accomplishments in your life, whether they’re academic, career, or volunteer, WILL be scrutinized more closely. But even if the Tri-Delt car wash raised $10K for the local children’s hospital, I absolutely guarantee you that no one is going to call the hospital to see if you really did organize that fundraiser ten years ago.
Go to a movie! If you haven’t seen Spider-Man 2, I highly, highly recommend it.

Another thing to consider, since you have already done the main app, just make a copy of it to keep handy for the secondaries. I kept mine all in a file, since I filled out AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS, with a little check sheet at the beginning of each section to mark areas done, date sent, etc. Good luck,

Reading my response after a good night’s sleep I hasten to add that I am NOT advocating making stuff up when I say that your application will not be scrutinized for every last detail. (Nor am I implying that Andrea or anyone else here would do such a thing.) Far from it. My point is that, as efex has said, you can list averages and general time frames - if you say April and it turns out it was May, you’re not going to get nailed for that.

Thank you guys so much for these replies! It is helping me put this in perspective. I’m not quite there yet but I’m getting there.
Would it seem wierd if I listed ranges of hours for some of my activities on secondary applications, even though I put single numbers on AMCAS? AMCAS doesn’t let you type in a range. So for an internship I did in 1992, for example, I put 40 hours. Now I know I worked MORE than that that fall because I was busy every day and I brought work home with me. I know no one will call, but if they see a pattern in my application of an unusually high dedication to ECs, won’t they start to question me? ALL my ECs are as vague as this one. (And it’s the major ones I’m fretting over, not the Delta Delta car washes, etc.) It’s also possible my memory is failing me. It’s like the way old people say they walked a mile uphill both ways to school, or they were so poor in the Depression they had only dirt to eat. It can’t be true but that’s how they remember it!
So now for my secondaries I want to say 30 - 40 hours. Not to lower my hours but to show that I myself don’t really know. Or maybe it really does not matter in the slightest. Maybe 40 is just fine.
If anyone has an opinion, just say whether you think it makes much difference if I put “30 - 40” vs. “40.” I know I’m being neurotic and this has to stop!
Mary, I hadn’t yet read your response last night, but I went to see a movie anyway! I saw “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” It was every bit as good as I was expecting, another excellent movie from Will Farrell. Not QUITE as good as Old School (which some of us watched at the DC conference last year!) but still well worth putting my applications aside for.
Efex, you’re right about the lab–there are NO martinis in the middle of the day for me. I’m glad to have a standard here to measure against!
Thanks again everyone!

If this were Physics class, you’d have to put down the exact number of hours spent, rounded to the appropriate number of significant digits.
Fortunately…this isn’t Physics.
I’d actually like to have your problem. I haven’t received any secondaries yet. Oh well.