Should I list volunteer work that can't be quantified?

As an old “old premed” (42yrs) I feel as though my volunteer work could be perceived almost as contrived. Med schools like to see meaningful volunteer work to show that you are indeed a caring person. I have only recently begun medically relevant volunteer work. My fear is that the question may arise; “Why are you only now beginning volunteer work?” The implication being that if I was volunteering for the "right reasons " then I should have a volunteer history pages long. The fact of the matter is that I do, but I have nothing ,until recently, that is quantifiable. For example, I am currently an auto mechanic at a dealership. Many of the apprentice technicians are working towards an associates degree in automotive technology. I have been privately tutoring several of these students for years. One student did so well he switched out of automotive and into an engineering program. He is now applying to masters programs. Another switched to a psychology program and he is one year away from his BS in psychology. Most recently I have been tutoring the receptionist in A&P in preparation for an exercise science degree. I worked with these people because I enjoy helping people when I can. This is all very informal. It is just one example of something I do that I fell like I can’t necessarily put on a med school app. Is this a valid concern? Do I need to prove a long history of altruistic behavior? If so, how?

Thanks, Matt

You can definitely put down the tutoring. No one is going to go back and audit your hours. Volunteering is volunteering, it doesn’t necessarily have to be for some formal program or organization. That would show that a) you are willing to give your time to help others (assuming you weren’t paid), b) you enjoy teaching, which has a large informal component in medicine, and c) you seem genuinely invested in the people that you’ve helped.

For the application, you don’t have to prove anything. Your past is your past, and there’s nothing you can change about it now. I got in with zero volunteering but I guess made up for that “shortcoming” with other aspects of the application. There is no mold that you have to fit to get into medical school as long as your whole-person is something that at least one medical school thinks will make a good physician.

Your non-trad for a reason and committees will be intrigued by those experiences. They don’t expect you to follow the trad students trajectory. That said, it sounds like (like me) you’re seeing how unfriendly the format of the AMCAS application is to non-trad applicants. I was quite shocked by it, andI don’t know why there isn’t a different application for non-trads.