Volunteering and shadowing
"Try on" various career paths
Real-world experience and exploration can help you identify your interests, values and skills outside of what you learn at VCU. Through shadowing and volunteering, you can “try on” the various career pathways to see if you are on the right track.
Volunteering is a vital component to understanding more about a professional field of interest. While shadowing involves simply observing, volunteering allows you to actively perform tasks and make contributions to a workplace or organization.
For health care fields especially, experiences that offer direct patient contact are highly regarded by most admissions representatives. Most pre-health admissions representatives want to see that you give freely of your time to support your community as well.
Shadowing helps you understand more about a professional field of interest. It involves following a professional throughout their day, observing the ins-and-outs of the profession as a whole.
Most graduate and professional programs in health sciences require a minimum number of hours of shadowing experience.
After a day of shadowing, ask yourself:
- What is the most surprising thing you learned or observed today?
- Why did it surprise you?
- How does this experience shape and mature your understanding of the profession?
Why should I volunteer or job shadow?
Gaining experience during your undergraduate career serves two important purposes. It allows you to explore and determine if it is a good career path for you, and it can enhance your credentials for applying to a professional or graduate program. Shadowing can be valuable in any field and some graduate school programs in health care require you to complete a minimum number of volunteer or shadowing hours to be considered for admission.
Want another avenue to get to know a particular career? Try an informational interview.
This type of interview allows you to learn from another person’s career path, discover how they gained experience in the field, and learn the strategies and advice they have for someone entering the field today. Best of all, you get to direct the questions to a person of your choice who is doing work in a field or industry that interests you.