Do You Have To Write Essays In Medical School? (Explained Plus Tips!)

Because writing isn’t a huge part of being a doctor, you might be thinking it’s pretty low on the list of activities med students do.

We know you have to write essays for applications, but do you have to write essays in medical school?

Some med schools, specifically the top tier ones, expect students to write formal research essays in med school. Others might ask for essays as part of a final assessment for a specific course. Although essay writing isn’t as heavy as it can be in other majors, it is often required of med students.

In this article I’ll go into the question further. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • When you might need to write essays in med school
  • What types of subjects/topics you could be asked to write about
  • If you have to write a medical dissertation or research paper
  • What tips you can use to improve your med school writing

Having written my fair share of med school essays myself (especially in subjects like biophysics, social medicine and even anatomy and physiology), I know how annoying a task it can sometimes be. And that’s as a former English major!

The truth is, for many of us, writing is a serious drag. Especially when we thought we’d escaped it by studying medicine…

So are you ready for the good and bad news? Let’s go!

When do I have to write essays in med school?

Depending on where you study medicine, the amount of writing you’ll need to do in med school can vary.

Some schools, like Yale, Harvard and NYU, require you to do a research thesis as part of your degree. In this case it’s not optional (opportunities to publish in these respective schools’ journals also exist).

But most other med schools almost always require some form of essay writing too.

Here are some circumstances that call for it:

  • As a “final” exam component of a particular course/subject
  • Detailed patient history or physical reports
  • Group papers/presentations in classes/seminars

Of course the quantity and level of writing vary. Depending on where you go to school and what’s assigned, you might only ever need to do 1-2 pages of writing for a single course each semester. Others might only ever grade you based on oral examinations or question-based tests.

The different medical school curriculums also factor in. Practice based learning (PBL) schools have a reputation for a fair bit of writing.

Check out the specific curriculums (and grading criteria) for the med schools you’re interested in to get a sense of how much (or if) you’ll need to write. Or talk to existing students.

That’s the only way to know for sure.

What med school subjects involve the most writing?

Common med school subjects that can involve essay writing include:

  • Medical ethics
  • Clinical practice
  • Psychology/psychiatry
  • Biostatistics
  • Public health and sociology

These are subjects that are a little more “esoteric” than the harder sciences. And ones where a thesis or case study goes well.

Other subjects might ask for essays too. As I mentioned before, I’ve had to write mini-essays for many subject finals (including anatomy, biochemistry, biology, physiology and more). Here’s how it usually works:

  • The course syllabus lists all possible topics making up a subject (anatomy, in my case, had something like 350+)
  • You draw a topic at random to write about for a set time (usually 30-60 minutes)
  • You then present this essay to the professor and are asked questions about it
  • Finally you’re awarded a grade based on your performance

Of course this is just my own experience as a student at MU Varna . Your med school might not operate this way, while the pandemic has also encouraged a shift away from the “essay-oral” format.

Related : A Rough Guide To European Medical School Exams

The bottom line is; you could be asked to write an essay on any syllabus topic for any subject in med school.

It depends on the subject’s department and how they like to format final and mid-term exams.

Do you have to write essays in medical school in the UK?

The UK is similar to both US and most European international med schools. Many of their schools expect med students to write essays. Oxbridge is a case in point. Here are a couple of students explaining exactly how this works…

Many other students at UK-based schools suggest the same.

Follow the same advice to know for sure; double check with existing students and the course curriculum (if publically available).

Are med students good at writing essays?

Obviously I write a blog about medical education (and healthcare work) so am no stranger to writing.

For most med students however the story can be quite different.

Not all students are confident writers. Or have a lot of experience.

Oftentimes the closest they’ve got to writing essays are in earlier studies (as pre-meds) or in their carefully put together med school applications. It’s not something you typically get a lot of practice with.

There’s obviously a lot of international students in medicine whose native language isn’t English either. For some, writing essays can seem even more anxiety-provoking.

How well are med students expected to write?

The good news is, at least in my experience, that the standard of writing (especially when it comes to the types of essays you do in final exams, midterms or class presentations), by no means has to be perfect.

The most that’s expected are factors like:

  • Handwriting that’s not too difficult to read
  • Good grasp of grammar and punctuation
  • Solid understanding of the topic you’re asked to write about

Med school professors aren’t looking for well polished, proofread, near perfect essays for the most part.

Not unless they’re submitted as a research thesis (which you’re expected to have put serious time and effort into).

In that case they’re expected to be as professional as possible. For which you’ll usually have a thesis supervisor or research lead to help guide you.

Do medical doctors have to write a dissertation?

There’s no rule that says doctors have to write a dissertation (or even do published research). It’s possible to get into med school, graduate and find a job without ever having done any serious writing.

But it is rare.

To be competitive, especially when it comes to residency applications (and even admissions in some cases), medical dissertations or research papers can help. A lot.

General writing tips for med school essays

As for tips on how to approach your writing in med school, here are a few pointers that’ve helped me:

  • Don’t aim for perfection : keep the language simple and the arguments easy to understand
  • Define everything : your professor will be looking to see you understand what you’ve written about
  • Break it up : use subheadings to divide the essay up and improve the flow (don’t throw it all out there in one chunk)
  • Practice : sketch out essay outlines for the high yield topics (those likely to show up on exams) and attempt a couple

Getting comfortable with the process will help improve your confidence.

Med school essays aren’t anything to fear for the most part. For the more serious research or thesis-based essays, make sure you follow the guidance of the research lead or project coordinator.

Summary: Writing essays in med school

You might get lucky and never have to write an essay in med school but it’s unlikely. Writing is more central to a successful doctors career than you might think.

Being more confident with it (and learning how to do it better) can definitely help when it comes to reports, research, patient communication and everything else.

Writing is still a major skill you’ll want to focus on if you plan on a career in healthcare.

  • https://medicine.yale.edu/education/research/mdthesis/


Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more .

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do med school applications have essays

Reviewed by:

Luke Hartstein

Former Admissions Committee Member, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Reviewed: 5/16/22

‍ Ready for med school? This guide will walk you through how to fill out your medical school application. 

The AMCAS medical school application can seem intimidating. There are multiple sections that all have specific requirements. But, there is no need to fear! We’ve taken the time to review what you must do and break everything into digestible sections.

We will explain how to fill out the AMCAS medical school application and offer advice and tips. We will also explore the AMCAS medical school requirements and how to include your transcripts and scores from the MCAT on your AAMC application.

Get The Ultimate Guide on Writing an Unforgettable Personal Statement

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About Your Medical School Application: AAMC AMCAS Application Sections Overview

It is often helpful to start with a complete overview of what to expect for your AMCAS med school application. 

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) oversees the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). This centralized service is available to first-year entering students at AAMC participating medical schools. 

If you are transferring from another institution or have advanced standing, ask your school what to do next. This guide only covers AMCAS and the nine parts of the medical school application. If you plan to apply to medical schools in Texas, you must use the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS).

The AMCAS application is never directly involved in admissions decisions. That is up to the institutions themselves. It merely functions as a centralized place to submit your application materials to your chosen schools. 

The service also does not necessarily contain all the information you must submit when applying. To help you learn about all requirements, refer to the Medical School Admission Requirements resource .

Keep all deadlines in mind and have everything ready well in advance. Start early and maintain lists of what you have done and still need to do. 

Missing information or incorrect use of the AMCAS application could lead to delays. Including false or misleading information could lead to investigations of potential fraud, so be extra vigilant about these sorts of details.

Getting Started

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, you can register for your account to begin the application process. Fill out all your personal information completely and accurately. This helps ensure your MCAT information syncs up properly and keeps your account secure. 

Do not sign up for more than one account. The registration page is simple to understand, and it should look something like this:

The sign in page consists of tow sections with a blue bar up top. The left hand side is titled "Sign In" with fields to enter a username and password, and links to "Forgot your username?", "Forgot your password?", and "Need Help?" below them. The right hand side contains a box which says "Don't have an account?" and below that it states "Register for an AAMC account to begin accessing products and services," underneath which there is a button to click that says "Create Account."

Source: AAMC. 

If you need help with your AMCAS application, you can contact AMCAS . 

Now, it is time to dive in and understand each section of the AMCAS application. You’ll know exactly how to fill out your med school application by the end.  

AAMC Application sections

Sections 1–3: Background Information

The first three sections expand upon the basic information you entered when creating your account. Here, you will enter more detailed information about yourself, where you are from, and similar aspects.

Names and Identifiers

To begin your AMCAS med school application, you’ll enter your name, including your legal name and nicknames or preferred names you use. You can choose to include previous names, such as your pre-marriage last name. Though marked optional, it is highly encouraged to fill this out if it applies to out.

You will also enter any useful ID numbers. These include school-assigned identification badge numbers, MCAT identifiers, AMCAS application IDs assigned before 2002, or other identifications that might appear on transcripts and documents you will be submitting. 

Do not enter your Social Security Number (SSN), Social Insurance Number (SIN), or other government ID numbers.

Your birthday and sex should auto-fill with the information you entered when creating your account, but be sure to double-check. In this section, you may also choose to enter information about your gender identity and pronouns. These are offered to help gather information on diversity and inclusion.

Schools You Have Attended

Next, you will enter information about the schools you have attended. If you attended multiple high schools, you only need to enter information about the high school from which you graduated. Select the proper region and country from the drop-down menus to find your school, or select Other and enter it manually.

If you received a GED or another sort of equivalency, state the city and state in which you earned it. Then in the School field, select “N/A–Earned Equivalency or GED.” After doing that, you can then enter the year in which you took the test and received the certificate.

Section 4: Coursework and Transcripts

The next part of the AMCAS application will ask you about every post-secondary institution you enrolled in for at least one course. That applies to situations where you earned no credit, transferred your credits, or withdrew. 

You can choose the “Summer School Only” or AMCAS “Study Abroad Program” options for short-term programs. The latter option only applies if you were in a program through a school that was not affiliated with a foreign school.

For dual enrollments at one school, such as joint undergraduate-graduate education, create separate entries for each of them and use separate transcripts. Any U.S. or Canadian-sponsored study abroad program also gets a separate AMCAS study abroad entry.

You will enter the degree(s) you earned where applicable for each school and their associated major or minor subjects. Be aware that if you change the details or delete a school, AMCAS will delete all the associated information. 

Like the previous section, choose the appropriate location and school from the drop-down menus, or enter them manually if they are not listed. If you went to a U.S. college located overseas, select the country it’s based in or use the manual entry option if you cannot find it. 

You can also choose to release the information about your application to the advisors at your institutions. This can help the schools you have attended improve their pre-health programs to aid other students in the future.

Sending Transcripts

The AMCAS medical school application requires you to send official transcripts from every school or post-secondary institution you attended. This includes:

  • College classes you took in high school 
  • AP classes that ended up counting for credit at a college or university 
  • Transfer credits
  • Anything involving courses at a higher education institution or college prep work 

So, how do you send transcripts to AMCAS? If your program does not send transcripts, it must send an official letter stating as such at your request to AMCAS application. Paper transcripts are accepted from all institutions, but PDF eTranscripts are only accepted from approved senders.

It is your responsibility to ensure that all your transcripts are up to date and accurate. An AMCAS application Pre-Barcoded Transcript Request Form matches your transcript to your application and makes the process more efficient. 

Inaccurate, incomplete, or otherwise incorrect transcripts are the number one cause of delays and missed deadlines. Ensure your transcripts are complete and accurate before you request to have them sent. 

For institutions no longer extant, ask local education authorities and search the internet for information on where you can secure transcripts. Make sure to ask to have transcripts sent from the registrar's office of every college or university you attended around May of the year you wish to apply.

When entering the classes you took into the Coursework section, the details on the transcripts you have sent in and what you enter must match each other in chronological order. 

For example, suppose your transcript says you took Calculus I in 2014, Chemistry II in 2015, Calculus II in 2016, and Calculus III in 2017. In that case, you must enter these courses following that order in the fields provided according to High School, Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years. 

These typically change over every two semesters, 3-4 quarters, and 2-3 trimesters. Use the following table to compute which of these years your courses fall into if you’re unsure:

Table outlining how you must classify courses taken during you High School, Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years in hte AMCAS application

Each course has to be assigned an AMCAS application Course Classification from the drop-down menu options available. The application can change these if it sees fit, and if you think they got it wrong, you may send an Academic Change Request. Rest assured, applications do not get rejected or returned for incorrect classifications.

If you are part of the military or armed forces, your institution’s office can usually help obtain the information and transcripts you need. If you are no longer active-duty personnel, contact your military schools directly. They are usually faster than central offices.

As part of this section of the AAMC application, you must also state any previous medical school experience (if applicable). You’ll also need to disclose any disciplinary action from any school. If these do not apply to you, you can skip this part. 

If you’ve received disciplinary action, be honest and open about what happened. If you experience any disciplinary action after hitting Submit, you have ten days to let AMCAS know about the situation.

The AMCAS transcript processing time is 15 business days for electronic copies and 25 for paper versions, so fill out everything as early and accurately as possible. Be sure your transcripts are complete and accurate. We highly encourage you to use the Pre-Barcoded Transcript Request Form . 

Section 5: Work and Activities

Chances are, if you are filling out your AAMC medical school application, you have some experience with work and extracurricular activities . The AMCAS Work & Activities element is the place to explain what you have done and when.

There are 15 areas to enter details about these experiences, such as

  • Volunteering  
  • Medicine-related jobs
  • Employment positions
  • Internships

You do not need to fill out every entry. Remember, quality is better than quantity. 

Choose the experiences that reflect on you best and showcase your abilities to their fullest. You’ll have 700 characters to describe each entry. You can flag up to three of your entries as “most meaningful.” You’ll have an additional 1,325 characters to explain why these experiences are significant. 

As you enter these experiences, they will organize themselves into chronological order. You will use drop-down menus to categorize your entries and include names, dates, and other such information where it is required. 

All entries are plain text only. AMCAS will not save any bullets, numbering, or other formatting. Keep that in mind, and check that your entries are still readable without these formatting options.

It is best to choose experiences related to medical school or show how responsible and thoughtful you are. For example, summer jobs at fast-food stands will be less important to include than hospital volunteering or internships. Prioritize your entries, keep a list yourself, and cross off items as you enter them.

Section 6: Letters of Evaluation

We already have extensive information on acquiring medical rec letters to satisfy the AMCAS medical school requirements. So, this section will cover how to correctly fill out the AMCAS application forms to avoid delays and organize everything properly.

In the Letters of Evaluation section, you can indicate who will be writing your med school rec letters and which schools they will be sent from. Alternatively, you can have your letters sent by your school or institution before you submit your application. However, this section makes it possible for all your chosen medical schools to receive your letters in one centralized place.

You can include up to ten letters of recommendation with your application. Remember, however, quality over quantity. You can only submit letters for one application year; they are not saved or rolled over. Notify your writers early, remind them occasionally, and choose good writers you know well and are professional references.

Section 7: Medical Schools

Remember, the AMCAS app does not determine your eligibility to enroll in any institution as part of the medical school application process. This section is where you enter the schools that will receive your AMCAS application. You can access this section easily from the “Quick Links” section, as seen here:

Applicants who wish to choose which schools will receive their application can easily do so on the AMCAS Application home page by clicking on the "Choose Your Medical School" button in the "Quick Links" box located in the lower left hand corner of the page.

Here, you will choose the medical school(s) you are applying to and input the relevant information. You will indicate if you are applying to a standard MD, MD-PhD, or another type of program in this section. This is also where you can specify if you are applying for the Early Decision Program (EDP).

If you wish to apply to the EDP, please note that you can only apply to one medical school. The EDP allows you to secure acceptance before the beginning of October. If getting into the EDP program is your goal, this is where you make that clear. 

If you do not get accepted, you will still have time to apply to other schools. EDP deadlines mandate that your submission and transcripts must be in by the start of August, so remember when considering going down this route.

Additionally, any previous enrollments in medical school mean you are considered a reapplicant . If that is the case, indicate that here too. If you fail to do so, you may come under Investigation, which causes delays. Remember, you can contact the helpline if you need any AMCAS application help. 

Section 8: Personal Essay

Your Personal Comments Essay (PCE), also known as the personal statement , is an essential required component of your AAMC application. If you are applying to MD-PhD programs, you will require two additional essays known as the MD-PhD Essay and the Significant Research Experience Essay.

You’ll have 5,300 characters to compose your PCE. This is where you can show your unique assets, personality, and experiences. More often than not, admissions officers place very high importance on this section. Be sure you take your time and compose a clear, compelling piece that highlights your strengths.

A table can be helpful to remember the character limits of each essay type:

Table outlining what essays and there respectice character requirements are required for MD and MD-PhD programs

Use the PCE to discuss why you want to study medicine. Include information that your transcripts, grades, and schooling do not reflect. You can explain the adversity and hardships you have overcome or provide reasons for gaps and oddities in your journey. 

Again, this essay is plain text. You cannot use bullets, numbering, or any other formatting. Type your essay in a plain text editor or directly into the form to avoid any hidden characters showing up and corrupting the essay. 

Remember to check your spelling and grammar, as no corrections are allowed after submitting your AMCAS application.

Section 9: Standardized Tests 

You are almost done with your AAMC medical school application! This final section is relatively straightforward, thankfully. Your MCAT scores should already be linked to your application and listed in this section. If you have not taken the test yet or your scores are still due to arrive, include the dates that these events will occur.

After receiving your scores, remember to update these fields to your actual results, even if they arrive after you submit the AMCAS application. Without your scores from the MCAT, your AAMC application will still be valid. However, the medical schools you apply to need them, so it is best to have everything good.

In this section, programs such as MD-PhD or other degrees may require you to submit other test results. Enter them here, treating each separately. The AMCAS application only verifies your MCAT scores; it is up to you to ensure any other test scores are accurate.

After filling out the last section, you certify your application in total, hit S ubmit , and pay any applicable fees. And just like that, you’re done! 

Medical School Application FAQs

Here, we have listed several questions and answers to help you understand how to fill out your med school application. 

1. Can I Fill Out the AMCAS Application at Different Times, Instead of All at Once?

Yes. Remember to save your progress in the AMCAS application and do not let anyone see your AAMC medical school application. Please note that the AMCAS application automatically times itself out after 30 minutes of no activity, so it is part of best practices to save often anyway.

2. Can I Track My Application After I Submit? 

Once your AMCAS medical school application has been processed and verified, it’s entered into the AAMC’s processing queue . The AAMC recommends that you continually check the status of your application throughout the application process. 

Click on the “Details” link in the AAMC med school application’s Main Menu to check its status

3. What Happens if I Submit Incorrect Info?

Remember that when you hit Submit, it amounts to your sworn word that all the information in your AMCAS application is correct. 

If the AAMC notices a discrepancy, they can investigate you. That is a long process that delays your final submission and may cause you to miss deadlines. Avoid this happening by verifying everything is accurate and matches your records.

3. Can I Change or Correct Things After Hitting Submit?

It depends on which section of the application you are hoping to change. After hitting Submit, you can only change the following sections:

  • ID Numbers.
  • Name, including Full Legal Name, Preferred Name, and Alternate Names.
  • Contact Information including Permanent and Preferred Mailing Addresses.
  • Alternate Contact Information.
  • Date of Birth, Birth Address, and Sex.
  • Letters of Evaluation (only additions of up to 10 letters and notifying the AMCAS application of a letter no longer being sent).
  • Your next MCAT testing or PREview date.
  • Add Medical Schools and change the existing Program type (deadlines, fees, and restrictions apply).
  • Choosing to release your application information to your pre-health advisor.

If you need any AMCAS application help, contact the helpline . 

4. Is the AMCAS Application the Same Thing as the Admissions Office at my Preferred School(s)?

No. The AMCAS application merely ferries your AAMC app to participating institutions. It makes no judgments besides verifying relevant information and your identity. The medical schools themselves are the institutions that will decide on your acceptance.

5. What if I Can’t Source Some Info, Like a Transcript?

You should make all possible efforts to gather the information you need for your medical school application. That means tracking down old school admissions offices and previous supervisors if necessary. If a school shuts down, it often passes its records to state authorities or an archive. 

The AMCAS application only accepts an official letter from an institution saying they do not send results like transcripts. If you think that is the case for you, verify this information and ask your career or academic counselors for help.

6. Does Every Medical School Participate in the AMCAS Application Program?

The AMCAS application is widespread, and almost every medical school in the U.S. accepts it, except for most schools in Texas. If you’re applying to be a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), you must use the AACOMAS (not covered by this guide).

7. I’ve Applied to Medical School in the Past; Can I Reuse My Old Application?

You may not reuse previous medical school applications in the AMCAS application system. If you started parts of the medical school application in the past and did not complete it, you have to start again as your app is only valid for one year. If much of the information in your old application is still valid, you will have to re-enter it in your new application.

8. Can I Submit My AMCAS Application Without Letters of Recommendation?

You are free to submit your AMCAS application without letters of recommendation, as you can upload them after you click submit. However, you can’t forego letters of recommendation altogether. Letters of recommendation are a required part of the AMCAS application. 

The Time to Start Is Now: Fill Out Your Med School Application

Now that you know how to fill out your medical school application, it’s time to get started! Applying to medical school is a long, challenging process, but you can do it. The AAMC’s AMCAS application requires you to be diligent, organized, and thorough, just like you’ll be as a doctor. 

Make sure to have your transcripts, letters, and essays in order and ready, and be sure to double- and triple-check everything before you hit Submit. Don’t fret, however. With some planning and preparation, you can submit an excellent AMCAS application to get into the medical school of your dreams!

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How to Answer Common Essay Prompts on Medical School Secondary Applications

Coherently emphasize your unique persona, life journey, motivations and alignment with the medical profession.

Writing Med School Secondary Essays

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Secondary applications offer a unique canvas to paint a more intricate portrait of your character, experiences and aspirations.

As you begin your medical school application journey, the secondary application phase emerges as a pivotal bridge connecting your premedical background with entrance into graduate medical training. These secondary applications, adorned with an often repetitive tapestry of essays, offer a unique canvas to paint a more intricate portrait of your character, experiences and aspirations.

Here's some advice on the art of answering common essay prompts on med school secondary applications, emphasizing the importance of compelling storytelling throughout your application. 

The Purpose of the Secondary Application  

The secondary application is more than a formality – it's an essential step that adds depth to the on-page persona that admissions committees will assess. It is the last chance you have to make a good impression before an interview is offered, so a subpar performance at this stage may be the last chance you have at admission during this cycle.

This phase allows admissions committees to perceive you in a richer light, beyond mere test scores and accolades. Secondary applications typically comprise a cluster of essays, each allowing you to showcase your unique persona. If written well, they can unveil your motivations, life journey and alignment with the medical profession. 

How to Craft a Compelling Secondary Essay Narrative  

Effective essay crafting relies on authentic storytelling. Your goal is not just to convey information, but to resonate emotionally with the reader.

Begin by dedicating some time to introspection. Reflect on your journey, including its highs, lows and turning points. Weave a narrative tapestry that threads together your experiences, values and aspirations. Focus on using vivid imagery and metaphors to engage the reader, making your essays stand out among the many they will read.

Don’t forget to ensure a coherent flow by structuring your essays logically. Again, introspection and planning – using an outline if helpful – are essential. 

How to Approach Common Secondary Essay Prompts  

The essay prompts you'll encounter may frequently be similar, and the temptation to copy and paste similar responses to many programs is extremely high, particularly when many secondary application requests come back at once.

However, be very wary of canned responses that work for many essay types and many different programs. This can sometimes work well, but can also result in essays that feel forced, with content that doesn’t quite answer the question. These types of essay flaws are remarkably easy to spot by experienced admissions committee reviewers. 

Below are three common secondary application essay prompts and advice on how to approach them.

Common Prompt 1: Why Our Medical School? 

It can be challenging to develop a response to this prompt that feels truly unique. In some way, your response will be similar to other applicants’, but how you weave your background, persona and experiences with the school’s mission and goals is how you can stand out.

To master this, delve into meticulous research about the institution. Go beyond the mission statement and goals. What sorts of programs do they offer? What do they choose to highlight multiple times, in prominent places on their website or on their campus? Understand why they are emphasizing various programs, classes, attributes or resources. 

A school is typically less proud of a simulation lab itself and prouder of what that simulation lab allows them to do. Perhaps they train a large number of procedural specialists or match many graduates into careers in trauma.

Work to comprehend a school’s values, unique offerings and cultural fabric . Then work to articulate how your background and experiences align with these facets, without sounding too repetitive of your primary application materials.

The key is to go beyond the surface – pinpoint specific programs, faculty members or initiatives that resonate with your aspirations and to which you are excited to contribute if accepted. 

Common Prompt 2: Diversity  

The "How will you contribute to diversity on campus?" question is a testament to the evolving medical landscape. Embrace your distinct background and be proud to describe how it will allow you to bring a fresh, unique perspective to the campus and the community.

Recognize also that you don’t have to limit yourself to a traditional definition of diversity . You can also share experiences or interests that make you a diverse applicant.

If you have played harp your entire life and feel it speaks to your personality, including attributes that will be beneficial in medicine, write about it with pride. You can be quite sure that your essay is one the reader has not already read 30 times, and that can at times be an advantage in and of itself.

Of course, no matter your topic, look to emphasize how your perspective enriches the educational mosaic, promoting cross-cultural understanding and empathy within the realm of health care. 

Common Prompt 3:  Overcoming Adversity and Demonstrating Resilience  

The "How have you overcome adversity or a challenge?" prompt invites you to display your mental strength and ability to persevere when things get difficult – a sure bet in the medical field. Again, introspection is crucial.

This is not likely to be the place to describe the one time in high school you got a B+, or an argument you’ve had with a roommate. Highlight a significant challenge, narrate its impact on you and expound on your growth journey. 

Do not be shy to include letdowns. A refreshingly honest essay describing rejection from medical school during your first application cycle, and your continued commitment to the long road ahead – including how you have worked to improve as a person and as an aspiring doctor – can be a phenomenal essay if done well.

Make sure to transition to a positive note; don’t seek pity from the reader.

Whatever adversity you choose, remember not to spend too much space describing the actual event. You want to focus most of your energy on discussing the strategies you employed to surmount the obstacle and how the experience honed your resolve and enhanced your ability to excel in the medical sphere. 

Emphasize Your Fit With the Medical School

With all of your secondary essays, be sure to weave a cohesive story together without directly repeating any content in your primary application materials.

Emphasize your fit with each school, and do significant research to discover what type of student they are genuinely interested in attracting to their unique program. Discuss experiences that have shaped you, highlight times when you have demonstrated resilience and remember to take each individual essay seriously.

With strategic introspection and eloquent articulation, these essays will pave the path toward achieving the goals and earning the experiences you have – to this point – only written about.

Medical School Application Mistakes

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About Medical School Admissions Doctor

Need a guide through the murky medical school admissions process? Medical School Admissions Doctor offers a roundup of expert and student voices in the field to guide prospective students in their pursuit of a medical education. The blog is currently authored by Dr. Ali Loftizadeh, Dr. Azadeh Salek and Zach Grimmett at Admissions Helpers , a provider of medical school application services; Dr. Renee Marinelli at MedSchoolCoach , a premed and med school admissions consultancy; Dr. Rachel Rizal, co-founder and CEO of the Cracking Med School Admissions consultancy; Dr. Cassie Kosarec at Varsity Tutors , an advertiser with U.S. News & World Report; Dr. Kathleen Franco, a med school emeritus professor and psychiatrist; and Liana Meffert, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine and a writer for Admissions Helpers. Got a question? Email [email protected] .

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By submitting my email address. i certify that i am 13 years of age or older, agree to recieve marketing email messages from the princeton review, and agree to terms of use., 5 tips for medical school secondary applications.

There is no rest for the medical school applicant! A few weeks after you submit your AMCAS application , med schools will start mailing secondary applications, composed primarily of a short list of essay questions. Here's how to tackle them.

Writing secondary essays

Who receives Secondary Applications?

Most schools indiscriminately send secondary applications, meaning that every living, breathing candidate who submitted a primary application will likely get a secondary one, regardless of their chances for admission. There are, however, a few student-friendly schools that will review GPA and MCAT scores  to be sure you meet their minimum admissions standards before they send a secondary application. In many cases, schools betray what type of student they are looking for in the type of secondary question they ask. If you have strong answers for their questions, it is possible you have the characteristics they are most looking for in an applicant.

Writing the Secondary Essay

Check out our top strategies for writing your secondary essays and relieve some med school application stress.

1. Answer the Question Being Asked

Unlike primary applications, secondary applications ask specific questions about your goals, experiences, and your personal views on a range of topics, including your decision to go to medical school. Your secondaries will be read to see how they complement what you have said in your primary application. At the most basic level, your secondary application is another test to see whether you can adequately understand directions (this time, the school’s specific directions), and focus yourself to answer the question that was asked.

2. Focus on New Material

If you are willing to put in a little effort, secondaries are a great time to elaborate on elements that received less attention in your primary application. For example, if you write in your personal statement about a primary care experience, you may want to point out some research experience in your secondary applications. A discussion of how research broadened or deepened your interest would show that you are an even broader applicant than your initial application suggested.  

Read More: How To Make Your Med School Application Stand Out

3. Every Word Counts

If you are given enough room on certain questions, you may want to follow the thesis, body, and conclusion structure that you would use for a longer essay. Don’t, however, try to squeeze in extra words by using a font more than a point smaller than your AMCAS application. That approach always appears forced, and you come across as a rule bender—not an ideal image to portray to med schools.

4. Know What To Expect

Secondary questions run the gamut from personal to political to pointless. If you want to see what a school’s secondary application entails ahead of time, many premed advisors keep a file with the previous year’s secondary applications. To give you an idea of what to expect, here are a few questions from recent applications.

  • "What do you consider to be the role of the physician in the community?" (Emory University)
  • " What personal accomplishment are you most proud of and why? " (University of California, Irvine)
  • " What has been your most humbling experience and how will that experience affect your interactions with your peers and patients? " (Duke University)
  • " Tell us about a difficult or challenging situation you have encountered and how you dealt with it ." (University of Chicago)
  • "W here do you see your future medical career (academic medicine, research, public health, primary care, business/law, etc.) and why? " (New York University)

5. Make a Game Plan

As you begin to receive secondary applications, you will have a few potential approaches.

Strategy 1:

Focus your energy first on the schools that you would most like to attend.

Strategy 2:

Hold off sending secondaries to the more competitive schools until you’ve sent out a few to the less competitive ones. For many students, their last secondaries will be better written than their first.

Strategy 3:

Reply first to schools whose secondaries ask questions to which you can easily give solid answers. This allows you to work your way up to the more difficult applications.

Strategy 4:

Practice writing secondary statements even before you get your first ones, so that you can send out well-written, personalized responses to your top choices first.

Only you can know which approach will work best for you! Check out more tips about writing the personal statement for medical school .

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How To: The Medical School Secondary Application

do med school applications have essays

After your primary medical school application (AMCAS, TMDSAS or AACOMAS) is received by medical schools, the vast majority will automatically send a secondary application. The secondary application is the second phase of the medical school application process.

What Is The Secondary App?

Secondary applications are school-specific and serve as a “follow-up” application to your primary application. Therefore, secondary applications are focused on what is important to each individual medical school. The vast majority of AMCAS, TMDSAS and AACOMAS medical schools send secondary applications. While there are some medical schools that screen primary applications and selectively send secondaries to applicants who meet certain MCAT and GPA thresholds, the majority of medical schools send out secondary applications automatically to all applicants.

So, what are the components of a secondary application? It really varies from medical school to medical school. The one thing all medical school secondary applications require is an additional fee to apply (see below).

Most secondary applications also require students to compose additional essays. The prompts and lengths for these essays varies from medical school to medical school. For example, one medical school might require four shorter essays of 50 words each while another might ask for three 1000 word essays. Prompts reflect what is most important to each medical school when selecting applicants.

Getting into a medical school has never been more competitive. Let the experts at MedEdits help you with your medical school application materials. We’ve worked with more than 5,000 students and 94% have been admitted to medical school.

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Secondary Application Questions

Some medical school secondary applications will have shorter questions that typically involve listing medical school prerequisite courses or activities or simple “yes” or “no” responses to questions. These types of secondary applications require the least amount of time to complete.

Secondary Essays

Here are some common secondary essay prompt topics:

  • Why our medical school?
  • How will you contribute to the diversity of our medical school?
  • Write about a difficult or challenging experience.
  • Write about your most important clinical/research/volunteer activity/leadership role.
  • What are your academic interests?
  • What are your future goals?

It may seem obvious, but one of the biggest pieces of advice when writing secondary essays is to be sure to read the essay prompt carefully and answer what is being asked. Students often use secondary essays to “squeeze in” additional information they think is relevant and haven’t mentioned elsewhere in the application. However, this approach often results in an essay that is off-target.

Also use essay word and character limits as a general guide for how much detail the medical school wants you to offer. A medical school that requests an essay with a 1000 word limit is asking you to write in detail about whatever is being asked. In contrast, essays with shorter limits, such as 50 – 100 words, are asking for brevity.

Timeline & Deadlines

Secondary essays are sent out after a medical school receives your primary application. For AMCAS schools, the earliest you may receive a secondary application is the last week of June. For TMDSAS and AACOMAS schools, you may receive secondary applications in mid-May or early June.

We suggest sending in all secondary applications by late August/early September even though official medical school deadlines vary (most are November 15th – December 15th). We advise sending in secondary application within three weeks of receipt. Since medical schools will review applications on a rolling basis, the earlier your secondary application is sent in the earlier your application will be reviewed. Be sure to send in your secondary essays for your target medical schools first!

Secondary Application Fees

There is no question that secondary applicants are expensive! Medical school secondary application fees vary from $80-$120 per medical school.

Tips & Advice

What are some basic guidelines to follow when writing your secondary essays?

  • Read the secondary essay prompt carefully and address what is being asked.
  • Unless you are requested not to repeat any topics already covered in your application, don’t be afraid of writing about topics covered elsewhere. Assuming you have composed a comprehensive primary application, when writing secondary essays you will write about some topics you have already discussed. This is perfectly okay!
  • Be careful about “recycling” a secondary essay from one medical school to use for another medical school. It is rare that secondary essay prompts for two school are identical and recycling essays can lead to submitting an essay that doesn’t answer a prompt well. We discourage using secondary essay templates for the same reason. Admissions committee members will be able to distinguish an essay that was written for his or her medical school versus one that was recycled!
  • Answer “why our medical school” questions thoughtfully and be as specific as possible. These questions are assessing your fit for the medical school. Do your research carefully and know what it is that interests you most about that medical school. You can write about the curriculum, scholarly opportunities, clinical sites and rotations, location, or overall school mission.
  • Use the secondary essay word limit as a general guide for how much information you should provide. The longer the allowed limit, the more information the medical school wants from you!
  • Optional essays are truly optional! Don’t feel you must “fill the space” for the sake of doing so.

Want help with your secondary essays? Not sure what to write? MedEdits assists with all aspects of the medical school admissions process. Sign up for free 15 minute consultation today!

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do med school applications have essays

10 Successful Medical School Essays

Sponsored by.

do med school applications have essays

-- Accepted to: Harvard Medical School GPA: 4.0 MCAT: 522

Sponsored by A ccepted.com : Great stats don’t assure acceptance to elite medical schools. The personal statement, most meaningful activities, activity descriptions, secondaries and interviews can determine acceptance or rejection. Since 1994, Accepted.com has guided medical applicants just like you to present compelling medical school applications. Get Accepted !

I started writing in 8th grade when a friend showed me her poetry about self-discovery and finding a voice. I was captivated by the way she used language to bring her experiences to life. We began writing together in our free time, trying to better understand ourselves by putting a pen to paper and attempting to paint a picture with words. I felt my style shift over time as I grappled with challenges that seemed to defy language. My poems became unstructured narratives, where I would use stories of events happening around me to convey my thoughts and emotions. In one of my earliest pieces, I wrote about a local boy’s suicide to try to better understand my visceral response. I discussed my frustration with the teenage social hierarchy, reflecting upon my social interactions while exploring the harms of peer pressure.

In college, as I continued to experiment with this narrative form, I discovered medical narratives. I have read everything from Manheimer’s Bellevue to Gawande’s Checklist and from Nuland’s observations about the way we die, to Kalanithi’s struggle with his own decline. I even experimented with this approach recently, writing a piece about my grandfather’s emphysema. Writing allowed me to move beyond the content of our relationship and attempt to investigate the ways time and youth distort our memories of the ones we love. I have augmented these narrative excursions with a clinical bioethics internship. In working with an interdisciplinary team of ethics consultants, I have learned by doing by participating in care team meetings, synthesizing discussions and paths forward in patient charts, and contributing to an ongoing legislative debate addressing the challenges of end of life care. I have also seen the ways ineffective intra-team communication and inter-personal conflicts of beliefs can compromise patient care.

Writing allowed me to move beyond the content of our relationship and attempt to investigate the ways time and youth distort our memories of the ones we love.

By assessing these difficult situations from all relevant perspectives and working to integrate the knowledge I’ve gained from exploring narratives, I have begun to reflect upon the impact the humanities can have on medical care. In a world that has become increasingly data driven, where patients can so easily devolve into lists of numbers and be forced into algorithmic boxes in search of an exact diagnosis, my synergistic narrative and bioethical backgrounds have taught me the importance of considering the many dimensions of the human condition. I am driven to become a physician who deeply considers a patient’s goal of care and goals of life. I want to learn to build and lead patient care teams that are oriented toward fulfilling these goals, creating an environment where family and clinician conflict can be addressed efficiently and respectfully. Above all, I look forward to using these approaches to keep the person beneath my patients in focus at each stage of my medical training, as I begin the task of translating complex basic science into excellent clinical care.

In her essay for medical school, Morgan pitches herself as a future physician with an interdisciplinary approach, given her appreciation of how the humanities can enable her to better understand her patients. Her narrative takes the form of an origin story, showing how a childhood interest in poetry grew into a larger mindset to keep a patient’s humanity at the center of her approach to clinical care.

This narrative distinguishes Morgan as a candidate for medical school effectively, as she provides specific examples of how her passions intersect with medicine. She first discusses how she used poetry to process her emotional response to a local boy’s suicide and ties in concern about teenage mental health. Then, she discusses more philosophical questions she encountered through reading medical narratives, which demonstrates her direct interest in applying writing and the humanities to medicine. By making the connection from this larger theme to her own reflections on her grandfather, Morgan provides a personal insight that will give an admissions officer a window into her character. This demonstrates her empathy for her future patients and commitment to their care.

Her narrative takes the form of an origin story, showing how a childhood interest in poetry grew into a larger mindset to keep a patient's humanity at the center of her approach to clinical care.

Furthermore, it is important to note that Morgan’s essay does not repeat anything in-depth that would otherwise be on her resume. She makes a reference to her work in care team meetings through a clinical bioethics internship, but does not focus on this because there are other places on her application where this internship can be discussed. Instead, she offers a more reflection-based perspective on the internship that goes more in-depth than a resume or CV could. This enables her to explain the reasons for interdisciplinary approach to medicine with tangible examples that range from personal to professional experiences — an approach that presents her as a well-rounded candidate for medical school.

Disclaimer: With exception of the removal of identifying details, essays are reproduced as originally submitted in applications; any errors in submissions are maintained to preserve the integrity of the piece. The Crimson's news and opinion teams—including writers, editors, photographers, and designers—were not involved in the production of this article.

-- Accepted To: A medical school in New Jersey with a 3% acceptance rate. GPA: 3.80 MCAT: 502 and 504

Sponsored by E fiie Consulting Group : “ EFIIE ” boasts 100% match rate for all premedical and predental registered students. Not all students are accepted unto their pre-health student roster. Considered the most elite in the industry and assists from start to end – premed to residency. EFIIE is a one-stop-full-service education firm.

"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The tribulations I've overcome in my life have manifested in the compassion, curiosity, and courage that is embedded in my personality. Even a horrific mishap in my life has not changed my core beliefs and has only added fuel to my intense desire to become a doctor. My extensive service at an animal hospital, a harrowing personal experience, and volunteering as an EMT have increased my appreciation and admiration for the medical field.

At thirteen, I accompanied my father to the Park Home Animal Hospital with our eleven-year-old dog, Brendan. He was experiencing severe pain due to an osteosarcoma, which ultimately led to the difficult decision to put him to sleep. That experience brought to light many questions regarding the idea of what constitutes a "quality of life" for an animal and what importance "dignity" plays to an animal and how that differs from owner to owner and pet to pet. Noting my curiosity and my relative maturity in the matter, the owner of the animal hospital invited me to shadow the professional staff. Ten years later, I am still part of the team, having made the transition from volunteer to veterinarian technician. Saving a life, relieving pain, sharing in the euphoria of animal and owner reuniting after a procedure, to understanding the emotions of losing a loved one – my life was forever altered from the moment I stepped into that animal hospital.

As my appreciation for medical professionals continued to grow, a horrible accident created an indelible moment in my life. It was a warm summer day as I jumped onto a small boat captained by my grandfather. He was on his way to refill the boat's gas tank at the local marina, and as he pulled into the dock, I proceeded to make a dire mistake. As the line was thrown from the dock, I attempted to cleat the bowline prematurely, and some of the most intense pain I've ever felt in my life ensued.

Saving a life, relieving pain, sharing in the euphoria of animal and owner reuniting after a procedure, to understanding the emotions of losing a loved one – my life was forever altered from the moment I stepped into that animal hospital.

"Call 911!" I screamed, half-dazed as I witnessed blood gushing out of my open wounds, splashing onto the white fiberglass deck of the boat, forming a small puddle beneath my feet. I was instructed to raise my hand to reduce the bleeding, while someone wrapped an icy towel around the wound. The EMTs arrived shortly after and quickly drove me to an open field a short distance away, where a helicopter seemed to instantaneously appear.

The medevac landed on the roof of Stony Brook Hospital before I was expeditiously wheeled into the operating room for a seven-hour surgery to reattach my severed fingers. The distal phalanges of my 3rd and 4th fingers on my left hand had been torn off by the rope tightening on the cleat. I distinctly remember the chill from the cold metal table, the bright lights of the OR, and multiple doctors and nurses scurrying around. The skill and knowledge required to execute multiple skin graft surgeries were impressive and eye-opening. My shortened fingers often raise questions by others; however, they do not impair my self-confidence or physical abilities. The positive outcome of this trial was the realization of my intense desire to become a medical professional.

Despite being the patient, I was extremely impressed with the dedication, competence, and cohesiveness of the medical team. I felt proud to be a critical member of such a skilled group. To this day, I still cannot explain the dichotomy of experiencing being the patient, and concurrently one on the professional team, committed to saving the patient. Certainly, this experience was a defining part of my life and one of the key contributors to why I became an EMT and a volunteer member of the Sample Volunteer Ambulance Corps. The startling ring of the pager, whether it is to respond to an inebriated alcoholic who is emotionally distraught or to help bring breath to a pulseless person who has been pulled from the family swimming pool, I am committed to EMS. All of these events engender the same call to action and must be reacted to with the same seriousness, intensity, and magnanimity. It may be some routine matter or a dire emergency; this is a role filled with uncertainty and ambiguity, but that is how I choose to spend my days. My motives to become a physician are deeply seeded. They permeate my personality and emanate from my desire to respond to the needs of others. Through a traumatic personal event and my experiences as both a professional and volunteer, I have witnessed firsthand the power to heal the wounded and offer hope. Each person defines success in different ways. To know even one life has been improved by my actions affords me immense gratification and meaning. That is success to me and why I want to be a doctor.

This review is provided by EFIIE Consulting Group’s Pre-Health Senior Consultant Jude Chan

This student was a joy to work with — she was also the lowest MCAT profile I ever accepted onto my roster. At 504 on the second attempt (502 on her first) it would seem impossible and unlikely to most that she would be accepted into an allopathic medical school. Even for an osteopathic medical school this score could be too low. Additionally, the student’s GPA was considered competitive at 3.80, but it was from a lower ranked, less known college, so naturally most advisors would tell this student to go on and complete a master’s or postbaccalaureate program to show that she could manage upper level science classes. Further, she needed to retake the MCAT a third time.

However, I saw many other facets to this student’s history and life that spoke volumes about the type of student she was, and this was the positioning strategy I used for her file. Students who read her personal statement should know that acceptance is contingent on so much more than just an essay and MCAT score or GPA. Although many students have greater MCAT scores than 504 and higher GPAs than 3.80, I have helped students with lower scores and still maintained our 100% match rate. You are competing with thousands of candidates. Not every student out there requires our services and we are actually grateful that we can focus on a limited amount out of the tens of thousands that do. We are also here for the students who wish to focus on learning well the organic chemistry courses and physics courses and who want to focus on their research and shadowing opportunities rather than waste time deciphering the next step in this complex process. We tailor a pathway for each student dependent on their health care career goals, and our partnerships with non-profit organizations, hospitals, physicians and research labs allow our students to focus on what matters most — the building up of their basic science knowledge and their exposure to patients and patient care.

Students who read her personal statement should know that acceptance is contingent on so much more than just an essay and MCAT score or GPA.

Even students who believe that their struggle somehow disqualifies them from their dream career in health care can be redeemed if they are willing to work for it, just like this student with 502 and 504 MCAT scores. After our first consult, I saw a way to position her to still be accepted into an MD school in the US — I would not have recommended she register to our roster if I did not believe we could make a difference. Our rosters have a waitlist each semester, and it is in our best interest to be transparent with our students and protect our 100% record — something I consider a win-win. It is unethical to ever guarantee acceptance in admissions as we simply do not control these decisions. However, we respect it, play by the rules, and help our students stay one step ahead by creating an applicant profile that would be hard for the schools to ignore.

This may be the doctor I go to one day. Or the nurse or dentist my children or my grandchildren goes to one day. That is why it is much more than gaining acceptance — it is about properly matching the student to the best options for their education. Gaining an acceptance and being incapable of getting through the next 4 or 8 years (for my MD/PhD-MSTP students) is nonsensical.

-- Accepted To: Imperial College London UCAT Score: 2740 BMAT Score: 3.9, 5.4, 3.5A

My motivation to study Medicine stems from wishing to be a cog in the remarkable machine that is universal healthcare: a system which I saw first-hand when observing surgery in both the UK and Sri Lanka. Despite the differences in sanitation and technology, the universality of compassion became evident. When volunteering at OSCE training days, I spoke to many medical students, who emphasised the importance of a genuine interest in the sciences when studying Medicine. As such, I have kept myself informed of promising developments, such as the use of monoclonal antibodies in cancer therapy. After learning about the role of HeLa cells in the development of the polio vaccine in Biology, I read 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' to find out more. Furthermore, I read that surface protein CD4 can be added to HeLa cells, allowing them to be infected with HIV, opening the possibility of these cells being used in HIV research to produce more life-changing drugs, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP). Following my BioGrad laboratory experience in HIV testing, and time collating data for research into inflammatory markers in lung cancer, I am also interested in pursuing a career in medical research. However, during a consultation between an ENT surgeon and a thyroid cancer patient, I learnt that practising medicine needs more than a scientific aptitude. As the surgeon explained that the cancer had metastasised to her liver, I watched him empathetically tailor his language for the patient - he avoided medical jargon and instead gave her time to come to terms with this. I have been developing my communication skills by volunteering weekly at care homes for 3 years, which has improved my ability to read body language and structure conversations to engage with the residents, most of whom have dementia.

However, during a consultation between an ENT surgeon and a thyroid cancer patient, I learnt that practising medicine needs more than a scientific aptitude.

Jude’s essay provides a very matter-of-fact account of their experience as a pre-medical student. However, they deepen this narrative by merging two distinct cultures through some common ground: a universality of compassion. Using clear, concise language and a logical succession of events — much like a doctor must follow when speaking to patients — Jude shows their motivation to go into the medical field.

From their OSCE training days to their school’s Science society, Jude connects their analytical perspective — learning about HeLa cells — to something that is relatable and human, such as a poor farmer’s notable contribution to science. This approach provides a gateway into their moral compass without having to explicitly state it, highlighting their fervent desire to learn how to interact and communicate with others when in a position of authority.

Using clear, concise language and a logical succession of events — much like a doctor must follow when speaking to patients — Jude shows their motivation to go into the medical field.

Jude’s closing paragraph reminds the reader of the similarities between two countries like the UK and Sri Lanka, and the importance of having a universal healthcare system that centers around the just and “world-class” treatment of patients. Overall, this essay showcases Jude’s personal initiative to continue to learn more and do better for the people they serve.

While the essay could have benefited from better transitions to weave Jude’s experiences into a personal story, its strong grounding in Jude’s motivation makes for a compelling application essay.

-- Accepted to: Weill Cornell Medical College GPA: 3.98 MCAT: 521

Sponsored by E fie Consulting Group : “ EFIIE ” boasts 100% match rate for all premedical and predental registered students. Not all students are accepted unto their pre-health student roster. Considered the most elite in the industry and assists from start to end – premed to residency. EFIIE is a one-stop-full-service education firm.

Following the physician’s unexpected request, we waited outside, anxiously waiting to hear the latest update on my father’s condition. It was early on in my father’s cancer progression – a change that had shaken our entire way of life overnight. During those 18 months, while my mother spent countless nights at the hospital, I took on the responsibility of caring for my brother. My social life became of minimal concern, and the majority of my studying for upcoming 12th- grade exams was done at the hospital. We were allowed back into the room as the physician walked out, and my parents updated us on the situation. Though we were a tight-knit family and my father wanted us to be present throughout his treatment, what this physician did was give my father a choice. Without making assumptions about who my father wanted in the room, he empowered him to make that choice independently in private. It was this respect directed towards my father, the subsequent efforts at caring for him, and the personal relationship of understanding they formed, that made the largest impact on him. Though my decision to pursue medicine came more than a year later, I deeply valued what these physicians were doing for my father, and I aspired to make a similar impact on people in the future.

It was during this period that I became curious about the human body, as we began to learn physiology in more depth at school. In previous years, the problem-based approach I could take while learning math and chemistry were primarily what sparked my interest. However, I became intrigued by how molecular interactions translated into large-scale organ function, and how these organ systems integrated together to generate the extraordinary physiological functions we tend to under-appreciate. I began my undergraduate studies with the goal of pursuing these interests, whilst leaning towards a career in medicine. While I was surprised to find that there were upwards of 40 programs within the life sciences that I could pursue, it broadened my perspective and challenged me to explore my options within science and healthcare. I chose to study pathobiology and explore my interests through hospital volunteering and research at the end of my first year.

Though my decision to pursue medicine came more than a year later, I deeply valued what these physicians were doing for my father, and I aspired to make a similar impact on people in the future.

While conducting research at St. Michael’s Hospital, I began to understand methods of data collection and analysis, and the thought process of scientific inquiry. I became acquainted with the scientific literature, and the experience transformed how I thought about the concepts I was learning in lecture. However, what stood out to me that summer was the time spent shadowing my supervisor in the neurosurgery clinic. It was where I began to fully understand what life would be like as a physician, and where the career began to truly appeal to me. What appealed to me most was the patient-oriented collaboration and discussions between my supervisor and his fellow; the physician-patient relationship that went far beyond diagnoses and treatments; and the problem solving that I experienced first-hand while being questioned on disease cases.

The day spent shadowing in the clinic was also the first time I developed a relationship with a patient. We were instructed to administer the Montreal cognitive assessment (MoCA) test to patients as they awaited the neurosurgeon. My task was to convey the instructions as clearly as possible and score each section. I did this as best I could, adapting my explanation to each patient, and paying close attention to their responses to ensure I was understood. The last patient was a challenging case, given a language barrier combined with his severe hydrocephalus. It was an emotional time for his family, seeing their father/husband struggle to complete simple tasks and subsequently give up. I encouraged him to continue trying. But I also knew my words would not remedy the condition underlying his struggles. All I could do was make attempts at lightening the atmosphere as I got to know him and his family better. Hours later, as I saw his remarkable improvement following a lumbar puncture, and the joy on his and his family’s faces at his renewed ability to walk independently, I got a glimpse of how rewarding it would be to have the ability and privilege to care for such patients. By this point, I knew I wanted to commit to a life in medicine. Two years of weekly hospital volunteering have allowed me to make a small difference in patients’ lives by keeping them company through difficult times, and listening to their concerns while striving to help in the limited way that I could. I want to have the ability to provide care and treatment on a daily basis as a physician. Moreover, my hope is that the breadth of medicine will provide me with the opportunity to make an impact on a larger scale. Whilst attending conferences on neuroscience and surgical technology, I became aware of the potential to make a difference through healthcare, and I look forward to developing the skills necessary to do so through a Master’s in Global Health. Whether through research, health innovation, or public health, I hope not only to care for patients with the same compassion with which physicians cared for my father, but to add to the daily impact I can have by tackling large-scale issues in health.

Taylor’s essay offers both a straightforward, in-depth narrative and a deep analysis of his experiences, which effectively reveals his passion and willingness to learn in the medical field. The anecdote of Taylor’s father gives the reader insight into an original instance of learning through experience and clearly articulates Taylor’s motivations for becoming a compassionate and respectful physician.

Taylor strikes an impeccable balance between discussing his accomplishments and his character. All of his life experiences — and the difficult challenges he overcame — introduce the reader to an important aspect of Taylor’s personality: his compassion, care for his family, and power of observation in reflecting on the decisions his father’s doctor makes. His description of his time volunteering at St. Michael’s Hospital is indicative of Taylor’s curiosity about medical research, but also of his recognition of the importance of the patient-physician relationship. Moreover, he shows how his volunteer work enabled him to see how medicine goes “beyond diagnoses and treatments” — an observation that also speaks to his compassion.

His description of his time volunteering at St. Michael's Hospital is indicative of Taylor's curiosity about medical research, but also of his recognition of the importance of the patient-physician relationship.

Finally, Taylor also tells the reader about his ambition and purpose, which is important when thinking about applying to medical school. He discusses his hope of tackling larger scale problems through any means possible in medicine. This notion of using self interest to better the world is imperative to a successful college essay, and it is nicely done here.

-- Accepted to: Washington University

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Running has always been one of my greatest passions whether it be with friends or alone with my thoughts. My dad has always been my biggest role model and was the first to introduce me to the world of running. We entered races around the country, and one day he invited me on a run that changed my life forever. The St. Jude Run is an annual event that raises millions of dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. My dad has led or our local team for as long as I can remember, and I had the privilege to join when I was 16. From the first step I knew this was the environment for me – people from all walks of life united with one goal of ending childhood cancer. I had an interest in medicine before the run, and with these experiences I began to consider oncology as a career. When this came up in conversations, I would invariably be faced with the question “Do you really think you could get used to working with dying kids?” My 16-year-old self responded with something noble but naïve like “It’s important work, so I’ll have to handle it”. I was 16 years young with my plan to become an oncologist at St. Jude.

As I transitioned into college my plans for oncology were alive and well. I began working in a biochemistry lab researching new anti-cancer drugs. It was a small start, but I was overjoyed to be a part of the process. I applied to work at a number of places for the summer, but the Pediatric Oncology Education program (POE) at St. Jude was my goal. One afternoon, I had just returned from class and there it was: an email listed as ‘POE Offer’. I was ecstatic and accepted the offer immediately. Finally, I could get a glimpse at what my future holds. My future PI, Dr. Q, specialized in solid tumor translational research and I couldn’t wait to get started.

I was 16 years young with my plan to become an oncologist at St. Jude.

Summer finally came, I moved to Memphis, and I was welcomed by the X lab. I loved translational research because the results are just around the corner from helping patients. We began a pre-clinical trial of a new chemotherapy regimen and the results were looking terrific. I was also able to accompany Dr. Q whenever she saw patients in the solid tumor division. Things started simple with rounds each morning before focusing on the higher risk cases. I was fortunate enough to get to know some of the patients quite well, and I could sometimes help them pass the time with a game or two on a slow afternoon between treatments. These experiences shined a very human light on a field I had previously seen only through a microscope in a lab.

I arrived one morning as usual, but Dr. Q pulled me aside before rounds. She said one of the patients we had been seeing passed away in the night. I held my composure in the moment, but I felt as though an anvil was crushing down on me. It was tragic but I knew loss was part of the job, so I told myself to push forward. A few days later, I had mostly come to terms with what happened, but then the anvil came crashing back down with the passing of another patient. I could scarcely hold back the tears this time. That moment, it didn’t matter how many miraculous successes were happening a few doors down. Nothing overshadowed the loss, and there was no way I could ‘get used to it’ as my younger self had hoped.

I was still carrying the weight of what had happened and it was showing, so I asked Dr. Q for help. How do you keep smiling each day? How do you get used to it? The questions in my head went on. What I heard next changed my perspective forever. She said you keep smiling because no matter what happened, you’re still hope for the next patient. It’s not about getting used to it. You never get used to it and you shouldn’t. Beating cancer takes lifetimes, and you can’t look passed a life’s worth of hardships. I realized that moving passed the loss of patients would never suffice, but I need to move forward with them. Through the successes and shortcomings, we constantly make progress. I like to imagine that in all our future endeavors, it is the hands of those who have gone before us that guide the way. That is why I want to attend medical school and become a physician. We may never end the sting of loss, but physicians are the bridge between the past and the future. No where else is there the chance to learn from tragedy and use that to shape a better future. If I can learn something from one loss, keep moving forward, and use that knowledge to help even a single person – save one life, bring a moment of joy, avoid a moment of pain—then that is how I want to spend my life.

The change wasn’t overnight. The next loss still brought pain, but I took solace in moving forward so that we might learn something to give hope to a future patient. I returned to campus in a new lab doing cancer research, and my passion for medicine continues to flourish. I still think about all the people I encountered at St. Jude, especially those we lost. It might be a stretch, but during the long hours at the lab bench I still picture their hands moving through mine each step of the way. I could never have foreseen where the first steps of the St. Jude Run would bring me. I’m not sure where the road to becoming a physician may lead, but with helping hands guiding the way, I won’t be running it alone.

This essay, a description of the applicant’s intellectual challenges, displays the hardships of tending to cancer patients as a milestone of experience and realization of what it takes to be a physician. The writer explores deeper ideas beyond medicine, such as dealing with patient deaths in a way to progress and improve as a professional. In this way, the applicant gives the reader some insight into the applicant’s mindset, and their ability to think beyond the surface for ways to become better at what they do.

However, the essay fails to zero in on the applicant’s character, instead elaborating on life events that weakly illustrate the applicant’s growth as a physician. The writer’s mantra (“keep moving forward”) is feebly projected, and seems unoriginal due to the lack of a personalized connection between the experience at St. Jude and how that led to the applicant’s growth and mindset changes.

The writer explores deeper ideas beyond medicine, such as dealing with patient deaths in a way to progress and improve as a professional.

The writer, by only focusing on grief brought from patient deaths at St. Jude, misses out on the opportunity to further describe his or her experience at the hospital and portray an original, well-rounded image of his or her strengths, weaknesses, and work ethic.

The applicant ends the essay by attempting to highlight the things they learned at St. Jude, but fails to organize the ideas into a cohesive, comprehensible section. These ideas are also too abstract, and are vague indicators of the applicant’s character that are difficult to grasp.

-- Accepted to: New York University School of Medicine

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“Is this the movie you were talking about Alice?” I said as I showed her the movie poster on my iPhone. “Oh my God, I haven’t seen that poster in over 70 years,” she said with her arms trembling in front of her. Immediately, I sat up straight and started to question further. We were talking for about 40 minutes, and the most exciting thing she brought up in that time was the new flavor of pudding she had for lunch. All of sudden, she’s back in 1940 talking about what it was like to see this movie after school for only 5¢ a ticket! After an engaging discussion about life in the 40’s, I knew I had to indulge her. Armed with a plethora of movie streaming sights, I went to work scouring the web. No luck. The movie, “My Son My Son,” was apparently not in high demand amongst torrenting teens. I had to entreat my older brother for his Amazon Prime account to get a working stream. However, breaking up the monotony and isolation felt at the nursing home with a simple movie was worth the pandering.

While I was glad to help a resident have some fun, I was partly motivated by how much Alice reminded me of my own grandfather. In accordance with custom, my grandfather was to stay in our house once my grandmother passed away. More specifically, he stayed in my room and my bed. Just like grandma’s passing, my sudden roommate was a rough transition. In 8th grade at the time, I considered myself to be a generally good guy. Maybe even good enough to be a doctor one day. I volunteered at the hospital, shadowed regularly, and had a genuine interest for science. However, my interest in medicine was mostly restricted to academia. To be honest, I never had a sustained exposure to the palliative side of medicine until the arrival of my new roommate.

The two years I slept on that creaky wooden bed with him was the first time my metal was tested. Sharing that room, I was the one to take care of him. I was the one to rub ointment on his back, to feed him when I came back from school, and to empty out his spittoon when it got full. It was far from glamorous, and frustrating most of the time. With 75 years separating us, and senile dementia setting in, he would often forget who I was or where he was. Having to remind him that I was his grandson threatened to erode at my resolve. Assured by my Syrian Orthodox faith, I even prayed about it; asking God for comfort and firmness on my end. Over time, I grew slow to speak and eager to listen as he started to ramble more and more about bits and pieces of the past. If I was lucky, I would be able to stich together a narrative that may or may have not been true. In any case, my patience started to bud beyond my age group.

Having to remind him that I was his grandson threatened to erode at my resolve.

Although I grew more patient with his disease, my curiosity never really quelled. Conversely, it developed further alongside my rapidly growing interest in the clinical side of medicine. Naturally, I became drawn to a neurology lab in college where I got to study pathologies ranging from atrophy associated with schizophrenia, and necrotic lesions post stroke. However, unlike my intro biology courses, my work at the neurology lab was rooted beyond the academics. Instead, I found myself driven by real people who could potentially benefit from our research. In particular, my shadowing experience with Dr. Dominger in the Veteran’s home made the patient more relevant in our research as I got to encounter geriatric patients with age related diseases, such as Alzhimer’s and Parkinson’s. Furthermore, I had the privilege of of talking to the families of a few of these patients to get an idea of the impact that these diseases had on the family structure. For me, the scut work in the lab meant a lot more with these families in mind than the tritium tracer we were using in the lab.

Despite my achievements in the lab and the classroom, my time with my grandfather still holds a special place in my life story. The more I think about him, the more confident I am in my decision to pursue a career where caring for people is just as important, if not more important, than excelling at academics. Although it was a lot of work, the years spent with him was critical in expanding my horizons both in my personal life and in the context of medicine. While I grew to be more patient around others, I also grew to appreciate medicine beyond the science. This more holistic understanding of medicine had a synergistic effect in my work as I gained a purpose behind the extra hours in the lab, sleepless nights in the library, and longer hours volunteering. I had a reason for what I was doing that may one day help me have long conversations with my own grandchildren about the price of popcorn in the 2000’s.

The most important thing to highlight in Avery’s essay is how he is able to create a duality between his interest in not only the clinical, more academic-based side of medicine, but also the field’s personal side.

He draws personal connections between working with Alice — a patient in a hospital or nursing home — and caring intensely for his grandfather. These two experiences build up the “synergistic” relationship between caring for people and studying the science behind medicine. In this way, he is able to clearly state his passions for medicine and explain his exact motives for entering the field. Furthermore, in his discussion of her grandfather, he effectively employs imagery (“rub ointment on his back,” “feed him when I came back from school,” etc.) to describe the actual work that he does, calling it initially as “far from glamorous, and frustrating most of the time.” By first mentioning his initial impression, then transitioning into how he grew to appreciate the experience, Avery is able to demonstrate a strength of character, sense of enormous responsibility and capability, and open-minded attitude.

He draws personal connections between working with Alice — a patient in a hospital or nursing home — and caring intensely for his grandfather.

Later in the essay, Avery is also able to relate his time caring for his grandfather to his work with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients, showcasing the social impact of his work, as the reader is likely already familiar with the biological impact of the work. This takes Avery’s essay full circle, bringing it back to how a discussion with an elderly patient about the movies reminds him of why he chose to pursue medicine.

That said, the essay does feel rushed near the end, as the writer was likely trying to remain within the word count. There could be a more developed transition before Avery introduces the last sentence about “conversations with my own grandchildren,” especially as a strong essay ending is always recommended.

-- Accepted To: Saint Louis University Medical School Direct Admission Medical Program

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The tension in the office was tangible. The entire team sat silently sifting through papers as Dr. L introduced Adam, a 60-year-old morbidly obese man recently admitted for a large open wound along his chest. As Dr. L reviewed the details of the case, his prognosis became even bleaker: hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, cardiomyopathy, hyperlipidemia; the list went on and on. As the humdrum of the side-conversations came to a halt, and the shuffle of papers softened, the reality of Adam’s situation became apparent. Adam had a few months to live at best, a few days at worst. To make matters worse, Adam’s insurance would not cover his treatment costs. With no job, family, or friends, he was dying poor and alone.

I followed Dr. L out of the conference room, unsure what would happen next. “Well,” she muttered hesitantly, “We need to make sure that Adam is on the same page as us.” It’s one thing to hear bad news, and another to hear it utterly alone. Dr. L frantically reviewed all of Adam’s paperwork desperately looking for someone to console him, someone to be at his side. As she began to make calls, I saw that being a physician calls for more than good grades and an aptitude for science: it requires maturity, sacrifice, and most of all, empathy. That empathy is exactly what I saw in Dr. L as she went out of her way to comfort a patient she met hardly 20 minutes prior.

Since high school, I’ve been fascinated by technology’s potential to improve healthcare. As a volunteer in [the] Student Ambassador program, I was fortunate enough to watch an open-heart surgery. Intrigued by the confluence of technology and medicine, I chose to study biomedical engineering. At [school], I wanted to help expand this interface, so I became involved with research through Dr. P’s lab by studying the applications of electrospun scaffolds for dermal wound healing. While still in the preliminary stages of research, I learned about the Disability Service Club (DSC) and decided to try something new by volunteering at a bowling outing.

As she began to make calls, I saw that being a physician calls for more than good grades and an aptitude for science: it requires maturity, sacrifice, and most of all, empathy.

The DSC promotes awareness of cognitive disabilities in the community and seeks to alleviate difficulties for the disabled. During one outing, I collaborated with Arc, a local organization with a similar mission. Walking in, I was told that my role was to support the participants by providing encouragement. I decided to help a relatively quiet group of individuals assisted by only one volunteer, Mary. Mary informed me that many individuals with whom I was working were diagnosed with ASD. Suddenly, she started cheering, as one of the members of the group bowled a strike. The group went wild. Everyone was dancing, singing, and rejoicing. Then I noticed one gentleman sitting at our table, solemn-faced. I tried to start a conversation with him, but he remained unresponsive. I sat with him for the rest of the game, trying my hardest to think of questions that would elicit more than a monosyllabic response, but to no avail. As the game ended, I stood up to say bye when he mumbled, “Thanks for talking.” Then he quickly turned his head away. I walked away beaming. Although I was unable to draw out a smile or even sustain a conversation, at the end of the day, the fact that this gentleman appreciated my mere effort completely overshadowed the awkwardness of our time together. Later that day, I realized that as much as I enjoyed the thrill of research and its applications, helping other people was what I was most passionate about.

When it finally came time to tell Adam about his deteriorating condition, I was not sure how he would react. Dr. L gently greeted him and slowly let reality take its toll. He stoically turned towards Dr. L and groaned, “I don’t really care. Just leave me alone.” Dr. L gave him a concerned nod and gradually left the room. We walked to the next room where we met with a pastor from Adam’s church.

“Adam’s always been like that,” remarked the pastor, “he’s never been one to express emotion.” We sat with his pastor for over an hour discussing how we could console Adam. It turned out that Adam was part of a motorcycle club, but recently quit because of his health. So, Dr. L arranged for motorcycle pictures and other small bike trinkets to be brought to his room as a reminder of better times.

Dr. L’s simple gesture reminded me of why I want to pursue medicine. There is something sacred, empowering, about providing support when people need it the most; whether it be simple as starting a conversation, or providing support during the most trying of times. My time spent conducting research kindled my interest in the science of medicine, and my service as a volunteer allowed me to realize how much I valued human interaction. Science and technology form the foundation of medicine, but to me, empathy is the essence. It is my combined interest in science and service that inspires me to pursue medicine. It is that combined interest that makes me aspire to be a physician.

Parker’s essay focuses on one central narrative with a governing theme of compassionate and attentive care for patients, which is the key motivator for her application to medical school. Parker’s story focuses on her volunteer experience shadowing of Dr. L who went the extra mile for Adam, which sets Dr. L up as a role model for Parker as she enters the medical field. This effectively demonstrates to the reader what kind of doctor Parker wants to be in the future.

Parker’s narrative has a clear beginning, middle, and end, making it easy for the reader to follow. She intersperses the main narrative about Adam with experiences she has with other patients and reflects upon her values as she contemplates pursuing medicine as a career. Her anecdote about bowling with the patients diagnosed with ASD is another instance where she uses a story to tell the reader why she values helping people through medicine and attentive patient care, especially as she focuses on the impact her work made on one man at the event.

Parker's story focuses on her volunteer experience shadowing of Dr. L who went the extra mile for Adam, which sets Dr. L up as a role model for Parker as she enters the medical field.

All throughout the essay, the writing is engaging and Parker incorporates excellent imagery, which goes well with her varied sentence structure. The essay is also strong because it comes back full circle at its conclusion, tying the overall narrative back to the story of Dr. L and Adam, which speaks to Parker’s motives for going to medical school.

-- Accepted To: Emory School of Medicine

Growing up, I enjoyed visiting my grandparents. My grandfather was an established doctor, helping the sick and elderly in rural Taiwan until two weeks before he died at 91 years old. His clinic was located on the first floor of the residency with an exam room, treatment room, X-ray room, and small pharmacy. Curious about his work, I would follow him to see his patients. Grandpa often asked me if I want to be a doctor just like him. I always smiled, but was more interested in how to beat the latest Pokémon game. I was in 8th grade when my grandfather passed away. I flew back to Taiwan to attend his funeral. It was a gloomy day and the only street in the small village became a mourning place for the villagers. Flowers filled the streets and people came to pay their respects. An old man told me a story: 60 years ago, a village woman was in a difficult labor. My grandfather rushed into the house and delivered a baby boy. That boy was the old man and he was forever grateful. Stories of grandpa saving lives and bringing happiness to families were told during the ceremony. At that moment, I realized why my grandfather worked so tirelessly up until his death as a physician. He did it for the reward of knowing that he kept a family together and saved a life. The ability for a doctor to heal and bring happiness is the reason why I want to study medicine. Medical school is the first step on a lifelong journey of learning, but I feel that my journey leading up to now has taught me some things of what it means to be an effective physician.

With a newfound purpose, I began volunteering and shadowing at my local hospital. One situation stood out when I was a volunteer in the cardiac stress lab. As I attached EKG leads onto a patient, suddenly the patient collapsed and started gasping for air. His face turned pale, then slightly blue. The charge nurse triggered “Code Blue” and started CPR. A team of doctors and nurses came, rushing in with a defibrillator to treat and stabilize the patient. What I noticed was that medicine was not only about one individual acting as a superhero to save a life, but that it takes a team of individuals with an effective leader, working together to deliver the best care. I want to be a leader as well as part of a team that can make a difference in a person’s life. I have refined these lessons about teamwork and leadership to my activities. In high school I was an 8 time varsity letter winner for swimming and tennis and captain of both of those teams. In college I have participated in many activities, but notably serving as assistant principle cellist in my school symphony as well as being a co-founding member of a quartet. From both my athletic experiences and my music experiences I learned what it was like to not only assert my position as a leader and to effectively communicate my views, but equally as important I learned how to compromise and listen to the opinions of others. Many physicians that I have observed show a unique blend of confidence and humility.

What I noticed was that medicine was not only about one individual acting as a superhero to save a life, but that it takes a team of individuals with an effective leader, working together to deliver the best care.

College opened me up to new perspectives on what makes a complete physician. A concept that was preached in the Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions in Medicine (GPPA) was that medicine is both an art and a science. The art of medicine deals with a variety of aspects including patient relationships as well as ethics. Besides my strong affinity for the sciences and mathematics, I always have had interest in history. I took courses in both German literature and history, which influenced me to take a class focusing on Nazi neuroscientists. It was the ideology of seeing the disabled and different races as test subjects rather than people that led to devastating lapses in medical ethics. The most surprising fact for me was that doctors who were respected and leaders in their field disregarded the humanity of patient and rather focused on getting results from their research. Speaking with Dr. Zeidman, the professor for this course, influenced me to start my research which deals with the ethical qualms of using data derived from unethical Nazi experimentation such as the brains derived from the adult and child euthanasia programs. Today, science is so result driven, it is important to keep in mind the ethics behind research and clinical practice. Also the development of personalized genomic medicine brings into question about potential privacy violations and on the extreme end discrimination. The study of ethics no matter the time period is paramount in the medical field. The end goal should always be to put the patient first.

Teaching experiences in college inspired me to become a physician educator if I become a doctor. Post-MCAT, I was offered a job by Next Step Test Prep as a tutor to help students one on one for the MCAT. I had a student who stated he was doing well during practice, but couldn’t get the correct answer during practice tests. Working with the student, I pointed out his lack of understanding concepts and this realization helped him and improves his MCAT score. Having the ability to educate the next generation of doctors is not only necessary, but also a rewarding experience.

My experiences volunteering and shadowing doctors in the hospital as well as my understanding of what it means to be a complete physician will make me a good candidate as a medical school student. It is my goal to provide the best care to patients and to put a smile on a family’s face just as my grandfather once had. Achieving this goal does not take a special miracle, but rather hard work, dedication, and an understanding of what it means to be an effective physician.

Through reflecting on various stages of life, Quinn expresses how they found purpose in pursuing medicine. Starting as a child more interested in Pokemon than their grandfather’s patients, Quinn exhibits personal growth through recognizing the importance of their grandfather’s work saving lives and eventually gaining the maturity to work towards this goal as part of a team.

This essay opens with abundant imagery — of the grandfather’s clinic, flowers filling the streets, and the village woman’s difficult labor — which grounds Quinn’s story in their family roots. Yet, the transition from shadowing in hospitals to pursuing leadership positions in high schools is jarring, and the list of athletic and musical accomplishments reads like a laundry list of accomplishments until Quinn neatly wraps them up as evidence of leadership and teamwork skills. Similarly, the section about tutoring, while intended to demonstrate Quinn’s desire to educate future physicians, lacks the emotional resonance necessary to elevate it from another line lifted from their resume.

This essay opens with abundant imagery — of the grandfather's clinic, flowers filling the streets, and the village woman's difficult labor — which grounds Quinn's story in their family roots.

The strongest point of Quinn’s essay is the focus on their unique arts and humanities background. This equips them with a unique perspective necessary to consider issues in medicine in a new light. Through detailing how history and literature coursework informed their unique research, Quinn sets their application apart from the multitude of STEM-focused narratives. Closing the essay with the desire to help others just as their grandfather had, Quinn ties the narrative back to their personal roots.

-- Accepted To: Edinburgh University UCAT Score: 2810 BMAT Score: 4.6, 4.2, 3.5A

Exposure to the medical career from an early age by my father, who would explain diseases of the human body, sparked my interest for Medicine and drove me to seek out work experience. I witnessed the contrast between use of bone saws and drills to gain access to the brain, with subsequent use of delicate instruments and microscopes in neurosurgery. The surgeon's care to remove the tumour, ensuring minimal damage to surrounding healthy brain and his commitment to achieve the best outcome for the patient was inspiring. The chance to have such a positive impact on a patient has motivated me to seek out a career in Medicine.

Whilst shadowing a surgical team in Texas, carrying out laparoscopic bariatric procedures, I appreciated the surgeon's dedication to continual professional development and research. I was inspired to carry out an Extended Project Qualification on whether bariatric surgery should be funded by the NHS. By researching current literature beyond my school curriculum, I learnt to assess papers for bias and use reliable sources to make a conclusion on a difficult ethical situation. I know that doctors are required to carry out research and make ethical decisions and so, I want to continue developing these skills during my time at medical school.

The chance to have such a positive impact on a patient has motivated me to seek out a career in Medicine.

Attending an Oncology multi-disciplinary team meeting showed me the importance of teamwork in medicine. I saw each team member, with specific areas of expertise, contributing to the discussion and actively listening, and together they formed a holistic plan of action for patients. During my Young Enterprise Award, I facilitated a brainstorm where everyone pitched a product idea. Each member offered a different perspective on the idea and then voted on a product to carry forward in the competition. As a result, we came runners up in the Regional Finals. Furthermore, I started developing my leadership skills, which I improved by doing Duke of Edinburgh Silver and attending a St. John Ambulance Leadership course. In one workshop, similar to the bariatric surgeon I shadowed, I communicated instructions and delegated roles to my team to successfully solve a puzzle. These experiences highlighted the crucial need for teamwork and leadership as a doctor.

Observing a GP, I identified the importance of compassion and empathy. During a consultation with a severely depressed patient, the GP came to the patient's eye level and used a calm, non-judgmental tone of voice, easing her anxieties and allowing her to disclose more information. While volunteering at a care home weekly for two years, I adapted my communication for a resident suffering with dementia who was disconnected from others. I would take her to a quiet environment, speak slowly and in a non-threatening manner, as such, she became talkative, engaged and happier. I recognised that communication and compassion allows doctors to build rapport, gain patients' trust and improve compliance. For two weeks, I shadowed a surgeon performing multiple craniotomies a day. I appreciated the challenges facing doctors including time and stress management needed to deliver high quality care. Organisation, by prioritising patients based on urgency and creating a timetable on the ward round, was key to running the theatre effectively. Similarly, I create to-do-lists and prioritise my academics and extra-curricular activities to maintain a good work-life balance: I am currently preparing for my Grade 8 in Singing, alongside my A-level exams. I also play tennis for the 1st team to relax and enable me to refocus. I wish to continue my hobbies at university, as ways to manage stress.

Through my work experiences and voluntary work, I have gained a realistic understanding of Medicine and its challenges. I have begun to display the necessary skills that I witnessed, such as empathy, leadership and teamwork. The combination of these skills with my fascination for the human body drives me to pursue a place at medical school and a career as a doctor.

This essay traces Alex's personal exploration of medicine through different stages of life, taking a fairly traditional path to the medical school application essay. From witnessing medical procedures to eventually pursuing leadership positions, this tale of personal progress argues that Alex's life has prepared him to become a doctor.

Alex details how experiences conducting research and working with medical teams have confirmed his interest in medicine. Although the breadth of experiences speaks to the applicant’s interest in medicine, the essay verges on being a regurgitation of the Alex's resume, which does not provide the admissions officer with any new insights or information and ultimately takes away from the essay as a whole. As such, the writing’s lack of voice or unique perspective puts the applicant at risk of sounding middle-of-the-road.

From witnessing medical procedures to eventually pursuing leadership positions, this tale of personal progress argues that Alex's life has prepared him to become a doctor.

The essay’s organization, however, is one of its strengths — each paragraph provides an example of personal growth through a new experience in medicine. Further, Alex demonstrates his compassion and diligence through detailed stories, which give a reader a glimpse into his values. Through recognizing important skills necessary to be a doctor, Alex demonstrates that he has the mature perspective necessary to embark upon this journey.

What this essay lacks in a unique voice, it makes up for in professionalism and organization. Alex's earnest desire to attend medical school is what makes this essay shine.

-- Accepted To: University of Toronto MCAT Scores: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems - 128, Critical Analysis and Reading Skills - 127, Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems - 127, Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior - 130, Total - 512

Moment of brilliance.


These are all words one would use to describe their motivation by a higher calling to achieve something great. Such an experience is often cited as the reason for students to become physicians; I was not one of these students. Instead of waiting for an event like this, I chose to get involved in the activities that I found most invigorating. Slowly but surely, my interests, hobbies, and experiences inspired me to pursue medicine.

As a medical student, one must possess a solid academic foundation to facilitate an understanding of physical health and illness. Since high school, I found science courses the most appealing and tended to devote most of my time to their exploration. I also enjoyed learning about the music, food, literature, and language of other cultures through Latin and French class. I chose the Medical Sciences program because it allowed for flexibility in course selection. I have studied several scientific disciplines in depth like physiology and pathology while taking classes in sociology, psychology, and classical studies. Such a diverse academic portfolio has strengthened my ability to consider multiple viewpoints and attack problems from several angles. I hope to relate to patients from all walks of life as a physician and offer them personalized treatment.

I was motivated to travel as much as possible by learning about other cultures in school. Exposing myself to different environments offered me perspective on universal traits that render us human. I want to pursue medicine because I believe that this principle of commonality relates to medical practice in providing objective and compassionate care for all. Combined with my love for travel, this realization took me to Nepal with Volunteer Abroad (VA) to build a school for a local orphanage (4). The project’s demands required a group of us to work closely as a team to accomplish the task. Rooted in different backgrounds, we often had conflicting perspectives; even a simple task such as bricklaying could stir up an argument because each person had their own approach. However, we discussed why we came to Nepal and reached the conclusion that all we wanted was to build a place of education for the children. Our unifying goal allowed us to reach compromises and truly appreciate the value of teamwork. These skills are vital in a clinical setting, where physicians and other health care professionals need to collaborate as a multidisciplinary team to tackle patients’ physical, emotional, social, and psychological problems.

I hope to relate to patients from all walks of life as a physician and offer them personalized treatment.

The insight I gained from my Nepal excursion encouraged me to undertake and develop the role of VA campus representative (4). Unfortunately, many students are not equipped with the resources to volunteer abroad; I raised awareness about local initiatives so everyone had a chance to do their part. I tried to avoid pushing solely for international volunteerism for this reason and also because it can undermine the work of local skilled workers and foster dependency. Nevertheless, I took on this position with VA because I felt that the potential benefits were more significant than the disadvantages. Likewise, doctors must constantly weigh out the pros and cons of a situation to help a patient make the best choice. I tried to dispel fears of traveling abroad by sharing first-hand experiences so that students could make an informed decision. When people approached me regarding unfamiliar placements, I researched their questions and provided them with both answers and a sense of security. I found great fulfillment in addressing the concerns of individuals, and I believe that similar processes could prove invaluable in the practice of medicine.

As part of the Sickkids Summer Research Program, I began to appreciate the value of experimental investigation and evidence-based medicine (23). Responsible for initiating an infant nutrition study at a downtown clinic, I was required to explain the project’s implications and daily protocol to physicians, nurses and phlebotomists. I took anthropometric measurements and blood pressure of children aged 1-10 and asked parents about their and their child’s diet, television habits, physical exercise regimen, and sunlight exposure. On a few occasions, I analyzed and presented a small set of data to my superiors through oral presentations and written documents.

With continuous medical developments, physicians must participate in lifelong learning. More importantly, they can engage in research to further improve the lives of their patients. I encountered a young mother one day at the clinic struggling to complete the study’s questionnaires. After I asked her some questions, she began to open up to me as her anxiety subsided; she then told me that her child suffered from low iron. By talking with the physician and reading a few articles, I recommended a few supplements and iron-rich foods to help her child. This experience in particular helped me realize that I enjoy clinical research and strive to address the concerns of people with whom I interact.

Research is often impeded by a lack of government and private funding. My clinical placement motivated me to become more adept in budgeting, culminating in my role as founding Co-President of the UWO Commerce Club (ICCC) (9). Together, fellow club executives and I worked diligently to get the club ratified, a process that made me aware of the bureaucratic challenges facing new organizations. Although we had a small budget, we found ways of minimizing expenditure on advertising so that we were able to host more speakers who lectured about entrepreneurship and overcoming challenges. Considering the limited space available in hospitals and the rising cost of health care, physicians, too, are often forced to prioritize and manage the needs of their patients.

No one needs a grand revelation to pursue medicine. Although passion is vital, it is irrelevant whether this comes suddenly from a life-altering event or builds up progressively through experience. I enjoyed working in Nepal, managing resources, and being a part of clinical and research teams; medicine will allow me to combine all of these aspects into one wholesome career.

I know with certainty that this is the profession for me.

Jimmy opens this essay hinting that his essay will follow a well-worn path, describing the “big moment” that made him realize why he needed to become a physician. But Jimmy quickly turns the reader’s expectation on its head by stating that he did not have one of those moments. By doing this, Jimmy commands attention and has the reader waiting for an explanation. He soon provides the explanation that doubles as the “thesis” of his essay: Jimmy thinks passion can be built progressively, and Jimmy’s life progression has led him to the medical field.

Jimmy did not make the decision to pursue a career in medicine lightly. Instead he displays through anecdotes that his separate passions — helping others, exploring different walks of life, personal responsibility, and learning constantly, among others — helped Jimmy realize that being a physician was the career for him. By talking readers through his thought process, it is made clear that Jimmy is a critical thinker who can balance multiple different perspectives simultaneously. The ability to evaluate multiple options and make an informed, well-reasoned decision is one that bodes well for Jimmy’s medical career.

While in some cases this essay does a lot of “telling,” the comprehensive and decisive walkthrough indicates what Jimmy’s idea of a doctor is. To him, a doctor is someone who is genuinely interested in his work, someone who can empathize and related to his patients, someone who can make important decisions with a clear head, and someone who is always trying to learn more. Just like his decision to work at the VA, Jimmy has broken down the “problem” (what his career should be) and reached a sound conclusion.

By talking readers through his thought process, it is made clear that Jimmy is a critical thinker who can balance multiple different perspectives simultaneously.

Additionally, this essay communicates Jimmy’s care for others. While it is not always advisable to list one’s volunteer efforts, each activity Jimmy lists has a direct application to his essay. Further, the sheer amount of philanthropic work that Jimmy does speaks for itself: Jimmy would not have worked at VA, spent a summer with Sickkids, or founded the UWO finance club if he were not passionate about helping others through medicine. Like the VA story, the details of Jimmy’s participation in Sickkids and the UWO continue to show how he has thought about and embodied the principles that a physician needs to be successful.

Jimmy’s essay both breaks common tropes and lives up to them. By framing his “list” of activities with his passion-happens-slowly mindset, Jimmy injects purpose and interest into what could have been a boring and braggadocious essay if it were written differently. Overall, this essay lets the reader know that Jimmy is seriously dedicated to becoming a physician, and both his thoughts and his actions inspire confidence that he will give medical school his all.

The Crimson's news and opinion teams—including writers, editors, photographers, and designers—were not involved in the production of this content.

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do med school applications have essays

December 27, 2018

What do Medical Schools Look for in Your Application Essays?

Download our free guide and learn how to Ace the AMCAS essay!

After reading thousands of applications over the years, I’ve noticed that there are common strategies that successful applicants use in their application essays . You, too, can use these strategies to earn an interview and acceptance.

The best application essays:

1. Avoid verbatim repetition

It may be impossible not to mention the same activity or experience twice in your application, for example in the activities description and personal statement , but you can cover it from an entirely different angle. Never use the exact same sentences or descriptions. You can reframe the information. There should be some consistency in your life experiences.

2. Maintain a balance between personal and professional information

The best personal statements often maintain a strong balance between sharing enough personal information to be interesting and unique and enough professional background to help you appear as an accomplished and well-qualified applicant. Sharing too much personal information can make your readers squirm! Or on the other side of the spectrum, being too professional can make you seem like a robot. Be sure to include only what you’re comfortable discussing in an interview.

Get 10 Sample Med School Essays!

3. Are authentic

Spend some time reflecting on your motivations for going into a career in medicine . The more honest you can be about your reasoning, the stronger your essays will be. Journaling and talking with friends and family can help you identify that information.

4. Are strategic

They address any concerns that the admissions committee may have about your application. By anticipating and responding to these questions, you will be demonstrating great maturity and intelligence.

5. Provide evidence of improvement

Whatever weakness you have identified, it’s important to show improvement. If you had a decreasing trend in your GPA for a quarter or year, explain what happened. End on a high note by focusing your reader’s attention on the improvement you made to your GPA or how you graduated with an increasing trend. Your audience is made up of doctors who love data and numbers.

 These are some general goals that you can set for your application essays. By double checking that you have met each one, you can ensure that your application will be more closely reviewed. They may even help you earn an interview!

Do you need help strengthening your med school application? Check out our  medical school admissions services .

Register for the webinar!

Related Resources:

•  5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Medical School Application Essays •  Why Do You Want to Be a Doctor? [Short Video] •  4 Things Your Medical School Application Needs to Reveal

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do med school applications have essays

The Parts of Your Medical School Application

New section.

There are many different components that go into a complete medical school application. Learn what these pieces are, why medical schools ask for them, and what each part says about your qualifications as an applicant.

  • Primary Application
  • Background Information
  • Coursework & Official Transcript(s)
  • Work and Activities
  • Letters of Evaluation
  • Personal Statement & Essays
  • Secondary Application
  • Social Media / Internet Search
  • Financial Information
  • Criminal History Search

What is it?

The Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) is a standardized multiple-choice test that has been a part of the medical school admissions process for more than 80 years. It tests your problem-solving and critical thinking skills, as well as your knowledge of scientific concepts and principles necessary to the study and practice of medicine.

What does it tell schools about me?

The MCAT exam tests the skills and knowledge that medical educators, physicians, medical students, and residents have identified as key prerequisites for success in medical school and for practicing medicine. The MCAT exam is one tool that admissions officers use to select future medical students. It will be considered in combination with the rest of your application.

When should I take the exam?

Our best advice is to take the exam when you feel most prepared and ready. However, in most cases, you should take the MCAT exam in the calendar year prior to the year in which you plan to enter medical school. For example, if you are applying in 2024 for entrance to medical school in 2025, you should take the exam in 2024). For more details on this, see the MCAT FAQs .

How can I prepare?

The AAMC has free and low cost resources to help you understand, study, and practice for the exam. While there is no right or wrong way to prepare for the exam, creating a study plan is a great way to help you keep on track and organized. To help you get started, the AAMC has developed a guide to help you create your own study plan and created a resource that highlights 21 different past examinees study schedules, strategies, and tips for how they prepared for the exam.

  • Medical School Application

Medical School Secondary Essay Examples

Including tips for answering the 5 most common med school secondary essay prompts.

Medical School Secondary Essay Examples

Before we jump into reviewing medical school secondary essay examples, let's discuss the purpose of secondary applications and essays. The main purpose of the secondary medical school application is to determine whether you are a good “fit” with the mission and values of the school you are applying to, whether your answer to the question " Why do you want to be a doctor ?" fits with the overall ethos of the institution.

Medical schools send out secondary essays to further assess the unique characteristics of each applicant that have not been addressed in the  AMCAS Work and Activities  section or your medical school personal statement . Acing your secondary essays can increases your chances of getting interview invites! Furthermore, these prompts can further help you brainstorm answers to medical school interview questions . This post will go over when medical schools send out secondary applications, how long you have to return them, common medical school secondary application prompts, and tips for writing strong essays that application committees will love. 

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

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Article Contents 14 min read

When do medical schools send out secondary applications.

Once the primary application has been received and processed, schools will do one of two things. They will either send out secondary application packages to all students who applied, or they will send out secondary application essays to the students that have passed their preliminary screening process. How long it will take for you to actually receive the essay prompts is dependent upon how long it takes AMCAS to process your application (which can take up to six weeks during the peak application season) as well as how long it takes the school to process your application. 

Learn everything you need to know about medical school secondary essays in our video:

Generally speaking, the answer to this question is the sooner the better. Schools see a prompt submission as an indication of your interest in the program. Two weeks should be the most time you allow to elapse before submitting your essay. For example, UCLA secondary essays are due fifteen days after receipt of the invitation.

Some of you may be realizing at this point that you’ve applied to 10-20 schools and that each will likely send somewhere between 2-10 (looking at you, UCLA) prompts. That’s a lot of essay writing! This brings us to the next point:

Pre-Writing Your Med School Secondary Essays:

If you check out our comprehensive list of medical school secondary essay prompts, you can pull out common themes for the schools you are most interested in applying to. You should then create an essay outline or rough essay that addresses each of these themes. Though schools may change their prompts from year to year, pre-planning at least some of your essays will make you much more efficient with your writing, allowing you to create consistently well-thought-out essays. 

Even if the prompts do change, the themes often remain similar. This means that you can pre-write (or at least pre-draft) essays based on common themes that tend to recur in secondary essays. If taking this route, make sure that each example actually works for the prompt and addresses the question before using it. Have a look at our blog for UCSD secondary essay prompts and sample responses.

The most important component of answering this prompt is doing your research. Do you have a thorough understanding of the school's mission statement and values? What population or populations are they most interested in serving? How do they describe their student body? What curriculum-enriching activities are available to their students? Do they have a strong research program? Is their curriculum a good fit for your learning style? Are all of these things in line with your own values, career goals, and learning needs? Being informed will demonstrate an interest in the program, allowing you to write a response showing that you will be a genuinely good fit for the school.

Tips for how to ace "Why our school?" prompt:

What are you most excited about when you think of attending this school? Research? Global health? Community outreach? "}]" code="timeline1">

How to Address the "Cultural Competency" Prompt:

Questions surrounding cultural competency delve into your ability to interact with people whose culture, beliefs, or values are different from your own. Are you able to help people in a way that is in line with their values and belief system, even if these values and beliefs are not in line with your own? It is also important to realize the vital role that effective communication plays in bridging cultural differences. Similar to the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay, your essay should focus on the barriers you encountered, the communication strategies you employed to overcome these barriers, how you helped the person in a way that respected their beliefs, and how you will apply this lesson in the future.

This prompt is looking at what medical schools typically refer to as “resilience”. The reality is that you will be faced with a wide variety of challenges during your medical training. Medical schools are looking for candidates who are equipped with mature coping strategies, enabling them to proficiently navigate whatever life, or medical school, decides to throw at them.

You can use any example from your own life to address this prompt. Ideas include:

  • A time when things did not go according to plan.
  • Overcoming a setback.
  • Overcoming an illness or injury.
  • Dealing with the illness of a loved one.

The important thing to remember with this prompt is to keep it positive. Focus on the strategies you used to overcome the hurdle that presented itself to you, and what you learned from the situation. Review our blog for a more in-depth guide to writing adversity essays for medical school secondary applications.

Or, watch our video below for adversity essay examples:

It’s okay not to know exactly what kind of doctor you want to be. For this prompt, reflect on the experiences that cemented your decision to pursue medicine.

  • What was it specifically about these experiences that made you want to become a doctor?
  • What fascinated you the most? Why?
  • What patient population did you enjoy working with the most? Why?

You can then go on to say what kind of doctor you would like to be, or, if you haven't decided, suggest more generally which direction you would like to see your career take (ie: mention a patient population you think you would like to work with). Many students change their minds once having been in medical school a couple of years, so it’s reasonable to say that you will keep your eyes open and continue to explore every opportunity!

Here's a video about the secondary essay prompt, "Your Future as a Medical Professional":

How to Address the "Academic Lapses or Breaks" Prompt:

If you have an academic lapse or took a break that you wish to explain to the admissions committee, you may want to prepare this prompt in advance. The most important things to focus on are:

  • Clearly, yet briefly, explain the situation that led to the break or lapse.
  • Outlining how you moved past the situation.
  • Outlining what you learned from the situation, and how you will manage similar situations going forward.

Here's a Recap of Everything:

1 - Why our school?

Write a critical analysis of your personal and scholastic qualifications for the study of medicine, the realization of your professional ambitions, and why you are choosing to apply to our school.

When I was in kindergarten, I was playing tag with my friends when I noticed a kid sitting on the bench. He seemed visibly anxious and left out of the fun so I felt compelled to invite him to play with us. This sense of compassion lay the foundation for my desire to study medicine. As I grew older, I became more inquisitive about the natural world and wanted to know how everything worked and fit together. I started to become passionate about chemistry, mathematics and biology, finding that those subjects gave me the tools to understand my surroundings. I felt empowered with every new concept I would learn; however I never quite felt as though I knew enough. It was only when my friend asked for help with her mental illness that I realized just how much I did not know and how unequipped I was to help someone in this situation. The clash between my sense of compassion and my lack of knowledge and ability to help drove me to want to study medicine.

As I ventured into college, my knowledge-seeking tendencies manifested in an interest in biomedical engineering. I chose this degree for its ability to teach me about the design and manufacturing of groundbreaking medical technologies such as skin-grafts, medical imaging devices, and prostheses. I dreamt of pushing clinical innovations and finding the next technology to revolutionize patient care. Aside from educating myself in medical technology, my college years gave me a lasting perspective and understanding of the Hispanic community’s struggles. I once accompanied my friends to volunteer in a mobile clinic. It was early in the morning when a nurse told me to put up a sign that read: “We do not check IDs.” At first, I was confused, but after careful consideration, I realized that it was to not deter illegal immigrants from seeking medical aid. As the day went on and patients came in, I noticed that most did not have the means to afford regular health and dental care. Most of them prayed that their illnesses would go away on their own because they did not have the means to get professional help. This experience really opened my eyes to the plight of underserved communities and reinforced my decision to pursue medicine so that I could help serve those who were unable to help themselves.

I applied to X University for its opportunities to allow me to work with underserved communities and develop the technical and interpersonal skills to provide patients from these communities the best care. I hope to combine my experience within medicine and engineering to push clinical technologies and advancements further to provide cheap and effective alternatives to current medications and treatments to drive down the cost of healthcare so that it can become available to more people.  

A. Describe how you relate to someone who is very different from you. Examples of differences may be cultural, racial, religious, economic, gender/sexual orientation, lifestyle.

The world is so diverse and it can be easy to resign to only care for and be informed of one’s own personal interests. To connect with someone else is to choose to forgo ignorance, and aim to understand other people and their backgrounds. This is a choice that is made every day when we decide how to interact in society.

In my first year of university, I roomed with a person who immigrated from Colombia. I saw how difficult it was for her to transition to a new country and to overcome cultural barriers. Instead of accepting the fact that our cultures rendered us incompatible, I decided to educate myself on her culture. I started to read of the political unrest in Colombia, I found Latin music we could listen to, and I utilized my basic Spanish to try to make her feel at home. Five years later, we still live together and are the best of friends. It's clear that a little effort trying to understand the life and journey of someone else can go a long way to building connections and trust.

B. Please discuss the diversity that you would bring to our school of medicine and the profession of medicine.

The challenges I faced as a first-generation immigrant has taught me several valuable lessons, which have influenced my pursuit of medicine. Here in the States, I am granted liberties that are otherwise unattainable in Vietnam- specifically access to quality healthcare and opportunities for growth and enrichment. My first exposure to medicine did not transpire in a hospital but instead took place in a small tent affiliated with a roaming clinic.

The significant gap in healthcare accessibility, advancement, and quality between the States and the developing countries were increasingly apparent when I returned to Vietnam to visit my family. In time, I also realized that these similar circumstances and situations exist in my local community as well. This has inspired me to advocate for the underserved population because I, myself, can identify with their struggles. During our financial crisis, my family received overwhelming support and generosity from several neighborhood communities. I wish to return the kindness. Now more than ever, in a time where immigrants are restricted access, I must fight to give them a voice.

I also bring with me the traditions and culture of a Vietnamese American. I have developed my own understanding of the diverse facets of the Asian American identity and the ripple effect it has on the community. Through lion dancing and partnering with the Vietnamese and Chinese communities, I grasped the important role that communities play in providing resources. To become one of the few Vietnamese doctors in the area would allow me to address the needs of the community and give me a platform to collaborate with other communities of color. One of my goals is to break down the language barriers and stigmas surrounding the older Asian community and help them achieve their health goals.

I bring a steadfast mindset of advocating for the underserved in my community and as an immigrant Vietnamese American, I aim to use my position to influence decisions that will benefit the entire community.

3 - Overcoming Challenges

Describe a challenging situation you faced and what you did to address it.

My sister was diagnosed with epilepsy at 3 months old, and it has been a continual learning experience. She never qualified for an autism diagnosis, but her behaviors resembled an autistic or neurodivergent individual. As an 8-year-old, I did not notice public reactions to my sister’s behaviors.

But, as we both grew older, I became embarrassed when people would stare at her, or notice her behavioral differences. Behavioral incidents continued to occur throughout my time in high school and college. However, I have grown into a more empathetic person who better understands the difficulties my sister faces. I won’t deny that sometimes it is still embarrassing, but I remind myself that she struggles to control her behaviors and it is not her fault.

The best way I can help her as a sister is to be there for her and try to help her through the emotions she may not be able to express all the time. Understanding my sister has made me into a stronger, more confident and empathetic woman.

4 - Future Goals prompt

Professionalism and the ability to gain respect in the community in which you live is of utmost importance as you embark upon a career as a physician. What three professional qualities do you feel a Student Doctor must be able to demonstrate as he/or she makes the transition into the study and practice of medicine? How will you demonstrate those qualities as a medical student at RowanSOM?

There are many valuable attributes a student doctor must possess, but the three of which I consider the most valuable are self-discipline/reflection, open-mindedness/sensitivity, and teamwork skills.

Possessing self-discipline and self-reflection skills are key for any student doctor planning on tackling the arduous medical courses that will come their way. Through my undergraduate career, I have constantly improved upon my academic study strategies to adapt to the rigors of upper-level biological courses. I realize that when one way does not work it is crucial to consult peers, advisors, and professors to improve my approach. Such changes included recording my lectures, attending more office hours, and even seeking resources outside of my lecture material to supplement my knowledge. I use this principle in my personal health goals as well. For example, my favorite hobby that I use to keep me grounded is going to the gym, where I attempt to break my fitness plateaus by researching and consulting peers. It is this drive to constantly improve myself that will allow me to overcome the many obstacles that will come my way during my medical pursuit.

In addition, it is important for student doctors to be open-minded and sensitive when understanding patients from diverse backgrounds. My research experience at the Center for Addiction, Personality, and Emotion Research enriched my understanding of the socioeconomic and environmental factors that are involved in developing addiction disorders. Learning about the neurobehavioral and psychological processes that underlie addictive behavior reinforced my awareness of the health disparities that arise from environmental and social systems in my local community. It is imperative to understand the patient outside of their symptoms in order to realize the other factors involved in their diagnosis. I aim to one day use this knowledge to inform my future patients of preventative measures and how to overcome their environmental strains.

Lastly, it is crucial for student doctors to develop teamwork skills when entering the field of medicine. Physicians have to be prepared to engage and work within different teamwork structures or environments with other specialists to provide high-quality care for their patients. My experiences as an EMT taught me firsthand how critical it is to build long-lasting relationships based on trust with your team. I have spent countless hours getting to know my EMS crew to ensure that we built a sense of camaraderie that would allow us to work well together during calls. I remember one occasion when my partner was flustered during a stressful call and could not remember the next step in delivering a treatment protocol to a patient. I noticed he was frustrated and subtly reminded him of the next step. Based on our relationship and trust, he acted on my advice and later thanked me for the assistance. Knowing that we always had each other’s back gave us the reassurance and confidence we needed to handle the many unpredictable calls that came our way. I hope to strengthen this same sense of teamwork as a future physician.

If you have taken a gap year(s), please explain what you have been, or will be, doing since graduating from your undergrad institution. 

I threw myself into the medical school application process during my final year of my undergrad degree. Realizing that my application was lacking, I have spent the time since graduation gaining volunteer and leadership experience, improving my MCAT score, and taking science prerequisite courses.

Taking post-baccalaureate classes proved advantageous. I was thrilled when my MCAT score improved significantly, going from 505 to 517. My score was a testament to the hard work and dedication I put into my organic chemistry and molecular biology courses, and to the time management, accountability, and work ethic I refined in studying for the MCAT.

While pursuing post-baccalaureate science courses improved my academics, volunteering at a seniors’ care center has opened my eyes to the issues facing seniors and those who care for them. Once, upon entering the facility, I heard a patient calling for help; he had fallen and could not get back into his wheelchair. Per volunteer protocol, I cannot physically assist the residents into their chairs. However, after determining that he was not physically hurt, I calmly reassured him that I was getting help and informed the nurses of his situation. This incident and other experiences at the center allowed me to develop and practice skills such as enforcing appropriate boundaries, working with others, and handling unexpected and stressful circumstances with poise.

From my various experiences, I have developed and refined my belief system and skill set. I've developed a greater sensitivity to those facing physical or mental limitations, and a dedication to serving my community in overcoming such challenges. I’ve learned the value of being empathetic and showing compassion in the process. I've developed the critical traits and values that I am certain this school would be proud of, whether as a student or as a physician.

Here is a recap of the medical school secondary essay examples:

Medical school secondary essays are meant to provide medical school with more specific information about your candidacy and fit for their specific medical school programs. The questions are geared towards the specific missions, requirements, and goals of each med school program.

If the school does not specify a deadline, you should aim to submit your secondaries no later than 2 weeks after receiving the invites to complete them.

Some of the most common med school secondary prompts include "Why our school?", "Cultural Competency", "Overcoming Challenges", and "Future Goals". Pay attention to the wording of the prompts - they may not include this direct terminology, but nevertheless you should approach them with specific strategies to answer them.

Each medical school will have its own secondaries requirements. Some may ask for 1 or 2 essays, while others may require 10. Check the requirements of your schools of choice to make sure.

Yes, there are some schools that do not require submission of med school secondaries, but these are rare. Check with the programs of your choice to make sure.

Many med schools recycle their secondary prompts from year to year. Plus, as you could tell from our blog, there are some common themes that all secondaries explore. Check out the old prompts from your schools of choice to start planning general outlines for your essays.

Most likely, you will be eliminated from the applicant selection pool right away. Med schools will want to see your dedicated and commitment to their school, which secondaries demonstrate. If you are late or do not submit them at all, you will no longer be considered for a position in their medical school.

If you applied to many med schools, there is a chance you will have trouble completing all the secondaries on time. If this is your position, you should certainly try to complete all of them on time and of good quality. However, if this is impossible, focus on the schools you want to attend and where you have the highest chance of acceptance and complete their secondaries first. You can then use the essays you wrote to adjust to other programs.

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Have a question ask our admissions experts below and we'll answer your questions.

Wynne Milhouse

Hello! Would it be okay to write about how not getting into medical school the first time was a time of adversity, even if it was on a secondary for a school I didn't apply to last time (or if it was)? I feel as if this prompt may show up for schools that I did and did not apply to two years ago, but not getting into medical school the first time WAS a big hurdle, and I have made significant changes to combat this. Is it okay to talk about that, or will that reflect poorly on me? Thanks! Best, Wynne Milhouse

BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Wynne! Thank you very much for your question. Absolutely, you should write about not getting into med school the first time even if you are writing secondaries for a school you did not apply to last time. You can even mention that you are now applying to this school because you improved your research and found that this would be a more suitable choice for you. Let us know if you have any other questions!

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Medical doctor apprenticeships: Everything you need to know

do med school applications have essays

The NHS confirmed pilot funding for a new Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship in January 2023.

The apprenticeships are also part of the NHS England Long Term Workforce Plan , which will see the biggest expansion of training in its history to help upskill, retain talent and create a healthcare workforce fit for the future.

Apprentices will earn a wage while training to nationally recognised standards, and like most degree apprenticeships , they won’t have to pay any tuition fees. The first applications for the small pilot scheme are likely to open in spring, with the aim that the first apprentices start in September 2024.

Of course, trainees will need to meet the same high standards as those who do a traditional undergraduate medical degree.

They will be required to attend medical school, complete an accredited medical degree like all other medical students, and meet all other criteria to qualify as a doctor as set out by the General Medical Council.

This marks an important step in making careers in medicine more accessible, helping to recruit frontline medics into the NHS.

Providing an alternative route into medicine will help more people of different backgrounds get into the profession, making the NHS workforce more representative of the local communities it serves.

Does this mean school leavers will be able to work as doctors without going to university?

Medical Doctor Degree Apprentices will be required to undertake an approved university medical degree programme as part of their apprenticeship. They will work as an apprentice while studying towards their medical degree.

Students who qualify via the traditional medical school route don't receive a salary until after they have completed their degree.

However, this doesn’t mean apprentices will be treated as qualified doctors from the beginning. They will work safely under supervision at an appropriate level that is suitable to their stage of training.

Will doctors who study an apprenticeship be less qualified than someone who went to university?

People who complete the Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship will have the same academic qualifications as those who complete their degree through medical school.

There will also be options for graduates with non-medical degrees. Individual employers will set applicant criteria themselves, which will ensure that applicants possess the values and behaviours to become a medical doctor.

The apprenticeship will typically last five years and apprentices will have to complete all academic elements of medical training, including a medical degree and the Medical Licensing Assessment.

They will also have to meet all requirements set out by the General Medical Council for entry onto the Medical Register.

This means that by the end of their training, apprentices will achieve the same high-quality qualifications as someone who has got their medical degree through a traditional route.

Will apprenticeships lower standards of the NHS?

Medical Doctor Degree Apprentices will be subject to the same rigorous requirements as doctors with traditional training, and will achieve a medical degree just like a medical student.

The apprenticeship will help to build a highly skilled NHS workforce, following on from the nursing and healthcare apprenticeships which already exist.

The apprenticeship will also boost the NHS workforce and help it to meet the growing demand for highly trained professionals, allowing it to benefit from a new pool of diverse talent.

How can I apply for a doctor apprenticeship?

Start dates are yet to be confirmed and we expect candidates will be able to apply to the pilot scheme from spring, with first candidates to start from September 2024.

Those who are interested in applying should periodically check  NHS Jobs   or the government’s   Find an Apprenticeship  website for any apprenticeship vacancies.

You may also be interested in:

  • 5 of the biggest myths about apprenticeships busted
  • Budget 2023: What are ‘returnerships’ and who are they for?
  • How are apprenticeships funded and what is the apprenticeship levy?

Tags: apprentices , Apprenticeship , degree apprenticeships , Doctor training , General Medical Council , Medical doctor apprenticeship , Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship , Medical Licensing Assessment , Medical school , National Apprenticeship Week 2024 , NHS Doctor Apprenticeships

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Med School Insiders

ChatGPT and the Future of AI in Medical School Applications

  • By Kevin Jubbal, M.D.
  • May 20, 2023
  • artificial intelligence , Medical School Application

Can ChatGPT write, or at least improve your medical school application? Artificial intelligence tools are taking the world by storm, and medical school admissions is not immune.

Here’s the good and bad of how AI is already changing med school apps, and how you need to prepare.

1 | Will AI Revolutionize Med School Apps?

Medical schools have not yet fully adopted AI in the admissions process, but it will continue to be integrated as the software continues to develop. AI is an impressive tool for categorizing high volumes of information, and it does appear to be effective at choosing strong candidates .

However, medical schools do need to be wary of implementing AI too quickly, as it’s possible AI could have ingrained biases. After all, AI is still developed by human beings, and human beings are inherently biased.

It will take a few application cycles to understand the impact of AI tools on medical school admissions, so students applying soon likely do not need to worry too much about it right now. However, things may evolve by the time they reach residency.

2023 vs 2027 - The Future of AI & Medical Admissions

On the student side, AI tools could potentially help with the many essays you need to write during the application process. However, it’s unlikely this ability will revolutionize the application process, as personal statements are, as the name suggests, incredibly personal. It’s not your way with words that will get you noticed by admissions committees; it’s your authenticity and unique story.

Adcoms are not looking for poets or novelists. They’re looking for qualified candidates who possess a strong work ethic coupled with integrity and maturity. While AI tools can help get your essays started, relying on them exclusively will have you sounding generic and, in a word, robotic.

2 | Using ChatGPT to Craft Essays

AI tools could help level the playing field for premeds who can’t afford personalized essay editing services. However, given the extremely personal nature of medical school essays, AI can only help so much.

The same is true of bots like Grammarly and other spell checking tools. Grammarly can help ensure your grammar and spelling are correct, but you cannot rely on it exclusively. Even simple grammar editing tools make mistakes and can give wrong suggestions. It’s up to you to look at the suggestions, consider them, and choose which corrections are accurate based on the context of your writing.

Bots do not have a concept of self-perception, nor will they understand how the personal statement fits in the larger context of your application’s overall narrative . Your application essays will come off both basic and robotic if you rely heavily on AI. In many cases, at least for now, what an AI tool writes may require so much editing on your part that you are better off simply writing it yourself.

Strong applicants are unique applicants. AI tools can’t tell your story for you, and they rob you of your own voice. If you are using the tools to come up with your story, you’re going to have a hard time during the next phases of the process as you continue to answer questions about your journey in secondary applications and interviews.

The best applicants see every single piece of the application process as one more opportunity to stand out and win over admissions committees.

3 | Can Admissions Committees Tell If You Used AI?

do med school applications have essays

Since ChatGPT and other AI writing tools are relatively new, it’s unlikely admissions committees are utilizing technology to detect if your essays are written by an AI. However, these tools are far from perfect, and as AI writing software improves, so will AI detection software.

Assume admissions committees have plagiarism software and will continue to invest in it as time goes on. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. By that same token, where there’s AI writing tools, there’s AI detection software.

Beyond detection software, you also run the risk of having a personal statement that’s too similar to someone else’s. If you are using software to cut corners, there’s a good chance other premeds are doing the same. This can result in a number of personal statements that share similar themes, stories, and sentence structure. It’s possible the similarities may trigger a program’s plagiarism detection software.

If it’s not caught in the early phases, it could be during interviews. You won’t be able to speak as clearly about your personal journey and extracurriculars if you weren’t the one who wrote about them. Everything you include in your application is fair game to be asked about. If you’re unable to speak about an experience you detailed on your application, that’s an automatic red flag .

However, an admissions committee’s plagiarism software should not be your concern; all you need to be concerned about is presenting your authentic self and delivering your application with integrity.

A doctor’s code of ethics is sacred. If you’re going against the core values of what it means to be a doctor before you even get into medical school, that’s a big problem. Bending or breaking the rules of the medical profession to become a part of it does not bode well for your future career.

The medical school application process is difficult for a reason. If it’s too easy, people will be blindsided by the difficulty of medical school. It takes hard work, dedication, and grit to succeed during the long and arduous application process. The difficulty of applying is an indicator of whether or not you can handle the rigors of medical school.

4 | Are There Rules Against Using AI for Med School Apps?

There are no hard rules against using AI yet, but they may be on their way. ChatGPT is relatively new on the scene. It’s likely some schools will make it a policy that you can’t use AI to write your essays.

While it would be difficult for schools to enforce this rule, they may be able to do so with detection software. If you get sloppy about using AI writing tools, there could be clues that you didn’t write it yourself, and you could face consequences.

Check the rules of each school you apply to and always fall back on the instructions they provide.

Learn more: Do NOT Go to Medical School (If This is You) .

If you’re not applying to medical school until a future application cycle, the rules around using the tools is something to keep your eye on. How AI will be used by admissions committees and the rules around how students can utilize these tools will continue to evolve in the years to come.

5 | How Can AI Tools Help Students?

Using AI isn’t all bad. In some ways, it may level the playing field for people who can’t afford to pay for essay editing services or for those whose upbringing puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to the English language or writing in general.

These tools can synthesize and organize information, give you ideas for how you might tell your story, and help with potential sentence structure. But if you use it for class work and rely on it to write your essays for you, you’re using it wrong. Plug in beats from the story you want to tell and see how things go. But don’t stop there. Work with the language and adapt it to your own voice. The story must feel like it’s authentically you.

AI tools may also help you save time in other areas of your life, such as emails and other correspondence, so that you have more time to dedicate to your application.

If you believe AI software will magically generate a persuasive personal statement without you having to lift a finger, you’re sadly mistaken. Successful personal statements and medical school essays are authentic. Admissions committees want to see the real you. If you let a robot do the talking for you, it defeats the purpose. You’re much more likely to come off as bland and generic as opposed to uniquely you.

The Future of Med School Applications

AI & Medical Admissions - robot writing

If AI can successfully and unbiasedly get more applications sorted in a faster amount of time, that’s a win. It can free up time for adcoms to further develop other aspects of the application process, like interviews.

On the student side of things, both premeds and medical students need to tread carefully when it comes to utilizing AI tools for writing. You may be able to use them effectively for synthesizing notes, drafting correspondence, social media posts, and other simple forms of writing, but your personal statement is not something you want to cut corners on.

Ultimately, medicine and medical school admissions are still highly human endeavors, and there are no effective shortcuts. While AI has its place as a tool, it’s easy to be seduced by unrealistic expectations of its utility.

Admissions committees are made up of people, including doctors, who want to select candidates who will be assets to the incoming medical school class, and ultimately become great physicians. One of the most powerful ways to wow adcoms is with a cohesive narrative-based approach to the application, whereby all aspects of your med school app—from your personal statement to work and activities to secondaries to interviews, and more, all align with your central story.

The narrative-based application is what we specialize in at Med School Insiders, and is what we’ve used to help over 6,000 successful applicants get into their dream programs. Putting your best foot forward is mission critical in the competitive landscape of medical school admissions, and even more so if you’re aiming for a top program or you want to earn merit-based scholarships to reduce your loan burden.

If you want to work with a real physician who has actually served on medical school admissions committees, who can help coach and guide you on how to stand out and earn the adcom’s approval, visit our services page to learn more. There’s a reason we’ve become the fastest growing company in the space and earned industry-leading satisfaction ratings. We’d love to help you not only become a future physician but surpass your expectations of yourself in the process of doing so.

Kevin Jubbal, M.D.

Kevin Jubbal, M.D.

AMCAS Work and Activities Section

2024 AMCAS Work and Activities Section Guide (Extracurriculars)

Some students consider the Work and Activities section of their application to be less important than other sections. This is a fatal mistake. Learn what it takes to craft an impactful extracurriculars section.

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10 Medical School Admissions Committee Red Flags

We break down 10 medical school admissions committee red flags and how you can avoid them to create an application that stands out for all the right reasons.

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2024-2025 Medical School Application Timeline and Monthly Schedule

This is the medical school application timeline you should follow, including key dates and an ideal month-by-month preparation schedule.

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  1. Application Essays For Medical School

    do med school applications have essays

  2. 2 Med School Essays Admissions Officers Loved and What You Can Learn

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  2. 2 Med School Essays That Admissions Officers Loved

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  8. 2023 AACOMAS Application Guide For DO Schools

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  9. The Ideal Medical School Application Timeline (2024-2025)

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  16. [Quick Guide] Things I Wish I Knew About Applying to Med School

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  17. 2023 AACOMAS Secondary Application Guide

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  21. Medical doctor apprenticeships: Everything you need to know

    The first applications for the small pilot scheme are likely to open in spring, with the aim that the first apprentices start in September 2024. ... They will be required to attend medical school, complete an accredited medical degree like all other medical students, and meet all other criteria to qualify as a doctor as set out by the General ...

  22. ChatGPT and the Future of AI in Medical School Applications

    Successful personal statements and medical school essays are authentic. Admissions committees want to see the real you. If you let a robot do the talking for you, it defeats the purpose. You're much more likely to come off as bland and generic as opposed to uniquely you. The Future of Med School Applications

  23. What records are exempted from FERPA?

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