• Medical School Secondary Essays

How to Ace "Why This Medical School?" Secondary Essay

"Why This Medical School?" Secondary Essay Prompt, And How to Answer It

When writing your medical school admissions essay, you will likely have to answer the “Why This Medical School?” secondary essays prompt. It’s important to know why schools are asking this essay prompt, and how to answer it! Among other tips you’ll come across when learning how to make your medical school application stand out , having a well written, concise essay that expresses your passion and interest in a specific program is key to getting asked for an interview.

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Article Contents 8 min read

The application process for medical schools can be daunting and stressful, especially if you're not sure about where to apply or what makes one school better than another. There are several components of each application, and in order to land yourself an interview at your top school(s), you’ll need to write enticing essays that follow the instructions of each prompt, and provide relevant details that will help you stand out among other applicants. One question that all applicants will get asked on their applications is, “why this medical school?” or, a similar variation of the question. This essay prompt can help you stand out from the crowd by showing that your interest in attending this school goes beyond just getting an education—you may have ties to the location and city, or researched their program extensively and find it to be the most unique and intriguing for you and your future goals. But what exactly should you include in your “why this medical school” essay in order to stand out? Read on to learn some tips for writing a strong response to this question, and view a few sample essays.

The "why this medical school?" essay is one of the most important parts of your medical school application. The prompt asks you to explain why you want to go to this particular school, and it lets the admissions committee get a deeper sense of who you are an if you’re a worthy of consideration for an interview. This essay allows them to learn more about your personality and interests, so that they can make an informed decision about whether or not they think you’d be a good fit for their program not simply because you wish to attend medical school, but because you’d fit in well, and are passionate about, their specific program.

In other words, if your goal is getting into your chosen medical school as quickly as possible (and what applicant doesn't want that?), then answering this essay well will dramatically improve your chances! This particular essay helps admissions committees weed out candidates who are impartial about which school they attend, and who may not align with their program’s values, culture and structure. Medical programs are competitive, and many are seeking the ‘best of the best’ applicants who demonstrate passion, intrinsic motivation, and determination to attend their program. That is why it’s crucial that you plan out your responses to your each of your prompts and medical school secondary essays throughout your application process. Taking your time, writing authentically, crafting several drafts, revising, asking a trusted individual or seeking medical school admissions consulting for support, and submitting your essays on time are all great ways to ensure your “why this medical school” essay is superb.

Are you applying to UCSD? Check out how to prepare your secondary for this competitive institution!

Your response to “why this medical school” must be genuine, personal, and most of all, convincing. You absolutely do not want to fabricate a response, as if you’re invited to interview, it will be clear that you weren’t honest and authentic in your essay, and this may result in a rejection. You must make your intentions and passion clear, and for eager future medical students, this should actually be quite easy to do!

Ask yourself: “Why do I want to attend this particular school? What do I like about the school and their program? What makes them better than another school with a similar program?” You can write down your thoughts first, or, even record yourself speaking as you share your thoughts with a family member or friend. This can be a good way of starting your writing process if you’re experiencing writers block. Additionally, preparing your essay responses aloud is a good way of indirectly preparing for other common medical school interview questions that will come your way if and when you get invited for an interview!

"Why This Medical School?" Sample #1, 500-750 words

“I recall the first time I knew, with confidence, that I would one day be a doctor. I knew I needed to be a doctor, in fact, because all I’ve ever wanted to do is learn, and help people. When I was seven years old, a child at the playground who had joined in on a game of tag with my friends and I plummeted from the top of the monkey bars and broke her arm. Many onlookers panicked and ran for help, but without hesitation, I ran to the aid of the injured child and comforted her. I knew, somehow innately, how to keep her calm, and the importance of keeping her injury still until help arrived. I felt excited and honored to help in that moment. For the months that followed, many parents complemented me on my composure and expressed how mature I was when all the other children cried and panicked. To me, it only felt natural to be a helper in my community, and to take charge of a situation, so that was when I realized not everybody felt so automatically inclined—or fascinated with—helping injured and ill people. I knew then what path I had to take, and began looking for opportunities to learn more about health care at my school, and in my community. My community is one that is historically underserved, and members of my community are underrepresented in the medical field, and after years of volunteering at various pop-up clinics and detox centers, I’m eager help to change that.

Attending X University Medical School, means I’ll be learning and getting clinical experience in my own community, and will be able to take part in community outreach programs, and eventually, propose my own ideas for outreach. I know first-hand the medical and mental health care support this community surrounding X University is lacking, and, I know the wonderful people who reside in it that make it the incredible place it is. I would be elated to be a part of a renowned learning environment where I could enhance and develop my technical skills, partake in initiatives throughout my program and beyond, and give back to my community by providing compassionate care.

Throughout my time in secondary and post-secondary, I immersed myself in life sciences and sociology—my other favorite subject, which I will receive a double-major in. I started volunteering in various groups and shadowing with other pre-med students in my second year of study, most notably, the local women’s health facility and shelter. There, I learned the importance of accessible care, and came to understand the systemic inequity that exists in healthcare, especially for women and minorities in underserved communities. I was also able to put my understanding of sociology and social systems to use as I helped women navigate next-step programs, whether they were escaping abusive partnerships or recovering from an addiction. As an eager and accomplished self-started, I feel I could bring forth my existing knowledge and passion to help people, and would excel in X University’s interdisciplinary, self-directed components of the medical program. I also look forward to learning alongside a team of likeminded professionals in your clinical, team-oriented experiences offered as both a part of the program, and as extracurricular opportunities. I feel that although there are many medical schools in the state, X University offers the most comprehensive, appealing program to professionals like myself who want to learn the from the best faculty, and apply what I’ve learned throughout my time in your program, and bring the best care to our budding and evolving community when I one day become an MD.”

"Why This Medical School?" Sample #2, 250-500 words

“Attending X University as a medical student means that I would be able to immerse myself into a community renowned for its supportive culture, research alongside incredible faculty, and attend one of the top programs in the country. Because I have a special interest, and experience working with patients with, XYZ, a notoriously under-researched and underfunded area of medicine, I know that X University will provide me with the opportunity to flourish as a future medical professional, and as a future clinical researcher. I have many ground-breaking ideas to explore, and because I’ve followed X University’s research for nearly a decade, I know I would be among like-minded individuals at your institution. Last year, my lab team was awarded the University of Newtown Award for Excellency in Biology and Life Sciences for our project that explored the relation and co-existence between celiac disease and sickle-cell anemia. I enjoyed this extensive research project, and partaking in it only affirmed my dedication and passion for this field of medicine.

My goal as a future medical student it to absorb all learning materials in every form, and take each moment of field experience as both a challenge and an opportunity to shine. Not only will I learn how to best provide care, but to also make the current system better for patients. Whether I do so through my combined passion and knowledge obtained through X University’s program, or through my future research on diseases like XYZ, I will strive to make a difference, and feel the inclusive, non-competitive, supportive learning community at X University is the best place for me access the tools and gain the experiences in order to do so. Because X University has a wonderful reputation for making breakthroughs in the field of medical research, specifically with auto-immune diseases, I am eager and prepared to relocate across the country and begin my professional journey as a member of a prestigious medical school community.”

It might sound like a basic question, but the “why this medical school” essay prompt carries a lot of significance and your response must be well thought out! This prompt is asking you to explain why you want to attend a particular institution, and your response will let the admissions committee understand you, your goals, and get a deeper sense of who you are. This essay will be used to help them assess whether or not you’re worthy of consideration based on your interests, passions, personality, and goals as they relate to the particular medical program you’re applying for.

It isn’t uncommon for students to apply to several medical schools. You likely have one or two ‘top’ choices, but in order to secure a chance of admission, you may apply to your ‘plan B’ schools as well. You should never communicate that a school is not your top choice, but rather, focus on what each school and program offers, what you’ll gain from the experience—should you be accepted and attend—and what makes them unique from other schools. Admissions teams know that many students apply to several schools, so be honest in your answer to the extent of why you want to attend the school, but never state that you are applying because a particular school is “close to home”, “is known for easy admittance”, or “because it’s an option”. Take the time to research and get excited about each school individually before you write each essay.

When drafting and writing your “why this medical school?” essay, and any secondary essay, it’s important that you:

  • Stick to a legible, professional and consistent format and font (no colors or creative fonts)
  • 1.5-2.0 spacing is always preferred
  • Adhere to any specific instructions outlined on your application
  • Ensure that you proofread and edit your essay several times to ensure it’s error-free
  • This is a personal, professional essay. That means you should write in your own authentic voice, portray yourself as a professional, and include an introduction, body section with appropriate details, and a brief conclusion that reiterates and wraps up your response and prompts the admissions committee to—hopefully—proceed with next steps in your application process.

This can vary by school, and every application is different! In general, most admissions and secondary essays span anywhere from 250-1000 words. Always double check your application/essay instructions and stick as closely to the word count as you can.

Your essay should outline what personal experiences, goals and values you have that align with a particular aspect of the school’s program, culture, reputation, and/or curriculum. You should highlight specific aspects of the medical program that are appealing to you and unique to the school, and detail why this is important to you! This is a brief essay, so it’s best to research and decide on a few key points about the school that are relevant to your interest, and detail them, along with a bit about who you are as a prospective medical school student.

As noted above, this is a brief essay, and schools are trying to get a clear idea of who each applicant is, and why they are interested in their specific medical school program. Avoid detailing irrelevant events, as well as going in-depth about your experience, grades or GPA accomplishments, as a lot of this information was likely already reviewed in your initial application. Along with this, don’t simply regurgitate information from the school’s website! They already know what they offer, so if you’re opting to discuss a specific point, such as a unique curriculum, get specific and detail why it matters to you and aligns with your goals! Finally, it’s important to remember that the admissions team is looking to select candidates with a genuine interest and passion for medicine, and for their school. It’s crucial that your essay is written in your voice, and includes honest details about what entices you about the chosen school specifically.

You may benefit from seeking help from a medical school admissions tutor . The application process, as well as the interview process, for medical school can be extensive and overwhelming! BeMo Academic Consulting can help you prepare for various components of your medical school application by offering 1-on-1 preparatory consulting services to guide you through every step of the application process!

Not always! Although it’s a good sign that the admissions committee has reviewed your initial application and would like to learn more about you, some schools send secondary essay prompts to every applicant, and others opt to send them to applicants whom they have interest in. Because it varies by school, it’s important that you prepare and submit your secondary materials as soon as you can to show that you’re eager and interested in the school!

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why do you want to go to this medical school essay


Why this Medical School? Secondary Essay Example

  • Cracking Med School Admissions Team

Medical schools want to recruit students who embody their institution’s values and would quickly thrive once accepted. One way to prove that you fit this criterion is by writing an outstanding “why this medical school” secondary essay. This prompt asks you to explain why you are applying to a specific medical school and how you would take advantage of unique opportunities at that school. Alternatively, you can think of this prompt as asking you “why would you attend our school over others if we accepted you?” Or, you can think about this prompt asking, “Why would you be a great fit for our medical school over the thousands of other applicants applying?” Need help? Contact us down below. 

This “Why This Medical School?” blog post covers:

  • How to answer why this medical school essay prompt, and how to answer it well
  • Process of researching different medical schools

Why this medical school secondary essay example

  • Essay analysis and success tips

Recognizing the “why this medical school” secondary essay

The “why this medical school” secondary essay can take many forms.

For example, consider the following secondary prompts, which can all be approached as a “why us” secondary:

  • Stanford School of Medicine: How will you take advantage of the Stanford Medicine Discovery Curriculum and scholarly concentration requirement to achieve your personal career goals? (1000 characters)
  • University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine: Please explain your reasons for applying to the Perelman School of Medicine and limit your response to 1,000 characters.
  • Weill Cornell Medical College: Please write a brief statement giving your reasons for applying to Weill Cornell Medical College. (200 words)
  • Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine: Given the distinctive educational philosophy and integrated curriculum at FSM, describe how your personal characteristics and learning style would fit the institution. (Limit your response to 200 words)
  • University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine: Please write a short essay about why you are applying to the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. We suggest that you limit your essay to about 550 words.

Even an open-ended “is there anything else you would like us to know” prompt could be used to write a “why do you want to go to this medical school” secondary essay! 

Getting started: do your research for each medical school

Questions to consider for each medical school:.

  • Are there any programs or organizations unique to that school which you are interested in?
  • Are there any faculty members with whom you hope to do research?
  • How is the curriculum set up? How many years are pre-clinical versus clinical on clerkships? Is there early clinical exposure? Integration of research into the curriculum?
  • Are there any electives or classes you may be interested in? Dual-degree options?
  • How is the mentorship for medical students from faculty and the administration?
  • What is the “culture” of the school and its student body? Are students known to be involved with research? Social justice? Community service?
  • Do you have any personal connections to the school/area?

Where to look:

  • Cracking Med School Admissions Pro Tip: Go deep into the school’s website. You should learn about the curriculum, but if there are any specific fields within medicine that you are interested in, look for professors and research opportunities in that field. Additionally, many medical schools are interdisciplinary. If you are interested in public health, then research the Public Health school for that university and other public health opportunities.
  • Cracking Med School Admissions Pro Tip: Email faculty members who you have mutual interests with. When you email them, tell them about your previous experiences and why you are interested in their work.

Let’s take a look at a why this medical school secondary essay example for the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

Prompt: Please write a short essay about why you are applying to the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. We suggest that you limit your essay to about 550 words.

A resident at our homeless shelter frequently spent nights studying while others slept. Concerned about his health, I asked about his sleeping schedule and how I could help. As I began assisting him with his classwork and professional goals during downtimes volunteering, I understood how, despite us both attending [SCHOOL], our life circumstances were worlds apart. To him, professional success was an escape and intense academic devotion was a way to avoid previously harmful habits. And unlike him, I never had to prioritize my livelihood over academics or extracurriculars like many others had at our shelter. Yet we also had much in common despite our differing circumstances. I recall many late-night conversations with him with topics ranging from healthcare and medicine to intense debates about our favorite NBA players.

Shaped by my experiences with these students, my values compel me to shape healthcare policies and conduct research to address problems that broadly affect others. At Pritzker, I will continue researching disease treatment and health policy through the Scholarship & Discovery program, learning from innovators like Dr. David Meltzer. His work about the cost effectiveness of prostate cancer treatments highlights waste in healthcare costs; my own research about shared decision making in prostate cancer patients also inspired me to expose these issues with research and encourage policy changes.

I am particularly interested in how changes in disease treatment inform wider care guidelines. Heading a trial that investigates early sepsis resuscitation, I appreciate how complexities in treating illness are intertwined with policy as standards of care and health policies have immediate impacts on patients and physicians. And when larger policies are misaligned with these individual needs, I believe it is my responsibility to correct them and bridge the gap. An institution which values medical student inquiry, Pritzker will provide me unique opportunities to disseminate my research through its Senior Scientific Session and numerous fellowships to fund presentations at national conferences. My teaching background will help me convey research results in context and connect them to policy implications and drive action from stakeholders.

Pritzker’s unique organizations also reflect the student body’s passion for helping the underserved, mirroring my own values as I aspire to create new programs for these patients. In the student shelter, I revamped our food training to account for variations in volunteers’ cooking experience to feed 10 homeless students. Hearing positive feedback from residents reaffirmed how my ideas could be translated into impactful practices by leading a group toward a shared mission. At Pritzker, I will continue working with underserved populations through student organizations like Chicago Street Medicine. Their work delivering healthcare to homeless patients particularly interests me as I have seen the unique challenges faced by this population in volunteering with homeless students. I want to continue exploring these issues and develop my leadership skills in Chicago Street Medicine. Student organizations at Pritzker will uniquely supplement my medical training with early, hands-on experience caring for these patients and applying my growing medical knowledge to benefit others.

Opportunities to conduct clinical/policy research with faculty leaders and unique student organizations align with my values, motivating me to pursue my medical training at Pritzker.”

Why this medical school secondary essay example: analysis and tips for success

#1. mention specific programs and organizations at the school.

One thing this essay does well is its specific inclusion of different programs and organizations at Pritzker. For example, the writer mentions the “Scholarship & Discovery program,” “Senior Scientific Session” event, and a student organization (“Chicago Street Medicine”) to substantiate their interests. This shows your reader that you have done your research on the school and will be able to take readily take advantage of any opportunities once you are accepted. It will always reflect well on you to do your research and “show off” your understanding of the program.

#2. Talk about faculty members you want to work with

Notice that the writer specifically mentions a faculty member by name, “Dr. David Meltzer,” and talks about why they find their research interesting as well as its relation to the writer’s own research goals. Once again, this shows your reader that you have done your research and that you are someone who takes the initiative to get the most out of opportunities. Think about mentioning specific faculty members, in addition to including specific programs and organizations, as analogous to “citations” in a research paper—they substantiate and strengthen your claims for “why this school.”

#3. Connect the school to your background and experiences

One mistake students frequently make in writing a “why this medical school” secondary essay is that they talk too much about the school without focusing on themselves. Remember, at the end of the day your reader still wants to know about you . Explicitly connect your former background and experiences to the different opportunities at the school and convince your reader that you would be a good fit. In this case, the writer connects their prior experiences working with homeless students and clinical research about disease treatment to service-oriented organizations at Pritzker (e.g. Chicago Street Medicine) and research opportunities (funded fellowships, specific programs/faculty). Seamlessly connecting your background/experiences with the school is an excellent strategy!

#4.Tell stories

As with any secondary, it is extremely important to give anecdotes that naturally lead readers to a conclusion rather than stating the conclusion outright. In this case, the writer talks about their experiences with a specific resident at a homeless shelter they volunteered with. This allows reader to infer that the writer easily connects with individuals from different backgrounds, a conclusion that is more convincing when conveyed through a story rather than stated outright. Imagine if the writer had written “I am someone that easily connects with students from different backgrounds as shown by my previous experience working with homeless students.” This is far less convincing than telling a story.

#5. Dream big

Finally, this essay effectively showcases the writer’s ambitions numerous times throughout. Whether it is “to shape healthcare policies” by conducting research to “bridge the gap” between individuals and policies or “create new programs” for “underserved populations,” the writer strikes you as an individual with a clear idea of what they hope to accomplish in medical school and how they will specifically do so. Don’t be afraid to convey your ambitions and relate them to the school!

FREE Medical School Secondary Essay Examples and Brainstorm Tool [PLACEHOLDER]

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Use this workbook to write STELLAR AMCAS descriptions. This section is as important as your personal statement.

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More Excellent Secondary Essay Examples

While reading about how to write a secondary essay for medical school makes doing so seem easy, it is much harder to put this into practice. As such, we have compiled a list of personal statements and secondary essays. Each one of these essays were written by premeds who successfully got accepted to medical schools across the United States. We think these essays demonstrate successful models.

The best resource for example secondary essays is our Cracking Med School Admissions book! We have over 50 personal statements and secondary essay from successful medical school applicants, including essays from our authors! 🙂

Cracking Med School Admissions book

Blog post written by Kevin Li and Dr. Rachel Rizal

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Answering the 'Why This Medical School?' Question

Learning from these hypothetical scenarios can help you stand out when writing your essay response.

How to Answer 'Why This Med School?'

Female student writes college essay in front of laptop.

Specificity is the key to standing out with your essay response. (Getty Images)

“Why this medical school?” is a popular question asked as part of secondary essays and during medical school interviews. It is an important question that can differentiate an applicant from thousands of other students applying.

The key to giving a great response to this critical question is to be specific in three ways:

  • Be specific about your interests in clinical medicine and health care. You can talk more about a specialty you are interested in pursuing or you can discuss your desire to work with specific patient populations, such as children with disabilities or homeless individuals.
  • Link your response to the specific activities you want to pursue in med school. In your essay, cite specific classes, clinical rotation electives, volunteer opportunities, research projects, student organizations and professors you want to work with.
  • Align your response to the medical school’s specific mission and culture. Some med schools value research while others value social justice. Keep a lookout for specialized programs within medical schools like the University of California's Programs in Medical Education, also called UC PRIME . These special programs have a curriculum designed to address specific needs of varying patient populations.

Below are hypothetical essay responses of three med school applicants with different interests .

Applicant 1: Interested in Oncology Research and Prevention

My mom passed away from breast cancer when I was in high school. I admired how her oncologist sat down with our family at each appointment to answer our questions and educate us to help make the best decisions for my mom. I was inspired to pursue medicine and care for my patients and their families in the same compassionate manner.

In college, I conducted research on genetic mutations that increase an individual’s risk for cancer. In medical school, I want to work with Professor R. on BRCA mutations, which increase one’s risk for breast cancer. Additionally, through my volunteer work at free clinics, I became passionate about cancer prevention in disadvantaged communities.

I want to work with the hospital’s Cancer Institute to organize outreach programs in low-income communities that promote cancer screening awareness. I am excited to pursue clinical electives in women’s health and oncology to learn how to take care of cancer patients.

Applicant 2: Interested in Health Education

I love working with children and I have developed a passion for health education while majoring in public health in college. I founded a nonprofit in which I teach nutrition at after-school programs and orphanages. To better understand the clinical side of pediatrics, I interned at the Children’s Hospital for two summers. During my internship, I worked with the Division of Community Outreach and we educated adolescents and their parents about mental health issues.

At this medical school, I want to create partnerships with the Ronald McDonald House to help families navigate housing and food insecurity. Additionally, I am excited to work with my classmates to grow gardens at nearby elementary schools to educate students about nutrition. This medical school offers diverse pediatric clinical electives, and one of my goals is to understand health issues in rural areas, urban cities and academic medical centers.

Finally, in order to create more longitudinal relationships with chronically ill children, I will volunteer at the Children’s Hospital dialysis unit and mentor young patients.

Applicant 3: Interested in Rural Health

I want to attend this medical school because of its emphasis on rural health. I grew up in a rural area with limited access to health care and with large health care disparity gaps. People either owned acres of farmland or worked minimum wage jobs as migrant farmers.

I shadowed two family medicine physicians near my town. The most common issues patients faced were depression, obesity and drug addiction. At this medical school, I will pursue clinical rotations across different states in the U.S., from rural Alaska to Indian reservations in New Mexico. I believe improving health care in rural areas includes fixing broader systemic health care barriers like lack of transportation.

I am excited about the first-year course, “Rural Health and Health Disparities.” Furthermore, I want to pursue a scholarly project with Dr. M., who collaborates with the local health department. With Dr. M., I aspire to implement programs that address opioid addiction and overdose.

These three case studies show how to answer, “Why this medical school?” Each applicant paints a picture and explains his or her motivations for pursuing specific interests in medicine . For example, applicant 1 became interested in oncology because her mom passed away from breast cancer.

Additionally, each applicant gives specific examples of how he or she will take advantage of the array of opportunities at each med school. The essay reader learns that applicant 1 wants to work with the medical school’s cancer institute because of an interest in oncology; applicant 2 wants to work with local schools and community-based organizations to improve health education among youth; and applicant 3 is passionate about improving health in rural areas, citing specific courses in rural health he or she wants to take at the med school and specific professors he or she wants to work with to combat opioid addiction in rural communities.

Remember, specificity is the key to standing out with your “Why this medical school?” essay response.

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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Best Ways to Answer the “Why Our Medical School?” Essay

why do you want to go to this medical school essay

Many students apply to 30+ medical schools in order to play the numbers game, and this fact is no secret to the medical schools themselves.

The medical schools aren’t stupid; they know they’re not your only choice. But it’s your job to convince them that they’re the best choice for you, which hopefully has a reciprocal effect.

With about 47% of medical schools asking the “Why Our Medical School?” essay question, you’ll want to make this essay a focal point in your secondary writing.

This article will help you better conceptualize this popular medical school secondary essay prompt and complete them in both an efficient and compelling way!

What are Some Other Ways of Asking the “Why Our Medical School?” Essay Prompt

Sometimes it’s useful to reframe the question in new ways to help you determine what to address in your answer:

How do you align with the school’s mission and values?

What opportunities or programs would you take advantage of at the school?

How does the school help to bridge your past and your future?

What makes the school a uniquely good fit for you?

What makes the school stand out from others, and why does that appeal to you?

Some Examples of “Why Our Medical School?” Essay Prompts from Medical Schools

You can find all school-specific secondaries through our Savvy Pre-Med School Search Tool !

  • “Given the distinctive educational philosophy and integrated curriculum at FSM, describe how your personal characteristics and learning style would fit the institution.” (200 words) - Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine
  • “Please write a short essay about why you are applying to the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. We suggest that you limit your essay to about 550 words.” - Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine
  • “What makes LLUSM particularly attractive to you?” (275 words) - Loma Linda University School of Medicine
  • “Throughout your application you have given us a sense of how you intend to contribute to the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix. We would now like to know about how you anticipate the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix will contribute to your goals and passion for medicine. What aspects of our program and community appeals most to you, and how do you plan to make use of specific resources and opportunities here?” (1000 characters) - UA College of Medicine – Phoenix
  • “When considering medical schools, what criteria are important to you and how does TUCOM align with those criteria?” (500 words) - Touro University California College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • “Why have you selected the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine for your medical education? Please be as specific as possible.” (500 words) - University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
  • “If you are not a Kansas resident, what is your specific interest in applying to the University of Kansas School of Medicine?” (1,000 characters) - University of Kansas School of Medicine

What Should You Research for Your “Why Our Medical School?” Essays?

1. Mission Statements: The first place to start would be looking at the medical school’s mission statement. The mission statement usually reflects the values and ideologies that the medical school upholds.

2. Specific Opportunities: Go to the school’s website and find an extracurricular, a part of the curriculum, or a program/project that catches your eye and is unique to the medical school.

3. Location: You could also talk about how the location of the medical school suits your lifestyle well and is a great place to explore your other interests.

4. Faculty or Research Mentors: You could pick a faculty member whom you’d be excited to work with and how important of an opportunity that could be for you.

5. Service and Outreach Avenues: You could mention your interest in the outreach programs that the school is involved in and how these are important to your beliefs.

Want help expediting the research process for “Why Our Medical School?” Essays? Check out our comprehensive “Cheat Sheet” articles:

“Why Our Medical School?” - Cheat Sheet for the Top 25 MD Schools

“Why Our Medical School?” - Cheat Sheet for All California Medical Schools

“Why Our Medical School?” - Cheat Sheet for All Texas Medical Schools

How Different Applicants Can Approach the "Why Our Medical School?" Essay

The first applicant: intrigued by research in the field of oncology

  • A family member has been affected by some form of cancer, and through interactions with medical/healthcare professionals they became particularly interested in the field. To return the favor by helping many more families, they proceeded to find universities and medical schools that are equally as passionate about the field as their applicants. 
  • The applicant pursued a lot of extracurriculars and volunteer opportunities in their undergraduate years that allowed them to get much more emotionally attached to the field of medicine, specifically oncology. This motivated/compelled them to apply to medical schools that have ample cancer research and renowned cancer centers with the hope of graduating and working in the field as an oncologist.

The second applicant: interested in the study of health and the delivery of health in rural environments

  • The applicant incorporated a personal story about how their passions came about and emphasized their observed healthcare disparities in rural areas and how they wanted to do their part to improve accessibility and deliver care to people living in rural environments and bridge the gaps existing in healthcare.
  • The applicant explained how they will advantage of the opportunities offered by the medical schools and what they plan to do to fulfill their goals and satisfy their  interests. For example, they emphasized how  entering said medical school will let them take advantage of the Rural Health and Health Disparities course offered by the school and how they plan on taking their learning and understanding to the next level, while also emphasizing what motivated them to pursue this goal in particular and providing examples.

Best Ways to Write a “Why Our Medical School?” Essay Template 

Writing 30 completely original secondaries is a scary thought. To save yourself time, focus on writing great essays for top-priority medical schools, and then use these as templates for all the other secondaries.

Before diving into your prioritized schools, you should definitely check out HOW TO ANSWER “WHY OUR SCHOOL” ESSAYS .

Then use your best answers as formulas for quickly completing the less desired medical schools on your list. The goal will be to create a template that doesn’t look like a template. Try to reuse the material you share about yourself, so that all you have to do is swap in new information about the individual programs.

Let’s say you have 1000 characters. Here’s how you might handle the initial challenge:

Due to my passion for oncology research, I appreciate BLANK MEDICAL SCHOOL’s (BMS) Exploratory Program, which allows new students to incorporate personal benchside pursuits into their curriculum. Under the guidance of Dr. Dream in the Wonderful Lab, I can build off my previous cancer studies while also volunteering in my future specialty of pediatric oncology at BMS Children’s Hospital. After witnessing the dire needs of the poor and homeless at free clinics in college, I would feel honored to work at BMS’s Saturday Clinic for the Uninsured. Many of my experiences have been with terminal patients or in end-of-life care, so I am thrilled at the chance to have a more direct impact through acute, immediate treatments. As an eager, hands-on learner, I value BMS’s early clinical exposure and Specialist Mentoring in the first two years. BMS will allow me to apply my growing expertise toward a new community in need, while also giving me novel opportunities that can hone my future practice. (995 characters)

How to Reuse Your “Why Our Medical School?” Essay Template

In a longer essay, 2-3 sentences can be added to show your personal ties to the location, your relation to alumni, or your interest in continuing an important non-medical activity they offer that matches your background, personality, or prior experiences.

Let’s say you’re writing for a school with a longer limit, maybe 1500 characters. Here’s how you could use your previous answer as a secondaries template :

Due to my passion for oncology research, I appreciate TOKEN MEDICAL SCHOOL’s (TMS) Cancer Center, which houses breakthrough studies in T-cell isolation and customized vaccines. Under the guidance of Dr. Smart in the Brainiac Lab, I can build off my previous cancer studies while also volunteering in my future specialty of pediatric oncology at TMS Youth Hospital. After witnessing the dire needs of the poor and homeless at free clinics in college, I would feel honored to work at TMS’s Student-Run Clinic for the Underserved. Many of my experiences have been with terminal patients or in end-of-life care, so I am thrilled at the chance to have a more direct impact through acute, immediate treatments.

As an eager, hands-on learner, I value TMS’s early clinical exposure and Equal Partner Teaching during the first two years . TMS is located in Tokenville, a community near my hometown, and I would be honored to return there and serve the populations who helped raise me. Being near extended family will provide a great support system for me while adjusting to the rigors of medical school. Since I have always used my athletic hobbies to destress and stay sharp, I am excited to partake in the TMS Fitness Club during my rare free time. TMS will allow me to apply my growing expertise toward a familiar community in need, while also giving me novel opportunities that can hone my future practice. (1398 characters)

Always think about what you can reuse across schools to make the overall application process easier. If you utilize a secondary template, then the only real burden is doing research for each school and making a list of what to include about them in your essays.


We hope this guide has been helpful!

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Sample Medical School Essays

Applying to medical school is an exciting decision, but the application process is very competitive. This means when it comes to your application you need to ensure you’ve put your best foot forward and done everything you can to stand out from other applicants. One great way to provide additional information on why you have decided to pursue a career in medicine and why you’re qualified, is your medical school essay. Read these samples to get a good idea on how you can write your own top-notch essay.

This section contains five sample medical school essays

  • Medical School Sample Essay One
  • Medical School Sample Essay Two
  • Medical School Sample Essay Three
  • Medical School Sample Essay Four
  • Medical School Sample Essay Five

Medical School Essay One

When I was twelve years old, a drunk driver hit the car my mother was driving while I was in the backseat. I have very few memories of the accident, but I do faintly recall a serious but calming face as I was gently lifted out of the car. The paramedic held my hand as we traveled to the hospital. I was in the hospital for several weeks and that same paramedic came to visit me almost every day. During my stay, I also got to know the various doctors and nurses in the hospital on a personal level. I remember feeling anxiety about my condition, but not sadness or even fear. It seemed to me that those around me, particularly my family, were more fearful of what might happen to me than I was. I don’t believe it was innocence or ignorance, but rather a trust in the abilities of my doctors. It was as if my doctors and I had a silent bond. Now that I’m older I fear death and sickness in a more intense way than I remember experiencing it as a child. My experience as a child sparked a keen interest in how we approach pediatric care, especially as it relates to our psychological and emotional support of children facing serious medical conditions. It was here that I experienced first-hand the power and compassion of medicine, not only in healing but also in bringing unlikely individuals together, such as adults and children, in uncommon yet profound ways. And it was here that I began to take seriously the possibility of becoming a pediatric surgeon.

My interest was sparked even more when, as an undergraduate, I was asked to assist in a study one of my professors was conducting on how children experience and process fear and the prospect of death. This professor was not in the medical field; rather, her background is in cultural anthropology. I was very honored to be part of this project at such an early stage of my career. During the study, we discovered that children face death in extremely different ways than adults do. We found that children facing fatal illnesses are very aware of their condition, even when it hasn’t been fully explained to them, and on the whole were willing to fight their illnesses, but were also more accepting of their potential fate than many adults facing similar diagnoses. We concluded our study by asking whether and to what extent this discovery should impact the type of care given to children in contrast to adults. I am eager to continue this sort of research as I pursue my medical career. The intersection of medicine, psychology, and socialization or culture (in this case, the social variables differentiating adults from children) is quite fascinating and is a field that is in need of better research.

Although much headway has been made in this area in the past twenty or so years, I feel there is a still a tendency in medicine to treat diseases the same way no matter who the patient is. We are slowly learning that procedures and drugs are not always universally effective. Not only must we alter our care of patients depending upon these cultural and social factors, we may also need to alter our entire emotional and psychological approach to them as well.

It is for this reason that I’m applying to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, as it has one of the top programs for pediatric surgery in the country, as well as several renowned researchers delving into the social, generational, and cultural questions in which I’m interested. My approach to medicine will be multidisciplinary, which is evidenced by the fact that I’m already double-majoring in early childhood psychology and pre-med, with a minor in cultural anthropology. This is the type of extraordinary care that I received as a child—care that seemed to approach my injuries with a much larger and deeper picture than that which pure medicine cannot offer—and it is this sort of care I want to provide my future patients. I turned what might have been a debilitating event in my life—a devastating car accident—into the inspiration that has shaped my life since. I am driven and passionate. And while I know that the pediatric surgery program at Johns Hopkins will likely be the second biggest challenge I will face in my life, I know that I am up for it. I am ready to be challenged and prove to myself what I’ve been telling myself since that fateful car accident: I will be a doctor.

Tips for a Successful Medical School Essay

  • If you’re applying through AMCAS, remember to keep your essay more general rather than tailored to a specific medical school, because your essay will be seen by multiple schools.
  • AMCAS essays are limited to 5300 characters—not words! This includes spaces.
  • Make sure the information you include in your essay doesn't conflict with the information in your other application materials.
  • In general, provide additional information that isn’t found in your other application materials. Look at the essay as an opportunity to tell your story rather than a burden.
  • Keep the interview in mind as you write. You will most likely be asked questions regarding your essay during the interview, so think about the experiences you want to talk about.
  • When you are copying and pasting from a word processor to the AMCAS application online, formatting and font will be lost. Don’t waste your time making it look nice. Be sure to look through the essay once you’ve copied it into AMCAS and edit appropriately for any odd characters that result from pasting.
  • Avoid overly controversial topics. While it is fine to take a position and back up your position with evidence, you don’t want to sound narrow-minded.
  • Revise, revise, revise. Have multiple readers look at your essay and make suggestions. Go over your essay yourself many times and rewrite it several times until you feel that it communicates your message effectively and creatively.
  • Make the opening sentence memorable. Admissions officers will read dozens of personal statements in a day. You must say something at the very beginning to catch their attention, encourage them to read the essay in detail, and make yourself stand out from the crowd.
  • Character traits to portray in your essay include: maturity, intellect, critical thinking skills, leadership, tolerance, perseverance, and sincerity.

Medical School Essay Two

If you had told me ten years ago that I would be writing this essay and planning for yet another ten years into the future, part of me would have been surprised. I am a planner and a maker of to-do lists, and it has always been my plan to follow in the steps of my father and become a physician. This plan was derailed when I was called to active duty to serve in Iraq as part of the War on Terror.

I joined the National Guard before graduating high school and continued my service when I began college. My goal was to receive training that would be valuable for my future medical career, as I was working in the field of emergency health care. It was also a way to help me pay for college. When I was called to active duty in Iraq for my first deployment, I was forced to withdraw from school, and my deployment was subsequently extended. I spent a total of 24 months deployed overseas, where I provided in-the-field medical support to our combat troops. While the experience was invaluable not only in terms of my future medical career but also in terms of developing leadership and creative thinking skills, it put my undergraduate studies on hold for over two years. Consequently, my carefully-planned journey towards medical school and a medical career was thrown off course. Thus, while ten-year plans are valuable, I have learned from experience how easily such plans can dissolve in situations that are beyond one’s control, as well as the value of perseverance and flexibility.

Eventually, I returned to school. Despite my best efforts to graduate within two years, it took me another three years, as I suffered greatly from post-traumatic stress disorder following my time in Iraq. I considered abandoning my dream of becoming a physician altogether, since I was several years behind my peers with whom I had taken biology and chemistry classes before my deployment. Thanks to the unceasing encouragement of my academic advisor, who even stayed in contact with me when I was overseas, I gathered my strength and courage and began studying for the MCAT. To my surprise, my score was beyond satisfactory and while I am several years behind my original ten-year plan, I am now applying to Brown University’s School of Medicine.

I can describe my new ten-year plan, but I will do so with both optimism and also caution, knowing that I will inevitably face unforeseen complications and will need to adapt appropriately. One of the many insights I gained as a member of the National Guard and by serving in war-time was the incredible creativity medical specialists in the Armed Forces employ to deliver health care services to our wounded soldiers on the ground. I was part of a team that was saving lives under incredibly difficult circumstances—sometimes while under heavy fire and with only the most basic of resources. I am now interested in how I can use these skills to deliver health care in similar circumstances where basic medical infrastructure is lacking. While there is seemingly little in common between the deserts of Fallujah and rural Wyoming, where I’m currently working as a volunteer first responder in a small town located more than 60 miles from the nearest hospital, I see a lot of potential uses for the skills that I gained as a National Guardsman. As I learned from my father, who worked with Doctors Without Borders for a number of years, there is quite a bit in common between my field of knowledge from the military and working in post-conflict zones. I feel I have a unique experience from which to draw as I embark on my medical school journey, experiences that can be applied both here and abroad.

In ten years’ time, I hope to be trained in the field of emergency medicine, which, surprisingly, is a specialization that is actually lacking here in the United States as compared to similarly developed countries. I hope to conduct research in the field of health care infrastructure and work with government agencies and legislators to find creative solutions to improving access to emergency facilities in currently underserved areas of the United States, with an aim towards providing comprehensive policy reports and recommendations on how the US can once again be the world leader in health outcomes. While the problems inherent in our health care system are not one-dimensional and require a dynamic approach, one of the solutions as I see it is to think less in terms of state-of-the-art facilities and more in terms of access to primary care. Much of the care that I provide as a first responder and volunteer is extremely effective and also relatively cheap. More money is always helpful when facing a complex social and political problem, but we must think of solutions above and beyond more money and more taxes. In ten years I want to be a key player in the health care debate in this country and offering innovative solutions to delivering high quality and cost-effective health care to all our nation’s citizens, especially to those in rural and otherwise underserved areas.

Of course, my policy interests do not replace my passion for helping others and delivering emergency medicine. As a doctor, I hope to continue serving in areas of the country that, for one reason or another, are lagging behind in basic health care infrastructure. Eventually, I would also like to take my knowledge and talents abroad and serve in the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders.

In short, I see the role of physicians in society as multifunctional: they are not only doctors who heal, they are also leaders, innovators, social scientists, and patriots. Although my path to medical school has not always been the most direct, my varied and circuitous journey has given me a set of skills and experiences that many otherwise qualified applicants lack. I have no doubt that the next ten years will be similarly unpredictable, but I can assure you that no matter what obstacles I face, my goal will remain the same. I sincerely hope to begin the next phase of my journey at Brown University. Thank you for your kind attention.

Additional Tips for a Successful Medical School Essay

  • Regardless of the prompt, you should always address the question of why you want to go to medical school in your essay.
  • Try to always give concrete examples rather than make general statements. If you say that you have perseverance, describe an event in your life that demonstrates perseverance.
  • There should be an overall message or theme in your essay. In the example above, the theme is overcoming unexpected obstacles.
  • Make sure you check and recheck for spelling and grammar!
  • Unless you’re very sure you can pull it off, it is usually not a good idea to use humor or to employ the skills you learned in creative writing class in your personal statement. While you want to paint a picture, you don’t want to be too poetic or literary.
  • Turn potential weaknesses into positives. As in the example above, address any potential weaknesses in your application and make them strengths, if possible. If you have low MCAT scores or something else that can’t be easily explained or turned into a positive, simply don’t mention it.

Medical School Essay Three

The roots of my desire to become a physician are, thankfully, not around the bedside of a sick family member or in a hospital, but rather on a 10-acre plot of land outside of a small town in Northwest Arkansas. I loved raising and exhibiting cattle, so every morning before the bus arrived at 7 a.m. I was in the barn feeding, checking cattle for any health issues and washing the show heifers. These early mornings and my experiences on a farm not only taught me the value of hard work, but ignited my interest in the body, albeit bovine at the time. It was by a working chute that I learned the functions of reproductive hormones as we utilized them for assisted reproduction and artificial insemination; it was by giving vaccinations to prevent infection that I learned about bacteria and the germ theory of disease; it was beside a stillborn calf before the sun had risen that I was exposed to the frailty of life.

Facing the realities of disease and death daily from an early age, I developed a strong sense of pragmatism out of necessity. There is no place for abstractions or euphemisms about life and death when treating a calf’s pneumonia in the pouring rain during winter. Witnessing the sometimes harsh realities of life on a farm did not instill within me an attitude of jaded inevitability of death. Instead, it germinated a responsibility to protect life to the best of my abilities, cure what ailments I can and alleviate as much suffering as possible while recognizing that sometimes nothing can be done.

I first approached human health at the age of nine through beef nutrition and food safety. Learning the roles of nutrients such as zinc, iron, protein and B-vitamins in the human body as well as the dangers of food-borne illness through the Beef Ambassador program shifted my interest in the body to a new species. Talking with consumers about every facet of the origins of food, I realized that the topics that most interested me were those that pertained to human health. In college, while I connected with people over samples of beef and answered their questions, I also realized that it is not enough simply to have adequate knowledge. Ultimately knowledge is of little use if it is not digestible to those who receive it. So my goal as a future clinical physician is not only to illuminate the source of an affliction and provide treatment for patients, but take care to ensure the need for understanding by both patient and family is met.

I saw this combination of care and understanding while volunteering in an emergency room, where I was also exposed to other aspects and players in the medical field. While assisting a nurse perform a bladder scan and witnessing technicians carry out an echocardiogram or CT scan, I learned the important roles that other professionals who do not wear white coats have in today’s medical field. Medicine is a team sport, and coordinating the efforts of each of these players is crucial for the successful execution of patient care. It is my goal to serve as the leader of this healthcare unit and unify a team of professionals to provide the highest quality care for patients. Perhaps most importantly my time at the VA showed me the power a smile and an open ear can have with people. On the long walk to radiology, talking with patients about their military service and families always seemed to take their mind off the reason for their visit, if only for a few minutes. This served as a reminder that we are helping people with pasts and dreams, rather than simply remedying patients’ symptoms.

Growing up in a small town, I never held aspirations of world travel when I was young. But my time abroad revealed to me the state of healthcare in developing countries and fostered a previously unknown interest in global health. During my first trip abroad to Ghana, my roommate became ill with a severe case of traveler’s diarrhea. In the rural north of the country near the Sahara, the options for healthcare were limited; he told me how our professor was forced to bribe employees to bypass long lines and even recounted how doctors took a bag of saline off the line of another patient to give to him. During a service trip to a rural community in Nicaragua, I encountered patients with preventable and easily treatable diseases that, due to poverty and lack of access, were left untreated for months or years at a time. I was discouraged by the state of healthcare in these countries and wondered what could be done to help. I plan to continue to help provide access to healthcare in rural parts of developing countries, and hopefully as a physician with an agricultural background I can approach public health and food security issues in a multifaceted and holistic manner.

My time on a cattle farm taught me how to work hard to pursue my interests, but also fueled my appetite for knowledge about the body and instilled within me a firm sense of practicality. Whether in a clinic, operating room or pursuing public and global health projects, I plan to bring this work ethic and pragmatism to all of my endeavors. My agricultural upbringing has produced a foundation of skills and values that I am confident will readily transplant into my chosen career. Farming is my early passion, but medicine is my future.

Medical School Essay Four

I am a white, cisgender, and heterosexual female who has been afforded many privileges: I was raised by parents with significant financial resources, I have traveled the world, and I received top-quality high school and college educations. I do not wish to be addressed or recognized in any special way; all I ask is to be treated with respect.

As for my geographic origin, I was born and raised in the rural state of Maine. Since graduating from college, I have been living in my home state, working and giving back to the community that has given me so much. I could not be happier here; I love the down-to-earth people, the unhurried pace of life, and the easy access to the outdoors. While I am certainly excited to move elsewhere in the country for medical school and continue to explore new places, I will always self-identify as a Mainer as being from Maine is something I take great pride in. I am proud of my family ties to the state (which date back to the 1890’s), I am proud of the state’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty, and I am particularly proud of my slight Maine accent (we don’t pronounce our r’s). From the rocky coastline and rugged ski mountains to the locally-grown food and great restaurants, it is no wonder Maine is nicknamed, "Vacationland.” Yet, Maine is so much more than just a tourist destination. The state is dotted with wonderful communities in which to live, communities like the one where I grew up.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I plan to return to Maine after residency. I want to raise a family and establish my medical practice here. We certainly could use more doctors! Even though Maine is a terrific place to live, the state is facing a significant doctor shortage. Today, we are meeting less than half of our need for primary care providers. To make matters worse, many of our physicians are close to retirement age. Yet, according to the AAMC, only 53 Maine residents matriculated into medical school last year! Undoubtedly, Maine is in need of young doctors who are committed to working long term in underserved areas. As my primary career goal is to return to my much adored home state and do my part to help fill this need, I have a vested interest in learning more about rural medicine during medical school.

I was raised in Cumberland, Maine, a coastal town of 7,000 just north of Portland. With its single stoplight and general store (where it would be unusual to visit without running into someone you know), Cumberland is the epitome of a small New England town. It truly was the perfect place to grow up. According to the most recent census, nearly a third of the town’s population is under 18 and more than 75% of households contain children, two statistics which speak to the family-centric nature of Cumberland’s community. Recently rated Maine's safest town, Cumberland is the type of place where you allow your kindergartener to bike alone to school, leave your house unlocked while at work, and bring home-cooked food to your sick neighbors and their children. Growing up in such a safe, close-knit, and supportive community instilled in me the core values of compassion, trustworthiness, and citizenship. These three values guide me every day and will continue to guide me through medical school and my career in medicine.

As a medical student and eventual physician, my compassion will guide me to become a provider who cares for more than just the physical well-being of my patients. I will also commit myself to my patients’ emotional, spiritual, and social well-being and make it a priority to take into account the unique values and beliefs of each patient. By also demonstrating my trustworthiness during every encounter, I will develop strong interpersonal relationships with those whom I serve. As a doctor once wisely said, “A patient does not care how much you know until he knows how much you care.”

My citizenship will guide me to serve my community and to encourage my classmates and colleagues to do the same. We will be taught in medical school to be healers, scientists, and educators. I believe that, in addition, as students and as physicians, we have the responsibility to use our medical knowledge, research skills, and teaching abilities to benefit more than just our patients. We must also commit ourselves to improving the health and wellness of those living in our communities by participating in public events (i.e by donating our medical services), lobbying for better access to healthcare for the underprivileged, and promoting wellness campaigns. As a medical student and eventual physician, my compassion, trustworthiness, and citizenship will drive me to improve the lives of as many individuals as I can.

Cumberland instilled in me important core values and afforded me a wonderful childhood. However, I recognize that my hometown is not perfect. For one, the population is shockingly homogenous, at least as far as demographics go. As of the 2010 census, 97.2% of the residents of Cumberland were white. Only 4.1% of residents speak a language other than English at home and even fewer were born in another country. Essentially everybody who identified with a religion identified as some denomination of Christian. My family was one of maybe five Jewish families in the town. Additionally, nearly all the town’s residents graduated from high school (98.1%), are free of disability (93.8%), and live above the poverty line (95.8%). Efforts to attract diverse families to Cumberland is one improvement that I believe would make the community a better place in which to live. Diversity in background (and in thought) is desirable in any community as living, learning, and working alongside diverse individuals helps us develop new perspectives, enhances our social development, provides us with a larger frame of reference, and improves our understanding of our place in society.

Medical School Essay Five

“How many of you received the flu vaccine this year?” I asked my Bricks 4 Kidz class, where I volunteer to teach elementary students introductory science and math principles using Lego blocks. “What’s a flu vaccine?” they asked in confusion. Surprised, I briefly explained the influenza vaccine and its purpose for protection. My connection to children and their health extends to medical offices, clinics and communities where I have gained experience and insight into medicine, confirming my goal of becoming a physician.

My motivation to pursue a career in medicine developed when my mother, who was diagnosed with Lupus, underwent a kidney transplant surgery and suffered multiple complications. I recall the fear and anxiety I felt as a child because I misunderstood her chronic disease. This prompted me to learn more about the science of medicine. In high school, I observed patients plagued with acute and chronic kidney disease while briefly exploring various fields of medicine through a Mentorship in Medicine summer program at my local hospital. In addition to shadowing nephrologists in a hospital and clinical setting, I scrubbed into the operating room, viewed the radiology department, celebrated the miracle of birth in the delivery room, and quietly observed a partial autopsy in pathology. I saw many patients confused about their diagnoses. I was impressed by the compassion of the physicians and the time they took to reassure and educate their patients.

Further experiences in medicine throughout and after college shaped a desire to practice in underserved areas. While coloring and reading with children in the patient area at a Family Health Center, I witnessed family medicine physicians diligently serve patients from low-income communities. On a medical/dental mission trip to the Philippines, I partnered with local doctors to serve and distribute medical supplies to rural schools and communities. At one impoverished village, I held a malnourished two-year old boy suffering from cerebral palsy and cardiorespiratory disease. His family could not afford to take him to the nearest pediatrician, a few hours away by car, for treatment. Overwhelmed, I cried as we left the village. Many people were suffering through pain and disease due to limited access to medicine. But this is not rare; there are many people suffering due to inadequate access/accessibility around the world, even in my hometown. One physician may not be able to change the status of underserved communities, however, one can alleviate some of the suffering.

Dr. X, my mentor and supervisor, taught me that the practice of medicine is both a science and an art. As a medical assistant in a pediatric office, I am learning about the patient-physician relationship and the meaningful connection with people that medicine provides. I interact with patients and their families daily. Newborn twins were one of the first patients I helped, and I look forward to seeing their development at successive visits. A young boy who endured a major cardiac surgery was another patient I connected with, seeing his smiling face in the office often as he transitioned from the hospital to his home. I also helped many excited, college-bound teenagers with requests for medical records in order to matriculate. This is the art of medicine – the ability to build relationships with patients and have an important and influential role in their lives, from birth to adulthood and beyond.

In addition, medicine encompasses patient-centered care, such as considering and addressing concerns. While taking patient vitals, I grew discouraged when parents refused the influenza vaccine and could not understand their choices. With my experience in scientific research, I conducted an informal yet insightful study. Over one hundred families were surveyed about their specific reasons for refusing the flu vaccine. I sought feedback on patients’ level of understanding about vaccinations and its interactions with the human immune system. Through this project, I learned the importance of understanding patient’s concerns in order to reassure them through medicine. I also learned the value of communicating with patients, such as explaining the purpose of a recommended vaccine. I hope to further this by attending medical school to become a physician focused on patient-centered care, learning from and teaching my community.

Children have been a common thread in my pursuit of medicine, from perceiving medicine through child-like eyes to interacting daily with children in a medical office. My diverse experiences in patient interaction and the practice of medicine inspire me to become a physician, a path that requires perseverance and passion. Physicians are life-long learners and teachers, educating others whether it is on vaccinations or various diseases. This vocation also requires preparation, and I eagerly look forward to continually learning and growing in medical school and beyond.

To learn more about what to expect from the study of medicine, check out our Study Medicine in the US section.

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why do you want to go to this medical school essay

Why Us Medical School Essay Example with Writing Tips

Our team of editors have put together a step by step process on how to approach the most common secondary essays . Below is a why us medical school essay example along with the steps to take when writing an effective “why us” response. 

why do you want to go to this medical school essay

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Writing Tips for the “Why Us” Essay

Why Us Essay Example Prompts 

Why Us Medical School Essay Example

Introduction .

While one of the most common medical school secondary prompts, it is also one of the most important. This is your opportunity to convince admissions committees at the med schools of which you applied how or why your values align with theirs . As you can imagine, a well-written essay can potentially influence admissions committees to accept an applicant while a poorly written essay may persuade the reader otherwise. Here are a few tips in order to meticulously demonstrate your medical school candidacy:

Tip #1 Answer the Why Us Prompt

Not all “Why Our School” secondary prompts are created equal. Some prompts will ask how you will contribute to their school while others ask about qualities you have that would further their medical school’s mission. Similarly, while you may have prepared a response for the “Why Our School” question for another school, you must tailor it to what the school is asking specifically . If you do not do so, the school does not have answers to the question they are explicitly asking. Remember, they are asking the question for a specific reason! Also, a general response may lead admissions committees to assume you have one response you use for “Why Our School” secondary essays, forcing them to believe you are not as interested or knowledgeable about their med school.  

Tip #2 Do Your Research and Brainstorming

It is one thing to know what interests you about this school but another to pinpoint the specifics of the school that make it unique . Doing so can show your genuine interest in that school and that you have correspondingly done your research. You may use their website but do some deep digging as well – use YouTube videos, alumni or medical student outreach, or research the geographic location/community for aspects that interest you. Consider the following questions when doing your own search:

  • What aspects are important to you when considering a medical school?
  • Is there a particular learning structure or curriculum that benefits your learning style? If so, why?
  • Is this school near home or family? You might articulate how or why this is important to you and your future medical education.
  • What unique aspects interest you about this school? Why?
  • Why do you perceive an education at this school would be best for your training? 

Tip #3 Be Specific 

Commonly, students fall into the pitfall of discussing  how the mission statement resonates with them . If the mission statement does, in fact, resonate with you, be sure to discuss why as well as show evidence or examples for how this is true . Often, it is important to be specific about what interests you about the school to demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest. Doing so will increase your likelihood of acceptance as admissions committees are interested in accepting students knowledgeable about the school and willing to represent their school enthusiastically. Is there a club or aspect of the curriculum that interests you? Talk about it! 

Tip #4 Reference Aspects of The Medical School (but do not tell them about their own institution!)

There is certainly a difference between the following:

School X values underserved populations and commitment to community health.

Of particular interest, School X emphasizes underserved communities which has been a passion of mine, evidenced by my involvement in Healthcare for the Homeless.

As you can see, this latter example emphasizes what interests the student about the school while avoiding outright telling the admissions committee a fact about their school.

Takeaways Surrounding the “Why Our School” Medical School Secondary Prompt

Therefore, like any other written aspect of your application, it is important to demonstrate additional details about you as a candidate to paint a vivid picture of who you are. As a result, it is essential to marry what interests you about the school and your own personal qualities or characteristics as opposed to solely discussing one or the other. Here, we want to strive to have the best of both worlds. Be honest and genuine – this is the key. Allowing the reader insight into who you are will give them more information to make a decision about your candidacy for acceptance into medical school. 


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“Why Us” Secondary Essay Example Prompts

Example 1: “Why have you selected the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine for your medical education? Please be as specific as possible.” ( Miami Miller School of Medicine )

Example 2: “Why do you wish to attend Meharry Medical College, School of Medicine?” ( Meharry Medical College )

Example 3: “If you are not a Kansas resident, what is your specific interest in applying to the University of Kansas School of Medicine?” ( KU School of Medicine )

Example 4: “In 500 words or fewer, please explain your reasons for applying to the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine. Please be specific.” ( Jacobs School of Medicine )

Example 5: “Why have you chosen to apply to the Georgetown University School of Medicine and how do you think your education at Georgetown will prepare you to become a physician for the future? (1 page, formatted at your discretion)” ( Georgetown University School of Medicine )

Example 6: “ How will you contribute to the diversity of your medical school class and the University of Virginia School of Medicine?” (Virginia School of Medicine)

Example 7:  “Why have you chosen to apply to CNUCOM? (250 words maximum)” ( California Northstate University )

Example 8: “Please write a s hort essay about why you are applying to the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. We suggest that you limit your essay to about 550 words.” ( Pritzker School of Medicine )

When I signed up for the trip, I never imagined that I would hold a human heart in my hands. My high school field trip to the Hackensack University Medical Center in 2013 was a unique experience to tour different departments in the hospital and ultimately learn about medicine. After setting foot in one of the best hospitals in the New Jersey / New York Metropolitan area, I knew this one-day visit was not enough, and I longed to continue learning here. Six years later, I found myself without a job after the scribe program was closed at Englewood Health by the end of August 2019. However, it was this initial disappointment that led to me finding my current job at Hackensack University Medical Center and returning to an excellent learning environment. By working as a scribe at Hackensack University Medical Center and rotating in the surgical ICU and surgical step-down unit, I was able to work with and learn from top-ranked physicians such as Dr. Sanjeev Kaul, Dr. Javier Martin Perez, and Dr. Saraswati Dayal. What draws me to the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine is the opportunity to learn at some of the best hospitals serving northern, central, and southern New Jersey and from one of the most diverse populations in the nation. By beginning my medical education through Hackensack Meridian Health, the largest healthcare network of the state, and being exposed to an extraordinary range of patients, disorders, and challenges, I believe I can develop the ability to serve and provide high-quality care to patients from different backgrounds and with a variety of needs.

In addition to the excellent clinical opportunities, I am also interested in the unique curriculum of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. During high school, I developed an interest in preventive health and became more mindful of aspects such as nutrition, posture, sleep hygiene, and physical activity. I want to train to be a physician who can effectively educate others to also take control of their own health. For this reason, I am especially interested in the Human Dimension course. Through building relationships and interacting with families in the community, I will better understand the social, socioeconomic, and environmental determinants of health and ultimately learn how to proactively improve others’ lives.  I am also excited about the special 3+1 curriculum that will enable me to customize my fourth year with many possibilities, including research projects, additional clinical experience, early entry into residencies, community service initiatives, and several dual-degree options. Additionally, the smaller class size will cultivate a close-knit community and enhance my learning experience and training overall. I am fortunate that the school is only a 20-minute drive from home, which would enable me to remain close to my support network and thrive in a familiar environment while attending medical school.

Through this response, the student ties in personal experiences and interests initially within not only Hackensack University but the location. Needless to say, the student does not just include the experience or facts about the school without also making it personal to their journey. The student then progresses to discuss specific elements of the curriculum and class size as well as why it interests them. Therefore, from this response, it is immensely clear why this student is applying to this school specifically as well as what unique aspects interest them about this school.

View more Medical School “Why Us” Examples Here.

why do you want to go to this medical school essay

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why do you want to go to this medical school essay

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Medical School Secondary Essays: The Complete Guide 2023 (Examples Included)

Proven strategies to write your diversity, challenge, “why us,” gap year, “anything else you’d like us to know,” leadership, and covid medical school secondary essays.

why do you want to go to this medical school essay

(Note: This article can also be found in our free, 102-page comprehensive guide to medical school applications, Get Into Medical School: 6 Practical Lessons to Stand Out and Earn Your White Coat . )

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: the medical school diversity essay, part 3: the medical school adversity essay, part 4: the medical school “why us” essay, part 5: the medical school gap year essay, part 6: the medical school leadership essay, part 7: the medical school “anything else you’d like us to know” essay, part 8: the medical school covid essay, appendix: frequently asked questions.

As a medical school applicant, you’ve worked hard on your submitting the best AMCAS application you can. You’ve written a compelling medical school personal statement , a detailed AMCAS Work and Activities section , and more. Now med schools are sending you school-specific secondary applications that require you to write additional essays?

Given that you’ll need to submit multiple essays for most med schools you’ve applied to, the secondary essay writing process can be incredibly grueling, even more so than completing your primary application.

While secondary essay prompts vary in length and topic, there are two pieces of good news:

Secondary essays are typically shorter than your personal statement.

Some topics come up over and over and over again.

You can use this second fact to your advantage by recycling certain “core essays” with a few modifications for multiple schools. Moreover, you can pre-write recurring essays using our medical school secondary essay prompts database .

( WARNING:  Make sure to always answer each school's specific prompt, especially when secondary application fatigue inevitably kicks in. In addition, double check that you've referred to the correct medical schools' names in your secondaries. For example, if you're writing an essay for Tufts, be careful not to mistakenly leave in “Emory” if you're recycling your Emory essay for Tufts.) 

In our nearly 20 years of experience working with medical school applicants, the following six essays—with varying prompts—come up most often:

Diversity essay

Challenge essay (e.g., “Describe a significant challenge you overcame and what you learned from it.”)

“Why us?” essay (e.g., “Why do you hope to attend [our school]?”)

Gap year essay

Leadership essay

“Anything else you’d like us to know?” essay

Rather than list a bunch of general tips on how to write your secondary application essays, in this guide we’ll provide some background for each essay topic before listing and challenging some common misconceptions that limit students’ thinking. Then we’ll offer fresh ways to write each one, as well as strong samples from students who got into prestigious medical schools.

Struggling to write your med school application essays?

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Thank you! Your guide is on its way. In the meantime, please let us know how we can help you crack the the medical school admissions code . You can also learn more about our 1-on-1 medical school admissions support here .

Part 2: The medical school diversity essay

Example diversity essay prompts.

Example 1:  “We seek to train physicians who can connect with diverse patient populations with whom they may not share a similar background. Tell us about an experience that has broadened your own worldview or enhanced your ability to understand those unlike yourself and what you learned from it.” ( Wake Forest School of Medicine )

Example 2: “ The Committee on Admissions regards the diversity (broadly defined) of an entering class as an important factor in serving the educational mission of the school. The Committee on Admissions strongly encourages you to share unique, personally important and/or challenging factors in your background which may include such discussions as the quality of your early education, gender, sexual orientation, any physical challenges, and life or work experiences. Please describe how these factors have influenced your goals and preparation for a career in medicine and may help you to uniquely contribute to the Stanford learning environment.” ( Stanford University School of Medicine )

Diversity essay background

Medical schools love  advertising the diversity of their student bodies through their class profile statistics, brochures, and pictures of smiling students from various backgrounds. Is this just for show?

Unlikely. Medicine—and other healthcare fields—are most effectively practiced when clinicians are able to understand and respect whomever is seeking service, regardless of their backgrounds. Thus, having a diverse student body creates a stimulating learning environment that incorporates multiple perspectives.

Before we get into misconceptions about the diversity essay, let’s clarify the meaning of “cultural competency” by first offering the NIH’s definition : “Deliver[ing] services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patients."

In other words, cultural competency refers to:

The awareness that patients have diverse health beliefs, practices, and needs

The effort and willingness to understand these differences

The effort and willingness to incorporate these differences to provide effective care that fits patients' contexts

On the other hand, cultural competency does not mean:

Believing you know everything about a particular group of people—including your own—and therefore knowing exactly how to treat them

Having to learn everything about a particular group of people before you are able to effectively treat them

Diversity essay misconception 1: “I don’t come from a minority background, so I have nothing to write about.”

Let’s clear this up right away: your diversity essay does not have to be about your or others’ ethnocultural or socioeconomic backgrounds. Moving past this notion will expand your thinking and options for choosing a compelling topic many fold.

Diversity can refer to anything that makes you unique or interesting, including:

Your great qualities (e.g., being a social connector)

Unique experiences (e.g., working as a certified scuba diving instructor)

A commitment to service

Visions and goals (e.g., using artificial intelligence to improve healthcare).

Think about why diversity is interesting in the first place: everyone is different. If all people came to medicine from a certain ethnic minority or low socioeconomic background, that wouldn’t be so interesting, would it?

If you do want to focus on ethnocultural and socioeconomic diversity, strong essay topics include:

Extracurricular activities , pursuits, or organizations committed to diversity and social justice issues

Health disparities

Demonstration of multicultural competence during patient interactions

Navigating your own bicultural identity

Diversity essay misconception 2: “I come from an ethnic minority background that’s already well represented in medicine, so I have nothing unique to share.”

We hear this most often from students of various Asian backgrounds who feel their demographic is so well represented in medicine that they cannot make a case for their uniqueness as a medical school applicant.

However, given Asia's many countries, and the races, cultures, subcultures, languages, religions, and philosophies across and within countries, there's probably a ton you could write about. Although you may feel your background is common in medicine, don’t sell yourself short.

Possible topics include:

(If you’re an immigrant) Your immigration and assimilation experience

(If you’re not an immigrant but your parents immigrated to the U.S.) A thoughtful account about the values/perspectives/goals your parents tried to instill in you, how they may have clashed with your values growing up in a bicultural environment, and how you resolved these differences

Different cultural views on healthcare and how both can be valuable for treating patients

Regardless of the topic you choose, as with all essays, make sure to link it back to your identity and experience by answering these questions:

How did you feel?

What qualities did you demonstrate?

What did you learn?

What do you have yet to learn?

How do you plan to apply these lessons throughout your education and career?

Diversity essay misconception 3: “The more I write the words ‘diversity,’ ‘cultural/multicultural,’ and ‘underserved,’ the more admissions committees will be impressed by my cultural sensitivity/awareness/competence.”

Quite the opposite. These terms, especially when used repeatedly or inappropriately, can be cliché and come off as dishonest. The best essays are those that are written honestly about who you are and your actual perspectives and interactions with diverse individuals.

Medical school diversity essay example

There are many things a girl could be self-conscious about growing up, such as facial hair, body odor, or weight gain. Growing up with a few extra pounds than my peers, I was usually chosen last for team sports and struggled to run a 10-minute mile during P.E. classes. As I started to despise school athletics, I turned towards other hobbies, such as cooking and Armenian dance, which helped me start anew with a healthier lifestyle. Since then, I have channeled my passions for nutrition and exercise into my volunteering activities, such as leading culinary workshops for low-income residents of Los Angeles, organizing community farmer’s markets, or conducting dance sessions with elderly patients. I appreciate not only being able to bring together a range of people, varying in age, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity, but also helping instill a sense of confidence and excitement that comes with making better lifestyle decisions. I have enjoyed encouraging kids in the inner city to combat similar issues of weight gain and low self-esteem through after-school gardening and physical activity lessons. Now, I hope to share my love for culinary nutrition and fitness with fellow medical students at UCLA. As students, we can become better physicians by passing on health and nutrition information to future patients, improving quality of life for ourselves and others.

Part 3: The medical school adversity essay

Example adversity essay prompts.

Example 1:  “Share with us a difficult or challenging situation you have encountered and how you dealt with it. In your response, identify both the coping skills you called upon to resolve the dilemma, and the support person(s) from whom you sought advice.” (University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine)

Example 2:  “Tell us about a challenging problem you faced and how you resolved it.” (University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine)  

Adversity essay background

Medical school admissions committees ask about adversity simply to understand how you respond to difficult situations. They want to see that you have the maturity, resilience, and capacity for growth to do well in med school.

In other words, medical schools are not  trying to start a competition to determine which students have experienced the greatest adversity in their lifetimes.

Rather, they want to know how you:

Manage stress

Attempt to resolve issues

Reflect on challenges

Apply learned lessons in your life

Adversity essay misconception 1: “Nothing really bad has ever happened to me. Neither my family members nor I have suffered a serious illness or death. I also did not overcome poverty or flee to America as a political refugee, etc.” 

Let’s say it again: this is not a competition, so it’s perfectly fine if you haven’t experienced an extreme challenge in your life. If you have, you’ll have an obvious topic to discuss, but a significant difficulty alone doesn’t make a great essay.

There are multiple ways to approach adversity essay prompts, including writing about:

Relatable life events (e.g., letting your best friend down, facing major criticism, making new friends after a big move)

Situations beyond your control (e.g., your parents’ divorce, a friend’s drug use).

Adversity essay misconception 2: “Fine. I was able to identify some challenges I’ve faced in life. It still doesn’t matter because none of them are significant enough!”

We get it. Medical school admission is a high stakes process, and you want to stand out in every part of your application.

Remember, however, that the best essays aren’t necessarily the ones with the greatest challenges or sob stories. It's your thoughtfulness and handling of those challenges that will set you apart.

To make this process easier, we ask students to create the following list of 3–4 challenges to help them choose a strong topic. Below we’ve also included a common topic as an example:

Challenge: Difficult academic adjustment from high school to college with corresponding drop in confidence and drive, as well as questioning fitness for medicine

Response: Acknowledged poor study habits and corrected them, humbly asked for help from faculty and classmates

Result: Sustained improvement in study habits and grades, developed mentorships with professors

Lesson: No shame in asking for guidance and help, better to strengthen weakness than rely on false confidence

Once you’ve listed some challenges and their aftermath, choose the one that demonstrates the greatest maturity, thoughtfulness, and growth. Transparency about your hardships and honesty about your growth help to write great essays. It’s also more than acceptable to discuss how you’re still a work in progress and mention the areas you’d like to continue improving on.

Medical school adversity essay example

I named my one-year-old beagle Fitch, after my favorite clothing store. That fact recurred through my mind as I shouted her name for hours at the break of dawn, wondering how I left the door open and where she could have gone. Was she attacked by roaming bands of coyotes? Killed in a hit-and-run? Lost in the desert mountains? I had raised and taken care of Fitch for years, and so I believed I was solely responsible for her loss and her safe return. Yet, my mother admonished me to not let guilt interfere with my judgments and to reach out for help. Therefore, I enlisted the support of the community, including friends, fellow dog owners, and neighbors, some of whom I had never met before, to find my pudgy, spotted beagle.

Over the next two days, this dedicated group helped me create flyers to post in nearby parks, organize teams for day and night searches, and send neighborhood-wide emails. It’s hard to be prepared for difficult situations like these, so between the sleepless nights and uneventful status updates, I found myself learning to be calm and patient like my neighbors, Bill and Susanna, encouraged me to be. Finally, on the third day, a biker found Fitch behind a dumpster, shivering beneath a pile of debris and branches. Although she was eventually safe, I would not be able to hold and feed her to this day had I not knocked on that first neighbor’s door, opening me up to both the physical and mental strength of the surrounding community.

Example “Why us?” essay prompts

Example 1:  “What makes LLUSM particularly attractive to you?” (Loma Linda University School of Medicine)

Example 2:  “Why have you chosen to apply to the Georgetown University School of Medicine and how do you think your education at Georgetown will prepare you to become a physician for the future?” ( Georgetown University School of Medicine )

“Why us?” essay background

These are everyone’s favorite prompts (we wish our sarcasm could jump through the screen).

The first step to writing an effective “Why us?” essay is to restrain yourself from writing about how great their medical school is or where it's located.

Glad that’s out of the way. Now consider why admissions committees want you to answer this question. After all, they know you’re applying to many other schools and that your GPA and MCAT scores are at least reasonably close to their admission averages.

(Suggested reading: How Many Medical Schools Should I Apply To? Which Ones? and Average GPA and MCAT Score for Every Medical School )

Admissions committees read thousands of essays annually and want to know that you’ve considered them for reasons beyond the obvious (location, prestige, average GPA and MCAT, etc.).

By integrating your qualities, experiences, and aspirations with their specific mission, programs, and resources, you will have a unique opportunity to demonstrate "fit" in your application. Don’t take this for granted!

“Why us?” essay misconception 1: “I should just read a school’s mission statement and research available resources on their website, and then rewrite the same information in essay form.”

The vast majority of students approach the “Why us?” essay this way, so it won’t make your response seem very special.

We basically see the expanded version of the following essay 90+ percent of the time:

I want to go to [School Name] because of their wonderful [program name] and incredible [resources]. {Program] cultivates [attribute] that helps their students become great physicians. In addition, [resources] provide support to help students reach their potential.

You should be able to see how this essay says nothing about why YOU want to go to their school.

Moreover, medical schools already know about all of the programs and resources they offer, so you wouldn’t be providing much value through writing solely about those offerings.

The better approach to this essay would be to look through schools’ websites to find programs and resources that actually interest you and to identify what each school keeps boasting about (e.g., perhaps they mention diversity or early clinical experience multiple times on their homepage). Then consider:

How YOUR experiences fit with their offerings

What YOU could contribute

How YOU would uniquely benefit from their program

For example, if a school focuses a lot on community service and you have similar experiences, mention that. In addition, let the school know how you want to further focus your skills while there. On the other hand, if you have a more research heavy background and are applying to the same school, you could either focus on research or discuss how community service will make you a more well-rounded physician. The more specific you can be, the better.

“Why us?” essay misconception 2: “There’s no other way to find out information about a medical school than by reading their site.”

Looking at a school’s website and demonstrating fit is certainly a tried-and-true approach to answering "Why us?" essay prompts, but it isn’t the only one.

To really impress admissions committees, you could integrate information from current students or recent alumni into your response. Ask these individuals whether they would be willing to share their experiences attending a particular school, and also whether you would be a good fit there given your background and goals.

How do you find these people? The easiest people to contact are those you know personally or through a mutual acquaintance. Otherwise, you could contact a school’s administrative staff and ask whether they could connect you to a current student. While this requires additional work, it will be well worth it for your top school preferences.

If you have to contact a stranger, use the following email template:

Dear [Student Name],

I hope this email finds you well. My name is [Your Name}, and I am currently completing my med school applications. I’m especially interested in attending [School Name] and am therefore hoping to get some more information about the program. [School Name]'s admissions committee gave me your email address as someone who could help me out.

I'd really appreciate it if you would spare 15-20 minutes to answer 3-5 quick questions in the upcoming days. If so, please let me know some days and times that are most convenient for you, your time zone, and the best number to reach you. I’ll do my best to accommodate.

Thanks for your time and consideration. Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

[Your Name]

Medical school “Why us?” essay example

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Throughout my undergrad years, I’ve found that working hard to involve myself with others and their unique perspectives is one of the most productive ways in which I can learn. For example, I used to believe that illnesses were just a set of tangible symptoms that resulted solely from maladaptive genes. However, after working closely with families in Boston's inner city, I have come to realize how racial, physical, and social factors, such as a lack of access to fresh produce or primary health services, can influence the likelihood of disease. As I obtained a broader understanding of the many factors that contribute to health, I find myself asking new questions and wanting to learn more. How can we properly assess a community’s needs and design appropriate solutions? How can an understanding of sociocultural factors be used to heal current patients and prevent new ones?

I believe that the answers to these questions and others will come from the Community Health Program at the University of Washington (UW). The year-round lecture series on topics, such as “Health Disparities: An Unequal World's Biggest Challenge,” will allow me to engage closely with faculty and students to work towards developing holistic community-based solutions. Furthermore, the UW PEERS clinic and Friends of UW provide an opportunity to work closely with urban Seattle neighborhoods similar to those I have worked with in Boston.

Having connected with a range of Boston families, varying in age, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity, I have improved my sense of self-awareness and cultural sensitivity, attributes I hope to continue developing with the surrounding Seattle community. I am confident that UW and the Community Health Program can further prepare me to be a physician who not only improves the lives of individual patients, but also addresses the needs of entire communities.

Example gap year essay prompts

Example 1:  If you are not attending college during the upcoming academic year, what are your plans? ( Weill Cornell Medical College )

Example 2:  If you have taken a gap year(s), please explain what you have been, or will be, doing since graduating from your undergrad institution. ( Baylor College of Medicine )

Gap year essay background

Essay prompts that ask about  gap years tend to be fairly straightforward. Given that the average age of med school matriculants is currently 24, these days, it’s more common than not for applicants to have taken one or more years off between undergrad and med school. 

If that describes you, here’s how to think about your gap year essay: medical schools simply want to know what you’ve been up to since graduation and how those activities have prepared you to succeed in med school and beyond.

To approach this essay, begin with the factual. Here are the questions you should try to address in your gap year essay:

What was your goal in taking a gap year?

What did you do during your gap year? Or, if you haven’t taken it yet, what are your plans? Be specific in regard to dates, durations, jobs worked, places traveled to, etc.

How did your gap year experiences enhance your preparedness for medical school, your future skill set as a physician, and enrich your point of view about the world and/or the healthcare field? In other words, what did you learn that you’ll carry with you into medicine?

Bonus points if you can also connect your gap year experience to a specific program or feature of the medical school you're applying to.

Gap year essay misconception 1: “My gap year was unrelated to medicine so I have nothing to write about.”

If you’ve spent your gap year engaged in something directly related to medicine—say you worked in a research lab or were employed as an EMT —it’s easy to argue that you’re better prepared for med school now than when you were right out of college. But what if you’ve spent your gap year doing something else? 

Even if your gap year experiences were non-medical in nature, you should still explain how they’ve helped you become a stronger med school candidate. 

For example, say your main goal in taking a gap year was to improve your MCAT score, and you spent the year studying for the test while supporting yourself through a bartending job. Not only would you want to talk about much you were able to improve your score, you’d also want to discuss the skills you gained from bartending that are relevant to being a physician, such as social skills, teamwork, and adaptability.

Gap year essay misconception 2: “Writing about how I took a gap year to become a better candidate will make me look bad.”

Sometimes applicants who took a gap year to improve their medical school application profile in some way (a better MCAT score, more clinical experience, completing prerequisites, etc.) worry that talking about this in their essays will make them come off as an underqualified candidate. 

This could not be further from the truth. In reality, so long as your time off has yielded meaningful results, medical schools will see your efforts as evidence that you’re resilient, mature, and working towards constant improvement. It doesn’t matter that you weren’t the ideal candidate straight out of college—what matters is that you’re ready for med school now. 

Medical school gap year essay example

After graduating from college in May, I moved to Mexico City in order to attend a Spanish language school full-time and volunteer on the weekends at a low-income women’s health clinic. My goals in taking a gap year have been to improve my Spanish language skills to fluency while gaining experience in an international health setting. 

I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles and plan to return to the area after medical school. While I studied Spanish through the intermediate level in college, given that 45 percent of residents in the LA metropolitan area currently speak Spanish at home, I feel that advancing my Spanish skills beyond the conversational is critical to becoming the best healthcare provider that I can be to patients in LA.

Volunteering at the women’s clinic has also been illuminating. Not only has it accelerated my language acquisition, particularly in that it’s helped me pick up valuable Spanish medical vocabulary, it’s also opened my eyes to how many women do not have adequate access to prenatal care and routine preventative services like cervical cancer screenings. I know that these issues are not unique to Mexico; too many women face the same barriers in the United States. 

As the result of my gap year experiences, I am committed to providing compassionate care for all patients, especially those without financial resources or English fluency, and plan to work towards creating greater healthcare access for disadvantaged patients. I look forward to the opportunity to begin this work as a volunteer at Columbia’s student-run free clinics for vulnerable populations in New York City.

Example leadership essay prompts

Example 1: “Describe your most unique leadership, entrepreneurial, or creative activity.” ( UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine )

Example 2: “The pillars of our curriculum are Leadership, Curiosity, and Commitment. Tell us about how you have embodied one or more of these attributes in your path to medicine thus far. In which of these areas do you see the most opportunity for personal growth and why?” (University of Colorado School of Medicine)

Example 3: Please describe your most meaningful leadership positions. ( Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons )

Leadership essay background

Medical schools are looking for students who are going to drive change in healthcare. They don’t want students who only want to be physicians; they want leaders, too. 

Why is leadership important in a medical context? There are several problems that plague the United States healthcare system today, including rising healthcare costs, inequities in access to care, racial discrimination in medicine, and more. Change begins with doctors—think of Paul Farmer, Vivek Murthy, and Atul Gawande. All of these doctors are leaders in their respective fields and have created structural change in specific areas of medicine, whether it was through research, writing, or policy. 

Medical schools want students who are going to make an effort to solve problems, like the aforementioned physicians. The leadership essay is an opportunity to show admissions committees that you have what it takes to make a difference by reflecting on your own experiences as a leader. 

Over 90% of our students get into med school—the first time.

Leadership essay misconception #1: “i haven’t had any experiences as a leader.”.

One does not have to hold formal leadership positions to be considered a leader. For example, working as a teacher could be considered a leadership position even though a teacher might not have a formal title like “President” or “Treasurer.” Leadership could also entail taking care of a family elder or directing a group project. By reflecting on positions and scenarios in which you have made an impact and demonstrated initiative, you will likely find an example of your own leadership.

Of course, it is to your benefit if you have formal leadership positions—it means that someone thought you were worthy enough to be chosen for some sort of responsibility. But, if you don’t, that’s perfectly okay as well. The most important takeaway of this essay won’t necessarily be the status or level of the experience you describe—it’s what you learned and how you describe it.

Leadership essay misconception #2: “It is enough to just describe my leadership experiences and what I did in them.”

These essays are a place for you to reflect on your experiences as a leader and demonstrate what you’ve learned—simply describing your work isn’t going to cut it. 

The idea in this essay is to show growth. If you are applying to medical school, it goes without saying that you have a lot more to learn before you can become a practicing physician. This is true not only when it comes to medical and scientific knowledge, but also when it comes to the personal qualities necessary to be an effective doctor.

In this essay, you will want to discuss your past growth as a leader—highlighting this experience is how you can indicate to medical schools that you will continue to learn and develop as a leader on your road to becoming a physician. Therefore, your essay must be reflective: to discuss past growth, you must deeply analyze your own experiences.

Medical school leadership essay example

During my sophomore year of college, I was selected as the Executive Director of BerkeleyShelter, an undergraduate volunteer organization that operates a shelter for students experiencing houselessness. The next year, I founded HealthGroup, a nonprofit focused on increasing access to affordable medications for individuals with chronic conditions. From these activities, my understanding of what it means to be a leader has begun to change. At HealthGroup, we tried to drive change by drafting legislation, working with elected representatives, and launching campaigns to raise awareness about issues surrounding medication prices. As the founder, I took it upon myself to come up with a plan for other staff and members to follow. I thought it was my job as a leader to direct the organization’s work. But, initially, HealthGroup struggled to create any sort of tangible change in prescription medicine prices; there were too many obstacles generated by pre-existing problems within the American healthcare system. In fact, one year after HealthGroups’s conception, not much had changed. Of course, I wasn’t expecting to fix the healthcare system overnight, but I didn’t expect my efforts to have yielded so little. Before my senior year of college, I began to wonder how I could change HealthGroup: what could I do differently as the leader of the organization? I came to recognize that I hadn’t really given others an opportunity to share their own ideas—I had just assumed that I needed to run the group by myself. Maybe, as a leader, it wasn’t my job to single-handedly decide the organization’s direction but, rather, to create an environment where others could share their thoughts. Today, HealthGroup has written several bills that have created significant changes in prescription drug access—the results of a 40-person collaboration. 

Example “Anything else you’d like us to know?” essay prompts

Example 1:  Is there anything else you would like us to know? ( Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons )

Example 2:  Please share something about yourself that is not addressed elsewhere in your application that you feel might be helpful to our Admissions Committee. ( Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine )

“Anything else you’d like us to know?” essay background

The open-ended nature of “Anything else you’d like us to know?” essays tends to cause confusion for many applicants. Being invited to share anything you want can be intimidating!

The good news is that these types of essays allow you to highlight something about yourself that isn’t well represented elsewhere in your application, and you may even be able to use one of your pre-writes to do it.

There are two basic ways to approach “Anything else you’d like us to know?” essays:

You can submit one of the above pre-writes that hasn’t already been asked for. For example, say a medical school asks you for an “Anything else?” essay but not a “Why us?” essay. In that case, you could slot in your “Why us?” essay here. 

You can write a completely new essay— if time permits you to do it well. For applicants who choose this route, common topics include strengths that haven’t gotten much attention yet, such as:

Extensive volunteer work

A strong research background

Other impressive achievements or skills

If you decide to write a new essay, take care not to treat the space like a catch-all by simply listing a bunch of skills or experiences, which will make your response sound like a résumé rather than an essay. Instead, give your essay focus by first deciding what you want to communicate to adcoms (for instance, your research bona fides), and then choose a few related examples that can together create a through line towards medicine. Despite the vagueness of the “Anything else?” prompt, your essay should still make an argument.

Even if you choose to write about a strength that isn’t explicitly related to medicine, such as an artistic or athletic achievement, you’ll still want to draw a connection to how it has made you a better medical school candidate.

“Anything else you’d like us to know?” essay misconception 1: “I must answer this prompt even though it’s optional.”

“Anything else you’d like us to know?” essays are often optional, which leaves many applicants struggling to determine whether they should answer the question at all. Some applicants erroneously believe that they must answer it, no matter what.  

Our advice is to not force it. We generally consider these types of essays as falling somewhere between optional and required. 

If you have something to add that would help further differentiate you as an applicant, you should do so, and if you’re able to do this using a pre-write, even better. However, if submitting an essay here would seem completely forced, or if you aren’t able to use a pre-write and don’t have the time to commit to writing a new essay that’s high quality, it probably isn’t worth it. 

The bottom line is to always optimize for quality.

“Anything else you’d like us to know?” essay misconception 2: “Any unused pre-write will work here.”

In many cases, you will be able to take advantage of your unused pre-writes to answer “Anything else you’d like us to know?” prompts. However, before shuffling through your already-written essays, consider whether there indeed  is  something you want adcoms to know beyond what you've been able to communicate through AMCAS or secondaries. In other words, you should ask yourself if the pre-write you want to use adds anything meaningful to your candidacy. 

You also don't have to necessarily use your “best” secondary here. Instead, consider which of your answers will best  fit  with the remainder of your application to that school, based on what you've already written for them and what they're looking for in candidates.

Medical school “Anything else you’d like us to know?” essay example

On the first Sunday of every month, I leave the house at 5:30 AM, coffee in hand, so I can be among a group of 20 volunteers who greet a new group of “bully breed” dogs ready to find loving families. Despite being sensitive, loyal pets, these dogs face pervasive negative stereotypes of aggression that make them among the most vulnerable to abuse and euthanasia. Fortunately, the Paws Please rescue culls bully breeds from high-kill shelters in the greater Houston area to give them a second chance at adoption. 

I first became acquainted with Paws Please when my own family adopted an American Staffordshire Terrier, Mary, through them when I was 15. Mary quickly bounded her way into the center of our family, and as a teenager it deeply distressed me whenever I attempted to reconcile the joy she brought us with the fact that she’d come close to being put down. A year later, I decided that I would become a Paws Please volunteer in order to help save dogs like Mary. I began attending the monthly “homecoming day” when I was a junior in high school, and have continued this work through my four years at Rice. 

On homecoming day, every new dog receives grooming, vaccines, microchips, and more. For six years, it’s brought me immense gratification to provide these initial moments of care, sometimes for the first time in a dog’s life. While many dogs come from troubling situations and arrive frightened or in need of medical attention, being part of the experienced volunteer team has taught me a great deal about taking stressful or even upsetting moments in stride, not to mention making effective use of teamwork to “process” large numbers of dogs efficiently but with thoroughness and compassion. In fact, as I’ve completed shadowing hours, medical volunteer work, and other clinical experiences as a premed, I’ve frequently found myself leaning on skills that I first developed through Paws Please, and I believe that these experiences will help shape my competence as a physician. I’m grateful for what my work in animal rescue has taught me and for the chance to make a difference in these dogs’ lives.  

Example COVID essay prompts:

Example 1: “Describe how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted your pathway to medical school. Include any academic, personal, financial or professional barriers, as well as other relevant information.” ( UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine )

Example 2: “What have you done during the recent COVID-19 pandemic that will better prepare you to be a medical student and future physician?” (University of Miami Miller School of Medicine)

Example 3 : “More than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, what do you believe are major needs in health care and how have your expectations for your role as a doctor changed?” (Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School)

COVID essay background

During the 2020–2021 application cycle, many medical schools added COVID secondary essay prompts—usually optional—that allowed applicants to discuss how the pandemic had impacted their applications.

Some med schools have continued to ask applicants to write about their pandemic experiences. However, a difference we’ve observed is that, compared with the 2020–2021 cycle, these essays were more frequently required during the 2021–2022 cycle. 

Most COVID essay prompts can be divided into the following categories, with some med schools asking for a combination of the two:

Prompts that ask you to explain how the pandemic has negatively affected your medical school applications. In these essays, you can discuss disruptions to your education, test taking, and extracurriculars, plus any relevant personal circumstances that prevented you from presenting your best self to adcoms.

Prompts in which you’re tasked with reflecting more broadly on the pandemic, whether that’s in the realm of personal challenges you’ve faced or medicine in general.

COVID essay misconception 1: “I should make excuses for everything that’s less than ideal about my application.” 

It’s likely that the pandemic has thrown plenty of obstacles in the way of your medical school applications, but that doesn’t mean they should all receive equal weight in your COVID essay.

Keep the following in mind, particularly when answering prompts that ask how COVID has affected your preparedness for medical school, and especially if those prompts are optional: the essays are meant to account for appreciable challenges to your application process, allowing you to be seen holistically. Med schools want to understand how you’ve been kept from putting your best foot forward.

“Appreciable challenges” will differ for everyone. For some applicants, they might include illness, the death of a loved one, or financial difficulties. For others, they might mean a lack of access to required extracurriculars, like shadowing or research, or fewer opportunities to take the MCAT.

Whatever circumstances affected you, we suggest trying not to lament relatively insignificant frustrations, like receiving a worse grade in a virtual class than you might have in person or having to complete an extracurricular online. If your essay reads like you’re looking for sympathy regarding something minor, you’ll risk seeming insensitive or out of touch.

That said, it’s fine to write that you found virtual learning challenging or that certain opportunities were unavailable to you. Pick the circumstances that affected you most, stick to the facts, and make sure to talk about how you adapted and what you learned, with the goal of showing that you’re still a strong applicant.

COVID essay misconception 2: “Nothing bad happened to me during the pandemic, so I have nothing to write.”

As we just mentioned, everyone’s pandemic experience has been different, and it’s certainly true that some people have been much more fortunate than others. Nevertheless, COVID has affected everyone, and to reiterate what we wrote in the adversity essay section earlier, it’s not a competition to see who’s suffered the most.

Even if you’ve been relatively fortunate during the pandemic, you can still write about your COVID experience if it’s required of you. Describe the ways that you were affected and what you did to meet those challenges. Again, the key is to remain factual rather than seem like you’re seeking pity for relatively minor inconveniences. It’s also okay to acknowledge that you’ve been fortunate.

Additionally, bear in mind that a COVID essay doesn’t inherently need to describe something difficult. If appropriate to the prompt, you can also discuss:

Unexpected events or silver linings of the pandemic

Ways you’ve changed, lessons you’ve learned, or perspectives you’ve gained

How the pandemic informed your views of medicine

COVID essay example

When my college campus closed in March 2020 due to COVID-19, just a few months before my graduation, the momentum I’d felt propelling me into the future was suddenly put on hold. Nevertheless, I recognized that I was fortunate in many ways, including as a student. Although transitioning to online classes was admittedly disorienting, I’d already completed the vast majority of my coursework in person, including all my premed requirements.

However, my post-graduation plans changed dramatically. I was set to take a gap year, during which time I’d planned to complete my medical school applications while working full-time in the genetics lab I’d been a part of for the past year. Because the lab shut down along with the rest of the university, my position was paused and then a few months later cancelled entirely. As a result of losing this additional research experience, I decided to delay applying to medical school for another year.

Looking for ways to stay busy and help others after graduating, I became a virtual volunteer with a domestic abuse crisis text hotline and an online MCAT tutor. After a few months of job searching, I also began working as an ER scribe in August 2020. Although an intense experience, it was deeply gratifying to work with patients during the pandemic, and my clinical knowledge increased rapidly.

In April 2021, I was invited to come back to the genetics lab, which had reopened months before with just a couple researchers. While I’m grateful that, improbably, I’m now able to complete the gap year I’d envisioned pre-pandemic, I also know that the unexpected experiences of the past 16 months have made me a better future physician and reinforced my certainty that medicine is a field I’m excited and proud to be a part of.

Final thoughts

Secondary applications will likely be one of the most time-consuming, stressful, and exhausting parts of your application process (the other is the medical school admission interview circuit if you’re fortunate to receive multiple invitations).

Nevertheless, you should give yourself some breaks to recharge so that you never rush submissions for the sake of rolling admissions and sacrifice quality.

Like every other piece of written material you submit, aim not only to answer the prompt, but also to give admissions committees deeper insights into what makes YOU so great for their school specifically.

why do you want to go to this medical school essay

About the Author

Dr. Shirag Shemmassian is the Founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting and one of the world's foremost experts on medical school admissions. For nearly 20 years, he and his team have helped thousands of students get into medical school using his exclusive approach.

Enjoyed this article? Get the FREE, 102-page  guide we use to help over 90% of our students get into med school—the first time.

Get into medical school: 6 practical lessons to stand out and earn your white coat.

Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) we receive about medical school secondary essays that are not answered in this guide.

We encourage you to ask any other questions you have about secondary essays in the comments section below. We’ll make sure to answer your questions within 24 hours and add some of them to this FAQ section to make it easier for other students to find this information.

When should I expect to receive secondary applications?

Once you certify and submit your primary application and AMCAS receives your official transcripts, they begin verifying your application. You will receive your secondary applications after AMCAS completes verification and releases your primary applications to medical schools.

Because the verification process can take several weeks, it's important to submit your primary application as soon as possible after AMCAS opens submission on June 1. Students who submit AMCAS in early June can expect to begin receiving their secondary applications in late June to early July, positioning themselves to take full advantage of rolling admissions.

Note: Some DO schools send out secondaries as early as mid- to late-June.

(Further reading: The Ideal Medical School Application Timeline )

Will all medical schools send me a secondary application?

The majority will. However, whereas most schools send secondary applications without screening your primary application, some competitive schools will screen. You may experience a slight delay in receiving secondary applications from schools that screen.

How soon after receiving a secondary application should I aim to submit it?

As soon as possible, without sacrificing quality. While you should aim to submit secondaries within two weeks after receiving them, this is not required and you should never forfeit essay quality to do so. Many students believe there is a two-week “rule,” but very few schools actually expect the secondary to come back within two weeks. Moreover, the schools that have this expectation will make this explicit. In the grand scheme, a few days to a week later won’t make a huge difference.

Is it really a good idea to pre-write secondary essays? What if a school changes their secondary prompts during my admissions cycle?

Yes, you should absolutely pre-write secondary essays whenever possible because medical schools rarely change their prompts. In the event that a medical school does  change their prompt, you'll likely be able to recycle your already-written essay for other schools.

Are “optional” essays really optional?

Yes. You should only answer an optional prompt when you have appropriate information to discuss. Forced responses will annoy admissions committees and can cast a negative light on the rest of your application.

Which secondaries should I work on first?

We recommend prioritizing your target schools, and specifically those that have the longest secondaries (so you can recycle more material for future applications) and those that you're most interested in attending. (so you can maximize the rolling admissions process at those institutions)

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why do you want to go to this medical school essay

June 22, 2022

How to Write the “Why This Medical School” Secondary Essay

Secondary Strategy: Why Do You Want To Go Here?

One of the most popular secondary questions asked by medical schools is “why our program?” Saying why you’re attracted to a particular school can be a hard thing to explain, especially when you’ve looked at so many programs that they’ve all begun to blur. I think that’s why I so often see the same answer: “early clinical exposure, great faculty and learning environment, and opportunities to work overseas and/or in the student-run clinic.” These reasons may all be true, but they come across as if all medical schools are the same. And just like you want them to differentiate you from your competition, they want to know that you’ve taken the time to learn specifically about them.

3 ways to truly stand out in your “Why this school” secondary essay

Here are 3 ways you can go beyond the cookie-cutter response, show that you’ve researched the school, and demonstrate the program’s distinctive appeal for you when writing your secondary essays :

  • Highlight your unique fit What about this program, and this program alone, matches with your particular interests ? If you have been volunteering in an oncology lab and know that Vanderbilt is investigating patient responses to neoadjuvant chemotherapy, then discuss your interest in that field and the special opportunities the school provides. Perhaps even bring up the work of a particular professor or researcher you admire, particularly if you’ve read one of their works. If you want to explore opportunities for medical publishing, then you’ll want to mention Stanford’s interdisciplinary studies and highlight your interest in their other faculties.
  • Explain why “where” is important Sometimes you might also want to bring in the school’s location and explain why it’s important to your education. For instance, George Washington University ’s proximity to Washington, D.C. makes it great for people interested in community health promotion and policy; a busy urban center like Tulane or SUNY Downstate will expose you to diverse patient populations found nowhere else, and are special draws for those interested in fields like infectious disease; and the University of Washington gives students access to rural medicine that few programs can offer. Support systems – family members living nearby, for instance – can also be mentioned (in fact, some schools specifically ask for this information), but in general, don’t make accidents of geography the main focus of this essay.
  • Align your philosophies Finally, I find that one of the best ways to approach the “Why this school?” secondary question is to try to discover the school’s philosophy and then shape your answers around that . For instance, Yale is renowned for the “Yale System” and takes a lot of pride in their interdisciplinary, non-competitive, self-directed learning approach. Each program is going to have its own philosophy that you’ll discover by exploring their website (as well as talking with alumni, if you have the chance to do that).

Your time spent researching is invaluable!

Identifying why each school is special is definitely a time-consuming task. However, it might be one of the best ways you spend your time when preparing answers for your secondary essays. While you’re ensuring that you attract the attention of multiple schools, you’re also gaining information you need about them. And when you have to choose between multiple acceptances, you’ll know exactly where you fit.

Do you need help determining how you’ll stand out in your secondary essays? Check out Accepted’s one-on-one Medical School Admissions Consulting & Editing Services and create secondary essays that will help you stand out and get ACCEPTED.

Register for our upcoming webinar: Writing Secondary Essays That Get You Accepted!

Related Resources:

  • The Ultimate Guide to Secondary Essay Questions from Top Med Schools , a free guide
  • Track Your Secondary Application Progress with a Spreadsheet
  • 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Medical School Application Essays

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why do you want to go to this medical school essay

10 Successful Medical School Essays

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-- 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

Sponsored by MedEdits : MedEdits Medical Admissions has been helping applicants get into medical schools like Harvard for more than ten years. Structured like an academic medical department, MedEdits has experts in admissions, writing, editing, medicine, and interview prep working with you collaboratively so you can earn the best admissions results possible.

“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.

why do you want to go to this medical school essay

How to Write a Medical School Essay

  • Sasha Chada
  • November 14, 2022


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Applying to medical school is hard; to help you out, we wrote a detailed guide which goes through the process step by step. Part of this process, just as when you applied to college, is writing essays. While these are similar in some ways to the essays you had to write while applying to undergrad, there are a number of key differences. 

In this article we’ll go through what the different kinds of medical school essays are, and what medical schools are looking for in them. Just as with your college essays, you’ll need to spend significant time brainstorming, writing, and editing these essays. Let’s get started!

The Personal Statement

Just like the Common App, the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) requires applicants to compose a personal statement. Not all medical schools require this, but the vast majority do, and just as with college applications, it is a key component of your application. Here is their prompt: 

  • Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school. (5,300 characters)

This is a very vague prompt, and of a long-ish length (approximately 500 words). We recommend writing the essay in a program that easily lets you track character count, to make sure you end up within the limits.

The prompt is vague on purpose. Admissions officers want to give you leeway to answer with the most relevant information to you and to your story. This openness can feel overwhelming, but it’s also a great opportunity. 

What you end up writing about is up to you, but should reflect your own personal journey to medicine. The main challenge students face is writing an essay which covers all the needed ground without being cliche. This is because there are only so many reasons people have for applying to medical school, and admissions officers have heard many of these stories thousands of times before. 

In order to prevent your essay from being lost in an undifferentiated mass, you need to be as specific and authentic as possible. Avoid using generic terms and motivations, and examine deeply why your experiences lead you to apply to medical school. Why do you want to help people? Why do you want to use medicine to do so?

Your personal statement should demonstrate the traits admissions officers want to see in applicants: a desire to help, the ability to communicate, compassion and curiosity, and a level of resilience in the face of pressure and adversity. Do not merely tell admissions officers you have these traits: demonstrate them through the details you include in the essay.

When writing your own statement therefore, you need to consider which of these traits you best embody, and which of your experiences have best demonstrated them. If these experiences relate to the field of medicine as well, all the better. There is no such thing as a perfect topic or essay, but you can write a strong one, and that is often the difference between acceptance and rejection if your numbers are good.

why do you want to go to this medical school essay

Supplemental Essays

Just as with undergraduate applications , different medical schools ask for different supplemental essays. The number of essays each school asks for, the specific prompts, and the length of each varies greatly. There are, however, a limited number of topics, so it is quite easy to reuse an essay you have written for one school to answer another school’s prompt with only some editing in between.

Here are the most common essay topics: 

We’ll go through each in turn, and explore what colleges are looking for with each, and how you should approach them. 

This essay question is not always directly related to diversity in your own background, but instead to gauge your level of empathy, cultural competency, and ability to work with populations who are significantly different from yourself. 

This does not mean you need to be a member of a minority group, or that you need to claim to understand every particular experience of one of these groups. Instead, talking about an extracurricular experience, personal identity, or other experience which demonstrates these traits is the best way to proceed. 

It can be easy to fall into cliche, especially if talking about working with the underprivileged. We recommend using authentic details of your experiences. The more concrete the details you provide, the better admissions officers will understand you, and the more your essay will stand out from the rest they have to read.

Just like colleges, medical schools love asking this question. The goal is to understand why you want to attend their institution in particular, and why their institution will best serve your goals within medicine. 

This means that you should not simply write about how great the medical school is. Admissions officers work there; presumably, they already know how great the school is and don’t need you to tell them. Instead, you should focus on the slightly different question of why the school is great for you. 

This means researching the various programs and special services the school offers, the professors and research labs you want to work with, and how you will make use of these in your academic career. 

There are resources like these at most schools; while these essays will require more legwork to research and to write, they are just as cross-applicable as any other med school supplemental. 

This essay covers a challenging problem or situation you faced, and how you overcame it. Medical school is not easy, and the challenges you will face in a career of medicine are often literally matters of life and death. The purpose of this question, therefore, is to see how you respond to adverse circumstances, and measure your maturity and responsibility for the rigors of medicine.

The important part is less the specific challenge you responded to, but instead what it says about you. They want to see how you react under pressure, how you deal with stress, that you attempt to resolve issues, and what you learned from the experience as a whole. 

Students often worry that they have not faced any significant challenges, and thus will be unable to respond to this essay. You must remember that you are not being evaluated on the scope of the challenge you are overcome, but instead on how you mentally dealt with the stresses of the challenge. While you should not write about something trivial, any experience which caused you genuine stress can make for a good essay here. As always, authenticity is key. 

These essays are generally straightforward in their prompts, asking how you have shown leadership before, or to talk about one of your experiences with leadership. The goal here is not just to show that you can take charge, but to demonstrate responsibility. 

Doctors are responsible for many things, and those who enter medical school need to demonstrate a history of assuming responsibility. The best way to do this is often leadership positions in extracurriculars, but taking responsibility in less official capacities is also acceptable for this essay.

These essays are also a good way to discuss your extracurricular experiences. If you had to step up as a TA, or were assigned responsibilities in a research setting, these can make for good essays. While your essay does not have to relate directly to the field, it is a good chance to do so, to demonstrate multiple facets of your experience. 

Final Thoughts

As with undergraduate essays, medical school essays are what set apart great candidates in a field. Academic achievement is the baseline expected by medical schools, while essays and interviews are how admissions officers differentiate candidates who are a good fit for their programs from the ones who aren’t. We hope that this article has provided a solid introduction to these essays, and given you guidance on writing your own.

Medical school admissions is quite competitive, even compared to undergraduate admissions. There are no guarantees, and no way to ensure you will be accepted. We hope that this article helps you on your way, and invite you to check out our guide to med school admissions , and guide for pre-meds , for more information. If you would like to work with us on your med school essays, schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help you.

Need help with college admissions?

Download our "guide to everything," a 90-page pdf that covers everything you need to know about the college admission process., more to explore.

why do you want to go to this medical school essay

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All About Medical School Interviews As part of your application to medical school, you will be asked to complete a formal interview. These are far

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why do you want to go to this medical school essay


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