Sample Medical School Essays
This section contains two sample medical school essays
- Medical School Sample Essay One
- Medical School Sample Essay Two
Medical School Essay One
Prompt: What makes you an excellent candidate for medical school? Why do you want to become a physician?
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.
Medical School Essay Two
Prompt: Where do you hope to be in ten years’ time?
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.
To learn more about what to expect from the study of medicine, check out our Study Medicine in the US section.
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.
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.
Residency Statement Guide
Constructing your personal statement for residency programs may revive old feelings of frustration and despair similar to concocting your personal statement for medical school some four or more years ago. Just like your AMCAS personal statement, the essay for residency programs in the field(s) of your choice represents the only portion of your application over which you have complete autonomy. For this reason, many residency directors place great import on this statement.
This document is intended to assist you in crafting an effective residency personal statement by providing a brief overview of the application system, and the "do's" and "don'ts" in your essay.
OVERVIEW OF ERAS
The Electronic Residency Application Services (ERAS) provided by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) is much akin to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) that most of you used to apply to medical school. ERAS allows you to upload your entire residency application online and forward it to all programs to which you wish to apply that participate in the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP). Please note that the following specialty programs participate in a separate early match outside of the NRMP:
Starting with the 2003 application process, the American Urological Association has placed most of its programs under the ERAS system. The other four specialties participate in the SF Match, a separate early match program. Please refer to each of these fields for their own special application criteria.
Please refer to the following URL to gather more specific information on ERAS:
HOW TO CRAFT YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT
The personal statement can be no longer than one typed page on the ERAS system. This usually corresponds to a document between 750 and 850 words. Ensure that your statement fits in the ERAS allotted space, because the program will eliminate all lines that exceed its length restrictions.
Key differences from medical school personal statement (MSPS):
A) You actually have to provide your application reviewers with valuable information. If you discuss nothing else, the following three topics must be addressed in your statement.
- Why are you interested in the field of your choice?
- What are you looking for in a residency program?
- How does the field align with your professional goals?
B) Originality and creativity do not hold the same importance that they did in your MSPS. Once again, your application reviewers will be reading several hundreds of applications; so you will need to present an attention-grabbing statement. However, the fluffiness and individuality so valued in MSPSs are secondary to addressing the three themes mentioned in section A. While discussing your personal development always distinguishes you, you should focus such development in the context of your decision to pursue a chosen medical field.
C) Advisors in the specific field(s) of your choice are essential to determining the appropriate themes of your personal statement. Unlike your MSPS, in which an individualized, focused essay providing some sort of self-profile serves as the desired prototype, each specialty and subspecialty has certain types of individuals for which they are searching. For instance, many primary care fields place a huge emphasis on your community service involvement whereas more competitive specialties such as dermatology and orthopedic surgery seem to be more concerned with research endeavors and publications in their field. You should identify both a resident, who has just gone through the application process, and an attending physician, who is well-versed in the nuances of your desired specialty, to serve as advisors regarding the content of your personal statement.
- Unite your essay with a central theme. If possible paint multiple pictures of your medical school development around this theme, and link it to your field of choice.
- Unless you pursued another degree or participated in some significant research or community service project during your preclinical years, most of the content of your statement should address your clinical development during clerkships. Most residency programs express minimal concern for your preclinical performance, presuming that you suffered no academic failures or setbacks. If your institution has grades, your transcript will speak for your preclinical performance. The only information that you should address during your preclinical years of medical school should be related to obtaining other degrees or discussing significant volunteer or research endeavors. You should be able to relate the latter to your current interest to pursue the field of your choice.
- Use interesting or unique background experiences to complement your personal statement. This will be your "anti-clone" factor that distinguishes you from every other individual applying in your field. You will need to ensure that these personal factors, triumphs, obstacles, or experiences are clearly relevant to the progression of your essay. Fluffy and tangential topics will not be tolerated as well in residency personal statements as they were in MSPSs.
- Utilize the following advice, which applies to all admissions essays:
- Begin your statement with an attention-grabbing first paragraph.
- Provide specific narratives or examples in order to demonstrate any personal attributes you cultivated or lessons you learned. Avoid making statements such as "I am determined and hardworking" without backing them up with solid evidence.
- Keep your sentences concise and direct. Many of the physician application reviewers are busy people who cannot decipher advanced literary writing techniques.
- Link your conclusion back to your introduction.
- Your statement should not be an expanded version of your CV. The ERAS application allows more than ample space for you to discuss your paid work and volunteer experiences, research endeavors and publications, language fluency, hobbies and interests, and other awards and accomplishments. Only mention relevant endeavors or poignant experiences.
- You should avoid including any information in your essay that you could not discuss for at least an hour or that may be contradicted by other written evidence. Though this may seem facetious, some applicants will exaggerate their role in particular research projects or community service activities, but be unable to discuss them thoroughly in interviews. This can prove to be extremely detrimental to your candidacy. Also, some applicants have written things in these statements that directly contradict information written by their recommenders. Because waiving your rights to viewing letters of recommendation is the norm, you often will not know what your letter writers will say about you. Thus, only truthful information should appear in your statement.
- Your essay should avoid the following common indicators of poorly written or edited documents:
- Lack of flow
- Spelling and grammatical errors
- Redundant or extraneous words
Overall, the most important advice to remember when crafting your personal statement is to provide yourself with plenty of time to write it. Two or three months prior to the date you wish to submit your final applications should prove sufficient. While respecting the different perspectives of each individual you wish to comment on your drafts, you should limit your statement to only a few individuals, making sure that one or two physicians in your desired field are among them. Also, do not be afraid to scrap one draft completely, and start another thought from scratch. Finally, be true to yourself in this essay. This is your one chance to show the unique side of yourself. Do not overdo it, but do not fail to do it. Good luck with your application process.
Next:Lesson One: Preparation
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