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.
Why do YOU want to be a doctor? (Do NOT answer until you read this)
Why do you want to be a doctor?
Why do you want to study medicine?
How can you be so sure medicine is the right career for you?
This is the definitive guide to answering the Why medicine question, in your head, on your personal statement and at interview.
Here’s a common question we’ve been getting asked on our subscriber list.
“I know I want to do medicine but I’ve no idea why!
Or at least no idea how to articulate why. Can you help me tell them why? What should I say to avoid sounding crass and how can I make my answer stand out?”
This is important. The so called why medicine question is a guaranteed to be asked at every interview. It is something you must tackle in the opening line of your personal statement. It’s also a question that is answered badly by 90% of candidates. In fact, good answers are so scarce that there is a tendency by some interviewers to allow crappy answers a pass, as long as it doesn’t include one of the cardinal errors.
The fact that it is answered badly by almost everyone is good news for you, because by the end of this article (and with some work from yourself) you’ll be able to eat the competition up even before you’re halfway through your interview by having a killer answer to a GUARANTEED interview question.
The exact reason WHY you want to do medicine is personal and probably unique to you. This article can’t tell you what that reason is, but it should help you answer the question in a convincing manner.
Secondly, this article is not going to go through the standard answers taught on courses and in textbooks which are generic, boring and heard so often at interview that we just switch off with boredom.
An interest in people and science
An interest in helping people
A friend of mine interviews many, many candidates who who all say something along the following lines.
“I love the satisfaction of helping people and I think a medical career will give me the skills to help those most in need.”
My friend normally follows this up with, ‘So why not nursing? Nurses help people.’
It’s usually enough to get the poor interviewee thrown quite off balance!
Of course, you must be honest when answering questions at interview, but the successful answer to this question does not lie in being completely honest and opening your heart to the interviewer.
No, the successful answer lies in giving something personal to the interviewer. Making sure your answer includes some detail from your past, that tells them something about who you are. This is what will set you apart from the rest of the crowd of hopefuls. It will make it clear that you haven’t just ripped off someone elses answer or done a google search to see what other people are saying.
There are two key strategies you can use.
Strategy 1. The sudden change of plan
With this strategy you mention a certain well heeled career path (not medicine) that you had embarked upon or were planning to embark upon when suddenly your interest shifted to medicine due to one or more reasons.
This is an ideal strategy for graduates and other people with lots of excellent, but non-medical achievements on their CVs. It also works well for anyone struggling to describe how they initially became interested in medicine.
Remember you have to be fairly quick in getting the story across. Spending 2 minutes on your formal, never completed, legal education is too long. The idea is to use the previous experience as a stepping stone to talk or write about medicine.
Let’s say you have been doing an undergraduate degree on pharmacy and are now applying for medicine.
Well the ‘sudden change of plan’ strategy is ideal for you, as you can initially say how your interest in chemistry and healthcare science took led you to pharmacy.
You enjoyed the technical aspects of it and enjoyed research. However you really, (and unexpectedly) enjoyed communicating with people and solving their problems. Furthermore you were very good at this and began to realise that a career in medicine would allow you to focus more on this aspect of healthcare, as well as equip you with better tools and skills to help patients. Then go onto how your work experience confirmed all of the above, always giving concrete examples of course, and you’re done!
For a final flourish you should add what specific skills your pharmacy background will bring to medicine. These will be unique and interesting. You will find that suddenly the interviewers are all on your side and the place at medical school is yours (as long as you don’t make a major cock up in the rest of the interview.)
Strategy 2. The very early spark
With this strategy you talk about how a childhood or early life event suddenly sparked off an interest in becoming a doctor and that continued to grow with you as it was fed by other life events.
This works best if you have lots of early work experience, and some evidence of an early interest in science or medicine that you can talk about.
Start by describing the very first time you became interested in the work of doctors:
-You had a doctor in the family who inspired you.
-You or a close friend or relative had a serious illness.
-You witnessed deprivation, disease or illness in an usual setting, whilst on holiday in a poorer country for example.
-You had an early insight through a medicine related school project
-You carried out early voluntary work with patients throigh friends or family.
The initial spark does not have to be completely unique but you should be able to talk about it convincingly.
Next go on to mention how that initial spark spurred you on to pursue your interest at every available opportunity with examples.
By the end of your answer the decision to go to medical school should look like the next obvious step in your story. You can then go on to briefly mention your ambitions after you get a place to study medicine.
The more factors you can put into your very early spark story the more realistic it sounds and the more opportunities you must have had to think about your decision.
The ‘story’ you finally come up with will need to be refined as you make sure other people (friends and teachers) get to read or hear it. Their feedback is important and their first impressions will usually be an accurate guide to how your answer will be received by the medical school admissions team.
Don’t be afraid to COMBINE the two strategies if you feel that suits your background better.
Remember to prepare your answer early. Give yourself months to refine and practice it if possible because you’ll be relying on it in your application form and at every interview as well as at work experience placements.
Remember that at interview the length of your answer is important. Stick to the rules we set out earlier.
Remember that 95% of candidates will have no clue about the best way to tackle this. Follow the rules above and I guarantee you’ll be ahead of the crowd.
Still having problems?
There are some of you out there who have truly unique circumstances that will not easily fit the strategies above. If that sounds like you, email us with the details and we can get one of our team to draft out a custom made answer that helps you explain why you want to get into medicine.
Anything to add? Leave us a comment below!
Useful? Want more info? Join our mailing list for updates and subscriber only content!
Or tweet Leo for an instant answer to your query!
Tags: why medicine