Medical School Essay
Applying for medical school takes courage. Getting a degree in medicine is a difficult and intense undertaking, and your willingness to make this effort sets you apart from the majority of people applying to graduate school. Congratulations! However, courage and the will to do difficult work aren't enough to get you accepted to medical school. There's a lot of competition for the best schools and only the absolute best applicants will be accepted. You'll need top grades and MCAT scores, of course, but thousands of students have grades and scores that are just as good as yours. You'll need to find another way to stand out from the crowd. The medical school essay is your chance to do just that. A strong essay will differentiate you from all of the other smart, qualified candidates who are applying to the same schools that you are. It will get you noticed and provide a reason for the admissions committee to single you out from everyone else with a high MCAT score and a portfolio of glowing recommendations. They'll be looking for the same things that admissions committees in other fields are looking for in an essay-strong writing, excellent grammar, an engaging style, a rich vocabulary-but they'll also be looking for some quality unique to you that will make you a good doctor, something that distinguishes you as a caring person.
What you want to show the reader through your medical school essay is that you're compassionate, empathetic, and committed. Don't just tell the reader that you have these qualities. Show that you have them by the way that you write and the things that you choose to write about. One of the most common questions on medical school applications is "Why did you decide to become a doctor?" Such a question offers you an opportunity to demonstrate those qualities that will make you a good doctor. For instance, you could relate a personal experience you had with a member of the medical profession or something that happened to a friend where a doctor made a critical difference to your friend's health and well-being. Perhaps you could talk about suffering that you witnessed during a natural disaster or a trip to a third-world country. Your essay could concern adopting a pet with medical problems or one that you nursed back to health after an injury. Whatever you write about, it should be something that happened to you or that you witnessed firsthand that made you want to care for others and to make a difference for those who are suffering. Your goal is to demonstrate that you have those humanistic qualities that a doctor needs. It's important that you tell this story in your own voice and in a way that will make a human connection with the reader. Don't be vague. Don't say you've always wanted to be a doctor. Explain why you want to be a doctor. Make it clear that this is a deep commitment, one to which you've given a great deal of thought.
Another question you're likely to be asked on your application is "Why do you think you'd make a good doctor?" This gives you a chance to tell the reader about skills, qualities, and life experiences you have that will matter when you're a doctor. Although you don't want to come across as boastful, you certainly want to use this question as an opportunity to set yourself apart from the average medical school applicant. Have you worked with a doctor in the past? Talk about that here. Have you volunteered at a children's hospital? Write about that. Have you cared for a sick loved one? Give details. Try to be matter of fact in the way that you relate these experiences, so that you come across as neither arrogant nor self-deprecating, but don't be shy in letting the reader know what you've learned and how your experiences have taught you compassion and empathy. And if you have no experience at all in the medical field, that's okay. Talk about unique life experiences you've had and how they've given you insight about what it means to be human. Certainly there's a reason you'd be a perfect candidate for medical school; otherwise you wouldn't be applying. The medical school essay is where you can talk about that. Let your unique voice come through, so that the admissions committee can learn who you are and why they want you at their school.
Last Updated: 04/12/2013