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.
In this second installment of my special week-long introductory session of the personal statement workshop, we are pulling essays submitted from the comments section through our free essay submission process and providing you, and our users, with a more thorough analysis of their essays.
This second submission is by Justine. It details her progression from an adolescent overcoming a heart condition to a pharmacy technician at the age of 19 discovering a love for medicine, a new-found focus in college and now, a desire to use her medical training to make a difference in the lives of others.
We will present you with the original essay and then our suggestions.
As always, use this as a guide to see where you can improve your writing, and respect the work of others. It should go without saying this is not yours, so don’t plagiarize.
Suggestions and Revisions
By: Sue Edmondson (The PA Essay Collaborative)
A note to Justine,
If there's anything positive to say about your diagnosis at age 15 is the tremendous insight it gave you about the medical profession. You're smart to open your essay that way. The other things you write about are good, too. It's important to explain why your grades weren't great, and to talk about your adult experiences. This is a very good start to your statement.
I say good start because there are some issue. Some are grammatical, such as using past tense and present tense in the same few sentences and placing quotation marks inside of punctuation. Other examples — writing the singular word doctor and then referring to the doctor as "their," and saying "foundation to" instead of "foundation of." Although these are fairly minor errors and very common, when I interviewed Admissions Directors and faculty, all said grammar errors could be fatal to the application.
There are two ways to really make your essay shine. One is structure and the second is content.
Structurally, you'd move the section about your shadowing experiences from the first paragraph to a new third paragraph. You'll have to change some of the way you've written your essay to make it work, but that's part of the process.
As to content, you'd shorten your first paragraph (I'll show you below) and use the extra space to write about your shadowing experiences. You'll do this for two reasons. One, every person from admissions I spoke with said, "Keep your personal story short. A few sentences is enough." Secondly, you want to show your readers that you know what it takes to do the job, and then tie your skills to some of those requirements. I'm not talking about making a list of PA job duties, but rather to describe a case or an overview of what you learned by shadowing, and how some of your personal skills (not clinical as you've already done that when describing your pharmacy work) fit in with the profession. Take out the "therefore" in your conclusion. It takes away from the strength of your sentence.
Here's the edited first paragraph, which is now two paragraphs. Notice that the first section is in present tense. It makes it real and compelling despite the lapse in time:
I'm sitting in the examination room of the cardiology office with tears slowly streaming. My father could read the sign of disappointment on my face as the cardiologist briefly explains my EKG results with what seems as indifference to my situation. At the age of 15 I am diagnosed with a heart condition called as Lown–Ganong–Levine syndrome.
Multiple procedures and four cardiologists later, I was forced to retire from competitive soccer and left without answers. The most frustrating part of this entire process was the lack of compassion and empathy from doctors who said, “Just stop playing soccer if that’s when your heart bothers you” and “Maybe you should find a new hobby." This insensitivity made me realize I want to be a person who provides admirable healthcare to patients in a caring way.
Look at your essay and see where you have extra words. There are many of them. Cut ruthlessly to make your essay as concise as possible and focused on the essentials.
Best of luck,
Are you struggling to find the right words for your essay?
- Are you looking to give your personal statement a final "polish" before you hit send on your CASPA application?
- Do you need somebody to proofread your essay for spelling or grammar errors (the proverbial "nail in the coffin" when it comes to your essay)?
- Do you need help with a supplemental application?
Don't wait any longer. We have interviewed PA school administrators from across the country to find out exactly what it is they are looking for in your personal statement. We work one-on-one with PA school applicants like yourself and customize your experience to fit your needs. We also have an excellent track record, i.e., our clients get into PA school.
We are currently accepting essays in all iterations. We have flexible pricing and can do everything from a single one-time edit to a full-service review that will take you from beginning to a finished product.
Click here to submit your essay or learn more about our service.
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View all posts in this series
- How to Write the Perfect Physician Assistant School Application Essay
- The Physician Assistant Essay and Personal Statement Collaborative
- Do You Recognize These 7 Common Mistakes in Your Personal Statement?
- 7 Essays in 7 Days: PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 1, “A PA Changed My Life”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 2, “I Want to Move Towards the Forefront of Patient Care”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 3, “She Smiled, Said “Gracias!” and Gave me a Big Hug”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 4, “I Have Gained so Much Experience by Working With Patients”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 5, “Then Reach, my Son, and Lift Your People up With You”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 6, “That First Day in Surgery was the First Day of the Rest of my Life”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 7, “I Want to Take People From Dying to Living, I Want to Get Them Down From the Cliff.”
- Physician Assistant Personal Statement Workshop: “To say I was an accident-prone child is an understatement”
- 9 Simple Steps to Avoid Silly Spelling and Grammar Goofs in Your PA School Personel Statement
- 5 Tips to Get you Started on Your Personal Essay (and why you should do it now)
- How to Write Your Physician Assistant Personal Statement The Book!
- How to Write “Physician Assistant” The PA Grammar Guide
- 101 PA School Admissions Essays: The Book!
- 5 Things I’ve Learned Going Into My Fourth Physician Assistant Application Cycle
- 7 Tips for Addressing Shortcomings in Your PA School Personal Statement
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Essay 2: "I want to move towards the forefront of patient care."
I was sitting in the examination room of the cardiology office with tears slowly streaming down. My father could read the sign of disappointment on my face as the cardiologist briefly explains my EKG results with what seemed as indifference to my situation. At the age of 15 a cardiologist diagnosed me with a heart condition called as Lown–Ganong–Levine syndrome. However, The cardiologist was not completely certain as to the causation of my irregular heartbeat and referred me to a specialized cardiologist. Being an athletic girl who played soccer at an extremely competitive level I was perplexed as to why I was unexpectedly experiencing these alarming symptoms due to an irregular and very rapid heartbeat. Multiple procedures and four cardiologists later I was forced to retire from competitive soccer and left without answers. The most frustrating part of this entire process is what seemed as the lack of compassion and empathy from these doctors. I was left heartbroken with responses like “Just stop playing soccer if that’s when your heart bothers you” and “maybe you should find a new hobby”. This feeling of disappointment from the insensitive doctors made me realize I want to be a person who provides admirable healthcare to patients in a caring way. Through my experiences and also investing time job shadowing a physician assistant (PA) and doctor have further solidified my desire to become a PA. A doctor and PA are both knowledgeable, but a PA is able to spend more quality time with the patient as opposed to a doctor who is on a strict schedule because their time is very valuable. This additional time allows the PA to interact with patient and gain the patient’s trust.
When I was 19 years old I taught myself the foundation to medicine by becoming a certified and registered pharmacy technician. Over the past 6 years I have worked in various pharmacy settings ranging from retail to hospital positions. By excelling at my job and taking the extra steps to absorb as much knowledge as possible, I can interpret sigs on prescriptions, know which medications are used for specific therapies, understand how medications should be taken for optimum results, and fully grasp the process insurance companies use to cover medications. As a PA I will be able to exercise this information by providing accurate and speedy care. Knowing that a patient must first try Omeprazole before prescribing Nexium in order for the insurance company to cover Nexium allows the patient to quickly treat their GERD without wasting valuable time. Currently, I work for a company that provides medications, durable medical equipment, and skilled nursing and rehabilitative care to medically fragile infants and children. We care for children that are genetically born with a defect, which impairs their ability to ingest or digest food. Others are born without congenital defects, but experience a traumatic event, such as a near drowning experience or tragic car accident, which leaves them with debilitated. I may not directly interact with these children on a daily basis, but seeing their faces light up when I do justifies all the care, precision, and hard work I put into my job. This gratification motivates me to further my career in the healthcare field and become a PA so that I am able to provide more direct patient care and see these smiling faces on a daily basis.
Not only has my work experience proved that I’m ready to dedicate myself toward becoming a PA, but my schoolwork has as well. When I first started college I can honestly say I wasn’t mentally ready due to a lack of focus. I placed more emphasis on trivial things, like hanging out with my friends instead of studying. It was uncharacteristic of me to be failing classes, as I was the girl who graduated high school 23rd in a class of 900 students because of my 4.1 GPA. I lost sight of my goals in the beginning of college and soon realized my priorities. After my realization, I spent dramatically less time with my friends and more time with my books. Managing my time and taking the proper amount of time to prepare for my tests improved my grades.
Although I adore being a pharmacy technician, it hasn’t fulfilled my need for patient care. I want to participate more directly than I currently can, I want to be much more hands on. With that being said, I would like to step out of the background and move towards the forefront of patient care. I want to be the person with the proper skill sets and medical knowledge so that I can help others live a life of the highest quality possible. As a PA there’s a choice of many career paths ranging from assisting in surgery to working in a pediatric office. Therefore, becoming a PA opens countless doors and opportunities for intellectual, personal, and professional growth, while simultaneously serving the needs of others. Becoming a PA is exactly the path for me.
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