10 Successful Medical School Essays

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medical school personal statement harvard

-- Accepted to: Harvard Medical School GPA: 4.0 MCAT: 522

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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

Sponsored by A dmitRx : We are a group of Chicago-based medical students who realize how challenging medical school admissions can be, so we want to provide our future classmates with resources we wish we had. Our mission at AdmitRx is to provide pre-medical students with affordable, personalized, high-quality guidance towards becoming an admitted medical student.

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

Sponsored by Atlas Admissions : Atlas Admissions provides expert medical school admissions consulting and test preparation services. Their experienced, physician-driven team consistently delivers top results by designing comprehensive, personalized strategies to optimize applications. Atlas Admissions is based in Boston, MA and is trusted by clients worldwide.

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.

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Applying to Medical School

While the majority of students interested in medical school plan to complete premedical requirements during college and start the application process by the end of their junior or senior year, others take the necessary courses as postbaccalaureate students. Many students don’t make the decision to pursue a career in medicine until late in college or after graduation. Applying after college does not put you at a disadvantage; in fact, many medical schools say they appreciate the maturity of older applicants. If you are a current applicant for the 2023 cycle or if you an alumni planning to apply in the future, please subscribe to our Medical School Applicant Listserv .

Learn more about the steps required for applying to medical school:

Timeline for Seniors & Alumni

Senior Applicants Attending medical school directly after graduation; applying the summer after junior year.

Alumni Applicants Taking a year off before medical school; applying the summer after senior year. About 75-80% of Harvard College applicants to medical school take one or more gap years. Of this number, around two-thirds take 2+ gap years.

  • Review the  Premedical Information for Students  (pdf) booklet, which provides an overview of academic requirements and dispels some pervasive premed myths.
  • Read our monthly email newsletters.
  • Begin to identify possible sites for  volunteering in the health field .
  • Get involved on campus.
  • Get to know your faculty, preceptors, instructors, and teaching fellows – attend office hours, invite them to dinner, etc.
  • Seek out help and advice from faculty, students, and/or our advisors .
  • Attend a Pre-Health 101 workshop.
  • Attend workshops in the Gaining Traction in Pre-Health Series.
  • Complete the  Navigating Premed and Pre-Health form  and schedule a Navigating Premed and Pre-Health advising appointment.
  • Connect with the Pre-Health Peer Liaison PAFs (PPL PAFs) and attend Pre-Health Question Centers.

Sophomore Year

  • Attend medical and other health-related programs at our office, in your House, and in the broader campus community.
  • If you did not attend one as a first-year, schedule a Navigating Premed and Pre-Health advising appointment.
  • Participate in service organizations and campus activities.
  • Refine extracurricular interests whether or not they are medically relevant.
  • Continue gaining healthcare experience.
  • Continue meeting with faculty. Consider asking for a recommendation letter.
  • Think about what you might like to do during the summer.
  • Attend some medical school admissions information sessions co-hosted by our office with premed student clubs.

Junior Year (Senior Year for Alumni Applicants)

  • Make an appointment with one of our Premedical/Pre-Health Advisers to discuss your timeline, grades, and activities to ensure that this is the correct cycle for you to apply.
  • Begin Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) preparation ( MCAT calendar ).
  • If applicable, apply for MCAT testing accommodations early.
  • Apply for  AAMC Fee Assistance Program (FAP)  prior to MCAT (if eligible).
  • Make an appointment to speak with one of the Resident Premedical Tutors on the Premedical/Pre-Health Committee in your House (or the Dudley Community).
  • Attend pre-applicant meetings and/or other programs for upcoming applicants arranged by your House/the Dudley Community Premed/Pre-Health Committee.
  • Review House/the Dudley Community deadlines for submitting required application materials to your Premed/Pre-Health Committee.
  • Attend our workshop on the Medical School Application Process .

Spring term

  • If you have not already applied for the  AAMC Fee Assistance Program  (FAP), be sure to apply now (if eligible). Note that the benefits are not retroactive and need to be approved before registering for the MCAT or submitting the AMCAS to receive full benefits.
  • Take the MCAT  by early-mid May of the application year.
  • Brainstorm and begin a draft of your personal statement for AMCAS application.
  • Medical School Application Process (if you missed it in the fall)
  • Selecting Medical Schools
  • Personal Statements and other Application Essays
  • The AMCAS Application
  • Generate a list of medical schools to which you would like to apply.
  • Confirm that all letters of recommendation have been sent to your Resident Dean’s Office/ your Premedical Committee. (See your House/the Dudley Community website for the waiver form and instructions for how to request and have your recommenders submit your recommendation letters to your Resident Dean’s Office.)
  • Send spring grades and GPA recalculation to your Premed/Pre-Health Committee. (May-June)
  • Arrange for official transcripts to be sent to AMCAS from all colleges attended.
  • Complete and submit your  AMCAS application  by the middle of June.
  • Receive and complete secondary applications for individual med schools within 10-14 days of receipt. (July/August)
  • Premedical Committee letters are sent to all medical schools by August 15 provided you have adhered to House/the Dudley Community deadlines.

Senior Year (Post-Grad Year for Alumni Applicants)

  • Confirm with medical schools that your application is complete. (September)
  • Attend a Medical School Interview webinar.
  • Keep up with current issues in medicine and healthcare.
  • Schedule a mock interview with your House/the Dudley Community.
  • Practice interview questions with friends/family.
  • Attend medical school information sessions co-hosted by our office with premed student clubs.
  • Receive invitations to interview. (August through March)
  • Travel to/attend virtual interviews. (September through April)
  • If you have received 0-2 interviews by mid-late October, please let your Premed Tutors and our premed/pre-health advisers know and make an appointment with the premedical/pre-health adviser in our office with whom you are working, to discuss your application and strategies to gain interview invitations.
  • Stay in touch with Premedical Tutors regarding the status of your application.
  • Apply for financial aid via FAFSA and follow school-specific guidance to receive your aid offer.
  • Be aware of the last date to hold more than three acceptance offers (April 15) and the last day to hold more than one. (April 30).
  • If on wait list(s), keep in touch with medical schools.
  • Register for your first day of medical school!

Info for Postbaccalaureate Students

As an alumna/us who graduated fewer than five years ago, you may continue to take advantage of the resources available to you at our office (workshops, premedical/pre-health drop ins and start-of-term office hours, and individual advising appointments). If you are no longer in the Cambridge area or are abroad, advising appointments can be done over the phone or Zoom. If you have been out longer than five years, please contact our front desk to arrange for a single courtesy advising appointment.

If you are planning to apply to medical or dental school soon, please contact your Premedical/Pre-Health Committee as soon as possible, preferably by late winter before your upcoming application year, for assistance with the process. The Premedical/Pre-Health Committee will write a committee letter of support for alumni up to five years post graduation. However, at the discretion of the House Faculty Dean, the number of years post graduation may, at times, be extended.  Applicants should be ready to submit their AMCAS application by mid-June the year prior to matriculation at medical school. AMCAS processing and verification can take up to six weeks for those applicants who submit AMCAS later in the summer, significantly delaying consideration of their application.

If you are considering other pre-health professions such as nursing, physician assistant, physical therapy, pharmacy, optometry, or midwifery, please make an appointment in Crimson Careers with our premedical/pre-health advisers and emailing [email protected]  with any questions.

A significant number of students take postbaccalaureate coursework before entering medical school. There are many types of postbaccalaureate programs, but they generally fall into two main categories: “career changer” and “enhancement” programs. The target population of these two programs differs. A “career changer” program is geared toward students who have completed few or no premed science requirements, whereas an “enhancement” program targets students who have completed all or most of their required science courses, but are advised to take additional science courses to strengthen their GPA.

Many Harvard alumni choose to enroll in the courses offered at the  Harvard Extension School . This is an excellent option for “career changers” as well as students who seek to enhance their academic record and GPA. Note: Application and enrollment in the  Extension School’s Premedical Studies Program  is usually not necessary for Harvard College alumni.

Please review the following  resource page for postbaccalaureate information , a glossary and FAQs developed by the National Association of Advisors in the Health Professions.

  • Searchable database of all postbaccalaureate programs  (AAMC)

How do postbaccalaureate students afford to take classes?

Postbaccalaureate courses are often offered in the evening, allowing students to work during the day. Some universities offer tuition assistance to employees, encouraging staff members to enroll in courses for very low fees. For example, Harvard University offers an exceptional  Tuition Assistance Plan  (TAP), and several of the hospitals in the Boston area offer their own version of tuition assistance to employees working as Clinical Research Coordinators/Research Assistants, with which to enroll in science course at the Harvard Extension School or elsewhere. We also encourage alumni to look into the possibility of applying to be a Faculty Aide at one of the Houses (also referred to as a “House Elf” position) in exchange for free room and board.

Postbaccalaureate Career-Changers

Career-changer programs are typically designed for students with little or no science background, who have completed none (or only one or two) of the science course requirements. These programs can vary in their degree of structure, ranging from a certificate program with a set list of courses and pre-professional internships to a self-study continuing education program.

Things to consider when choosing a career-changer program:

  • Structure and access to courses (including electives outside of the premed core requirements)
  • Size of program
  • Cost and financial aid
  • Individualized advising (by whom) and academic support
  • Workshops, programming, alumni contact
  • Internships/volunteer/research opportunities
  • MCAT support
  • Committee letter
  • Linkage arrangements with medical schools
  • Postbac student culture

See a full listing of  Career Changer Programs  maintained by the American Association of Medical Colleges.

Postbaccalaureate Academic Record Enhancement

Academic record enhancement coursework is targeted to those students right out of college who have already decided that medical school is their primary goal, but whose academic performance requires additional effort to be competitive for medical school admission.

Examples of such students include, but are not limited to:

  • MCAT scores with any section below 125 or a composite score below 505
  • Science and overall GPAs below 3.30
  • Students who experienced personal challenges during their undergraduate career, which impacted GPA negatively

Special Master’s Programs

Students with cumulative undergraduate GPAs below 3.3 and/or MCAT scores below 505 may want to consider a special master’s postbaccalaureate graduate program in which students take actual medical school courses and are graded in relation to the University’s own medical school students. This allows postbac students to demonstrate their ability to perform well in a rigorous medical school program. A true special master’s post-baccalaureate program is one that is affiliated with a medical school and whose curriculum overlaps with the medical school curriculum.

Many students with weaker credentials are better served by completing additional coursework or a full postbaccalaureate program prior to applying to medical school.

See the full listing of  Academic Enhancer  maintained by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).

Opportunities for Economically or Educationally Disadvantaged Students and Those Belonging to Groups Underrepresented in Medicine (URM)

Special programs for disadvantaged or under-resourced students exist. Although URMs account for about 25 percent of the US population, they account for a substantially smaller percentage of practicing physicians. To address this imbalance, numerous postbaccalaureate programs have been developed that assist disadvantaged students with gaining acceptance to medical school. These students are self-described as disadvantaged applicants using  AAMC criteria . Eligible students typically matriculate into these specially designed programs with lower cumulative GPAs and MCAT scores. These programs for disadvantaged or underrepresented students generally fall into two categories:

  • Programs at medical or other health professions schools that invite only students from their prospective applicant pools to apply. Some of these programs offer conditional acceptance to the medical school upon completion of the program with a certain GPA and MCAT score.
  • Programs to which students may apply directly, regardless of their application status with the health professions school with which the program is associated.

Some medical schools offer summer programs which expose students to a limited science tutorial program in which they must attain a certain level of proficiency before they can be considered for acceptance to the medical school. Other schools accept students into their MD class, but require a summer enrichment program to facilitate the student’s transition to medical school. In some instances student performance may dictate that the accepted applicant be placed in a decelerated program (e.g., the first year of medical school courses may be taken over a two-year period).

NAAHP provides information and links to dozens of research programs and fellowships for premedical and other pre-health students at universities and research centers across the country, including the  Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) ,  Community Based Dental Education , and numerous postbaccalaureate programs.

See the full listing of postbaccalaureate programs designed for economically or educationally disadvantaged students as well as for groups underrepresented , in medicine maintained by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) assesses the applicant’s understanding of basic concepts in general biology, biochemistry, general/inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, non-calculus based physics, statistics, psychology, and sociology. The test consists of four multiple-choice sections:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

For the most up-to-date information about the test, please visit the official  Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)  website. Some highlights include:

  • What’s on the MCAT Exam?
  • Online practice questions
  • Khan Academy MCAT video collection
  • JoVE  (pdf) MCAT video tutorials (current Harvard students have institutional access via HarvardKey login to the complete set of JOVE’s MCAT prep resources and videos.)
  • Test dates and registration

If you are unsure if your current score is still valid, check the school-by-school list of the oldest and latest MCAT test dates accepted for the current application cycle in the  Medical School Admissions Requirements , check individual school websites, or review  the MCS document: US Medical School Admissions Information for 2023 Matriculants. .

  • The AAMC  Fee Assistance Program   (FAP) provides benefits for MCAT registration, access to the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR), and AMCAS benefits. Benefits are not retroactive, so be sure to apply early enough to receive full benefits of the program.
  • The AAMC provides accommodations for qualifying MCAT test-takers . The review process can take between two and three months to complete, so early applications are encouraged. See the recommended submission dates based on planned exam dates .

Retaking the MCAT

If your MCAT score was lower than you had hoped for, the following list of questions may help you decide whether to retake the MCAT:

  • What is your score? On the MCAT website, you can view  data on other applicants who re-took the test  with similar initial scores.
  • Which medical schools would you like to apply to?
  • Are you truly motivated to retake the test? How thoroughly would you prepare? Do you have enough time and energy to do the preparation and practice necessary to improve your scores?
  • Do you feel you were adequately prepared for the test the first time around?
  • What opportunities would you miss out on by re-taking the test? Would your time, effort, and money be better spent strengthening other aspects of your candidacy, or do you really need an improved score to be competitive? How competitive are the other aspects of your candidacy, such as grades, activities, recommendations, etc.?
  • Did you run out of time on certain sections of the MCAT? Was this in part due to not taking multiple practice tests?
  • For students who took the MCAT during the Covid-19 pandemic: If you believe you underperformed on your test due to the changes to the test format or time, or other circumstance related to Covid-19, reach out to your House/Dudley Community premed tutor/s and our premedical/pre-health advisers for advice about retaking or not. You will also be able to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on your MCAT test and score/s in medical school secondary applications.

An AMCAS application workshop is held every spring for current applicants ( see schedule ). The 2023 AMCAS webinar presentation and recording (for late summer/fall 2023 matriculants) and FAQs are provided below.

AMCAS and other primary application & secondary applications and Casper and other situational judgment tests

  • AAMC AMCAS Website  |  AMCAS Applicant Guide  (pdf)
  • AMCAS Course Classification Guide  |  AMCAS Course Classification Guide  (pdf)
  • AMCAS tutorials
  • AMCAS Letter Service  |  AMCAS Letter Writer Application

Applying to State Medical and Dental Schools in Texas: Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS)

  • TMDSAS Website  |  TMDSAS Application Guide

Applying to Osteopathic (DO) Schools: Association of American College of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS)

  • Application Instructions and FAQs

At this time,  around 40 allopathic U.S. medical schools, a number of osteopathic medical schools, and some dental and veterinary schools require applicants to take an online situational judgment test (SJT) called Casper . The test presents scenarios which include an ethical dilemma and then asks applicants to comment on how the individuals in the scenario should proceed and why. Proponents of the test believe it measures personal traits such as integrity and the ability to reason. To help you prepare for Casper, there are free online practice scenarios and tests ( see   https://takecasper.com/sample-casper-test/  and  http://apetest.com/caspersim/practice-test/  for two examples). PrepMatch : A free peer-to-peer CASPer simulation platform is a highly recommended practice resource. This SJT requires timed, rapid typing about specific scenarios, so applicants need to practice that skill if possible. Please be sure to review the Casper  FAQs on the Acuity Insights site to learn more about the format of the test. We recommend that you aim to take Casper by the end of July, so it does not delay any interview invitations.

The 2023 AAMC PREview™ professional readiness exam (formerly known as the AAMC Situational Judgment Test)

Learn more about the  PREview exam . List of participating medical schools. Register at  www.aamc.org/preview

Review test dates  and the  registration deadlines for each testing window. For questions about the PREview test and program, email  [email protected]  or call 202-540-5457.

FAQ for Applicants:

Coursework section.

Q: How do I classify a course in AMCAS?

A: Many Harvard courses do not fit perfectly into AMCAS course classifications, so you will need to use your best judgment. Classify according to the primary content or disciplinary approach of the course. So, biostatistics would be classified as math/stats, not biology. For further explanation, please see the AMCAS Applicant Guide. Our premedical/pre-health advisers cannot make this determination for you; AMCAS is the final arbiter of all course classifications. Your Science (“BCPM”) GPA is made up of your Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math (Statistics = Math) grades. For more information about how to classify your courses, see the AMCAS Course Classification Guide .

If AMCAS changes a classification you made, and you disagree with the change, you can appeal the change via the Academic Change request option (available within the AMCAS application). You only have a limited time to appeal this decision, so review your application carefully as soon as it is verified by AMCAS.

Q: I am not Advanced Standing but want to indicate to med schools that I have taken AP Calculus. How do I do this in the coursework section?

A: AMCAS has asked that students not list AP calculus on their AMCAS application if it is not on that student’s Harvard transcript. You will have other opportunities to tell medical schools how you are fulfilling their requirements, either on the secondary application, on the interview day or later after acceptance. The Harvard Registrar will not validate the APs, but you may be asked at some point to have the official AP score sent from the College Board to particular medical schools.

Q: Do I have to list future coursework?

A: No. Some applicants may want to indicate to med schools how they will complete the requirements or that they plan to take more science courses. But most applicants do not fill this out. You are not under any obligation to enroll in courses you indicate you plan to take.

Q: What should I list as the Course Number?

A: The course number is generally the department name and the number that follows (e.g., Chemistry 17, Math 21a, etc.).

Q: Should I list the Course Name exactly as it appears on my transcript? (e.g., “Frank Lloyd Wright and the”)

A: What you list for Course Name does not need to correspond exactly to what is listed on your transcript. But make sure it is similar enough, so that AMCAS can easily match up your course with the one on your transcript. Med schools need to be able easily to discern what kind of course it was. It is fine to abbreviate course names.

Q: For a SAT/UNSAT (or SEM/UEM) course, do I select “Pass/Fail” for course type?

A: Yes, AMCAS only has one option for pass/fail, so you select this regardless of whether the course was required pass/fail or optional pass/fail, and regardless of whether the grade on your transcript is “PA” or “SAT” or another binary grade notation. Note that the grade you enter should be the grade that appears on your transcript (e.g., “SAT” or “SEM”).

Q: If I took Harvard Summer School course/s after matriculating at Harvard College, and also took Harvard Extension School course/s (and/or Harvard Summer School course/s before matriculating at Harvard College), how do I enter this coursework in AMCAS?

Note: If this applies to you, you will need to enter the Harvard Extension School in the Division of Continuing Education (DCE) as one of the schools you have attended (in the AMCAS schools attended section), and  order a transcript from the Extension School DCE Registrar’s Office  to be sent to AMCAS (so AMCAS will receive two separate transcripts, one issued by the DCE Registrar and the other – your Harvard College transcript – issued by the FAS Registrar’s Office; both of these Registrar’s Offices use Parchment to transmit transcripts).

A: Enter the Extension course/s (and/or any HSS course/s you took prior to matriculation at the College) as coursework taken at the Harvard Extension School (or Harvard Summer School), as they appear on your DCE transcript.

Enter the Harvard Summer School (HSS) course/s you took on the Cambridge campus *  after you matriculated at Harvard College as part of your Harvard College coursework, and as they appear on your Harvard College transcript.

Do not enter the HSS course/s you took while a student at the College under your DCE coursework (even though the HSS course/s appear/s on your DCE transcript as well as on your College transcripts). The AMCAS Department has confirmed that they are aware that HSS courses will appear on both transcripts, and they instruct applicants in this situation to only enter this coursework once as part of your Harvard College coursework.

* For instructions on how to enter Harvard Summer School courses taken abroad in a HSS study abroad program into your AMCAS application, see the answer to the following FAQ (under the AMCAS tab) at  https://careerservices.fas.harvard.edu/applying-to-medical-school/ : 

Q: If I did a Harvard Summer School (HSS) abroad program, do I indicate that this was a study abroad program in AMCAS?

A. Yes. If you took courses abroad through a Harvard Summer School (HSS) program, you must first add a second entry for “Harvard University” in the “Schools attended” section of your AMCAS (in addition to your main entry of your “Harvard University” undergraduate degree program).

In the box called “School Name,” in which “Harvard University” appears as an option, please type into the box to add “—Study abroad” so that it will say “Harvard University—Study Abroad—Name of country in which you studied abroad.”

Next, assign “undergraduate credit,” enter the dates of your HSS summer program, and for “Other options,” check the box “Study Abroad Program.”

When you get to the “TRANSCRIPT REQUEST” page, you will be prompted to answer the question “Does AMCAS require an official transcript from Harvard University-Study Abroad?;” answer “No,” and select “Foreign Institution or Study abroad program sponsored by U.S., U.S. territorial or Canadian institution- Credits transferred” as your “Transcript Request Exception Reason.”

Next, answer “Yes” to the question “Was credit for Harvard University-Study Abroad transferred to another institution?”. As “School where transfer credits appear,” select “Harvard University” (which refers to your first entry of “Harvard University” under schools attended, where you recorded your undergraduate degree and major, and for which you should make a transcript request for your Harvard College transcript; your HSS Study Abroad summer course/s appear on this transcript).

Note that courses taken in the summer are entered as part of the upcoming academic year (e.g., a course taken in the summer of 2021 should be entered as part of the 2021-2022 academic year, along with the year in school status (i.e., SO, JR, or SR).

For all Study Abroad-related questions about course work and institutions attended: See the “Foreign Coursework” and other relevant sections of the AMCAS Applicant Guide. If your question is not answered by these instructions, please contact the AMCAS Help Line at 202.828.0600.

Q: I took organic chemistry, CHEM S-20, in the Harvard Summer School, for which I received a full year’s worth of Harvard credit (8 credits) / Q: I took an intensive semester-long language course (e.g., French Bab), for which I received a full year’s worth of Harvard credit (8 credits). How do I indicate that these courses were equivalent to a full year’s worth of credits? How do I make sure that the full weight of these grades is entered into my GPA calculation?

A: Your transcript will indicate the amount of credit you received. But do make sure that you double check that these courses were coded and calculated correctly when your verified AMCAS is returned to you.  Do not code these courses as “Full Year” courses.  For all summer courses, assign the upcoming year’s status (e.g., courses between FR & SO year will be listed as SO status). For an intensive term-long 8-credit course, assign the term’s status (e.g., for junior year spring, JR/ 2021/ S2).

Work & Activities Section

Q: In the description section, is it better to write full sentences or in resume form? (e.g., “I volunteered at the Red Cross for four years” versus “Volunteered at the Red Cross for four years”)

A: From the  AMCAS Applicant Guide  (aamc.org): “Medical schools receive all text entry responses as plain text. This means that formatting options such as bulleted lists, indented paragraphs, and bold/italic fonts do not appear for reviewers.” Because of this and for the ease of the reader, it is preferable to write these descriptions in sentences rather than using a resume style of writing.

Q: Should I say only what I did or also what I got out of the experience (i.e., should I reflect on what the experience meant to me)?

A: We think that keeping your “Experience Descriptions” (700 or fewer characters) brief and to the point makes sense. Med schools will glance over your activities very quickly, and you want to make sure they are able easily to pick out the main points.

For the three activities you select as your “most meaningful experiences,” you have an additional 1325 characters to write about the experience. See the instructions that go with this additional “Experience Summary.” Remember that you also have your personal statement for additional reflection on any experience described in the “Activities” section you feel merits more attention.

Q: I was the director (or a member) of a student-run volunteer group, and there is no supervisor who can verify my role and responsibilities for this activity. Who do I enter as the “Contact” for the organization?

A: Supervisor contact information must be provided. If the activity was organized by a student group, list a faculty/staff advisor or another administrator who can verify your experience, if possible. This person does not need to know you personally. You may use a student director as contact if there are no administrators who can validate the activity. As a courtesy, be sure to notify the person whose name you list for this contact.

Q: Should I fill up all 15 slots for activities and/or go right up to the word limit?

A: Probably not. Many applicants will not have 15 substantive activities that they can list. Also, most activities will not require using all the space allotted to you in the description section. Be concise and to the point.

Q: If I was involved with an organization for an entire summer but only sporadically during the year, what do I fill in for hours per week, dates, etc.?

A: By selecting the ‘repeated activity’ option, you are able to enter up to four separate date ranges, including future end dates up to the start of the matriculation year. Specify the total hours spent on this activity for each date range. If you do not select ‘repeated activity’, you will only see one time range; if you enter an activity that began sophomore fall and ended junior spring as one continuous time range, you add up the total number of hours for the duration of the activity.

Q: Can I consolidate activities and awards under one entry?

A: Yes, feel free to be flexible. If you have been involved in three different service activities but do not have a lot to say about each one individually, perhaps list them as one activity and call it “Various service activities.” If you have received a fellowship for an internship, you can mention the fellowship in the description section of the internship; it does not require its own entry. If you have little to say about an activity or award, this is probably an indication that you can fold it into another entry or leave it out. You want to make understanding how you have been involved as easy as possible for the reader, and consolidating activities, awards, etc., can help you do this.

Q: Is it appropriate to include activities in which I participated for only a year (e.g., First or Sophomore year), or for short period of time only, etc.?

A: Any activities you list are fair game for questions during interviews, so list only those activities that were significant and that you know you would be enthusiastic to talk about.

Letters of Evaluation Section & Process

Review the AMCAS letter service links on their website: AMCAS Letter Service  |  AMCAS Letter Writer Application

Q: How many letters do I need to “add” in AMCAS?

A: You will only enter one “committee letter” in the Letters of Evaluation section. This “committee letter” consists of the committee letter written by your House (or the Dudley Community), as well as your individual letters of support. For “Letter title,” enter “Harvard Committee Letter.” For primary contact’s title, enter “[House name/or Dudley Community] Academic Coordinator.” For primary contact’s first name, enter “Academic,” and for their last name, enter “Coordinator.” For primary contact’s email address, enter your Academic Coordinator’s email address, and for their mailing address, enter the US Postal Service address for your House Office.

Q: Will AMCAS process my application before my House letter is uploaded?

A: Yes, these processes are completely separate. Plan to submit AMCAS by mid-June. Your letters of recommendation will be sent to AMCAS by your House/the Dudley Community by mid-August.

Q: What is the AMCAS Letters program and what do I need to do?

A: For most U.S. medical schools, AMCAS is going to serve as a central repository for applicants’ recommendation letters. Letters will be sent to AMCAS and then AMCAS will make them available to each of the medical schools on your list. There are three things that you will need to do in order to ensure the successful delivery of your recommendation letters through AMCAS.

  • Within the AMCAS application, you will need to “add” a committee letter to let AMCAS know about the letters they are going to receive from your Premedical/Pre-Health Committee.
  • An AMCAS Letter ID is automatically generated when “adding” a committee letter in AMCAS. Your Academic Coordinator (see instructions in the first FAQ answer in this section for how to add their contact and other information) will receive an email from AMCAS with instructions for how to upload your letters to the AMCAS Letter Service.
  • You need to assign the committee letter to each of the schools that participate in the AMCAS Letters program to which you are applying. Please see Completing the AMCAS 2022 Application (available at the top of this page) for more detailed instructions.
  • For MD-PhD applicants: If you are applying to both MD and to MD-PhD programs, and wish to send a different selection of individual letters and/or different versions of your Committee Letter to your MD and your MD-PhD schools, respectively, you will create two separate AMCAS Letter IDs for these two sets of letters. You will then assign the MD schools Letter ID to the schools where you are applying MD only, and the MD-PhD Letter ID to the schools where you are applying MD-PhD.

Q: I created multiple AMCAS Letter IDs for each individual recommender rather than just the one that I was supposed to do. What do I do?

A: If you have created multiple Letter IDs (the IDs that get generated in AMCAS when applicants “add” letters that will be sent on their behalf), keep the Letter ID for the Committee Letter (to which your individual letters will be attached), which will be uploaded to the AMCAS Letter Service by your Academic Coordinator. Be sure to correct your AMCAS application to indicate that the other letters will no longer be sent. If you have already submitted your application, you can no longer delete letter of evaluation requests and must contact AMCAS so they can update your application.

Q: Do I need to let my Academic Coordinator know to which schools I am applying?

A: Yes, your Academic Coordinator will need your list of schools. For a school that uses the  AMCAS Letter Service  program, your letters will be sent as explained in the previous FAQ. As long as you complete your AMCAS Letter section correctly and meet your House/the Dudley Community-deadlines for turning in their materials (e.g., list of medical schools, individual rec letters turned in by your recommenders, list of which letters to send, etc.), your letters will be successfully transmitted via AMCAS to medical schools by August 15. For those of you applying to Texas schools, Osteopathic (D.O.) schools, and/or Canadian, European, or other foreign medical schools, your Academic Coordinator will transmit your letters to these schools electronically or, in some cases, by mailing hard copies directly to the schools. Please consult directly with your Academic Coordinator for detailed instructions.

Q: Can I customize the group of letters I send from medical school to medical school?

A: No, all medical schools will receive a single PDF containing the committee letter from your House/the Dudley Community and the individual recommendation letters that you choose to include. (MD/PhD applicants: see below.)

Q: I am an MD/PhD applicant. Does the process change for me?

A: The letter transmission process is the same for an MD/PhD applicant as it is for an MD applicant. If you will apply to MD/PhD programs only, you will only need one AMCAS Letter ID. If you are applying to both MD and MD/PhD programs, and wish to send two different letter selections, follow the instructions in the third FAQ in this section. For example, applicants in this category may want to include four to five letters for MD-only programs and five to seven letters for MD/PhD programs (to include additional research-focused letters). Once you have created two separate AMCAS Letter IDs for these two selections of letters, your Academic Coordinator will be able to transmit the MD-only PDF to your MD schools, and the MD/PhD PDF to your MD/PhD schools.

Q: Do I need to list Additional Authors under the Committee Letter details in the AMCAS?

A: No, leave these fields blank. However, make sure to fill out the Primary Contact/Author fields with the words “Academic” and “Coordinator” as per the instructions in Completing the AMCAS 2022 Application (available at the top of this page).

Q: Will I be notified when my letters have been transmitted to medical schools?

A: Yes, you will be able to see if your letters have been transmitted to and received by your schools in the “My Documents Statuses” section or your AMCAS application.

Q: Can I send in a letter that came in late, after my letters were already sent?

A: Letters arriving to your Resident Dean’s Office after the committee letter packet has been sent will need to be submitted to AMCAS separately. This is highly discouraged and should happen only in the rarest of circumstances. Please use the  AMCAS Letter Service  to send any additional letters.

Q: When will my Committee Letter PDF be sent?

A: The Academic Coordinators will transmit all Committee Letter PDFs to medical schools by mid-August if the applicant abides by the deadlines set by the Premedical/Pre-Health Committees by which to submit all required application-related materials. This timeline for completing and transmitting letters is similar for all of our peer institutions. Medical schools are aware of this timeline for when to expect your letters, and have confirmed that receiving your letter PDF by mid-August will not place you at a disadvantage in the admissions process.

Secondary Applications

Q: What questions have medical schools asked within their secondary applications?

A: Read the  examples of secondary application questions  (scroll down to the end of the page) that medical schools have asked applicants on their secondary applications. Keep in mind that next year’s questions may be different and the specific questions vary from school to school. Many students access questions from the secondary applications of previous years on studentdoctor.net or the “Medical School Secondary Essay Prompts Database” on the prospectivedoctor.com site.

Q: Washington University (or another medical school) has a math requirement and on their secondary application say they accept AP Calculus but only if it appears on a transcript (and they will not accept the ETS score report in lieu of the score appearing on my transcript). What should I tell them? Will this hurt my chances for admission?

A: Washington University’s secondary application asks you to list which courses satisfy their year-long math requirement and, if an AP is used, that it should appear on the transcript. APs do not show up on the Harvard transcript unless you activated Advanced Standing. If you did not take math at Harvard and would like to use your AP Calculus scores to satisfy this requirement, please list the AP on your Washington University secondary.

In the additional information section, you should explain that you would like to petition that the AP be counted in place of coursework. Each House has access to a letter from the Math Department explaining the equivalence between an AP Calculus score and math courses offered at the College. For now, list your AP on the Washington University secondary and explain the situation briefly in the additional information section.

You will not need this letter until later in the process, if at all, and you should ask this to be sent to a medical school only if they explicitly request it.  Please be aware that not all medical schools with this policy (e.g., John Hopkins University School of Medicine) will accept this letter and, therefore, not all medical schools will accept your AP test scores.  In most circumstances, whether or not you have already verified that you satisfy a school’s math requirement will not affect your chances of being admitted.

Ordering & Sending Harvard Transcripts to AMCAS

For instructions about how to obtain your official Harvard transcript, please see the  FAS Registrar’s Office instructions.

If a school has placed a financial hold on your transcripts, AMCAS will not grant an exception under any circumstances.

State Residency Concerns

Our office is not equipped to answer questions related to this topic, as the definitions and requirements of residency vary from state to state, and within states, and sometimes from one medical school in the state to another. Also, residency is often defined differently for different purposes. Please contact state medical school/s directly for all questions related to how to validate, establish, or re-establish state residency in a particular state.

Contact AMCAS for Help

Remember that the quickest answers to many questions can often be obtained by contacting AMCAS directly:

  • AMCAS Help Line: 202.828.0600; office hours M-F 9:00am – 7:00pm EST. 24-hour automated phone line.
  • On the  applicant website , see especially the AMCAS Applicant Guide.
  • Message AMCAS.

Personal Statement

  • Attend the  Personal Statement  webinar , held each spring.

Getting Started

What everyone writes for the amcas application.

  • Personal statement (5300 characters, including spaces)
  • Activities descriptions (700 characters, up to 15 allowed)
  • Three descriptions of most meaningful activities (an additional 1325 characters for each activity)

What some people write on the AMCAS application

  • Institutional action explanation (1325 characters)
  • Disadvantaged status explanation (1325 characters)
  • MD/PhD essay—Why MD/PhD? (3000 characters)
  • MD/PhD essay—Significant Research (10,000 characters)
  • TMDSAS applicants—Personal Statement (5000 characters), Personal Characteristics essay (2500 characters) and Optional essay (2500 characters)
  • AACOMAS applicants—Personal Statement (5300 characters)

What you write beyond AMCAS–Secondary applications

What everyone writes for the amcas application.

1. Personal statement  – The prompt for this is “Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school.” Keep in mind that for the average applicant who might apply to 26 schools, this essay will likely be read by somewhere between 54 and 270 people.

First, good editing is good writing. Be prepared to go through a lot of drafts. Do not worry if your first draft is too long. There will always be things to cut. Do not get too attached to your first idea. Often you will not be able to figure out how something will sound until you write it.

Get feedback, but not too much feedback. Asking 10 people to read it may leave you confused. In the end, it needs to be your voice coming through. Listen to advice when a trusted reader tells you that something seems off. It will hit some medical school admissions committee members the same way.

Please note: Your main resource for feedback on your personal statement will be your assigned premedical tutor (non-resident or resident) in your House/Dudley Community. If you are feeling stuck with the writing process or just want more general feedback, the  writing center  at Harvard can also be a valuable resource.

Here are some general issues to think about as you start to write:

  • How  do you know that you want to be a doctor?  How have you demonstrated this interest?
  • How has your interest in medicine changed and developed over time?
  • How did you overcome your doubts?
  • Why medicine and not other career fields, such as teaching, science, public health, nursing, etc.?
  • Have you faced any obstacles in your life (for example, economic, familial, or physical)?  How did you handle these?
  • How have you been influenced by certain events and people?
  • Recall a time when you had a positive impact on another person.  How did you and the person change as a result?
  • What were major turning points in your life?
  • What do you want the committee to know that is not apparent elsewhere?
  • Use a concrete anecdote or experience to draw the reader in; perhaps circle back to it at the end to create bookends.
  • Approach the essay as a chance to share the arc of your journey to this point.
  • Consider whether to discuss fluctuations in performance, hardship affecting academic record, and/or a personal or medical situation.
  • Remember that if you write something in your personal statement, you may be asked about it in an interview. If you do not wish to speak about it in an interview, do not write it here.

Here are some specific “Do’s” for writing the personal statement.

  • Tell a story.
  • Keep it interesting by using specific examples and anecdotes.
  • Provide information, insight, or a perspective that cannot be found elsewhere in your application.
  • Describe experiences in terms of what they mean to you and what you learned.
  • Make sure the reader learns about  you , not just  what you did.
  • Use strong action verbs and vivid images; paint a picture.
  • Be concise. Make sure every sentence  needs  to be there.
  • Describe what you learned in your research, not the details of the specific research project (unless writing the MD/PhD significant research essay).
  • Allow plenty of time to write, revise, reflect, and revise some more. Step away often so you can revisit your essay with fresh eyes.
  • Proofread. Spell checking will not catch everything! Then, proofread again and get someone else to do the same. Read the essay out loud to catch typos your eyes may have missed.

Here are some “Don’ts” for the essay.


  • Just list or summarize your activities. This is not a resume (and your activities have their own section).
  • Try to impress the reader with the use of overly flowery or erudite language.
  • Directly  tell   the reader that you are compassionate, motivated, intelligent, curious, dedicated, unique, or different than most candidates  (“Show don’t tell”).
  • Focus only on childhood or high school experiences.
  • Use slang or forced analogies.
  • Lecture the reader, e.g., on what’s wrong with medicine, what doctors should be like.
  • Make excuses for poor grades.
  • Begin every sentence or paragraph with “I”.
  • Overwork the essay to the point where you lose your own voice.
  • Use generalizations and clichés.
  • Follow the advice of too many people.
  • Try to share everything there is to know about you.  

2. Activity descriptions —You are allowed space for up to 15 activities in this section and for each activity you are allowed 700 characters to describe the experience. This amounts to about 5 or 6 sentences. Some activities will not require that much description. From the AMCAS  Applicant Guide  (aamc.org): “Medical schools receive all text entry responses as plain text. This means that formatting options such as bulleted lists, indented paragraphs, and bold/italic fonts do not appear for reviewers.” Because of this and for the ease of the reader, it is preferable to write these descriptions in sentences rather than using a resume style of writing.

3. Most meaningful activities —You will designate three of your activities as “most meaningful.” For these three, you will write the 700 character description, but then you are prompted to write an additional 1325 character narrative to discuss why it was a most meaningful activity. Again, this should be in sentences. This may give you an opportunity to speak about an experience in detail that is not part of your personal statement.  


We will first focus very briefly on the parts that only some people write.

1. Institutional Action explanation —You are required to disclose certain kinds of institutional action that may have occurred in your academic career. If this has been the case for you, we strongly advise you to make an appointment with your Allston Burr Resident Dean and with one of our premedical/pre-health advisers to discuss the situation and strongly advise you to ask for advice regarding this explanation.

2. Disadvantaged status explanation —If you believe you grew up in a situation that could be described as disadvantaged, you are allowed to explain this. From the AMCAS Applicant Guide, “you might consider yourself disadvantaged if you grew up in an area that was medically underserved or had insufficient access to social, economic, and educational opportunities.” Be sure to refer to AMCAS Applicant Guide section and appendix for this part of the AMCAS Biographic Information section for detailed instructions and examples of disadvantages that medical schools want to be aware of. If you are unsure if you qualify, this is also a good topic for an advising conversation. Again, we suggest letting someone at our office or one of your House/Dudley Community tutors review this explanation.

3. MD/PhD essays —Candidates for combined MD/PhD programs are required to write two additional essays. You can get advice from your House/Dudley Community tutor/s or your research mentors as you write these essays. The first focuses on why you want to get the combined degree. The second, much longer essay, focuses on your research experiences, including the project/s you worked or are currently working on with your supervisor, the nature of the problem studied, and your contribution to the project.  These essays are sent only to the schools where you select the MD/PhD option.


Some schools screen applicants prior to sending secondary applications but most do not. Secondary applications will begin coming as soon as your AMCAS application is verified and sent to schools. A few may come even earlier. You should make sure you set aside time to do these applications promptly and efficiently in the summer. Ideally, plan to turn each one around within 10-14 days and do not prioritize any schools when completing these. Error-free documents are critical, so if you have to hold on to it an extra day to check it, then you should do so. You need to be able to check your email virtually every day in the summer. Check your spam folder every day.


Why medicine and your future in medicine.

  • What satisfactions do you expect to receive from your activities as a physician? (2475 character limit)
  • Please share with us your thoughts on specialties and how you plan to choose yours (250 word limit)
  • What do you think will be your greatest personal challenge as a physician, and how will you address this? (300 word limit)
  • Write another essay that provides us with some insight into you as a person.

Added Diversity to the Medical School Community

  • Do you consider yourself a person who would contribute to the diversity of the student body of our medical school?
  • How will you contribute to the diversity of your medical school class and Stethoscope Medical School? (300 word limit)
  • At Stethoscope Medical School, we are committed to building a superb educational community with students of diverse talents, experiences, opinions, and backgrounds. What would you as an individual bring to our medical school community? (250 word limit)
  • What makes you special, someone who will add to Stethoscope Medical School’s community? (250 word limit)

Additional Information/Special Circumstances

  • Do you wish to include any comments (in addition to those already provided in your AMCAS application) to the Admissions Committee?
  • Please feel free to use this space to convey any additional information that you might wish the Committee to know. (1000 character limit)
  • Optional Essay: 500 words to give a stronger view of yourself as an applicant.
  • Are there any special circumstances that Stethoscope Medical School should be aware of?
  • Do you have unique experiences or obstacles that you have overcome that were not covered in your application about which you would like to inform our Admissions Committee?
  • Indicate any special experiences, unusual factors or other information you feel would be helpful in evaluating you, including, but not limited to, education, employment, extracurricular activities, prevailing over adversity. You may expand upon but not repeat AMCAS application information. (2000 character limit)

Leaves of Absences/Post-Grad Experiences

  • Did you take any leaves of absence or significant breaks from your undergraduate education?
  • If you have already completed you education, if your college or graduate education was interrupted, or if you do not plan to be a full-time student during the current year, describe in chronological order your activities during the time(s) when you were not enrolled as a full-time student. (1800 character limit)
  • Are you expecting to go on to medical school directly after completing your undergraduate work? If no, please explain. (1400 character limit)
  • If you are not attending school full-time during the entire 2008-2009 school year, please indicate activities, coursework, employment, or other occupations for that period to account for full-time involvement. (three line limit)

Why Us? (Fit)

  • At Stethoscope Medical School, we strive to identify students who will be a great “fit” with our medical school. Our mission statement is an expression of our core purpose and educational philosophy. Please reflect on its content and write an essay describing why you see yourself as a great “fit” for our school. Please include examples of past service, community, clinical, educational, and research experiences. Please also discuss your future goals.
  • Briefly describe your interest in Stethoscope Medical School. (100 word limit)
  • Why have you chosen to apply to Stethoscope Medical School, and how do you think your education at here will prepare you to become a physician for the future? (5000 characters limit)
  • What is your specific interest in the MD Program at Stethoscope Medical School? What opportunities would you take advantage of as a student here? (ten line limit)

Situational and Experiential

  • Tell us about a difficult or challenging situation that you have encountered and how you dealt with it. In your response, identify both the coping skills that you called upon to resolve the dilemma, and the support person(s) from whom you sought advice. (2400 character limit)
  • Please check up to three activities which demonstrate commitment and leadership.
  • Briefly describe any health-related experience and/or research experience (volunteer or employed). Also, indicate the time and frequency of your involvement.
  • Select one experience from your list of non-academic activities and describe in a brief essay how it impacted on your decision to go into medicine. (250 word limit)
  • Please provide a narrative or timeline to describe any features of your educational history that you think may be part of particular interest to us. For example, have you lived in another country or experienced a culture unlike your own, or worked in a field that contributed to your understanding of people unlike yourself? Or, have you experienced advanced training in any area, including the fields of art, music, or sports? This is an opportunity to describe learning experiences that may not be covered in other areas of this application. It is not necessary to write anything in this section. (2000 character limit)

Selecting a School

Selecting Medical Schools webinar is held each spring.

  • America’s Best Medical Schools: A Critique of the U.S. News & World Report Rankings  (pdf)
  • U.S Medical School Admissions Information – Financial Aid policies, MCAT policies, and information about in-state, out-of-state, and international applicants  (xlxs)
  • Academic requirements
  • Rural Medicine Programs  (pdf)
  • Medical and other health professions school information sessions and campus visits: Open to all students and alumni, and especially helpful for students getting ready to apply or already applying to MD and other health professions programs.

Letters of Recommendation

An effective letter of recommendation provides a portrait of who you are beyond your college grades or entrance exam scores. Admissions committees rely on letter of recommendations not only to validate what you have written in your application, but also to gather information about your personality, character, and motivation for your chosen field. For medical or other health professions schools, you are advised to have two letters from science faculty/instructors and one letter from a non-science faculty/instructor.

Before Asking for a Letter

Before approaching faculty or employers for letters of recommendation, reflect on how these letters can strengthen your application.

  • List the qualities that the graduate program is looking for in an applicant. Medical schools seek students who can handle a science-intense curriculum, but who have also shown evidence of compassion and strong motivation for medical careers. To get a sense of what an employer or graduate school is looking for in a candidate, think about who succeeds in the program or job you are seeking.
  • Who can positively comment on these relevant personal qualities?
  • If you need to provide several letters of recommendation, consider how each letter can fill different needs and request letters from individuals who know you in different contexts and can comment on different strengths.
  • What would you like someone to include/address in the letter that may be missing in the rest of your application? Who can comment on your professional behavior? Your maturity? Did you take a particularly challenging sequence of courses that is not necessarily obvious from your transcript? Are there extenuating circumstances that might account for atypical grades?
  • Decide whether you want to waive your right to see the letter of recommendation. For most employers and graduate programs, confidential letters have greater credibility and are assigned greater weight in the application process. Interestingly, many letter writers are less inhibited in praising an applicant when the letter is confidential.
  • Allow plenty of “turnaround time.” Be sure the letter writer has the opportunity to write a thoughtful, complete letter without worrying about an unrealistic deadline.

When Asking for a Letter

After deciding which individuals can provide the most positive and complete picture of your relevant skills, experiences, and character traits, make an appointment to meet with each of the potential writers.

  • Ask the letter writer if they feel comfortable writing a letter to support your application. If they seem hesitant or ambivalent, thank them for their time but do not request a letter from this individual. It is crucial that the person writing your letter is positive about your application and conveys that in their letter. If a letter is lukewarm or negative, it can reflect poorly on your ability to judge how you appear to others as well as give the employer or graduate program feedback that you did not intend to convey.
  • Feel free to share these  letter guidelines  provided by the AAMC.
  • The letter of recommendation will be especially effective if the writers describe specific examples and instances whenever possible. So, provide each letter writer with information relevant to your experience and application. This could be a resume, a personal statement, a reminder of particular incidents or discussions, etc. Spend some time with the letter writer discussing how this information relates to your application. Let them know what would be helpful to include in the letter. Consider whether the writer can comment on any of the  AAMC competencies  for entering medical students.

After Asking for a Letter

Don’t forget to thank the person writing your letter by sending a thank-you note. Let them know the outcome of your application. Not only could their letter make the difference in whether or not you are accepted, you most likely will want to ask for letters again in the future.

Interview Prep

Each August, our office holds a medical school interview webinar for students who are currently in the application process. This webinar is an opportunity for advisers and students to discuss the medical school interview comprehensively. Please reach out to your assigned House resident or non-resident tutor to arrange mock interview.

Preparing for the Interview

Why do medical schools interview.

As you prepare for the interview, it may help to think about  why  medical schools interview applicants. They hope to evaluate your personality, professionalism, and maturity; to hear your motivation to pursue medicine in your own spoken words; to hear how you have tested and confirmed your desire to become a clinician; to learn if you have realistic expectations of life as a physician; and to decide if you are going to be a great colleague and peer.

What about logistics?

Schedule your interviews as soon as you receive an invitation. With regard to logistics, remember to use an incognito window as you search for flights; know that staying with student hosts is an option; and know that the  Harvard Financial Aid Office may be able to help with some costs if you are on significant financial aid and are still an enrolled undergraduate student at the College. If you are going abroad or are otherwise going to be unavailable during portions of the interview season, make sure you let your schools know. Since medical schools are continuing to hold remote interviews, your House/Dudley Community mock interviews as well as our Medical School Interview workshop will continue to cover advice and information about virtual interviewing.

Appearance matters.

There are two main options for interview attire: suits with pants or skirts and a solid color dress shirt or blouse or a dress with a blazer. Dress conservatively so that nothing is too low cut or too short. Remove facial/tongue piercings if possible, and cover large tattoos.

Preparing for the substance of the interview.

Come prepared to tell them  more  about why their medical school is the right fit for you. Build on what you wrote about the specific medical school in your secondary. Be prepared to show that you are familiar with the school’s style of teaching and assessment. Contact your House or Dudley Community premed tutor/s to arrange a mock interview.

Interview formats vary.

Medical schools use different formats which are listed on  MSAR  and on the individual schools’ websites. Schools may utilize traditional 30 to 60-minute interviews, multiple mini-interviews (MMI) or group interviews. The interviews may be closed or open with regard to your file. Interviews may also be remote. Read through the AAMC’s Virtual Interviews: Applicant Preparation Guide for best practices.

Tips for the Interview Day

The day of the interview can be stressful, but many people also find it exciting and enjoyable. Here are a few last minute tips:

  • Be nice to  everyone.
  • Be prepared, but do not over rehearse.
  • Be flexible and expect the unexpected.
  • Actively engage.
  • Be positive and upbeat.
  • Give direct, thorough answers.
  • Take your student interviewer seriously.
  • Anticipate what might concern the interviewer (e.g., poor grades, disciplinary action). Have an explanation ready that is not an excuse or rationalization.

You are not expected to resolve difficult ethical, moral, or political issues, but you should be able to demonstrate familiarity with current issues in medicine. At the end, be prepared for “Anything else you want me to know?” and “Do you have any questions for me?” Do not ask questions that would have obvious answers from the website. It is fine to ask questions directly related to your interviewer.

The MD/PhD Interview

There are a number of ways in which the MD/PhD interview process is different. Be prepared to speak about your research at a number of different levels. You will often know who your interviewers are in advance. Be sure to use that to your advantage. Meet with and set up a mock interview with an MD/PhD student who is a resident or non-resident tutor at your House. Prepare an “elevator speech” (of 90-second duration) to describe your research extemporaneously.

The Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI)

More medical schools are using the MMI format. There is some variation from school to school, but the MMI usually involves 6-10 stations. At each station you are given two minutes to read a scenario and 6-8 minutes to answer/execute. There are varying types of questions. Some use scenario-based questions, which tend to be situational, ethical, and problem-solving oriented. Some schools use spatial and collaborative problem-solving questions.

What you are being evaluated on may not always be obvious. You receive scores based on how you answer the questions. Do you consider different perspectives and possible answers? How do you react emotionally to the interviewers’ follow up questions? How do you respond if you’re disagreed with?

Sample Questions

There are countless possible interview questions that you might be asked. Many will seem predictable. Some will be unique and thoughtful. Rarely, they may seem silly or irrelevant. Your job is to roll with whatever you’re asked, to be familiar with your own application, to be generally familiar with the broad issues facing American healthcare, and to be familiar with the school as presented on the website. If you have solid, thoughtful answers to these few questions below, that will get you through the majority of your interviews.

  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • Why do you want to be a doctor?
  • What experiences have most motivated you to pursue medicine?
  • What got you interested initially in medicine?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to compromise.
  • Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. What did you do and how did you correct it?
  • What was the most stressful situation you ever faced? How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time when you collaborated on a successful project.
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What is the one thing you want me to convey to the admission committee?
  • What is the biggest challenge that is facing the medical field today?
  • How do you imagine the balance of research and clinical work in your future?
  • Why choose medicine over some other career in health?
  • Tell me more about ­­­______ from your personal statement (or AMCAS application).

Additional Sample Interview Questions:

  • What makes you particularly interested in this school?
  • How have you enjoyed your undergraduate experience? What would you change?
  • What field of medicine interests you most?
  • How did you choose to major in _____________?
  • What non-science courses did you like the most?
  • What do you think you will find most difficult about medical school?
  • What are your strong points? What are your weaknesses?
  • What has been your biggest failure, and how did you handle it?
  • How do you work under pressure? Give an example. What, in hindsight, were you most dissatisfied with about your performance? What did you learn from your experience?
  • What have you done that shows initiative? What did you gain from that experience? How were you most/least satisfied with that endeavor?
  • How do you respond to criticism? Describe a situation where your work was criticized. What was your immediate reaction to the situation?
  • What are the negative aspects of being a doctor?
  • How could you affect the health care system?
  • How would friends describe you?
  • What do you think is the most important quality a physician should have?
  • Are you interested in research? How do you imagine the balance of research and clinical work in your future?
  • What is the reason for your poor grades sophomore year?
  • What last bit of information would you like me to know about you?
  • Describe a situation in which you felt like a fish out of water.
  • Tell me about a time when you got into a conflict with someone else. How was it resolved?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • How would a good friend describe you as a person?
  • If you couldn’t be a physician, what career would you choose?
  • How do you see the field of medicine changing in the next ten years? How do you see yourself fitting into those changes?
  • What is the one thing you would change about the American healthcare system?
  • What is your opinion about what we can do about the high cost of healthcare?
  • How would you react if a colleague wanted you to keep a medical error they made a secret from a patient?
  • What would you do if a 15-year-old came into your clinic and wanted an abortion?
  • What would you do if you were seeing a patient in the emergency room and he or she wants to leave against medical advice?
  • What do you think about physician-assisted suicide? Alternative medicine?

Immediately After the Interview

If you are given an assignment, such as reading a paper or connecting with someone, do it quickly. Send a thank-you note to your student host.

Send a hand-written note to interviewers or to everyone on a panel as soon as possible, unless the school asks that you not do this. Travel with notecards and stamps. It is a great activity to do while waiting for trains, planes, buses, etc.

For virtual interview processes, it’s appropriate to send thank-you emails to an admissions office or when possible individual interviewers.

In the note, thank them for their time. Be enthusiastic about the school. Be sure to proofread. Do not try to sneak in a personal statement. This is a  thank you  letter. The letter may be read by your interviewer before presenting you to their committee and can strengthen their recollection of you. It may or may not become part of your file.

MD/PhD Pathways

Considering becoming a physician scientist? The  MD-PhD section of the AAMC  website has many resources that can help guide you through the process. Highlights include:

  • Why Pursue an MD/PhD?   (from 2022)
  • MD/PhD Chart with Programs, Policies, and Funding  (from 2019)
  • MD/PhD Degree Programs by State (a database of programs, searchable by school and by specific degrees they offer)
  • Science magazine published  this article , which provides answers to commonly asked questions, such as what admissions committees look for in an application and what factors to consider when selecting a program.
  • “ Is an MD/PhD program right for me? Advice on becoming a physician-scientist ” written by Dr. Lawrence (Skip) Brass, University of Pennsylvania MSTP Director (from 2018)
  • The Medical Science Training Program (MSTP)  is an initiative by one of the NIH’s institutes. MSTP provides funding to about one-third of MD/PhD programs. Students admitted to MSTP receive full tuition, stipend, and insurance. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible.
  • MD/PhDs and MD/PhD candidates who are resident or non-resident tutors in the Houses are great resources for learning more about the MD/PhD path. If your House/Dudley Community does not have a tutor who is an MD/PhD or MD/PhD candidate, reach out to one of your resident premed tutors and ask if they can connect you a tutor on the MD/PhD physician scientist career path in another House. Also, use the  Alumni Directory  to find alumni who have MD/PhDs.

4 Medical School Personal Statement Examples

The personal statement can be one of the most challenging parts of your medical school application process. You want to show admissions committees the qualities that make you stand out while avoiding cliches. After all, a lot is riding on this essay. Don’t panic. We’ve done our homework, talked to insiders, and gathered firsthand personal statements to help you get started.

Getting Started

Before diving into the personal statement examples, here are some tips on framing your experiences to wow admissions officers.

1. Stick to your real-life experiences. While it’s great to express what you want to do in healthcare in the future, that doesn’t really set you apart. All premed students have goals for what they’ll do in the medical profession, but this often changes after time in medical school. Telling a personal story instead gives admission committee members a look at who you already are and if you have the qualities they deem desirable for med school .

Feel free to mention specialties you’re passionate about and touch on your clinical experience, but make sure the experiences you discuss are unique.

2. Build an in-depth narrative. Nobody wants to read a blanket summary of your research experience. This is your chance to get passionate and demonstrate some communication skills. Explain the driving force behind your desire to work in the medical field.

The old writing rule comes into play here: “show, don’t tell.” You will always capture your reader’s attention more by telling a story than by explaining a circumstance. Medical school admissions committees are no different. Showing them your strong work ethic — or dedication, or whatever personal quality you want — without just saying, “I have a strong work ethic” will have a greater impact.

3. Don’t include metrics. Admissions officers already have access to your GPA and MCAT scores. If they want to know how you did in biochemistry, they can find out. Don’t waste space here. If you’re concerned about those numbers, it’s much more important to nail the personal statement and secure a secondary application and eventual medical school interview.

4. Know the character limits — and try to meet them. Both AACOMAS and AMCAS applications have a character limit of 5,300. You do not necessarily need to use all 5,300 characters, but you also don’t want it to be under 3,000. You want to use as many as possible while staying on topic and being relevant. A too-short essay can look careless.

5. Get comfortable with revising . You’ll do it a lot. Expect your first draft to be just that – a first draft. This writing process will take several weeks, if not months. Once you’re confident in your essay, ask for feedback. Avoid asking family members (unless they’re experts in the field of medicine). Instead, have professors, mentors, and peers read it and offer notes.

|| Read more about capturing readers from the first paragraph with our Medical School Personal Statement Storytelling Guide . ||

6. Use coaching to craft the perfect essay. Personal statements like the ones below only come after countless hours of brainstorming and writing drafts. However, with MedSchoolCoach , you’ll work with professional writing advisors step-by-step to develop an impactful medical school personal statement.

|| Check out more Tips for Writing a Personal Statement ||

Personal Statement Example #1

Our second essay contest winner was a medical student who made their submission an AMCAS personal statement . It serves as a great and effective medical school personal statement example . We also thought it was a good read overall!

A four-letter word for “dignitary.” The combinations surge through my mind: emir? agha? tsar? or perhaps the lesser-used variant, czar? I know it’s also too early to rule out specific names – there were plenty of rulers named Omar – although the clue is suspiciously unspecific. Quickly my eyes jump two columns to the intersecting clue, 53-Across, completely ignoring the blur outside the window that indicates my train has left the Times Square station. “Nooks’ counterparts.” I am certain the answer is “crannies.” This means 49-Down must end in r, so I eliminate “agha” in my mind. Slowly, the pieces come together, the wordplay sending my brain into mental gymnastics. At the end of two hours, I find myself staring at a completed crossword puzzle, and as trivial as it is, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

As an avid cruciverbalist, I have a knack for problem-solving. I fell in love with another kind of puzzle in college: organic chemistry. While some of my peers struggled with its complexity, the notion of analyzing mass spectroscopy, IR spectrums, and H-NMR to identify a specific molecule invigorated me. The human body was a fantastic mystery to me in my biology classes. Intricacies such as hormonal up- and down-regulation pulled at the riddler in me; I was not satisfied until I understood the enigma of how the body worked. Graduate school at Columbia was an extension of this craving, and I chose a thesis topic to attempt to elucidate the sophisticated workings of neuro-hormonal balance peri-bariatric surgery.

In non-academic settings, I also pursued activities that would sharpen my intellect. The act of teaching is a form of problem-solving; a good teacher finds the most effective way to convey information to students. So I accepted the challenge and taught in both international and domestic settings. I assumed leadership positions in church because it forced me to think critically to resolve conflicts. In the lab, I volunteered to help write a review on the biological mechanisms of weight regain. It was precisely what I loved: isolating a specific human phenomenon and investigating how it worked.

I believe medicine and puzzles are in the same vein. After participating in health fairs, working at a clinic, and observing physicians, I understand that pinpointing a patient’s exact needs is difficult at times. In a way, disease itself can be a puzzle, and doctors sometimes detect it only one piece at a time – a cough here, lanugo there. Signs and symptoms act as clues that whittle down the possibilities until only a few remain. Then all that is left is to fill in the word and complete the puzzle. Voila!

Actually, it is more complicated than that, and inevitably the imperfect comparison falls through.

I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a psychiatric patient at Aftercare. He had just revealed his identity as Batman — but it turns out he was also Jesus. During downtime between tests, he decided to confide in me some of his dreams and aspirations. He swiftly pulled out a sketchpad and said confidently, “When I get better, I’m going back to art school.” Any doubts stemming from his earlier ramblings vanished at the sight of his charcoal-laden sheets filled with lifelike characters. “They’re… really good,” I stammered. I was looking for the right words to say, but there are times when emotions are so overwhelming that words fail. I nodded in approval and motioned that we should get back to testing.

Those next few hours of testing flew by as I ruminated on what I had experienced. After working 3 years at the clinic, I got so caught up in the routine of “figuring out” brain function that I missed the most important aspect of the job: the people. And so, just as the crossword puzzle is a 15×15 symbol of the cold New York streets, a person is the polar opposite. Our patients are breathing, fluid, and multi-dimensional. I’ve come to love both, but there is nothing I want more in the world than to see a broken person restored, a dream reignited, to see Mr. Batman regain sanity and take up art school again. The prospect of healing others brings me joy, surpassing even the most challenging crosswords in the Sunday paper.

This is why I feel called to a life in medicine. It is the one profession that allows me to restore others while thinking critically and appreciating human biology. I am passionate about people, and medicine allows me to participate in their lives in a tangible way, aligned with my interest in biology and problem-solving skill.

The New York Times prints a new puzzle daily, and so does the Washington Post, USA Today, and the list continues. The unlimited supply of puzzles mirrors the abundance of human disease and the physician’s ongoing duty to unravel the mystery, to resolve the pain. A great cruciverbalist begins with the basics of learning “crosswordese,” a nuanced language; I am prepared to do the same with health, starting with my education in medical school. Even so, I am always humbled by what little I know and am prepared to make mistakes and learn along the way. After all, I would never do a crossword puzzle in pen.

||Read Our First Essay Contest Winner: Considerations Before Applying to Medical School ||

||Read The Formula For A Good Personal Statement | |

Personal Statement Example #2

Student Accepted to Case Western SOM, Washington University SOM, University of Utah SOM, Northwestern University Feinberg SOM

With a flick and a flourish, the tongue depressor vanished, and a coin suddenly appeared behind my ear. Growing up, my pediatrician often performed magic tricks, making going to the doctor feel like literal magic. I believed all healthcare facilities were equally mystifying, especially after experiencing a different type of magic in the organized chaos of the Emergency Department. Although it was no place for a six-year-old, childcare was often a challenge, and while my dad worked extra shifts in nursing school to provide for our family, I would find myself awed by the diligence and warmth of the healthcare providers.

Though I associated the hospital with feelings of comfort and care, it sometimes became a place of fear and uncertainty. One night, my two-year-old brother, Sean, began vomiting and coughing non-stop. My dad was deployed overseas, so my mother and I had no choice but to spend the night at the hospital, watching my brother slowly recover with the help of the healthcare providers. Little did I know, it would not be long before I was in the same place. Months later, I became hospitalized with pneumonia with pleural effusions, and as I struggled to breathe, I was terrified of having fluid sucked out of my chest. But each day, physicians comforted me, asking how I was, reassuring me that I was being taken care of, and explaining any questions related to my illness and treatment. Soon, I became excited to speak with the infectious disease doctor and residents, absorbing as much as possible about different conditions.

I also came to view the magic of healing through other lenses. Growing up, Native American traditions were an important aspect of my life as my father was actively involved with native spirituality, connecting back to his Algonquin heritage. We often attended Wi-wanyang-wa-c’i-pi ceremonies or Sun Dances for healing through prayer and individuals making personal sacrifices for their community. Although I never sun danced, I spent hours in inipis chewing on osha root, finding my healing through songs.

In addition to my father’s heritage, healing came from the curanderismo traditions of Peru, my mother’s home. She came from a long line of healers using herbal remedies and ceremonies for healing the mind, body, energy, and soul. I can still see my mother preparing oils, herbs, and incense mixtures while performing healing rituals. Her compassion and care in healing paralleled the Emergency Department healthcare providers. 

Through the influence of these early life experiences, I decided to pursue a career in the health sciences. Shortly after starting college, I entered a difficult time in my life as I struggled with health and personal challenges. I suddenly felt weak and tired most days, with aches all over my body. Soon, depression set in. I eventually visited a doctor, and through a series of tests, we discovered I had hypothyroidism. During this time, I also began dealing with unprocessed childhood trauma. I decided to take time off school, and with thyroid replacement hormones and therapy, I slowly began to recover. But I still had ways to go, and due to financial challenges, I decided to continue delaying my education and found work managing a donut shop. Unbeknownst to me, this experience would lead to significant personal growth by working with people from all walks of life and allowing me time for self-reflection. I continuously reflected on the hospital experiences that defined my childhood and the unmatched admiration I had for healthcare workers. With my renewed interest in medicine, I enrolled in classes to get my AEMT license and gain more medical experience. 

As my health improved, I excelled in my classes, and after craving the connections of working with others, I became a medical assistant. In this position, I met “Marco,” a patient traveling from Mexico for treatment. Though I spoke Spanish while growing up, I had little experience as a medical interpreter. However, I took the opportunity to talk with him to learn his story. Afterward, he became more comfortable, and I walked him through the consultation process, interpreting the physician’s words and Marco’s questions. This moment showed me the power of connecting with others in their native language. As a result, I began volunteering at a homeless clinic to continue bridging the language barrier for patients and to help advocate for the Latinx community and those who struggle to find their voice. 

My journey to becoming a doctor has been less direct than planned; however, my personal trials and tribulations have allowed me to meet and work with incredible people who have been invaluable to my recovery and personal development. Most importantly, I have seen the value of compassionate and empathetic care. Though I have not recently witnessed any sleight of hand or vanishing acts, what healthcare providers do for patients can only be described as magic.

I look forward to bringing my diverse background as a physician and expanding my abilities to help patients in their path to healing.

||Read: But I Don’t Have 15 Activities ! | Apply to Med School After 3rd or 4th Year? ||

Personal Statement Example #3

Student accepted to Weill Cornell

My path to medicine was first influenced by early adolescent experiences trying to understand my place in society. Though I was not conscious of it then, I held a delicate balance between my identity as an Indian-American and an “American-American.” 

In a single day, I could be shooting hoops and eating hotdogs at school while spending the evening playing Carrom and enjoying tandoori chicken at a family get-together. When our family moved from New York to California, I had the opportunity to attend a middle school with greater diversity, so I learned Spanish to salve the loss of moving away and assimilate into my new surroundings.

As I partook in related events and cuisine, I built a mixed friend group and began understanding how culture influences our perception of those around us. While volunteering at senior centers in high school, I noticed a similar pattern to what I sometimes saw: seniors socializing in groups of shared ethnicity and culture. Moving from table to table and language to language, I also observed how each group shared different life experiences and perspectives on what constitutes health and wellness. Many seniors talked about barriers to receiving care or how their care differed from what they had envisioned. Listening to their stories on cultural experiences, healthcare disparities, and care expectations sparked my interest in becoming a physician and providing care for the whole community.

Intrigued by the science behind perception and health, I took electives during my undergraduate years to build a foundation in these domains. In particular, I was amazed by how computational approaches could help model the complexity of the human mind, so I pursued research at Cornell’s Laboratory of Rational Decision-Making. Our team used fMRI analysis to show how the framing of information affects cognitive processing and perception. Thinking back to my discussions with seniors, I often wondered if more personalized health-related messaging could positively influence their opinions. Through shadowing, I witnessed physicians engaging in honest and empathetic conversations to deliver medical information and manage patients’ expectations, but how did they navigate delicate conflicts where the patients’ perspectives diverged from their own?

My question was answered when I became a community representative for the Ethics Committee for On Lok PACE, an elderly care program. One memorable case was that of Mr. A.G, a blind 86-year-old man with radiation-induced frontal lobe injury who wanted to return home and cook despite his doctor’s expressed safety concerns. Estranged from his family, Mr. A.G. relied on cooking to find fulfillment. Recognizing the conflict between autonomy and beneficence, I joined the physicians in brainstorming and recommending ways he could cook while being supervised.

I realized that the role of a physician was to mediate between the medical care plan and the patient’s wishes to make a decision that preserves their dignity. As we considered possibilities, the physicians’ genuine concern for the patient’s emotional well-being exemplified the compassion I want to emulate as a future doctor. Our discussions emphasized the rigor of medicine — the challenge of ambiguity and the importance of working with the individual to serve their needs.

With COVID-19 ravaging our underserved communities, my desire to help others drove me towards community-based health as a contact tracer for my county’s Department of Public Health. My conversations uncovered dozens of heartbreaking stories that revealed how socioeconomic status and job security inequities left poorer families facing significantly harsher quarantines than their wealthier counterparts.

Moreover, many residents expressed fear or mistrust, such as a 7-person family who could not safely isolate in their one-bedroom and one-bath apartment. I offered to arrange free hotel accommodations but was met with a guarded response from the father: “We’ll be fine. We can maintain the 6 feet.” While initially surprised, I recognized how my government affiliation could lead to a power dynamic that made the family feel uneasy. Thinking about how to make myself more approachable, I employed motivational interviewing skills and small talk to build rapport. 

When we returned to discussing the hotel, he trusted my intentions and accepted the offer. Our bond of mutual trust grew over two weeks of follow-ups, leaving me humbled yet gratified to see his family transition to a safer living situation. As a future physician, I realize I may encounter many first-time or wary patients; and I feel prepared to create a responsive environment that helps them feel comfortable about integrating into our health system.

Through my clinical and non-clinical experiences, I have witnessed the far-reaching impact of physicians, from building lasting connections with patients to being a rock of support during uncertain times. I cannot imagine a career without these dynamics—of improving the health and wellness of patients, families, and society and reducing healthcare disparities. While I know the path ahead is challenging, I am confident I want to dedicate my life to this profession.

Personal Statement Example #4

Student Accepted to UCSF SOM, Harvard Medical School

Countless visits to specialists in hope of relief left me with a slew of inconclusive test results and uncertain diagnoses. “We cannot do anything else for you.” After twelve months of waging a war against my burning back, aching neck and tingling limbs, hearing these words at first felt like a death sentence, but I continued to advocate for myself with medical professionals. 

A year of combatting pain and dismissal led me to a group of compassionate and innovative physicians at the Stanford Pain Management Center (SPMC). Working alongside a diverse team including pain management specialists and my PCP, I began the long, non-linear process of uncovering the girl that had been buried in the devastating rubble of her body’s pain. 

From struggling with day-to-day activities like washing my hair and sitting in class to thriving as an avid weightlifter and zealous student over the span of a year, I realized I am passionate about preventing, managing and eliminating chronic illnesses through patient-centered incremental care and medical innovation.

A few days after my pain started, I was relieved to hear that I had most likely just strained some muscles, but after an empty bottle of muscle relaxers, the stings and aches had only intensified. I went on to see 15 specialists throughout California, including neurologists, physiatrists, and rheumatologists. Neurological exams. MRIs. Blood tests. All inconclusive.

Time and time again, specialists dismissed my experience due to ambiguous test results and limited time. I spent months trying to convince doctors that I was losing my body; they thought I was losing my mind. Despite these letdowns, I did not stop fighting to regain control of my life. Armed with my medical records and a detailed journal of my symptoms, I continued scheduling appointments with the intention of finding a doctor who would dig deeper in the face of the unknown.

Between visits, I researched my symptoms and searched for others with similar experiences. One story on Stanford Medicine’s blog, “Young Woman Overcomes Multiple Misdiagnoses and Gets Her Life Back”, particularly stood out to me and was the catalyst that led me to the SPMC. After bouncing from doctor to doctor, I had finally found a team of physicians who would take the profound toll of my pain on my physical and mental well-being seriously.

Throughout my year-long journey with my care team at the SPMC, I showed up for myself even when it felt like I would lose the war against my body. I confronted daily challenges with fortitude. When lifting my arms to tie my hair into a ponytail felt agonizing, YouTube tutorials trained me to become a braiding expert. Instead of lying in bed all day when my medication to relieve nerve pain left me struggling to stay awake, I explored innovative alternative therapies with my physicians; after I was fed up with the frustration of not knowing the source of my symptoms, I became a research subject in a clinical trial aimed at identifying and characterizing pain generators in patients suffering from “mysterious” chronic pain.

At times, it felt like my efforts were only resulting in lost time. However, seeing how patient my care team was with me, offering long-term coordinated support and continually steering me towards a pain-free future, motivated me to grow stronger with every step of the process. Success was not an immediate victory, but rather a long journey of incremental steps that produced steady, life-saving progress over time.

My journey brought me relief as well as clarity with regard to how I will care for my future patients. I will advocate for them even when complex conditions, inconclusive results and stereotypes discourage them from seeking continued care; work with them to continually adapt and improve an individualized plan tailored to their needs and goals, and engage in pioneering research and medical innovations that can directly benefit them.

Reflecting on the support system that enabled me to overcome the challenges of rehabilitation, I was inspired to help others navigate life with chronic pain in a more equitable and accessible way. Not everyone has the means to work indefinitely with a comprehensive care team, but most do have a smartphone. As a result, I partnered with a team of physicians and physical therapists at the University of California San Francisco to develop a free mobile application that guides individuals dealing with chronic pain through recovery. Based on my own journey, I was able to design the app with an understanding of the mental and physical toll that pain, fear, and loss of motivation take on patients struggling with chronic pain. Having features like an exercise bank with a real-time form checker and an AI-based chatbot to motivate users, address their concerns and connect them to specific health care resources, our application helped 65 of the 100 pilot users experience a significant reduction in pain and improvement in mental health in three months.

My journey has fostered my passion for patient-centered incremental medicine and medical innovation. From barely living to thriving, I have become a trailblazing warrior with the perseverance and resilience needed to pursue these passions and help both the patients I engage with and those around the world.

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2 Med School Essays That Admissions Officers Loved

Here are tips on writing a medical school personal statement and examples of essays that stood out.

2 Great Med School Personal Statements

Medical student studies notes

A compelling medical school admissions essay can address nearly any topic the applicant is interested in, as long as it conveys the applicant's personality. (Getty Images)

A personal statement is often a pivotal factor in medical school admissions decisions.

"The essay really can cause me to look more deeply at the entire application," Dr. Stephen Nicholas, former senior associate dean of admissions with the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons , told U.S. News in 2017. "So I do think it's pretty important."

A compelling medical school admissions essay can address nearly any topic the applicant is interested in, as long as it conveys the applicant's personality, according to Dr. Barbara Kazmierczak, director of the M.D.-Ph.D. Program and a professor of medicine and microbial pathogenesis with the Yale School of Medicine.

“The passion that the writer is bringing to this topic tells us about the individual rather than the topic that they’re describing, and the essay is the place for us to learn about the applicant – who they are and what experiences have brought them to this point of applying to medical school,” she told U.S. News in 2017.

Rachel Rudeen, former admissions coordinator for the University of Minnesota Medical School , says personal statements help medical schools determine whether applicants have the character necessary to excel as a doctor. "Grit is something we really look for," she says.

Evidence of humility and empathy , Rudeen adds, are also pluses.

Why Medical Schools Care About Personal Statements

The purpose of a personal statement is to report the events that inspired and prepared a premed to apply to medical school, admissions experts say. This personal essay helps admissions officers figure out whether a premed is ready for med school, and it also clarifies whether a premed has a compelling rationale for attending med school, these experts explain.

When written well, a medical school personal statement conveys a student's commitment to medicine and injects humanity into an admissions process that might otherwise feel cold and impersonal, according to admissions experts.

Glen Fogerty, associate dean of admissions and recruitment with the medical school at the University of Arizona—Phoenix , put it this way in an email: "To me, the strongest personal statements are the ones that share a personal connection. One where a candidate shares a specific moment, the spark that ignited their passion to become a physician or reaffirmed why they chose medicine as a career."

Dr. Viveta Lobo, an emergency medicine physician with the Stanford University School of Medicine in California who often mentors premeds, says the key thing to know about a personal statement is that it must indeed be personal, so it needs to reveal something meaningful. The essay should not be a dry piece of writing; it should make the reader feel for the author, says Lobo, director of academic conferences and continuing medical education with the emergency medicine department at Stanford.

A great personal statement has an emotional impact and "will 'do' something, not just 'say' something," Lobo wrote in an email. Admissions officers "read hundreds of essays – so before you begin, think of how yours will stand out, be unique and different," Lobo suggests.

How to Write a Personal Statement for Medical School

Lobo notes that an outstanding personal statement typically includes all of the following ingredients:

  • An intriguing introduction that gets admissions officers' attention.
  • Anecdotes that illustrate what kind of person the applicant is.
  • Reflections about the meaning and impact of various life experiences .
  • A convincing narrative about why medical school is the logical next step.
  • A satisfying and optimistic conclusion.

"You should sound excited, and that passion should come through in your writing," Lobo explains.

A personal statement should tie together an applicant's past, present and future by explaining how previous experiences have led to this point and outlining long-term plans to contribute to the medical profession, Lobo said during a phone interview. Medical school admissions officers want to understand not only where an applicant has been but also the direction he or she is going, Lobo added.

When premeds articulate a vision of how they might assist others and improve society through the practice of medicine, it suggests that they aren't self-serving or simply interested in the field because of its prestige, Lobo says. It's ideal when premeds can eloquently describe a noble mission, she explains.

Elisabeth Fassas, author of "Making Pre-Med Count: Everything I Wish I'd Known Before Applying (Successfully) to Medical School," says premeds should think about the doctors they admire and reflect on why they admire them. Fassas, a first-year medical student at the University of Maryland , suggests pondering the following questions:

  • "Why can you really only see yourself being a physician?"
  • "What is it about being a doctor that has turned you on to this field?"
  • "What kind of doctor do you imagine yourself being?"
  • "Who do you want to be for your patients?"
  • "What are you going to do specifically for your patients that only you can do?"

Fassas notes that many of the possible essay topics a med school hopeful can choose are subjects that other premeds can also discuss, such as a love of science. However, aspiring doctors can make their personal statements unique by articulating the lessons they learned from their life experiences, she suggests.

Prospective medical students need to clarify why medicine is a more suitable calling for them than other caring professions, health care fields and science careers, Fassas notes. They should demonstrate awareness of the challenges inherent in medicine and explain why they want to become doctors despite those difficulties, she says.

Tips on Crafting an Excellent Medical School Personal Statement

The first step toward creating an outstanding personal statement, Fassas says, is to create a list of significant memories. Premeds should think about which moments in their lives mattered the most and then identify the two or three stories that are definitely worth sharing.

Dr. Demicha Rankin, associate dean for admissions at the Ohio State University College of Medicine , notes that a personal statement should offer a compelling portrait of a person and should not be "a regurgitation of their CV."

The most outstanding personal statements are the ones that present a multifaceted perspective of the applicant by presenting various aspects of his or her identity, says Rankin, an associate professor of anesthesiology.

For example, a premed who was a swimmer might explain how the discipline necessary for swimming is analogous to the work ethic required to become a physician, Rankin says. Likewise, a pianist or another type of musician applying to medical school could convey how the listening skills and instrument-tuning techniques cultivated in music could be applicable in medicine, she adds.

Rankin notes that it's apparent when a premed has taken a meticulous approach to his or her personal statement to ensure that it flows nicely, and she says a fine essay is akin to a "well-woven fabric." One sign that a personal statement has been polished is when a theme that was explored at the beginning of the essay is also mentioned at the end, Rankin says, explaining that symmetry between an essay's introduction and conclusion makes the essay seem complete.

Rankin notes that the author of an essay might not see flaws in his or her writing that are obvious to others, so it's important for premeds to show their personal statement to trusted advisers and get honest feedback. That's one reason it's important to begin the writing process early enough to give yourself sufficient time to organize your thoughts, Rankin says, adding that a minimum of four weeks is typically necessary.

Mistakes to Avoid in a Medical School Personal Statement

One thing premeds should never do in an admissions essay is beg, experts say. Rankin says requests of any type – including a plea for an admissions interview – do not belong in a personal statement. Another pitfall to avoid, Rankin says, is ranting about controversial political subjects such as the death penalty or abortion.

If premeds fail to closely proofread their personal statement, the essay could end up being submitted with careless errors such as misspellings and grammar mistakes that could easily have been fixed, according to experts. Crafting a compelling personal statement typically necessitates multiple revisions, so premeds who skimp on revising might wind up with sloppy essays, some experts say.

However, when fine-tuning their personal statements, premeds should not automatically change their essays based on what others say, Fogerty warns.

"A common mistake on personal statements is having too many people review your statement, they make recommendations, you accept all of the changes and then – in the end – the statement is no longer your voice," Fogerty wrote in an email. It's essential that a personal statement sound like the applicant and represent who he or she is as a person, Fogerty says.

Dr. Nicholas Jones, a Georgia-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon, says the worst error that someone can make in the personal statement is to be inauthentic or deceptive.

"Do not lie. Do not fabricate," he warns.

Jones adds that premeds should not include a story in their personal statement that they are not comfortable discussing in-depth during a med school admissions interview . "If it's something too personal or you're very emotional and you don't want to talk about that, then don't put it in a statement."

Medical School Personal Statement Examples

Here are two medical school admissions essays that made a strong, positive impression on admissions officers. The first is from Columbia and the second is from the University of Minnesota. These personal statements are annotated with comments from admissions officers explaining what made these essays stand out.

Searching for a medical school? Get our complete rankings of Best Medical Schools.

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  • Medical School Application

Medical School Personal Statement Examples: 30 Best in

Including one that got six acceptances.

Medical School Personal Statement Examples That Got 6 Acceptances

These 30 exemplary medical school personal statement examples come from our students who enrolled in one of our application review programs. Most of these examples led to multiple acceptance for our students. For instance, the first example got our student accepted into SIX medical schools. Here's what you'll find in this article: We'll first go over 30 medical school personal statement samples, then we'll provide you a step-by-step guide for composing your own outstanding statement from scratch. If you follow the strategy, you're going to have a stellar statement whether you apply to the most competitive or the easiest medical schools to get into .

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Listen to the blog!

Article Contents 29 min read

30 stellar medical school personal statement examples, example #1/30.

I made my way to Hillary’s house after hearing about her alcoholic father’s incarceration. Seeing her tearfulness and at a loss for words, I took her hand and held it, hoping to make things more bearable. She squeezed back gently in reply, “thank you.” My silent gesture seemed to confer a soundless message of comfort, encouragement and support.

Through mentoring, I have developed meaningful relationships with individuals of all ages, including seven-year-old Hillary. Many of my mentees come from disadvantaged backgrounds; working with them has challenged me to become more understanding and compassionate. Although Hillary was not able to control her father’s alcoholism and I had no immediate solution to her problems, I felt truly fortunate to be able to comfort her with my presence. Though not always tangible, my small victories, such as the support I offered Hillary, hold great personal meaning. Similarly, medicine encompasses more than an understanding of tangible entities such as the science of disease and treatment—to be an excellent physician requires empathy, dedication, curiosity and love of problem solving. These are skills I have developed through my experiences both teaching and shadowing inspiring physicians.

Medicine encompasses more than hard science. My experience as a teaching assistant nurtured my passion for medicine; I found that helping students required more than knowledge of organic chemistry. Rather, I was only able to address their difficulties when I sought out their underlying fears and feelings. One student, Azra, struggled despite regularly attending office hours. She approached me, asking for help. As we worked together, I noticed that her frustration stemmed from how intimidated she was by problems. I helped her by listening to her as a fellow student and normalizing her struggles. “I remember doing badly on my first organic chem test, despite studying really hard,” I said to Azra while working on a problem. “Really? You’re a TA, shouldn’t you be perfect?” I looked up and explained that I had improved my grades through hard work. I could tell she instantly felt more hopeful, she said, “If you could do it, then I can too!” When she passed, receiving a B+;I felt as if I had passed too. That B+ meant so much: it was a tangible result of Azra’s hard work, but it was also symbol of our dedication to one another and the bond we forged working together.

My passion for teaching others and sharing knowledge emanates from my curiosity and love for learning. My shadowing experiences in particular have stimulated my curiosity and desire to learn more about the world around me. How does platelet rich plasma stimulate tissue growth? How does diabetes affect the proximal convoluted tubule? My questions never stopped. I wanted to know everything and it felt very satisfying to apply my knowledge to clinical problems.

Shadowing physicians further taught me that medicine not only fuels my curiosity; it also challenges my problem solving skills. I enjoy the connections found in medicine, how things learned in one area can aid in coming up with a solution in another. For instance, while shadowing Dr. Steel I was asked, “What causes varicose veins and what are the complications?” I thought to myself, what could it be? I knew that veins have valves and thought back to my shadowing experience with Dr. Smith in the operating room. She had amputated a patient’s foot due to ulcers obstructing the venous circulation. I replied, “veins have valves and valve problems could lead to ulcers.” Dr. Steel smiled, “you’re right, but it doesn’t end there!” Medicine is not disconnected; it is not about interventional cardiology or orthopedic surgery. In fact, medicine is intertwined and collaborative. The ability to gather knowledge from many specialties and put seemingly distinct concepts together to form a coherent picture truly attracts me to medicine.

It is hard to separate science from medicine; in fact, medicine is science. However, medicine is also about people—their feelings, struggles and concerns. Humans are not pre-programmed robots that all face the same problems. Humans deserve sensitive and understanding physicians. Humans deserve doctors who are infinitely curious, constantly questioning new advents in medicine. They deserve someone who loves the challenge of problem solving and coming up with innovative individualized solutions. I want to be that physician. I want to be able to approach each case as a unique entity and incorporate my strengths into providing personalized care for my patients. Until that time, I may be found Friday mornings in the operating room, peering over shoulders, dreaming about the day I get to hold the drill.

Let's take a step back to consider what this medical school personal statement example does, not just what it says. It begins with an engaging hook in the first paragraph and ends with a compelling conclusion. The introduction draws you in, making the essay almost impossible to put down, while the conclusion paints a picture of someone who is both passionate and dedicated to the profession. In between the introduction and conclusion, this student makes excellent use of personal narrative. The anecdotes chosen demonstrate this individual's response to the common question, " Why do you want to be a doctor ?" while simultaneously making them come across as compassionate, curious, and reflective. The essay articulates a number of key qualities and competencies, which go far beyond the common trope, I want to be a doctor because I want to help people.

This person is clearly a talented writer, but this was the result of several rounds of edits with one of our medical school admissions consulting team members and a lot of hard work on the student's part. If your essay is not quite there yet, or if you're just getting started, don't sweat it. Do take note that writing a good personal essay takes advanced planning and significant effort.

We are here to help you articulate your own vision, passion, and skills in a way that is equally captivating and compelling!

Would you like to learn why "show, don’t tell" is the most important rule of any personal statement? Watch this:

Example #2/30

I was one of those kids who always wanted to be doctor. I didn’t understand the responsibilities and heartbreaks, the difficult decisions, and the years of study and training that go with the title, but I did understand that the person in the white coat stood for knowledge, professionalism, and compassion. As a child, visits to the pediatrician were important events. I’d attend to my hair and clothes, and travel to the appointment in anticipation. I loved the interaction with my doctor. I loved that whoever I was in the larger world, I could enter the safe space of the doctor’s office, and for a moment my concerns were heard and evaluated. I listened as my mother communicated with the doctor. I’d be asked questions, respectfully examined, treatments and options would be weighed, and we would be on our way. My mother had been supported in her efforts to raise a well child, and I’d had a meaningful interaction with an adult who cared for my body and development. I understood medicine as an act of service, which aligned with my values, and became a dream.

I was hospitalized for several months as a teenager and was inspired by the experience, despite the illness. In the time of diagnosis, treatment and recovery, I met truly sick children. Children who were much more ill than me. Children who wouldn’t recover. We shared a four-bed room, and we shared our medical stories. Because of the old hospital building, there was little privacy in our room, and we couldn’t help but listen-in during rounds, learning the medical details, becoming “experts” in our four distinct cases. I had more mobility than some of the patients, and when the medical team and family members were unavailable, I’d run simple errands for my roommates, liaise informally with staff, and attend to needs. To bring physical relief, a cold compress, a warmed blanket, a message to a nurse, filled me with such an intense joy and sense of purpose that I applied for a volunteer position at the hospital even before my release.

I have since been volunteering in emergency departments, out-patient clinics, and long term care facilities. While the depth of human suffering is at times shocking and the iterations of illness astounding, it is in the long-term care facility that I had the most meaningful experiences by virtue of my responsibilities and the nature of the patients’ illnesses. Charles was 55 when he died. He had early onset Parkinson’s Disease with dementia that revealed itself with a small tremor when he was in his late twenties. Charles had a wife and three daughters who visited regularly, but whom he didn’t often remember. Over four years as a volunteer, my role with the family was to fill in the spaces left by Charles’ periodic inability to project his voice as well as his growing cognitive lapses. I would tell the family of his activities between their visits, and I would remind him of their visits and their news. This was a hard experience for me. I watched as 3 daughters, around my own age, incrementally lost their father. I became angry, and then I grew even more determined.

In the summer of third year of my Health Sciences degree, I was chosen to participate in an undergraduate research fellowship in biomedical research at my university. As part of this experience, I worked alongside graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, medical students, physicians, and faculty in Alzheimer’s research into biomarkers that might predict future disease. We collaborated in teams, and by way of the principal investigator’s careful leadership, I learned wherever one falls in terms of rank, each contribution is vital to the outcome. None of the work is in isolation. For instance, I was closely mentored by Will, a graduate student who had been in my role the previous summer. He, in turn, collaborated with post docs and medical students, turning to faculty when roadblocks were met. While one person’s knowledge and skill may be deeper than another’s, individual efforts make up the whole. Working in this team, aside from developing research skills, I realized that practicing medicine is not an individual pursuit, but a collaborative commitment to excellence in scholarship and leadership, which all begins with mentorship.

Building on this experience with teamwork in the lab, I participated in a global health initiative in Nepal for four months, where I worked alongside nurses, doctors, and translators. I worked in mobile rural health camps that offered tuberculosis care, monitored the health and development of babies and children under 5, and tended to minor injuries. We worked 11-hour days helping hundreds of people in the 3 days we spent in each location. Patients would already be in line before we woke each morning. I spent each day recording basic demographic information, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, weight, height, as well as random blood sugar levels, for each patient, before they lined up to see a doctor. Each day was exhausting and satisfying. We helped so many people. But this satisfaction was quickly displaced by a developing understanding of issues in health equity.

My desire to be doctor as a young person was not misguided, but simply naïve. I’ve since learned the role of empathy and compassion through my experiences as a patient and volunteer. I’ve broadened my contextual understanding of medicine in the lab and in Nepal. My purpose hasn’t changed, but what has developed is my understanding that to be a physician is to help people live healthy, dignified lives by practicing both medicine and social justice.

28 More Medical School Personal Statement Examples

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As one of the most important  medical school requirements , the personal statement tells your story of why you decided to pursue the medical profession. Keep in mind that personal statements are one of the key factors that affect medical school acceptance rates . This is why it's important to write a stellar essay!

So let's help you get started writing your own personal statement. Let's approach this step-by-step. Below you will see how we will outline the steps to creating your very best personal statement. Check out AMCAS personal statement examples, AACOMAS personal statement examples and TMDSAS personal statement examples for more excellent essays.

#1 Understanding the Qualities of a Strong Med School Personal Statement

Before discussing how to write a strong medical school personal statement, we first need to understand the qualities of a strong essay. Similar to crafting strong medical school secondary essays , writing a strong personal statement is a challenging, yet extremely important, part of your MD or MD-PhD programs applications. Your AMCAS Work and Activities section may show the reader what you have done, but the personal statement explains why. A personal statement should be deeply personal, giving the admissions committee insight into your passions and your ultimate decision to pursue a career in medicine. A compelling and introspective personal statement can make the difference between getting an interview and facing medical school rejection . Review our blogs to find out how to prepare for med school interviews and learn the most common medical school interview questions .

As you contemplate the task in front of you, you may be wondering what composing an essay has to do with entering the field of medicine. Many of our students were surprised to learn that medical school personal statements are so valued by med schools. The two things are more closely related than you think. A compelling personal statement demonstrates your written communication skills and highlights your accomplishments, passions, and aspirations. The ability to communicate a complex idea in a short space is an important skill as a physician. You should demonstrate your communication skills by writing a concise and meaningful statement that illustrates your best attributes. Leaving a lasting impression on your reader is what will lead to interview invitations.

A quick note: if you are applying to schools that do not require the formal medical school personal statement, such as medical schools in Canada , you should still learn how to write such essays. Many medical schools in Ontario , for example, ask for short essays for supplementary questionnaires. These are very similar to the personal statement. Knowing how to brainstorm, write, and format your answers is key to your success!!!

You want to give yourself as much time as possible to write your statement. Do not think you can do this in an evening or even in a week. Some statements take months. My best statement took almost a year to get right. Allow yourself time and start early to avoid added stress. Think of the ideas you want to include and brainstorm possible ways to highlight these ideas. Ask your friends for ideas or even brainstorm your ideas with people you trust. Get some feedback early to make sure you are headed in the right direction.

All personal statements for medical school, often start by explaining why medicine is awesome; the admission committee already knows that. You should explain why you want a career in medicine. What is it about the practice of medicine that resonates with who you are? Naturally, this takes a lot of reflection around who you are. Here are some additional questions you can consider as you go about brainstorming for your essay:

  • What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
  • What is something you want them to know about you that isn't in your application?
  • Where were you born, how did you grow up, and what type of childhood did you have growing up (perhaps including interesting stories about your siblings, parents, grandparents)?
  • What kinds of early exposure to the medical field left an impression on you as a child?
  • Did you become familiar with and interested in the field of medicine at an early stage of your life? If so, why?
  • What are your key strengths, and how have you developed these?
  • What steps did you take to familiarize yourself with the medical profession?
  • Did you shadow a physician? Did you volunteer or work in a clinical setting? Did you get involved in medical research?
  • What challenges have you faced? Have these made an impact on what you chose to study?
  • What are your favorite activities?
  • What kinds of extracurriculars for medical school or volunteer work have you done, and how have these shaped who you are, your priorities, and or your perspectives on a career in medicine?
  • What was your "Aha!" moment?
  • When did your desire to become a doctor solidify?
  • How did you make the decision to apply to medical school?

As you begin thinking about what to include in your personal essay, remember that you are writing for a specific audience with specific expectations. Your evaluator will be familiar with the key qualities desired by medical schools, as informed by the standards of the profession. They will be examining your essay through the lens of their particular school's mission, values, and priorities. You should think about your experiences with reference to the AAMC Core Competencies and to each school's mission statement so that you're working toward your narrative with the institution and broader discipline in mind.

Review AAMC Core Competencies : The AAMC Core Competencies are the key characteristics and skills sought by U.S. medical schools. These are separated into four general categories:

Science Competencies : living systems and human behavior. ","label":"Science","title":"Science"}]" code="tab1" template="BlogArticle">

You are not expected to have mastered all of these competencies at this stage of your education. Display those that are relevant to your experiences will help demonstrate your commitment to the medical profession.

Review the school's mission statement: Educational institutions put a lot of time and care into drafting their school's vision. The mission statement will articulate the overall values and priorities of each university, giving you insight into what they might seek in candidates, and thus what you should try to display in your personal statement. Echoing the values of the university helps illustrate that you are a good fit for their intellectual culture. The mission statement may help you identify other priorities of the university, for example, whether they prioritize research-based or experiential-based education. All this research into your chosen medical schools will help you tremendously not only when you write you personal statement, but also the rest of your medical school application components, including your medical school letter of intent if you ever need to write one later.

Just like the personal statement is, in essence, a prompt without a prompt. They give you free rein to write your own prompt to tell your story. This is often difficult for students as they find it hard to get started without having a true direction. Below is a list of ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Use these prompts as a starting point for your essay. Also, they are a great way of addressing why you want to be a doctor without saying something generic.

  • The moment your passion for medicine crystallized
  • The events that led you toward this path
  • Specific instances in which you experienced opportunities
  • Challenges that helped shape your worldview
  • Your compassion, resilience, or enthusiastic collaboration
  • Demonstrate your commitment to others
  • Your dependability
  • Your leadership skills
  • Your ability to problem-solve or to resolve a conflict

These are personal, impactful experiences that only you have had. Focus on the personal, and connect that to the values of your future profession. Do that and you will avoid writing the same essay as everyone else.

Admissions committees don't want your resumé in narrative form. The most boring essays are those of applicants listing their accomplishments. Remember, all that stuff is already in the activities section of the application. This is where you should discuss interesting or important life events that shaped you and your interest in medicine (a service trip to rural Guatemala, a death in the family, a personal experience as a patient). One suggestion is to have an overarching theme to your essay to tie everything together, starting with an anecdote. Alternatively, you can use one big metaphor or analogy through the essay.

Your personal statement must be well-organized, showing a clear, logical progression, as well as connections between ideas. It is generally best to use a chronological progression since this mirrors your progression into a mature adult and gives you the opportunity to illustrate how you learned from early mistakes later on. Carry the theme throughout the statement to achieve continuity and cohesion. Use the theme to links ideas from each paragraph to the next and to unite your piece.

Medical School Personal Statement Structure

When working toward the initial draft of your essay, it is important to keep the following in mind: The essay should read like a chronological narrative and have good structure and flow. Just like any academic essay, it will need an introduction, body content, and a conclusion. If you're wondering whether a medical school advisor can help you with your medical school application, check out our blog for the answer.

Check out our video to learn how to create a killer introduction to your medical school personal statement:


The introductory paragraph and, even more importantly, the introductory sentence of your essay, will most certainly make or break your overall statement. Ensure that you have a creative and captivating opening sentence that draws the reader in. This is your first and only chance to make a first impression and really capture the attention of the committee. Starting with an event or an Aha! moment that inspired your decision to pursue a medical profession is one way to grab their attention. The kinds of things that inspire or motivate you can say a lot about who you are as a person.

The broader introductory paragraph itself should serve several functions. First, it must draw your reader in with an eye-catching first line and an engaging hook or anecdote. It should point toward the qualities that most effectively demonstrate your desire and suitability for becoming a physician (you will discuss these qualities further in the body paragraphs). The thesis of the introduction is that you have certain skills, experiences, and characteristics and that these skills, experiences, and characteristics will lead you to thrive in the field of medicine. Finally, it must also serve as a roadmap to the reader, allowing them to understand where the remainder of the story is headed.

That is a lot of work for a single paragraph to do. To better help you envision what this looks like in practice, here is a sample introduction that hits these main points.

I was convinced I was going to grow up to be a professional chef. This was not just another far-fetched idealistic childhood dream that many of us had growing up. There was a sense of certainty about this dream that motivated me to devote countless hours to its practice. It was mostly the wonder that it brought to others and the way they were left in awe after they tried a dish that I recall enjoying the most creating as a young chef. But, when I was 13, my grandfather was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and I realized that sometimes cooking is not enough, as I quickly learned about the vital role physicians play in the life of everyday people like my family and myself. Although my grandfather ended up passing away from his illness, the impact that the healthcare team had on him, my family, and I will always serve as the initial starting point of my fascination with the medical profession. Since that time, I have spent years learning more about the human sciences through my undergraduate studies and research, have developed a deeper understanding of the demands and challenges of the medical profession through my various volunteer and extra-curricular experiences, and although it has been difficult along the way, I have continued to forge a more intimate fascination with the medical field that has motivated me to apply to medical school at this juncture of my life. ","label":"Sample Introduction","title":"Sample Introduction"}]" code="tab3" template="BlogArticle">

In the body of your essay, you essentially want to elaborate on the ideas that you have introduced in your opening paragraph by drawing on your personal experiences to provide evidence. Major points from the above sample introduction could be: dedication and resilience (practicing cooking for hours, and devoting years to undergraduate studies in human sciences), passion and emotional connection (being able to create something that inspired awe in others, and personally connecting with the work of the grandfather's healthcare team), motivation and drive (being inspired by the role physicians play in their patients' lives, participating in volunteer work and extracurriculars, and an enduring fascination with the field of medicine). Depending on the details, a selection of volunteer and extra-curricular experiences might also be discussed in more detail, in order to emphasize other traits like collaboration, teamwork, perseverance, or a sense of social responsibility – all key characteristics sought by medical schools. Just like an academic essay, you will devote one paragraph to each major point, explaining this in detail, supporting your claims with experiences from your life, and reflecting on the meaning of each plot point in your personal narrative, with reference to why you want to pursue a medical career.

Your final statement should not be a simple summary of the things you have discussed. It should be insightful, captivating, and leave the reader with a lasting impression. Although you want to re-emphasize the major ideas of your essay, you should try to be creative and captivating, much like your opening paragraph. Sometimes if you can link your opening idea to your last paragraph it will really tie the whole essay together. The conclusion is just as important as the introduction. It is your last chance to express your medical aspirations. You want to impress the reader while also leaving them wanting more. In this case, more would mean getting an interview so they can learn more about who you are! Leave them thinking I have got to meet this person.

The narrative you construct should display some of your most tightly held values, principles, or ethical positions, along with key accomplishments and activities. If you see yourself as someone who is committed to community service, and you have a track record of such service, your story should feature this and provide insight into why you care about your community and what you learned from your experiences. Saying that you value community service when you've never volunteered a day in your life is pointless. Stating that your family is one where we support each other through challenge and loss (if this is indeed true), is excellent because it lays the groundwork for telling a story while showing that you are orientated towards close relationships. You would then go on to offer a brief anecdote that supports this. You are showing how you live such principles, rather than just telling your reader that you have such principles.

A lot of students make the mistake of verbalizing their personal attributes with a bunch of adjectives, such as, "This experience taught me to be a self-reliant leader, with excellent communication skills, and empathy for others..." In reality, this does nothing to convey these qualities. It's a mistake to simply list your skills or characteristics without showing the reader an example of a time you used them to solve a problem. If you simply list your skills or characteristics (telling), without demonstrating the ways you have applied them (showing), you risk coming across as arrogant. The person reading the essay may not believe you, as you've not really given them a way to see such values in your actions. It is better to construct a narrative to show the reader that you possess the traits that medical schools are looking for, rather than explicitly stating that you are an empathetic individual or capable of deep self-reflection. Instead of listing adjectives, tell your personal story and allow the admissions committee to paint the picture for themselves. This step is very challenging for many students, but it's one of the most important strategies used in successful essays. Writing this way will absolutely make your statement stand out from the rest.

While it may be tempting to write in a high academic tone, using terminology or jargon that is often complex or discipline-specific, requiring a specialized vocabulary for comprehension. You should actually aim to write for a non-specialist audience. Remember, in the world of medicine, describing a complex, clinical condition to a patient requires using specific but clear words. This is why your personal statement should show that you can do the same thing. Using large words in unwieldy ways makes you sound like you are compensating for poor communication skills. Use words that you believe most people understand. Read your personal statement back to a 14-year-old, and then again to someone for whom English is not their first language, to see if you're on the right path.

Ultimately, fancy words do not make you a good communicator; listening and ensuring reader comprehension makes you a good communicator. Instead of using complex terminology to tell the admissions committee that you have strong communication skills, show them your communication skills through clear, accessible prose, written with non-specialists in mind. A common refrain among writing instructors is, never use a $10 word where a $2 word will suffice. If you can say it in plain, accessible language, then this is what you should do.

Display Professionalism

Professionalism may seem like a difficult quality to display when only composing a personal statement. After all, the reader can't see your mannerisms, your personal style, or any of those little qualities that allow someone to appear professional. Professionalism is about respect for the experience of others on your team or in your workplace. It is displayed when you are able to step back from your own individual position and think about what is best for your colleagues and peers, considering their needs alongside your own. If a story is relevant to why you want to be a physician and demonstrates an example of how you were professional in a workplace setting, then it is appropriate to include in your essay.

One easy way to destroy a sense of professionalism is to act in a judgmental way towards others, particularly if you perceived and ultimately resolved an error on someone else's part. Sometimes students blame another medical professional for something that went wrong with a patient.

They might say something to the effect of, "The nurse kept brushing off the patient's concerns, refusing to ask the attending to increase her pain medications. Luckily, being the empathetic individual that I am, I took the time to listen to sit with the patient, eventually bringing her concerns to the attending physician, who thanked me for letting him know."

There are a couple of things wrong with this example. It seems like this person is putting down someone else in an attempt to make themselves look better. They come across as un-empathetic and judgmental of the nurse. Maybe she was having a busy day, or maybe the attending had just seen the patient for this issue and the patient didn't really need re-assessment. Reading this kind of account in a personal statement makes the reader question the maturity of the applicant and their ability to move past blaming others and resolve problems in a meaningful way. Instead of allocating blame, identify what the problem was for the patient and then focus on what you did to resolve it and reflect on what you learned from the whole experience.

One last note on professionalism: Being professional does not mean being overly stoic, hiding your emotions, or cultivating a bland personality. A lot of students are afraid to talk about how a situation made them feel in their personal statement. They worry that discussing feelings is inappropriate and will appear unprofessional. Unfortunately for these students, emotional intelligence is hugely important to the practice of medicine. In order to be a good doctor, one must be aware of their own emotions as well as those of their patients. Good doctors are able to quickly identify their own emotions and understand how their emotional reactions may inform their actions, and the ability to deliver appropriate care, in a given situation. Someone who is incapable of identifying their emotions is also incapable of managing them effectively and will likely struggle to identify the emotions of others. So, when writing your personal statement, think about how each experience made you feel, and what you learned from those feelings and that experience.

How to Write About Discrepancies and Common Mistakes to Avoid

Part of your essay's body can include a discussion of any discrepancies or gaps in your education, or disruptions in your academic performance. If you had to take time off, or if you had a term or course with low grades, or if you had any other extenuating circumstances that impacted your education, you can take time to address these here. It is very important to address these strategically. Do not approach this section as space to plead your case. Offer a brief summary of the situation, and then emphasize what you learned from such hardships. Always focus on the positive, illustrating how such difficulties made you stronger, more resilient, or more compassionate. Connect your experiences to the qualities desired by medical schools.

Emphasize your ability to persevere through it all but do so in a positive way. Most of all, if you feel like you have to explain yourself, take accountability for the situation. State that it is unfortunate and then redirect it to what you learned and how it will make you a better doctor. Always focus on being positive and do not lament on the negative situation too much.

Additional Mistakes to Avoid in Personal Statements:

Check out this video on the top 5 errors to avoid in your personal statement!

Step 3: Writing Your First Draft

As you can see, there is a LOT of planning and consideration to be done before actually starting your first draft. Properly brainstorming, outlining, and considering the content and style of your essay prior to beginning the essay will make the writing process much smoother than it would be you to try to jump right to the draft-writing stage. Now, you're not just staring at a blank page wondering what you could possibly write to impress the admissions committee. Instead, you've researched what the school desires from its students and what the medical profession prioritizes in terms of personal characteristics, you've sketched out some key moments from your life that exemplify those traits, and you have a detailed outline that just needs filling in.

As you're getting started, focus on getting content on the page, filling in your outline and getting your ideas arranged on the page. Your essay will go through multiple drafts and re-writes, so the first step is to free write and start articulating connections between your experiences and the characteristics you're highlighting. You can worry about flow, transitions, and perfect grammar in later drafts. The first draft is always a working draft, written with the understanding that its purpose is to act as a starting point, not an ending point. Once you've completed a draft, you can begin the revising process. The next section will break down what to do once you have your first draft completed.

You can also begin looking at things like style, voice, transitions, and overall theme. The best way to do this is to read your essay aloud. This may sound strange, but it is one of the single most impactful bits of writing advice a student can receive. When we're reading in our heads (and particularly when we're reading our own words), it is easy to skip over parts that may be awkwardly worded, or where the grammar is off. As our brains process information differently, depending on whether we're taking in visual or auditory information, this can also help you understand where the connections between ideas aren't as evident as you would like. Reading the essay aloud will help you begin internalizing the narrative you've crafted, so that you can come to more easily express this both formally in writing and informally in conversation (for example, in an interview).

#1 Did You Distinguish Yourself From Others?

Does your narrative sound unique? Is it different than your peers or did you write in a generic manner? Use your narrative to provide a compelling picture of who you are as a person, as a learner, as an advocate, and as a future medical professional. What can you offer? Remember, you will be getting a lot out of your med school experience, but the school will be getting a lot out of you, as well. You will be contributing your research efforts to your department, you will be participating in the academic community, and as you go on to become a successful medical professional you will impact the perception of your school's prestige. This is a mutually beneficial relationship, so use this opportunity to highlight what you bring to the table, and what you will contribute as a student at their institution. Let them know what it is about you that is an attribute to their program. Make them see you as a stand out from the crowd.

#2 Does My Essay Flow and is it Comprehensible?

Personal statements are a blessing and a curse for admission committees. They give them a better glimpse of who the applicant is than simple scores. Also, they are long and time-consuming to read. And often, they sound exactly alike. On occasion, a personal statement really makes an applicant shine. After reading page after page of redundant, cookie-cutter essays, an essay comes along with fluid prose and a compelling narrative, the reader snaps out of that feeling of monotony and gladly extends their enthusiastic attention.

Frankly, if the statement is pleasant to read, it will get read with more attention and appreciation. Flow is easier to craft through narrative, which is why you should root the statement in a story that demonstrates characteristics desirable to medical schools. Fluidity takes time to build, though, so your statement should be etched out through many drafts and should also be based on an outline. You need to brainstorm, then outline, then draft and re-draft, and then bring in editors and listeners for feedback (Note: You need someone to proofread your work. Bestselling authors have editors. Top scholars have editors. I need an editor. You need an editor. Everyone needs an editor). Then, check and double-check and fix anything that needs fixing. Then check again. Then submit. You want this to be a statement that captures the reader's interest by creating a fluid, comprehensible piece that leads the reader to not only read each paragraph but want to continue to the next sentence.

#3 Did You Check Your Grammar?

If you give yourself more than one night to write your statement, the chances of grammatical errors will decrease considerably. If you are pressed for time, upload your file into an online grammar website. Use the grammar checker on your word processor, but know that this, in itself, isn't enough. Use the eyes and ears of other people to check and double-check your grammar, punctuation, and syntax. Read your statement out loud to yourself and you will almost certainly find an error (and likely several errors). Use fresh eyes to review the statement several times before you actually submit it, by walking away from it for a day or so and then re-reading it. Start your essay early, so that you actually have time to do this. This step can make or break your essay. Do not waste all the effort you have put into writing, to only be discarded by the committee for using incorrect grammar and syntax.

#4 Did You Gather Feedback From Other People?

The most important tip in writing a strong application essay is this getting someone else to read your work. While the tips above are all very useful for writing a strong draft, nothing will benefit you more than getting an outside appraisal of your work. For example, it's very easy to overlook your own spelling or grammatical errors. You know your own story and you may think that your narrative and it's meaning make sense to your reader. You won't know that for sure without having someone else actually read it. This may sound obvious, but it's still an absolute necessity. Have someone you trust to read the essay and ask them what they thought of it. What was their impression of you after reading it? Did it make sense? Was it confusing? Do they have any questions? What was the tone of the essay? Do they see the connections you're trying to make? What were their takeaways from your essay, and do these align with your intended takeaways for your reader? Ideally, this person should have some knowledge of the application process or the medical profession, so that they can say whether you were successful in demonstrating that you are a suitable candidate for medical school. However, any external reader is better than no external reader at all.

Avoid having people too close to you read your work. They may refrain from being too critical in an effort to spare your feelings. This is the time to get brutal, honest feedback. If you know someone who is an editor but do not feel that they can be objective, try and find someone else.

Would you like 8 medical school personal statement tips? Check out our video below:

FAQs and Final Notes

Your personal statement should tell your story and highlight specific experiences or aspects of your journey that have led you to medicine. If your first exposure or interest in the medical field was sparked from your own medical struggles, then you can certainly include this in your statement. What is most important is that you write about what factors or experiences attributed to you deciding that medicine is the right career path for you.

Sometimes students shy away from including their own personal struggles and describing how they felt during difficult times but this is a great way for admissions committees to gain perspective into who you are as a person and where your motivations lie. Remember, this is your story, not someone else's, so your statement should revolve around you. If you choose to discuss a personal hardship, what's most important is that you don't cast yourself as the victim and that you discuss what the experience taught you. Also, medical schools are not allowed to discriminate against students for discussing medical issues, so it is not looked at as a red flag unless you are talking about an issue inappropriately. For example, making yourself appear as the victim or not taking responsibility.

All US medical schools require the completion of a personal statement with your AMCAS, TMDSAS or AACOMAS applications.

Medical schools in Canada on the other hand, do not require or accept personal statements. In lieu of the personal statement, a few of these schools may require you to address a prompt in the form of an essay, or allow you to submit an explanation essay to describe any extenuating circumstances, but this is not the same as the US personal statement. For example, when applying through  OMSAS , the  University of Toronto medical school  requires applicants to complete four short, 250 words or less, personal essays.

Many students struggle with whether or not they should address an unfavorable grade in their personal statement. What one student does isn't necessarily the right decision for you.

To help you decide, think about whether or not that bad grade might reflect on your poorly. If you think it will, then it's best to address the academic misstep head-on instead of having admissions committees dwell on possible areas of concern. If you're addressing a poor evaluation, ensure that you take responsibility for your grade, discuss what you learned and how your performance will be improved in the future - then move on. It's important that you don't play the victim and you must always reflect on what lessons you've learned moving forward.

Of course not, just because you didn't wake up one morning and notice a lightbulb flashing the words medicine, doesn't mean that your experiences and journey to medicine are inferior to those who did. Students arrive to medicine in all sorts of ways, some change career paths later in life, some always knew they wanted to pursue medicine, and others slowly became interested in medicine through their life interactions and experiences. Your personal statement should address your own unique story to how you first became interested in medicine and when and how that interest turned to a concrete desire.

While your entire statement is important, the opening sentence can often make or break your statement. This is because admission committee members are reviewing hundreds, if not thousands of personal statements. If your opening sentence is not eye-catching, interesting, and memorable, you risk your statement blending in with the large pile of other statements. Have a look at our video above for tips and strategies for creating a fantastic opening sentence.

Having your statement reviewed by family and friends can be a good place to start, but unfortunately, it's near-impossible for them to provide you with unbiased feedback. Often, friends and family members are going to support us and rave about our achievements. Even if they may truly think your statement needs work, they may feel uncomfortable giving you their honest feedback at the risk of hurting your feelings.

In addition, family and friends don't know exactly what admission committee members are looking for in a personal statement, nor do they have years of experience reviewing personal statements and helping students put the best version of themselves forward. For these reasons, many students choose to seek the help of a professional medical school advisor to make sure they have the absolute best chances of acceptance to medical school the first time around.

If you have enough time set aside to write your statement without juggling multiple other commitments, it normally takes at least four weeks to write your statement. If you are working, in school, or volunteering and have other commitments, be prepared to spend 6-8 weeks.

Your conclusion should have a summary of the main points you have made in your essay, but it should not just be a summary. You should also end with something that makes the reader want to learn more about you (i.e. call you for an interview). A good way to do this is to include a call-back to your opening anecdote: how have you grown or matured since then? How are you more prepared now to begin medical school?

The goal is to show as many of them as you can in the WHOLE application: this includes your personal statement, sketch, reference letters, secondary essays, and even your GPA and MCAT (which show critical thinking and reasoning already). So, it’s not an issue to focus on only a few select experiences and competencies in the personal statement.

Yes, you can. However, if you used an experience as a most meaningful entry, pick something else to talk about in your essay. Remember, you want to highlight as many core competencies across your whole application). Or, if you do pick the same experience: pick a different specific encounter or project with a different lesson learned.

Once your essay is in good shape, it's best to submit to ensure your application is reviewed as soon as possible. Remember, with rolling admissions, as more time passes before you submit your application, your chances of acceptance decreases. Nerves are normal and wanting to tinker is also normal, but over-analyzing and constant adjustments can actually weaken your essay.

So, if you're thinking about making more changes, it's important to really reflect and think about WHY you want to change something and if it will actually make the essay stronger. If not your changes won't actually make the essay stronger or if it's a very minor change you're thinking of making, then you should likely leave it as is.

The reality is, medical school admission is an extremely competitive process. In order to have the best chance of success, every part of your application must be stellar. Also, every year some students get in whose GPAs or  MCAT scores  are below the median. How? Simply because they must have stood out in other parts of the application, such as the personal statement.

The ones that honestly made the most impact on you. You'll need to reflect on your whole life and think about which experiences helped you grow and pushed you to pursue medicine. Ideally, experiences that show commitment and progression are better than one-off or short-term activities, as they usually contribute more to growth.

Final Notes

This Ultimate Guide has demonstrated all the work that needs to be done to compose a successful, engaging personal statement for your medical school application. While it would be wonderful if there was an easy way to write your personal statement in a day, the reality is that this kind of composition takes a lot of work. As daunting as this may seem, this guide lays out a clear path. In summary, the following 5 steps are the basis of what you should take away from this guide. These 5 steps are your guide and sort of cheat sheet to writing your best personal statement.

5 Main Takeaways For Personal Statement Writing:

  • Brainstorming
  • Content and Theme
  • Multiple Drafts
  • Revision With Attention to Grammar

While a strong personal statement alone will not guarantee admission to medical school, it could absolutely squeeze you onto a  medical school waitlist , off the waitlist, and onto the offer list, or give someone on the admissions committee a reason to go to battle for your candidacy. Use this as an opportunity to highlight the incredible skills you've worked and studied to refine, the remarkable life experiences you've had, and the key qualities you possess in your own unique way. Show the admissions committee that you are someone they want to meet. Remember, in this context, wanting to meet you means wanting to bring you in for an interview!

Dr. Lauren Prufer is an admissions expert at BeMo. Dr. Prufer is also a medical resident at McMaster University. Her medical degree is from the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. During her time in medical school, she developed a passion for sharing her knowledge with others through medical writing, research, and peer mentoring.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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Harvard Medical School Personal Statement on Radiation Oncology

EssayEdge > Blog > Harvard Medical School Personal Statement on Radiation Oncology

Note: This essay appears unedited for instructional purposes. Essays edited by EssayEdge are substantially improved. For samples of EssayEdge editing, please  click here .

Radiation Oncology Volunteer; Biochemical Lab Experience; Neurosurgery Research; ER Volunteer; English Language Tutor; Student Advisor; Community Service

“Carl, the woman we’re about to meet will receive her first palliative treatment today,” said Dr. A., an Attending in Radiation Oncology. He continued to explain her case as we walked briskly down the hallways of the hospital. I followed him into the radiation treatment room to meet the patient and learn about the procedure which, sadly, would not eradicate her disease. Since then, I have met with him weekly throughout this summer to learn about radiation oncology and medicine in general. Through experiences such as these, I have learned much about the profession of medicine. I want to become a physician for the intellectual challenges and rewards that come from helping others.

I first became interested in medical research by working in a biochemical engineering laboratory at MIT . For over two years I explored the medically related field, biotechnology. I have led experiments involving fermentation bioreactors and trained two inexperienced undergraduates. Recently, I presented a poster entitled “Effect of Antifoam during Filtration of Recombinant Bacterial Broth” at a New England Society for Industrial Microbiology colloquium. Enjoying the biomedical rather than engineering aspects of the work, I have shifted my career interests to medicine.

Last summer, I expanded my interest in medicine by working for the Neurosurgery Department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. After a short training period, I worked independently on three research projects: Clonality analysis of schwannomas, clonality analysis of a multiple meningioma, and the loss of heterozygosity (LOH) screening of pituitary adenomas. I developed a strong interest in my work when I observed my mentor, Dr. Peter Black, remove brain tumors in the operating room. After the initial shock and amazement of seeing the exposed brain of a conscious patient, I thought more about the connections between this clinical work and my research. While my projects’ objective was to gain a better understanding of tumors, the ultimate goal is to prevent and cure tumors to save human lives-the very people whom I had seen on the operating table! With this thought in mind, I found the motivation to complete the short-term objectives of my projects. I will be the second author of a paper, entitled “Clonality Analysis of Schwannomas,” which will be submitted to Neurosurgery.

This summer, as a participant in NYU Medical Center’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program (S.U.R.P.), I am learning even more about research and clinical medicine. In my work, I am determining the effect of the absence of the N-ras protooncogene on induced tumorigenesis. By conducting molecular oncology research for another summer, I have greatly expanded my knowledge and interest in the field. In addition, through my experiences in the Radiation Oncology Department with Dr. S., I clearly see the greater purpose of medical research beyond personal intellectual gratification. In the case of cancer and many other diseases, research is the only way to overcome the limitations of current clinical treatments.

I believe that one of the greatest joys and privileges of physicians are their abilities to directly aid and affect a community. While becoming interested in the science of medicine through research, I have explored human service to understand the art of medicine. When I volunteered in the Emergency Room of New England Medical Center during my sophomore year, many physicians impressed me with their sensitivity and compassion. When not assisting the hospital staff, I took every opportunity to comfort patients who felt scared and vulnerable. During that same year, I also tutored a middle-aged woman in English as a Second Language. It was challenging to teach her vocabulary and sentence structure since, initially, simple communication with her had been difficult. Helping her pass the high school equivalency exam made all of my efforts worthwhile. In addition, I have been an Associate Advisor for freshmen for the past two years. In this role, I have helped first year students adjust to college life. Not only have I played the role of academic mentor, but I have also become an intimate friend and personal tutor to my advisees. For my efforts, I won the annual Outstanding Associate Advisor Award.

Need help? Check out EssayEdge editing services:

Besides individual volunteering, I have taken the initiative to help the local community on a greater scale. As Community Service Chair for the Chinese Student’s Club for the past two years, I established a new program to promote the interaction between MIT students and underprivileged teenagers. College students and children affiliated with a local community organization, Boston Asian: Youth Essential Service, have become acquainted through regular activities. Through events such as a scavenger hunt and a hands-on introduction to the World Wide Web, MIT volunteers help teenagers learn about the opportunities available at college. Along with several other undergraduates, I have become further acquainted with the teens through individual tutoring. To establish this new service program, I have done intensive planning and budget management. I have refined rough, creative ideas into organized activities involving over twenty people. During the planning stages, I have worked closely with professional youth counselors, other MIT participants, and the teens. While my involvement in this program has been very demanding at times, seeing these teens learn and develop their interests has definitely made it worthwhile.

During college I have learned many things outside of lecture halls and libraries. In research labs, I have refined my intellectual curiosity and scientific thought processes. In the local community, I have developed my interpersonal skills and a greater understanding of others. Through it all, I have learned to treasure the simple pleasures of helping others. By becoming a physician, I will continue to develop and apply these personal attributes.

Although this sample needs substantial proofreading, it’s still good enough. It was accepted by Harvard’s admissions board, so all prospective Harvard students have something to draw from here. Here is a piece of advice for you: don’t ignore the chance to use personal statement editing medical school applicants often forget to use. Our turnaround time is fast, but the result surpasses all your expectations.

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Medical School Headquarters

Today’s episode is meant to help you figure out how to write your medical school personal statement.

If you have access to a great premed advisor at your university, utilize them because they know your individual circumstances a lot better than we do. But if you’re in a situation where, being a nontraditional student , you find it difficult to get access to a premed advisor or perhaps if you’re at a larger university and you’re not in touch with your premed advisor, we offer premed advising services here at Medical School Headquarters.

In this webinar, we talk about the A-Z of personal statements. There are a lot of misunderstandings about what the medical school personal statement should do, so listen to this webinar to help shed light on your questions.

Why do we need to write a medical school personal statement?

  • It’s your opportunity to expand on so much more than what the rest of your application is telling the admissions committee
  • It gives you the ability to turn those numbers into a story and tell a better story than pure numbers and statistics.
  • A large majority of medical school personal statements do more to hurt an application than to help an application.
  • This is your golden opportunity to find your voice to speak directly to the admissions committee members.
  • Numbers aren’t very expressive, but this is a chance for you to be creative and demonstrate your passions and interests.
  • You get to convey what is driving you and  why you want to be a doctor .

Who is the medical school personal statement for?

  • You are writing to the admissions committees of the medical schools.
  • They rank all applications by GPA and  MCAT score , and they glance at personal statements to pick out interesting key points that could get you an interview.
  • Understanding who your audience is will help you in writing your personal statement.
  • Your challenge is to articulate your “why” to the admissions committee.
  • Start practicing. Cut out a picture and imagine you’re talking to the admissions person, or say it out loud to other people and get feedback from them.

How long should a personal statement be for medical school?

  • The limit is 4,500 characters for AACOMAS (DO schools) and 5,300 characters for AMCAS (MD schools).
  • Telling your story in 4,500 to 5,300 characters is very hard.
  • You need to plan how to do this and start early because you have very limited space.

When should you start writing your medical school personal statement?

You should have it done around May, so you can apply early in the application cycle . Start writing it two or three months before that.

How to draft your personal statement:

  • You may have a journal that you can translate to your personal statement
  • Use technology to your advantage. You don’t have to   type necessarily. Dictate your personal statement and record it.
  • “Write drunk and edit sober.”
  • Don’t think. There is no starting point. Just start writing. Get everything out of your head. Get all your feelings out. The first draft is not supposed to be perfect.
  • All the organizing and editing comes later.

How many drafts should I go through?

How many editors do you need to look at your personal statement.

  • Get as many editors as you can, those who know you and don’t.
  • Give it to a practicing physician.
  • Get a professional editor. Have somebody that does this for a living, not for the content but for spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.
  • Be clear with each of them about how you want them to edit it: for the content, for the organization, or for typos?

[Check out our Personal Statement Editing services .]

What’s your story?

  • The beginning: How did you get here?
  • The end: Getting to medical school
  • Show them what you’re doing.
  • Let the words come to life.
  • Show them your personal qualities through what you’ve done in the past.
  • Share the most powerful experiences that convinced you to become a doctor or cemented this as the right path for you.
  • Keeping a journal will definitely help you write your personal statement.

[Check out our Personal Statement Writing Course .]

Common mistakes with medical school personal statements:

Here are some of the mistakes we see premeds making over and over with their personal statements:

Grammatical errors

  • Do the editing 3 or 4 times.
  • Be very careful and have others read it through.
  • Use commas and semicolons properly.

Being very long-winded

  • Editing can fix this.
  • Personal statements should not be a blow-by-blow account of your life. It’s not about telling your entire life story.
  • Pick out the most transformative, crucial experiences of your premed path, and allow the admissions committee to experience those with you.

[Related episode: 5 Biggest Medical School Personal Statement Mistakes ]

Failure to talk about why you want to pursue this difficult path

  • Mention why you want to be a doctor.
  • What are you hoping to do in the future?
  • Explain your “why” in your personal statement.

Should you use the same personal statement for both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools?

Email deans at osteopathic schools to get the best answer, as each school is going to be different. But at the end of the day, it’s about sharing your story and talking about why you want to be a physician, not why you want to be a DO or MD. So it doesn’t really matter. Generally, yes, you can use the same personal statement.

How to start

Just get everything out of your head. Just start writing it all down. Then you can mold and move things around from there. Get it out there. Just start, and it will trigger other meaningful memories you have. Pick a couple of the most meaningful experiences and start by developing those.

Links and Other Resources

  • Check out my book all about the personal statement: The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement .
  • Related episode: 5 Biggest Medical School Personal Statement Mistakes
  • Related episode: Writing Personal Statements for Medical School
  • Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” for 10% off Next Step full-length practice tests or “MSHQTOC” for $50 off MCAT tutoring or the Next Step MCAT Course at  Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) !


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The Medical School Personal Statement – Tips from a Former Medical School Admissions Committee Member

The medical school personal statement can strike fear into the heart of the medical school applicant.

However, it does not have to be that way! Think of this as your chance to set yourself apart from other medical students. With at little bit of work, your personal statement for medical school can tell the medical school admissions committee who you are and why they should want you.

medical school personal statement

Remember, however, that there are many factors that medical schools are looking for in choosing an applicant. You need to understand all the things that schools are looking for to make your dream of becoming a doctor a reality.

Click here to learn what it takes (in addition to a great medical school essay) to get accepted to medical school.

Now, back to explaining what it takes to write a great personal statement for medical school.

Here is what a lot of medical school essays look like :

I want to be a doctor because I want to help people.

I did research. I did community service. I worked at a hospital.

My dad was a doctor and that’s what made me want to be a doctor.

I will be good in medical school.

This is an exaggeration, but many medical school admission essays look the same.

The medical school personal statement. Writing a medical school essay can be hard, but with these tips it can be fun!

Photo courtesy of Rennett Stowe

Below are some rules to follow to make your medical school admission essay stand out.

If after going through these rules you find that you would like some more medical school essay help,

Editing of your statement is also available by MedSchoolCoach here.

MedSchoolCoach is the company I recommend for medical school personal statement help as well as admissions advising. They are all former admissions committee members, which means they know exactly what schools are looking for and what it takes to be accepted. Their rates are also very reasonable compared to other companies. Consulting can cost some money, but think of it as an investment. Whatever you spend now will get you $150,000 to $500,000 for 30+ years, doing something you love. Not a bad return on investment!


  • Videos describing the entire admissions process, from choosing to apply to choosing between multiple acceptances
  • A custom tool to know your chances based on MCAT, GPA and race
  • A custom tool to know exactly where to apply based on MCAT, GPA and state of residence
  • Examples from successful applicants of AMCAS activities, personal statements, secondary essays, descriptions of hardship and descriptions of disciplinary actions
  • 4 hours of recorded interview prep to learn what it takes to ace an interview

And much more! All for less than the cost of 1 hour of one on one advising. You can check it out here.

Here are the main rules you want to follow when writing a medical school essay and really any personal writing:

Rule #1: Show, Don’t Tell

  • A common theme in the medical school personal statement is “ I want to be a doctor because I want to help people.” This is probably true, but the problem is this: anyone can say that, and most applicants do say that. You need to show me why that’s true. What experience did you have that made you want to help people? Likewise, don’t just say that you’ve done research or community service. Tell a story only you can tell about it and what it taught you that will make you a good doctor.
  • Here’s part of a sample medical school essay that shows that you want to help people:
  • I could smell the rotting garbage in the streets. I was far from home in my third week in Guatemala as part of a medical mission. The people were so poor, but so grateful. I was working with Pedro, bandaging a cut on his hand after an accident sharpening his machete. He looked up at me and said “Gracias, amigo.” Those simple words lifted my spirits. My work here was making a difference, small as it might be. I want to continue to make that difference and feel the joy of helping others through a career in medicine.
  • What’s good about this: It shows that you want to help people by your experience and it’s an experience that only you had. Individuality is the key to the medical school personal statement.

Rule #2: It’s story time

  • This goes along with show don’t tell, but your medical school personal statement should be a collection of your experiences and what they taught you. Those experiences should have taught you things that will make you a good doctor. Remember to think from the perspective of the reader. The reader wants to know who you are and that you have developed certain character traits through your experiences. These should include things like service, compassion, integrity, dedication, diligence, tenacity, leadership, etc.
  • Everyone will be trying to show that they have those qualities, but you will have the advantage because you will show the reader by your experiences that you have those qualities.
  • Most of the applicants will have those qualities. Your job is to show how you got them or how you use them.
  • Tell a story, then tell what it taught you. How will that lesson make you a good doctor? This is what will make your personal statement for medical school stand out.

Rule #3: Make it entertaining. If you’re not having fun writing it, they’re not having fun reading it!

  • Remember that the people reading these have read many, many medical school personal statements. If you are telling stories that are meaningful to you, that will come across and make it an entertaining read for the person reviewing your application.
  • If you’re not having fun writing it, they’re not having fun reading it. I’m repeating this because it’s so important. Remember this as your write all of your essays, including the medical school personal statement, your descriptions of activities, and your secondary application essays. Use humor if that is one of your talents. If someone laughs while reading your essay, that’s a good thing. It may be the first laugh the person reading all these medical school essays has had in a while.

Rule #4: Don’t make it too personal

  • While you want to show who you are in your medical school personal statement, you don’t want to give up too much. This can be a fine line, but just keep this principle in mind: Don’t write anything that you don’t want the interviewer to ask you about. Do that and you’ll be fine.
  • For example, your medical school admission essay is not the time to bring up your past as a juvenile delinquent. If you do this, you need some medical school essay help!

Rule #5: Have other people read your medical school personal statement

  • At the end of the day, writing is about how other people respond to what you have written. Have someone look through your medical school essay.
  • The ideal person to review your medical school essay will be someone who is a good writer and who will give you honest feedback about your personal statement for medical school. Don’t just choose people who will say your essay is great even if it’s not. Your mom probably falls under this category. Your boyfriend or girlfriend probably does too.
  • You can’t find someone who is a good writer to review your essay
  • You’re explaining hardships
  • English is not your first language

If one of these or other reasons is the case, a good editor really comes in handy. The company I recommend for this is MedSchoolCoach .

The Basic Outline

  • Your medical school personal statement should look something like this:
  • Hook: Something that immediately grabs the reader’s attention. From the sample medical school essay above, the first sentence was “I could smell the rotting garbage in the streets.” That’s something interesting that makes the reader want to keep reading.
  • Story time: Tell your first story.
  • What it taught you: What character trait/quality does this experience demonstrate or what did the experience teach you? In our example this part read as follows: “My work here was making a difference, small as it might be. I want to continue to make that difference and feel the joy of helping others through a career in medicine.”
  • Same as introduction
  • You only want the medical school personal statement to be about one page. So, don’t get carried away.
  • Here’s part of a sample medical school essay from my personal statement:
  • Not only have I had the chance to be a mentor, I have had the chance to be mentored by inspiring physicians. I sat in the small whitewashed room with Dr. Petrie at the red cross building in El Fuerte, Mexico, waiting for our next patient. Dr. Petrie had flown us from Fullterton, CA to Mexico at his own expense in his 4-seater yellow Bonanza aircraft. A man in cowboy boots and hat came into the small whitewashed room with his family, rolled up his plaid sleeve and showed us a large growth on his right bicep. Dr. Petrie asked a few questions about it and whether he wanted it removed. When the man said yes, Dr. Petrie replied with a smile, “So you don’t want to look like a strong man anymore?” There was a sense of relief in the laughter of the man and his family. They knew that the person who would perform the surgery cared not just about the growth but about the man.
  • Summary of your qualities learned/demonstrated by your experiences. You want the reader to finish reading your personal statement for medical school with an understanding of how these experiences will make you a great doctor.
  • …They knew that the person who would perform the surgery cared not just about the growth but about the man. I want to be that kind of doctor. The kind who shows he cares with a smile. The kind that takes the time not only to prescribe, but to educate. The kind dedicated to healing and helping. That’s who I want to be.
  • Outlining your essay
  • Start with your initial interest in medicine
  • Then track your progress through your most meaningful experiences
  • By the end, we should see how your interest in medicine turned into a passion for medicine.
  • It can also be useful to have an “MO” as you write. The committee should have a good idea of what your main interest in medicine is. It might be service, research, an interest in the human body, or something else. Whatever it is, it should be clear by the end of your essay.

The medical school personal statement can be a pain. But, with these tips you will have a medical school essay that shines!

Photo courtesy of tnarik

A Few Other Key Points

  • Use names. Using names makes the personal statement for medical school more, well, personal.
  • Be active and specific in your language. When you do your description of activities in AMCAS, use active language. For example, instead of writing “Mentor” in your heading, write “Mentor to Sam, 10 year old with cerebral palsy.” This is more personal and more descriptive. Instead of “worked at Albertson’s” write “Courtesy Clerk at Albertson’s.” Then tell your story and what it taught you in your description, always remembering that the reader is looking for things that will make you a good doctor. This is the key of great medical school essays.
  • Don’t be afraid to make it short. The medical school essay should only be about one page long. In fact, AMCAS limits your medical school personal statement to 5300 characters (about one page). Likewise, the descriptions of activities should not be too long. One of my best activities was “Husband and Father” and the description was “the best, hardest, most rewarding thing I do.” Memorable and unique. That’s what you’re going for in the medical school personal statement.
  • Block left. This means do not indent your paragraphs. It’s easier for the eye to read this way and it looks better. Remember that the reader is reading many medical school personal statements and this will give him or her a break for the eyes.

Using professional editing services

As I said above, there are many medical school personal statement editing services available online and even through your college. You can use your premed office or many schools have a writing center where people who are good writers can review your statement.

However, your personal statement for medical school should not be something you leave to chance . Your best bet is to work with someone who has experience with the medical school personal statement from the other side of the admissions table. As I said above, the company I recommend for medical school essay help is MedSchoolCoach .

The reason I like this company is because they are all doctors who have had experience on a medical school admissions committee. That means they know exactly what it is that schools are looking for. They also have an excellent success rate and have helped students get into top tier schools like Harvard medical school.

I also like them because their prices are very reasonable, even compared to other companies with less specialized experience. They offer personal statement editing along with many other options to help you achieve your goal of becoming a doctor. Remember, the personal statement for medical school is only part of the equation. MedSchoolCoach offers complete packages (which include medical school essay help) for a great price. Click here to go to their site.

Medical school personal statement editing from MDs who have been on medical school admissions committees.

If you’re looking for something that’s more than a book, (which you can pick up here for lots of tips about getting into medical school ) but less expensive than 1 on 1 advising and editing services, check out my new members only site , Medical School Inside Track.

Inside you’ll find:

For more info on Medical School Interviews, click here.

For more info on Medical School Admissions, click here

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A guide to writing a medical school personal statement

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  • How to write a personal statement for medical school?

If you are like most prospective medical students, you would have spent a significant part of your life preparing for submitting that important application to medical school. From scoring top grades in high school to passing the MCAT with flying colors – after coming so far in your journey, you do not want to leave the results of your application to chance.  

Getting into a good medical school is highly competitive , and you need to do everything you can to ensure that you stand out from your peers. This is where a personal statement comes in. It is one of the most essential requirements of medical school and is your perfect chance to make a firm, positive and unique impression on the admissions team. Don’t worry if writing is not your strongest skill. This guide will take you through what to include in a personal statement, how long it should be and why it is so important.  

What is a medical school personal statement, and why do you need one?

A medical school personal statement is a type of essay that outlines and details exactly why you want to pursue medicine further for studies as well as a career. As the name suggests, this essay  must be completely personal. No two candidates should or would have the same personal statement. A medical school personal statement can be used to tell the school about:  

  • A key moment in your life that inspired you to pursue medicine  
  • A personal challenge that you overcame    
  • What motivates you in the field of medicine  
  • Qualities that make you the right candidate for medical school  
  • Someone who influenced or inspired you to apply to medical school  

These are just some suggestions to help you think of a central theme for your medical school personal statement, and there are plenty more creative and inspiring ideas to explore.  As a prospective applicant, you should use this opportunity to tell your personal story, grab the attention of the admissions officer and assert firmly and confidently the kind of medical practitioner you hope to be.   

What a personal statement should look like

Before getting started on your medical school personal statement, make a list of things you want to talk about, research exactly what that school is looking for, consider who will be reading it and how you are go ing to structure it. Here are two questions to ask yourself.  

How long should a personal statement be?

Always check with the medical school of your choice first. Most medical schools ask for a personal statement that sits between 4,000 and 5,300 characters which amount s to approximately 500 words. Never exceed a character or word limit if it is specified and clarify with the admissions team if you have any concerns.  

The word limit might seem like a lot to some, but once you have a focus in place, it should flow easily. Stay true to your topic of choice. Make sure you use short sentences that capture the attention of your reader and that are not confusing. You want to get your message across quickly, concisely, and in an interesting manner.  

How should I structure my personal statement?

Look online for medical school personal statement examples and templates to get an idea but remember to keep your essay unique. The statement will  be analyzed and checked for plagiarism and authenticity, so it is important to structure it in your own way with your own ideas.   

Here are some important things to remember when structuring your personal statement for medical school:  

  • Set aside at least six to eight weeks before the application deadline for your personal statement . You don’t want to rush into it and submit something that you are not fully confident and proud of. You can even jot down as many thoughts as you like for half the time and then spend four weeks editing, revising, and fine-tuning your essay.  
  • Work on a strong introduction and an equally, if not more, robust conclusion . The introduction is what will grab the reader’s attention from the get-go. You need a strong ‘hold’ on what your selling point is to compel them to read further. End with  your goal of what you’re going to pursue with a medical degree. You should sound trustworthy, self-sufficient, and passionate.  
  • Once you have an introduction and ending to your essay, fill in the details of what you want to convey in the body of your statement. It does not have to follow a chronological path or even reflect your resume. It should tell a story and keep the reader engaged in what you have to say.  

The best way to do that is to follow this list of important things to include in your medical school personal statement.  

What to include in a personal statement?

  • Your achievements . Showcase examples of your accomplishments, how you have achieved them, and what you are going to accomplish in the future with your medical school degree. Don’t go overboard with the self-praise – do aim to sound humble, professional, and passionate.  
  • Make sure your personality shines through . The admissions team will be getting thousands of applications each day and will be looking for a unique spark or story before allowing you to proceed to the next step.  
  • Your passion for medicine and healthcare must be clear . However, avoid using cliches and offensive language. Emanate empathy, responsibility, integrity, and ambition. These are all useful traits for anyone working in the medical field to have.  
  • Research the medical school thoroughly to make sure that you know what they’re looking for and what i t can provide to you. Why do you want to apply to that school, and why should they choose you? It should be the right fit for both.  

Next steps in your medical school personal statement journey

Once you have your personal statement ready, we recommend that you have a fresh set of eyes read through it. Ask a trusted friend or family member for feedback, and set aside enough time to make changes, and double-check all the details you have provided.  

This is just the first step in your long and exciting journey as a medical professional. At MUA, we have terms in January, May and September  every year and receive applications from ambitious prospective students from all over the world. Take a look at how you can apply , and read through the questions we have suggested for filling out your personal statement. We require a maximum of 500 words in your statement, and this guide will help our Admissions Committee evaluate your application. We also have a guide for all applicants to help you prepare for a medical school interview. If you need any more information about admission requirements , visit our website.   

If you have any more questions or concerns, reach out to our team by phone or by filling out the contact form, and we will get back to you shortly. Your journey as a medical professional starts now!   

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50 Successful Harvard Medical School Essays Kindle Edition

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Fifty all-new essays that got their authors into Harvard Medical School, including MCAT scores, showing what worked, what didn’t, and how you can do it too. Competition to get into the nation’s top medical schools has never been more intense. Harvard Medical School in particular draws thousands of elite applicants from around the world. As admissions departments become increasingly selective, even the best and brightest need an edge. Writing a personal statement is a daunting part of the application process. In less than 5,300 characters, applicants must weave together experiences and passions into a memorable narrative to set them apart from thousands of other applicants. While there is no magic formula for writing the perfect essay, picking up this book will put them on the right track. 50 Successful Harvard Medical School Essays is the first in a new line of books published by the Staff of the Harvard Crimson. It includes fifty standout essays from students who successfully secured a spot at Harvard Medical School. Each student has a unique set of experiences that led them to medicine. Each essay includes analysis by Crimson editors on essay qualities and techniques that worked, so readers can apply them to their own writing. This book will aid applicants in composing essays that reveal their passion for medicine and the discipline they will bring to this demanding program and profession. It will give them the extra help they need to get into the best medical school programs in the world.

  • Print length 225 pages
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  • Publisher St. Martin's Griffin
  • Publication date May 5, 2020
  • File size 1603 KB
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medical school personal statement harvard


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