Sample Medical School Essays
This section contains two sample medical school essays
- Medical School Sample Essay One
- Medical School Sample Essay Two
Medical School Essay One
Prompt: What makes you an excellent candidate for medical school? Why do you want to become a physician?
When I was twelve years old, a drunk driver hit the car my mother was driving while I was in the backseat. I have very few memories of the accident, but I do faintly recall a serious but calming face as I was gently lifted out of the car. The paramedic held my hand as we traveled to the hospital. I was in the hospital for several weeks and that same paramedic came to visit me almost every day. During my stay, I also got to know the various doctors and nurses in the hospital on a personal level. I remember feeling anxiety about my condition, but not sadness or even fear. It seemed to me that those around me, particularly my family, were more fearful of what might happen to me than I was. I don’t believe it was innocence or ignorance, but rather a trust in the abilities of my doctors. It was as if my doctors and I had a silent bond. Now that I’m older I fear death and sickness in a more intense way than I remember experiencing it as a child. My experience as a child sparked a keen interest in how we approach pediatric care, especially as it relates to our psychological and emotional support of children facing serious medical conditions. It was here that I experienced first-hand the power and compassion of medicine, not only in healing but also in bringing unlikely individuals together, such as adults and children, in uncommon yet profound ways. And it was here that I began to take seriously the possibility of becoming a pediatric surgeon.
My interest was sparked even more when, as an undergraduate, I was asked to assist in a study one of my professors was conducting on how children experience and process fear and the prospect of death. This professor was not in the medical field; rather, her background is in cultural anthropology. I was very honored to be part of this project at such an early stage of my career. During the study, we discovered that children face death in extremely different ways than adults do. We found that children facing fatal illnesses are very aware of their condition, even when it hasn’t been fully explained to them, and on the whole were willing to fight their illnesses, but were also more accepting of their potential fate than many adults facing similar diagnoses. We concluded our study by asking whether and to what extent this discovery should impact the type of care given to children in contrast to adults. I am eager to continue this sort of research as I pursue my medical career. The intersection of medicine, psychology, and socialization or culture (in this case, the social variables differentiating adults from children) is quite fascinating and is a field that is in need of better research.
Although much headway has been made in this area in the past twenty or so years, I feel there is a still a tendency in medicine to treat diseases the same way no matter who the patient is. We are slowly learning that procedures and drugs are not always universally effective. Not only must we alter our care of patients depending upon these cultural and social factors, we may also need to alter our entire emotional and psychological approach to them as well.
It is for this reason that I’m applying to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, as it has one of the top programs for pediatric surgery in the country, as well as several renowned researchers delving into the social, generational, and cultural questions in which I’m interested. My approach to medicine will be multidisciplinary, which is evidenced by the fact that I’m already double-majoring in early childhood psychology and pre-med, with a minor in cultural anthropology. This is the type of extraordinary care that I received as a child—care that seemed to approach my injuries with a much larger and deeper picture than that which pure medicine cannot offer—and it is this sort of care I want to provide my future patients. I turned what might have been a debilitating event in my life—a devastating car accident—into the inspiration that has shaped my life since. I am driven and passionate. And while I know that the pediatric surgery program at Johns Hopkins will likely be the second biggest challenge I will face in my life, I know that I am up for it. I am ready to be challenged and prove to myself what I’ve been telling myself since that fateful car accident: I will be a doctor.
Medical School Essay Two
Prompt: Where do you hope to be in ten years’ time?
If you had told me ten years ago that I would be writing this essay and planning for yet another ten years into the future, part of me would have been surprised. I am a planner and a maker of to-do lists, and it has always been my plan to follow in the steps of my father and become a physician. This plan was derailed when I was called to active duty to serve in Iraq as part of the War on Terror.
I joined the National Guard before graduating high school and continued my service when I began college. My goal was to receive training that would be valuable for my future medical career, as I was working in the field of emergency health care. It was also a way to help me pay for college. When I was called to active duty in Iraq for my first deployment, I was forced to withdraw from school, and my deployment was subsequently extended. I spent a total of 24 months deployed overseas, where I provided in-the-field medical support to our combat troops. While the experience was invaluable not only in terms of my future medical career but also in terms of developing leadership and creative thinking skills, it put my undergraduate studies on hold for over two years. Consequently, my carefully-planned journey towards medical school and a medical career was thrown off course. Thus, while ten-year plans are valuable, I have learned from experience how easily such plans can dissolve in situations that are beyond one’s control, as well as the value of perseverance and flexibility.
Eventually, I returned to school. Despite my best efforts to graduate within two years, it took me another three years, as I suffered greatly from post-traumatic stress disorder following my time in Iraq. I considered abandoning my dream of becoming a physician altogether, since I was several years behind my peers with whom I had taken biology and chemistry classes before my deployment. Thanks to the unceasing encouragement of my academic advisor, who even stayed in contact with me when I was overseas, I gathered my strength and courage and began studying for the MCAT. To my surprise, my score was beyond satisfactory and while I am several years behind my original ten-year plan, I am now applying to Brown University’s School of Medicine.
I can describe my new ten-year plan, but I will do so with both optimism and also caution, knowing that I will inevitably face unforeseen complications and will need to adapt appropriately. One of the many insights I gained as a member of the National Guard and by serving in war-time was the incredible creativity medical specialists in the Armed Forces employ to deliver health care services to our wounded soldiers on the ground. I was part of a team that was saving lives under incredibly difficult circumstances—sometimes while under heavy fire and with only the most basic of resources. I am now interested in how I can use these skills to deliver health care in similar circumstances where basic medical infrastructure is lacking. While there is seemingly little in common between the deserts of Fallujah and rural Wyoming, where I’m currently working as a volunteer first responder in a small town located more than 60 miles from the nearest hospital, I see a lot of potential uses for the skills that I gained as a National Guardsman. As I learned from my father, who worked with Doctors Without Borders for a number of years, there is quite a bit in common between my field of knowledge from the military and working in post-conflict zones. I feel I have a unique experience from which to draw as I embark on my medical school journey, experiences that can be applied both here and abroad.
In ten years’ time, I hope to be trained in the field of emergency medicine, which, surprisingly, is a specialization that is actually lacking here in the United States as compared to similarly developed countries. I hope to conduct research in the field of health care infrastructure and work with government agencies and legislators to find creative solutions to improving access to emergency facilities in currently underserved areas of the United States, with an aim towards providing comprehensive policy reports and recommendations on how the US can once again be the world leader in health outcomes. While the problems inherent in our health care system are not one-dimensional and require a dynamic approach, one of the solutions as I see it is to think less in terms of state-of-the-art facilities and more in terms of access to primary care. Much of the care that I provide as a first responder and volunteer is extremely effective and also relatively cheap. More money is always helpful when facing a complex social and political problem, but we must think of solutions above and beyond more money and more taxes. In ten years I want to be a key player in the health care debate in this country and offering innovative solutions to delivering high quality and cost-effective health care to all our nation’s citizens, especially to those in rural and otherwise underserved areas.
Of course, my policy interests do not replace my passion for helping others and delivering emergency medicine. As a doctor, I hope to continue serving in areas of the country that, for one reason or another, are lagging behind in basic health care infrastructure. Eventually, I would also like to take my knowledge and talents abroad and serve in the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders.
In short, I see the role of physicians in society as multifunctional: they are not only doctors who heal, they are also leaders, innovators, social scientists, and patriots. Although my path to medical school has not always been the most direct, my varied and circuitous journey has given me a set of skills and experiences that many otherwise qualified applicants lack. I have no doubt that the next ten years will be similarly unpredictable, but I can assure you that no matter what obstacles I face, my goal will remain the same. I sincerely hope to begin the next phase of my journey at Brown University. Thank you for your kind attention.
To learn more about what to expect from the study of medicine, check out our Study Medicine in the US section.
Tips for a Successful Medical School Essay
- If you’re applying through AMCAS, remember to keep your essay more general rather than tailored to a specific medical school, because your essay will be seen by multiple schools.
- AMCAS essays are limited to 5300 characters—not words! This includes spaces.
- Make sure the information you include in your essay doesn't conflict with the information in your other application materials.
- In general, provide additional information that isn’t found in your other application materials. Look at the essay as an opportunity to tell your story rather than a burden.
- Keep the interview in mind as you write. You will most likely be asked questions regarding your essay during the interview, so think about the experiences you want to talk about.
- When you are copying and pasting from a word processor to the AMCAS application online, formatting and font will be lost. Don’t waste your time making it look nice. Be sure to look through the essay once you’ve copied it into AMCAS and edit appropriately for any odd characters that result from pasting.
- Avoid overly controversial topics. While it is fine to take a position and back up your position with evidence, you don’t want to sound narrow-minded.
- Revise, revise, revise. Have multiple readers look at your essay and make suggestions. Go over your essay yourself many times and rewrite it several times until you feel that it communicates your message effectively and creatively.
- Make the opening sentence memorable. Admissions officers will read dozens of personal statements in a day. You must say something at the very beginning to catch their attention, encourage them to read the essay in detail, and make yourself stand out from the crowd.
- Character traits to portray in your essay include: maturity, intellect, critical thinking skills, leadership, tolerance, perseverance, and sincerity.
Additional Tips for a Successful Medical School Essay
- Regardless of the prompt, you should always address the question of why you want to go to medical school in your essay.
- Try to always give concrete examples rather than make general statements. If you say that you have perseverance, describe an event in your life that demonstrates perseverance.
- There should be an overall message or theme in your essay. In the example above, the theme is overcoming unexpected obstacles.
- Make sure you check and recheck for spelling and grammar!
- Unless you’re very sure you can pull it off, it is usually not a good idea to use humor or to employ the skills you learned in creative writing class in your personal statement. While you want to paint a picture, you don’t want to be too poetic or literary.
- Turn potential weaknesses into positives. As in the example above, address any potential weaknesses in your application and make them strengths, if possible. If you have low MCAT scores or something else that can’t be easily explained or turned into a positive, simply don’t mention it.
In this fourth installment of our special week-long personal statement workshop, we continue to pull essays submitted from the comments section through our free essay submission process and provide you, and our users, with a more detailed analysis of their essays.
This fourth submission is by Parn, who immigrated to the United States from Iran at the age of 7 and found a passion for healthcare while attending regular doctors visits with her ailing grandfather. She details her academic experience in college and her time providing in-home health care services for patients with disabilities.
We will present you with her original essay and our suggestions.
As always, use this as a guide to see where you can improve your own writing, and respect the work of others. It should go without saying this is not your essay, so don’t plagiarize.
Suggestions and Revisions
We have provided only basic guidance here in this example.
By: Sue Edmondson (personal statement collaborative)
You have a lot of great experience and good writing skills, things many applicants lack. That's gives you a definite edge. However, there are ways to tighten your essay and really make it shine.
You don't need the first paragraph at all. It's so remote in time and such a common occurrence (yes, even moving to the U.S. from Iran or another country, and especially experiences with ailing grandparents), that it's not remarkable enough to include.
The second paragraph is good, but it has a lot of extra words (and a couple used improperly) that make it bulky. By the way, never use exclamation points, and the word "passion" is so overused, it doesn't mean much to Admissions Directors. Take a look at these edited sentences and see if you miss anything:
What I really wanted to know after I read that paragraph is why the prospect of becoming a PA appealed. You didn't say and you should. Admissions Directors want to know specifically why you're choosing the PA profession.
Read your other paragraphs carefully, and see where you've written more than needed. You'll find words to eliminate, I'm sure.
You do a good job of writing about your experience with your patient. Maybe in your PA shadowing experience, a particular case stands out as an example of exemplary PA work. You could write about that.
In your last paragraph, the word alacrity isn't the best choice. You want to emphasize ability, not eagerness.
I hope this helps.
Best of luck.
The Personal Statement Collaborative
At the Physician Assistant personal statement collaborative we work with you beyond a few pieces of advice and a routine spell check. We are a team of professional writers here to make sure your essay reflects your very best work. We will take you from a rough draft or even a few ideas scribbled on a piece of paper to a final, polished essay that reflects your very best work.
We are ready to help, Click here to learn more.
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View all posts in this series
- How to Write the Perfect Physician Assistant School Application Essay
- The Physician Assistant Essay and Personal Statement Collaborative
- Do You Recognize These 7 Common Mistakes in Your Personal Statement?
- 7 Essays in 7 Days: PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 1, “A PA Changed My Life”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 2, “I Want to Move Towards the Forefront of Patient Care”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 3, “She Smiled, Said “Gracias!” and Gave me a Big Hug”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 4, “I Have Gained so Much Experience by Working With Patients”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 5, “Then Reach, my Son, and Lift Your People up With You”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 6, “That First Day in Surgery was the First Day of the Rest of my Life”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 7, “I Want to Take People From Dying to Living, I Want to Get Them Down From the Cliff.”
- Physician Assistant Personal Statement Workshop: “To say I was an accident-prone child is an understatement”
- 9 Simple Steps to Avoid Silly Spelling and Grammar Goofs in Your PA School Personel Statement
- 5 Tips to Get you Started on Your Personal Essay (and why you should do it now)
- How to Write Your Physician Assistant Personal Statement The Book!
- How to Write “Physician Assistant” The PA Grammar Guide
- 101 PA School Admissions Essays: The Book!
- 5 Things I’ve Learned Going Into My Fourth Physician Assistant Application Cycle
- 7 Tips for Addressing Shortcomings in Your PA School Personal Statement
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Essay 4: "I have gained so much experience from working, more than I could have ever imagined."
Around the age of seven, my family and I moved to the United States from Iran. Around that time my grandfather, who was already here, had a stroke and was in and out of hospitals and doctor offices. I attended those visits with him and my father and, even though I was young and barely spoke English, I was still able to notice the quality of care that my grandfather was provided by the healthcare professionals. I was very intrigued by how the doctors and nurses took such good care of him and just like any young child, I walked around and I would proudly say that I would become a doctor one day!
I knew at a young age I wanted to work in some kind of health career. Throughout my adolescence, I was always attracted to science courses and I would excel in them. I took many health related courses in high school and was privileged to take an Allied Health class where I, along with other students, was able to volunteer in nursing homes and shadow different departments within our local hospital. That was an eye-opening experience and it reassured my passion for the health profession. However, it wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I was introduced to the Physician Assistant field. During my undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) I majored in Biology where I took a keen interest into the human based biology courses such Human Anatomy, Cellular Biology, and Biochemistry. I am still very intrigued by how the human body works and even though some concepts are difficult to understand, I am always eager to learn more. I attended many seminars during my undergrad at UNCG about the different careers within the health field, and each time the prospect of becoming a Physician Assistant became more and more appealing!
Within the past two years, I was fortunate enough to acquire a job with a company that provides in-home care for people with disabilities. I was placed with a 13 year old with Rhett’s Syndrome. My job allowed me to provide assistance with the clients everyday routines, such as, aiding with toileting, feeding, showering, and walking. I also worked on specific goals to better the clients cognitive and motor skills. I have gained so much experience from working, more than I could have ever imagined. I have learned so much about myself including the amount of patience and commitment I have to help accommodate her life and make activities of daily living easier on her. Since the client is not able to communicate verbally, I have learned how to depend on other factors such as body language, recognition of differences in her mood from day to day, and coming up with alternate ways to communicate. I have learned what it takes to deal with a person who depends on you for everything, similar to how a patient coming in for a visit depends on their PA for the correct diagnosis and the right treatment. I continue to learn more and more each day I work with her.
Another experience that has helped motivate me to become a PA has been the opportunity to shadow an actual Physician Assistant. I was able to observe the PA interact with her patients and perform examinations. I have gained a lot from that experience. I learned how to interact with different types of patients and I noticed that it takes a lot more than being knowledgeable in medicine to be an effective health provider.
Apart from the typical roles of a PA, I learned from my shadowing experience that a PA needs to be attentive, amicable, and possess interpersonal skills.
Throughout my career as a student and a caregiver, I have learned that along with my alacrity for medicine, I possess qualities that would enhance my role as a Physician Assistant. Most importantly I am a good listener, a quality that is significant in any health profession. I am compassionate for others, and possess a lot of patience. I am prepared to work hard to be the best Physician Assistant I can be, and I look forward for the opportunity to begin the next chapter of my life.
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