The Purpose of a Medical School Essay

By Ryan Hickey + updated on May 29th, 2012

Why do med programs require a medical school essay as part of the application process? Admissions officers have access to your test scores and they can read about your accomplishments in your resume. You have already proven your knowledge base and ability to achieve goals. Aren’t these sufficient to demonstrate your readiness for medical school?

Perhaps not. Today more than ever, medical school applicants almost universally boast outstanding grades, test scores, and resumes. As a result, it takes more than just an impressive list of these quantitative accomplishments to show that you deserve a coveted spot in most programs. A med school essay lets the admissions officer learn more about you on an intimate, personal level. What you say in your statement can be the difference between acceptance and rejection.

Moreover, the differences between each medical school mean that each school is looking for a particular cohort of students who can not only add value to the program, but also gain the most from it. There will be many other candidates who meet or exceed the admissions requirements, and strong performance as an undergraduate is an indicator but not a guarantee that an applicant can manage the rigors of medical school. Simply put, the number of applicants to medical school greatly exceeds the spaces available. It is for these reasons that admissions committees rely heavily on your medical school essay to help them decipher if you would be a good match for their school. This is the purpose of medical school essays.

Meaningful Medical School Essays Show a Strong Sense of Purpose

In order for your medical school essay to benefit you the most as an applicant, it is necessary for you to show a strong sense of purpose through the stories you tell. Admissions officers are looking for applicants who know what they want and what they want to achieve. While no one is asking you to predict the future, it is imperative that medical school essays reflect a clear vision of what you would like to accomplish in your career as a physician. Convey the steps you have already taken towards this end and why you feel that they have been part of your progress. Do you have volunteer experience? What about shadowing/observing? Have you had the opportunity to work in a laboratory setting?

Next, outline what you believe are the stepping stones that you need to bridge the space between where you are and where you want to be. With such a competitive application process, medical school essays can seem like a frightening place to admit that you still have much to learn, and many applicants worry this will make it seem like they have deficiencies. This is not so. Expressing an understanding of what you need to acquire to achieve your goals demonstrates valuable insight. Finally, include information in your medical school essay that helps the admissions officers understand how your vision, combined with an education from their program, will ensure that you will be able to fulfill your goals and provide excellent care for your patients.

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Ryan Hickey

Ryan Hickey is Managing Editor of Peterson's & EssayEdge and an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants. He enjoys sharing his knowledge to aid others in achieving their educational goals and, when he gets a break, loves hiking and fly fishing with his wife and two border-collie mixes.

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