Sample Medical School Application Essay - After

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Edited Essay

My reticence regarding traditional medicine does not result from want of experience--indeed, I have spent so much time in hospitals during my life that I am all too familiar with traditional treatments. Born with various congenital defects, my life has been a blur of cardiac, thoracic, and gastrointestinal surgeries, and by the age of five, I was as familiar with taking medication as I was with eating cornflakes.

Without denying the substantial benefits I have derived from my treatments, I nonetheless believe that the maintenance of health depends as much upon the promotion of wellness as it does upon the combating of disease. This is a lesson I have learned from my paternal grandparents. Considerably older than my maternal grandparents, my father's parents always seemed youthful and vigorous. They exercised regularly, ate a balanced diet, used alternative therapies, and had a great deal of joy in their lives. By contrast, my maternal grandparents seemed driven by an almost morbid obsession with disease. Although they sought aggressive Western medical treatments, my maternal grandparents ultimately passed on fifteen years ago, while my paternal set are still leading healthy lives into their nineties.

Since my mother raised me, her beliefs dictated my own health care treatments. We did not consider any alternative therapies to help with my childhood illnesses; all the relief I received came with a prescription. When I went to college and became ill again, I decided that it was time for me to try something new. I turned to my paternal grandparents for advice, asking my grandmother about herbal treatments, nutrition, and lifestyle. She encouraged me to read more about oriental medicine and look beyond my symptoms to the deeper root causes of my illness. Eventually, through a combination of herbal supplements and dietary and lifestyle changes, I was able to wean myself from a diet of prescriptions and gradually find balance in my health.

Unfortunately, such knowledge did not come to my mother. A few years after my medical epiphany, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease of unknown etiology. Despite my urging that she investigate wellness-based treatment, my mother reacted to her illness in the same way her parents had reacted to theirs: by ignoring it. A few more years passed, and she developed fibromyalgia. Diagnosed with the same unknown autoimmune disease, my mother's sisters found relief in acupuncture and yoga, but my mother turned to surgery to treat her pain. Unfortunately, surgery could not ease her suffering, and my mother still experienced far more discomfort than her sisters.

While I recognize that anecdotal data is by definition inconclusive, I nonetheless have enough personal and familial experience with illness to be a firm believer in the power of alternative therapies to dramatically improve people's lives. Traditional Western medicine certainly has its place, but an individual's role in actively managing his or her own health cannot be denied. Health is not something that can be taken for granted, and for me, the responsibility of maintaining health reaches beyond caring for myself.

Over the past two years, I have faced the toughest test of my convictions by caring for a dear friend who suffers with HIV. Spending many hours by his side, I have seen how the combination of oriental medicine with traditional Western pharmaceuticals has worked wonders in helping him maintain his vitality. Spending time with him in the hospital, I have massaged his muscles to relieve myalgias and provided him with the moral support that is crucial to effective recovery. This experience has solidified my interest in alternative treatments, and I cannot imagine a more fulfilling and compassionate way to spend my life than by promoting the wellness of others.

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Critique

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Dear Jane,

I read your essay with great interest. It is clear that you have experienced a great deal and that you have developed unique insights into health and illness. Despite the concern you expressed about your lack of experience with alternative treatments, I feel that you have something that is much more important--the insight and wisdom that will allow you to become a compassionate healer.

Your essay was quite good. The most important changes I made were tightening up your language, removing unnecessary passages, and restructuring your essay to improve its flow. Employing a chronological structure in your essay helps the reader understand the evolution of your ideas.

Overall, my editing sought to refine your descriptions in order to make your essay even more captivating and convincing. In general, I maintained the basic structure of your paragraphs but made many changes at the sentence level. I rephrased some parts that sounded awkward, varied vocabulary, corrected spelling mistakes, adjusted sentence structure and punctuation, and shortened some of your passages.

The following are specific comments on the individual paragraphs of your essay:

Paragraph 1

This is the most important paragraph of the piece. It sets the tone and hooks the reader's interest. Your original first paragraph alluded to your work experience, juxtaposing the effectiveness of Western and alternative medicine. This is a fine approach, but you have a much more compelling detail--the story of your own illness--that could illustrate your point much more effectively. Here is my suggestion for an alternative introduction:

"My reticence regarding traditional medicine does not result from want of experience--indeed, I have spent so much time in hospitals during my life that I am all too familiar with traditional treatments. Born with various congenital defects, my life has been a blur of cardiac, thoracic, and gastrointestinal surgeries, and by the age of five, I was as familiar with taking medication as I was with eating cornflakes."

This new introduction is short and concise, but also quite compelling.

Also, please note that very specific details engage the reader and secure his interest. For instance, you should try to avoid excessively general sentences like, "Much of my early life was spent in hospitals and while the operations I underwent corrected various congenital defects; I was constantly ill."

What congenital defects did you have? Your readers will be interested in knowing this detail, particularly if your defects belong to a known syndrome. What surgeries did you have? I guessed cardiac, thoracic, and GI surgeries since these are common surgeries for congenital abnormalities. Please be sure to replace these details with surgeries that apply to you.

The rest of the original first paragraph contained information that you dealt with later, so I omitted this information in order to avoid redundancy.

Paragraph 2

I integrated the details of this paragraph into the revised introduction. In an essay this short, it is not necessary to devote entire paragraphs to transitions. See how I have streamlined your ideas to transition more rapidly between the first and second paragraphs.

Paragraphs 3 & 4

I combined these two paragraphs since the latter serves as a powerful introduction to the former.

Be sure to avoid repetitive sentences in your writing. For instance, the following two sentences are redundant: "It became clear to me that I needed to look beyond symptoms. I needed to work backwards to get to the possible root causes."

Instead of repeating the phrase, "I needed," I instead collapsed this sentence to: "She encouraged me to read more about oriental medicine and look beyond my symptoms to the deeper root causes of my illness."

Paragraph 5

This paragraph was generally effective, but it required a few essential adjustments. In describing your mother's diagnosis with an autoimmune disease, you cannot accurately say that she "faced her own mortality" unless you give more detail. People usually face their own mortality in car accidents or when confronted with life-threatening illnesses. You do not give the reader enough detail to understand why your mother's autoimmune disease was so threatening, especially since you say that her health became worse when she developed fibromyalgia. This disease, while debilitating, is certainly not life-threatening.

Another nit-picky point: do not use quotations in formal essays unless you are directly quoting someone's speech. Also, the medical term would be unknown "etiology," not "pathology" (you would use pathology to describe a tissue biopsy, not a medical diagnosis). This is not a big deal, but it is good to be accurate.

The rest of this paragraph was great. You built a terrific case for alternative therapies and for your decision to pursue a career in this type of healing.

In sum, I tightened up this paragraph so that it now reads:

"Unfortunately, such knowledge did not come to my mother. A few years after my medical epiphany, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease of unknown etiology. Despite my urging that she investigate wellness-based treatment, my mother reacted to her illness in the same way her parents had reacted toward theirs: by ignoring it. A few more years passed, and she developed fibromyalgia. Diagnosed with the same unknown autoimmune disease, my mother's sisters found relief in acupuncture and yoga, but my mother turned to surgery to treat her pain. Unfortunately, not even surgery could ease her suffering, and my mother still experienced far more discomfort than her sisters."

Paragraph 6

I suggested some important conceptual changes to this paragraph. While you make a great case for the value of alternative therapies, you should not discount the worth of traditional medicine altogether. Instead, I suggest showing how your interest in alternative therapies is predicated upon the assumption that there is a proper time and place for each type of treatment. See my suggestions in the text.

Paragraph 7

You chose a great way to end your piece. This is the second most important paragraph in the essay because it is the last thing the reader will read before making his decision.

Nonetheless, this paragraph could be improved by adding a few more details. What have you done for your friend with HIV? I imagined, based upon my clinical knowledge, that your friend has suffered infections, muscle aches (myalgias), and repeated hospitalizations, but you should replace these details with something accurate.

I wrote the following, but be sure to substitute specific details of how you assisted in your friend's treatment:

"Spending time with him in the hospital, I massaged his muscles to relieve myalgias, and provided him with the moral support that is crucial to effective recovery. This experience has solidified my interest in alternative treatments, and I cannot imagine a more fulfilling and compassionate way to spend my life than by promoting the wellness of others."

Again, the content of your essay--and your vision--is wonderful. It was a pleasure to read and edit your work. I think that some careful fine-tuning and restructuring has made this essay into a clear, powerful expression of your ideas, goals and values, and should make a wonderful impression on the admissions committee.

Best of luck with the admissions process. Please keep in touch and let me know about your successes. That is the most gratifying part of this work.

Sincerely,
Your EssayEdge Editor

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