If you are sick of reading tips or guidebooks, perhaps your application will be best served by reading secondary essay examples. Reading over examples can give you insights that you won’t get from any other method of studying, and it can be comforting to see how other people have approached this task.
This article includes essay examples for all of Weill Cornell Medical College’s secondary essay prompts for your perusal and edification, brief explanations of what is expected for each, and an overview of how to approach secondary essays.
Essay Number 1
“Please write a brief statement giving your reasons for applying to Weill Cornell Medical College.”
Purpose of the essay:
This is the quintessential “Why this school?” question, which seeks to understand why you are the perfect fit for the school.
You will want to focus on one or two aspects of the school. Don’t overload your essay by trying to talk about everything. Find something that speaks to you as an individual, to definitively demonstrate why you mesh on a personal level with the school’s methods and facilities. Avoid just talking about the aesthetics of the campus, the history of the school, or the prestige of the institution. All those elements are valuable to some extent and mentioning in one sentence that the campus is beautiful isn’t a problem, but they are not good foundational reasons for attending a school. Avoid mentioning the “ranking” of the school at all.
Limit: 1,525 characters
Rebellion, when properly directed, and in the name of a good cause, can be a force for revolution. I have always considered myself to be a well-directed rebel. In my teen years, I ignored fashion trends and cliques. My rebellion was social togetherness. At university, I rebelled in the most institutional way possible: running for student government and making it my mission to more directly involve the student body with the future of their university.
My methodical rebel streak means that I don’t want to just sit in a class, passively, and absorb information. Weill Cornell emphasizes small groups and self-directed study. This is perfect for a rebel like me. I believe that this will give me the creative freedom to really shine as a student and will help me absorb more knowledge and skills than in a more traditional setting.
In turn, this means that I will be able to contribute to your school more. Because I will be free to direct myself, I will take full advantage of that – properly directed – autonomy and become an asset to your institution. Although it might be a small part, I believe that I will be a valuable one.
Finally, your school’s emphasis on the individual indicates trust, which is necessary for education. Your format is one that shows you honor, trust, and respect students, and are therefore worthy of such trust and respect yourself. I would be humbled to be accepted at Weill Cornell.
Looking for college essay tips? Check out the infographic below:
Essay Number 2
“Please describe a challenge you faced and how you addressed it.”
Purpose of the essay:
How do you deal with adversity, stress, and problems that arise in your life? The stress placed on physicians is high, and the world of medicine requires good problem-solving skills. Consequently, you will want to make sure that you communicate in detail how you troubleshoot. The event you describe could be humorous or harrowing, personal, academic, or professional, but choose a significant problem that you played a major role in resolving. You will also want a story that demonstrates several qualities that you have – all of which contributed to the solution.
Limit: 1,525 characters
Small things can mean big trouble, and when I heard three separate, bell-like, “ping” noises, I knew my life was in danger. I didn’t see the pitons pop out of the rock face, but I heard them. I felt the rope go slack and watched it drop below me. I was dangling from a cliff, 600 meters up, and I needed to either get up or go down. My fingers, twitching already, and my rapidly accelerating heart rate weren’t going to give me much time to decide.
First task: breath control. I used a meditation technique that my rock-climbing mentor taught me to bring myself back to normal so that I felt calm. Calm is necessary to get the headspace to figure out what to do; there is no room for panic on your rope.
Next, I took stock of where I was. Was it safer to ascend or descend? Perhaps it was my adventurer’s spirit, but I decided on going up, chalked my hands, and prepared for the ascent.
I adjusted my legs so that the dangling safety rope would not get tangled around them, and advanced three feet up. I did this so I could wedge myself in a crevice and drive in a new piton, which restored me to safety.
I lied slightly. The first thing I did wasn’t breath control; it was preparation. I had learned breath control and meditation, performed other climbs that prepared me, and packed safety gear – like extra pitons and chalk – that allowed me to remain calm and safe even at such dizzying heights.
I handle challenges head on – ascending – with care, the ability to calm myself and manage stress, and focused determination.
Essay Number 3
“If applicable, please tell us about any special circumstances related to COVID-19 that could help us understand you better.”
Purpose of the essay:
This essay could have several purposes. The global health crisis had a profound impact on the world, and it affected people in different ways. Some people might have needed time off from school or suffered poor grades due to virtual learning difficulties. You might use this essay to discuss those problems. Some people had traumatic experiences, which you might want to talk about in this essay to give the committee insight into who you are and why you have become the person that you are. Or you might just want to use this essay to talk about lessons you learned about yourself and the world during a time of global struggle.
As always, highlight admirable characteristics in yourself, and if possible, show your connection with the school to which you are applying.
Mostly, this essay is just an opportunity to share something personal and humanize yourself for the admissions committee.
Limit: 1,525 characters
I barely saw my mom at a point in the pandemic when we were all worried, isolated, and staring down a very uncertain future. I was adjusting to video school and my first year of university. My mother was a frontline healthcare worker – a nurse – who was locked down at her work, sleeping in the break room in a sleeping bag Dad brought her and passed to her by placing the bag on the ground and stepping back three meters.
COVID-19 had a huge impact on my family. It was me and Dad alone in the house. He was out of work – cancelled by the global catastrophe. While we weren’t hard up for money, if the pandemic stretched on too long, we might have needed some help.
Mom put on the bravest face, and while video calling us, she would tell us jokes or funny stories. Some were morbid, but I think she was just trying to cope with her reality and cheer us up.
Those video calls kept the three of us together, and even though it was strange, and times were uncertain, there was a comfort in knowing that we could scrape together some family time using communication technology and care.
As we weathered the lockdown, we actually grew as a family. I learned to adjust my study habits and how I interacted with school. I do deeply wish that I could have had a more normal college education, but I also learned that I could adjust in the face of adversity.
When Mom was finally allowed home – after what felt like years – our family felt closer than ever.
Essay Number 4
“If you are not attending college during the upcoming academic year, what are your plans?”
Purpose of the essay:
What you see is what you get: if you aren’t attending college next year, you should explain why not and what you’re up to. Again, present this in a way that shows you to be a great candidate. Gap years can be a red flag if ignored, but if you have a good explanation, they can become a strong asset and show you to be a hard-working, studious, well-rounded person.
Limit: 1,525 characters
This essay is optional.
Although it feels mercenary to say so, I need to take a mostly for financial reasons. Scholarships and bursaries for which I am eligible will not cover my costs, and so I will need to seek out gainful employment before I can begin my medical school training.
Therefore, most of what I will be doing after my final exams will be work. I have already secured two jobs, which will not only provide the financial assistance that I need, but also bolster my experiences and help me grow as a person.
I will be working full-time at a psychiatric care facility. My official title is security, but I know that I will be called on to be more involved with patients. The facility has a policy which says that we must all be part of patients’ lives, so that all aspects of the facility contribute to the care and quality of life of the people who stay there. Security is no exception, and we do not wear intimidating uniforms. Our focus is on making people feel secure and cared for. I love this holistic approach to care and look forward to helping out as much as I can in the healing that takes place there.
I have also taken a part-time position as a tutor for a family friend. Their eight-year-old son is dyslexic and is struggling with his schoolwork, so I will be helping him with his studies. I also have dyslexia, and I love that I get to help someone else receive the help they want to be their best self.
I am making the most of my gap year with work, learning, and life.
The biggest thing to keep in mind while working on your secondary essays is to introduce yourself to the admissions committee in such a way as to show that you are the best candidate for the medical school in question – in this case, Cornell. Keep in mind their mission and values as you approach your to demonstrate that you fit the bill precisely.
The next thing that you want to do is create a certain amount of intrigue, not necessarily by leaving readers of your secondary essays with questions, per se, but by presenting yourself as someone the admissions committee will want to know more about. Are you a person they will want to bring in for an interview, or as a student?
Finally, don’t worry about being anything other than yourself. While you want to present the best version of yourself for their appraisal, you don’t want to present a false image. Everybody has something to offer, and presumably you know where you want to go for a reason. Let that drive, that passion, and those characteristics come to the forefront of your application and you will have a much greater chance of success than if you were to try to hide behind “what they want to hear.”
Confused about how to respond to your secondary medical prompts? This useful video can help you stay ahead!
These essays each show one way of approaching the prompts that you have been given; you can follow the examples, almost like templates, to produce your own essays. Take note of how they hook the reader in with a great opening, move forward with the body and conclusion, and are careful to address the prompt exactly.
Expertly written example essays can be a great tool for understanding how to proceed with your own writing. Use these four samples to perfect your approach to your own work.
1. Does Cornell change their prompts every year?
Most medical schools do not change their prompts from year to year, and changes are usually small. COVID-19 essays are obviously recent additions. However, essays such as the first prompt “Why this school?” appear every year.
2. Do other schools use the same essays as Cornell?
They may use very similar ones, yes. All schools want to know the same information: why are you perfect for our program? However, it is important to check the requirements for each of your schools when you receive the secondary essay prompts; you can prepare some drafts in advance, but make sure that your final texts answer the prompts for the specific school.
3. Can I use my Cornell essays for another school’s application, or vice versa?
You can if the essay truly fits both schools’ prompts. If you do this, double-check your essays to make sure that they don’t have references to the wrong school.
4. Can I exceed the character limit?
No. Character limits are hard limits, and you should assume that they include spaces.
5. How much time should I use to write my essays?
Take 2–3 weeks, setting aside at least a small amount of time each day to write your essays. Writing is re-writing. Give yourself time to refine and proofread your work.
6. Do these essays receive a grade?
No; however, your future depends on your application, so devote yourself fully to the effort.
7. Do spelling and grammar matter?
Yes. While this is not a test of your English language skills, you still need to communicate clearly and be understood. Use spelling and grammar checkers and make sure your work is error-free.
8. Is it recommended that I write any optional essays?
Yes, we do recommend that you write optional essays. Take every opportunity you have to make your application stand out, including optional essays.