In this article, we will list the current Johns Hopkins medical school secondary essay prompts and provide a sample answer for each.
“Briefly describe your single, most rewarding experience. Feel free to refer to an experience previously described in your AMCAS application.”
Limit: 2,500 characters
My most rewarding experience was when I volunteered with a women’s shelter downtown. Last year, I felt like I wanted to contribute more to my community than I had been. I had been so focused on my academic studies, my career advancement, and my personal life goals that I had neglected connecting with and giving back to my community.
So, I decided to seek a volunteer opportunity that would connect me to my community in a deep, lasting, and meaningful way. I volunteered with the Silver Street Women’s Shelter, an organization which has actually helped friends of mine through extremely difficult times.
I knew that I would be put through the mill at the shelter because I would be dealing with people at very traumatized points in their life’s journeys, who needed help and support to pull through. I am proud to say that, while I was shaken to my core by the stories of the women we helped, I was also part of a team that gave these people shelter, resources, and the strength they needed to carry on.
My duties included changing beds, doing laundry, and preparing and serving meals. I found time to also sit with several of the women and engage with them on a personal level. Sometimes, this meant being a figurative and literal shoulder to cry on. At other times, it involved conversing with them, advising them, or referring them to our pamphlets and professional care workers who could help them move forward through whatever difficulties they were going through. Most often, however, spending time with the women in the shelter meant just being there for them, playing cards or board games, or just chatting and providing an oasis of friendship in a sea of chaos and turmoil.
I will be continuing to volunteer with this well-managed organization. It has been a very rewarding experience, which has taught me a lot about what it means to be a woman in my community and to struggle through hardship. I went in looking for connections and a way to give back to my community, but I discovered much more: a place of healing and resilience, where in addition to feeling connected, I can be an active part of my community.
“Are there any areas of medicine that are of particular interest to you? If so, please comment.”
Limit: 2,500 characters
When I was little, I would watch my mother sew my Halloween costume from scratch. We didn’t have a lot of money, so store-bought costumes were out, but with a few scraps and a lot of ingenuity, my mother could put together anything we wanted.
Watching Mom sew costumes taught me the value of imagination and ingenuity. She took old scraps and mended them into new joy for my sisters and me. She did this with clothing repairs as well, using her stitches to keep old, favorite clothing articles together. In this way, she was also demonstrating being money-smart, and how to keep a household going on very little.
But most importantly, she taught me the value of using your skills and resources to care for others. My mom was intensely busy, and didn’t have a lot of time, but she sacrificed some of that time to sew Halloween costumes.
As I grew, I wanted to learn how to sew, and for a long time, I felt like making clothing was going to be a big part of my life. But the life I thought I would have decided to take me somewhere entirely different.
My family also loved camping – again, partly because it was a relatively inexpensive vacation – and on one camping trip, my dad slipped on some rocks and badly cut his leg. He knew enough to use his belt to keep the blood from dripping out, and I had taken a first aid course just the year before. I knew how to keep the wound clean and provide other minor relief.
The thing was, I knew we didn’t have the ability to get back down the mountain and go for help. But what I did have was my emergency sewing kit. I could see that Dad’s injury hadn’t severed a blood vessel, but it was a deep gash, so it needed to be closed. I did that with my needle and thread before heading down the mountain to get help.
When the EMTs got there – by helicopter, no less – I was complimented on how I had handled the situation, and later on, the physician working on Dad said I had even done a pretty good job sewing up the wound.
My sewing skills, first aid knowledge, and first-hand experience are what led me to want to pursue surgery, with a focus on how to perform those surgeries in emergency situations and under less-than-ideal circumstances. I believe I can make the greatest contribution in those areas.
Looking for college essay tips? Check out the infographic below:
“Briefly describe a situation where you had to overcome adversity; include lessons learned and how you think it will affect your career as a future physician.”
Limit: 2,500 characters
I had a bully at school who just would not leave me alone. This persisted throughout high school, and at first it was physical, but over the years, the bullying became more and more social and psychological. You see, my bully knew that he couldn’t keep getting into fights without the school eventually suspending him, but he could use more subtle manipulation to fly under the radar and harass me.
In fact, because these harassments were so small and surgical, they went unnoticed by most people. Certainly, the administration had no idea and couldn’t have done anything to stop it, anyway, because my crafty bully made sure to always act in a technically legal and “acceptable” way.
What was I to do?
First, I made sure that I had a good support network. I relied on my friends to keep me strong and emotionally resilient.
Second, I avoided conflict whenever possible. I would just go about my life and ignore the Machiavellian maneuvering this person put me through.
But most of all, I started to attack back, but not in the way that you might find satisfying in a short story. My attacks were made of kindness.
It’s almost impossible to bully somebody who is pleasant and nice. I’m not talking about being spineless – I stood up for myself. But I tried something that very few people try: I tried just being friends. As far as it depended on me, I was at peace with everyone.
While this didn’t stop the bullying entirely, it did slow him down and made the aggressions far less problematic.
I also made friends with other people who were being targeted by this bully. I wanted to make sure that other people had the care I did.
This taught me to always be kind, to think outside the box, and to build a support network.
I believe that these traits will all be invaluable in medicine.
First, being kind is a top priority for anybody in health care. We must think of others before ourselves, not just by doing what we think is best but by genuinely caring for our patients – no matter how grumpy they are.
Second, innovating and trying different strategies or experimenting with formulae can shake up a bully’s attacks, but these strategies can also be applied to resolve a particularly difficult problem of any sort – including in medicine.
Finally, because I know the invaluable strength of a web of friends and supporters, and health care is a team effort, relying on nurses, doctors, staff, and dozens of other people in caring for patients is essential.
“Briefly describe a situation where you were not in the majority. What did you learn from the experience?”
Limit: 2,500 characters
I was going to be the best student body president that ever presided over my college’s student government. My platform was impeccable, my campaign indefatigable, and my loss inconceivable, that is, until it was inevitable.
I ran for student body president on a platform of providing better facilities, but it turns out that most people thought our facilities were just fine. The person who won had championed community engagement, and something about the connectivity and empathy of that message really resonated with people. Empathy develops feelings of goodwill. Who knew?
Ultimately, I think that my experience running in my school’s election taught me several invaluable lessons.
I learned, for instance, that overconfidence prevents results. I thought I had the solution that everybody wanted, but I think it was just something that my friends and I wanted. Did I poll the school? Did I do any research? Did I ask anybody outside of my circle of friends? I didn’t even think about it, really, and now I make sure I have more complete information before moving on an initiative. I’m not overly cautious, but I am well prepared.
I also learned that it’s necessary to consider other points of view. Another vote for empathy! I knew I had been beaten fair and square, and that was okay. The idea of focusing on community engagement, rather than bolstering our own facilities, was an excellent burst of altruism, and that’s good. I do think state-of-the-art equipment would help our school, but that doesn’t make me “right”; it just means I think differently than the other candidate.
My biggest takeaway from this experience was to pay more attention to what other people want and focus on their needs first – to enact that empathy, if you will. In the long run, I think losing might have been one of the best things that ever happened to me.
“Wonder encapsulates a feeling of rapt attention … it draws the observer in. Tell us about a time in recent years that you experienced wonder in your everyday life. Although experiences related to your clinical or research work may be the first to come to mind, we encourage you to think of an experience that is unrelated to medicine or science. What did you learn from that experience?”
Limit: 2,500 characters
Like a rake made of wrath, the lightning split first the sky and then the tree, and the rush of superheated air from the flaming oak, now rent in half, came upon me as quickly as the rush of noisy air and peal of thunder.
Soaked to the bone, I could only stare as the rain did little to stop the scorching fire burning the two halves of the oak, now split asunder.
In the moment, I didn’t even know what to do but stare at this phenomenon. I had been caught out in the most terrific storm I could imagine, with no shelter, and I was cutting across the field out behind my dormitory when the lightning started. Had I known there would be lightning, I’d have stayed out of a field. Now, the lone oak in that field was ablaze, and I couldn’t feel the chilling wind and rain any longer. I could only stare.
What if that had been me? The lightning might easily have blasted me just as it blasted that oak, with a bolt many times hotter than the surface of the sun, and split me into two burning halves, just as it had that oak.
I laid down to watch. I was already soaked – I wasn’t getting wetter – and I wanted to stay low, but I also wanted to watch and remember what happened there.
Life comes at us like bolts from the sky, and we can often only stare. You ask me about wonder, well, my wonder came with awe at the universe and at life and death. There is a randomness to all of this: me or the tree, who gets hit? And yet, there is also a strange feeling I get of guidance.
My big takeaway from this storm was the notion that there are elements far beyond our control, and we must accept this while also making the most of the time we have. This is one of the most important tenets I live by: claim each moment. I could have been struck down by lightning on that day, and I wasn’t. So, I appreciate the time I am given, and I remember who I am – small and fleeting in a field – in the grand scheme of things. But that is not nihilistic, fatalistic, or pessimistic. It is optimism. It is freedom. It is joy.
“The Admissions Committee values hearing about each candidate for admission, including what qualities the candidate might bring to the School of Medicine if admitted. If you feel there is information not already addressed in the application that will enable the Committee to know more about you and this has influenced your desire to be a physician, feel free to write a brief statement in the space below. You may address any subject you wish, such as being a first generation college student, or being a part of a minority group (whether because of your sexual orientation, religion, economic status, gender identity, ethnicity) or being the child of undocumented immigrants or being undocumented yourself, etc.”
Limit: 2,500 characters
Essay 6 is optional
I couldn’t even speak English until I was twelve years old, even though I had lived in this country since I was five. My family were very insular, and we kept to a community of people from “our country,” who had all immigrated to a particular area in our city. We were proud of being Senegalese, and we still are. I am proud to be from Senegal, but I am proud to be a citizen of this country, too.
My parents have trouble communicating, and I had to become a mediator for my mother when my father had an accident at his work – a head wound which led to his being in a coma for several days. This was a scary time for my mom, and I remember being frustrated and angry, not the least because I couldn’t seem to communicate well enough with the health care team. Why couldn’t they make more of an effort? That’s how I felt at the time, anyway.
We did eventually find a nurse who spoke French – what a blessing! She helped us through that difficult time and left an impression on me of kindness. She also, however, gave me more insight into all that the doctors and nurses were doing for my father. I knew now that they were helping; I hadn’t known before because of my language.
That terrifying period eventually convinced me that I needed to gain a better grasp of my new country and their language. I spent hours studying English, and I now have better spelling than my American-born friends.
But I also remember that kind nurse, and I know that I can bring my understanding of the immigrant’s plight, the empathy needed, and my awareness of language barriers to health care. I know that I can help to bridge gaps and support people who are scared and in trouble and who don’t know who to talk to. I won’t always speak the language of my patients, but I know I can make them feel cared for despite any barriers. I am used to communication and cultures that are uncommon in this country.
Want to know the most common secondary essay prompts? Watch this video:
Use these expertly written Johns Hopkins medical school secondary essay examples to help you craft your own answers. Be observing the structure, intent, and language used, you can apply the lessons of these demonstrative essays to your own work moving forward.
1. Do the prompts ever change?
Yes, the prompts will vary from year to year, so be sure to double-check your prompts. However, most years, the prompts are similar and cover similar topics.
2. How different are the prompts at different schools?
There is often similarity from one institution to another. For example, the “Why did you pick our school?” prompt is difficult to avoid. Generally speaking, prompts will address hardships you have faced, lessons you have learned, and how you have grown as a person. Specifics will differ, however, with respect to school mission statements, for instance.
3. Can I transfer my essays from one institution to another?
To some extent, yes. Because topics and prompts are often very similar, there will be some essays which are applicable across schools. Beware, however, of simply copy-pasting text from one application to another, as details matter. You don’t want to reference Johns Hopkins by name in an essay for a different school, for instance.
If you do have overlap and can reuse certain essays, double-check that they contain no references to the school for which they were written.
4. Can I exceed the character limits if only slightly?
Not even slightly, no. Do not exceed the character limits by one, single character. Not only are these hard limits, they typically include spaces, so measure your essays with spaces included in the character count.
5. How long should it take to write these essays?
While there is no hard rule, BeMo’s general recommendation is that you take 2–3 weeks to write your essays, setting aside time each day to work on them. You’ll need to write and re-write, proof for spelling and grammar, and make sure you haven’t missed any opportunity to increase your standing with the admissions committee.
As soon as you have access to the prompts, you should at least start thinking about how you will answer and jotting ideas down in some capacity.
6. Do these essays get graded?
Most institutions aren’t going to give you a letter grade, but they are evaluating the essays. With that in mind, consider it your duty to maximize your “score,” even if that score is only the reader’s opinion of you as a potential candidate. Remember: you’re trying to be an impressive candidate, so be impressive in your writing.
7. Do grammar mistakes and spelling matter?
Of course they do. You need to show that you are a strong communicator because being a physician requires communicating with your health care team, other staff and co-workers, family, and, of course, patients. Make sure you can do so effectively. An evaluator who is horrified by bad grammar and spelling will worry whether you have the capacity to understand lectures or respond to patient reports properly.
8. Do I need to write the optional essays?
Yes. Although an optional essay is, by definition, not necessary, it is another opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions committee, impress them, and leave them knowing they want you to join their institution. Therefore, while technically you do not have to write them, we recommend that you do unless there is a specific instruction telling you not to.