In this article, we provide up-to-date prompts for Stanford Medicine’s secondary essays with example answers. Use them well to construct your own essays!
“Practice Setting – What do you see as the most likely practice scenario for your future medical career? Choose the single answer that best describes your career goals and clinical practice setting:
- Academic Medicine (Clinical)
- Academic Medicine (Physician Scientist)
- Non-Academic Clinical Practice
- Health Policy
- Health Administration
- Primary Care
- Public Health/Community Health
- Global Health
Why do you feel you are particularly suited for this practice scenario? What knowledge, skills, and attitudes have you developed that have prepared you for this career path?”
Limit: 1,000 characters
Public Health/Community Health
It seems to me, that in our climate of misinformation and social media holding far too much influence over the opinions of the populace, we in the medical community have an obligation to concern ourselves with public health and safety, and a large part of that job includes information flow.
I want to create a system that directs the best information to the public in a credible, reliable way, which would mean eliminating biases and perception of biases, allowing for rapid dissemination of information, and creating good communication with the public.
I think that I have a good skillset for this because in university I studied communications, focusing on new media like social media and public streaming platforms.
During my studies, I had to create social media accounts and campaigns to coordinate events and get information to the public. I created a successful news platform that was used at the local level. I think that my success there, and the skills and experiences gained, will allow me to assist in developing the role of public health in relation to the public.
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“Curricular interests: How will you take advantage of the Stanford Medicine Discovery Curriculum and scholarly concentration requirement to achieve your personal career goals?”
Limit: 1,000 characters
My university degree is in social work, and I remain passionately committed to social work as an integral part of my life, who I am as a person, and who I hope to become in the medical community. The Stanford Medicine Discovery Curriculum features a pathway for an MD and master’s degree in any field. I would like to continue my studies in social work by obtaining my master’s in that field.
Medicine and social work are intrinsically linked. It is often the disenfranchised and underrepresented who suffer from a lack of health care.
As a social work-oriented physician, I would seek to prevent the suffering of those who are underrepresented. There are countless voiceless persons, many of whom are minors as part of the foster care system, who cannot speak for themselves. I want to be their advocate.
I believe that the MD and master’s program will facilitate this goal better than anywhere else, and I believe Stanford’s Discovery Curriculum provides me with the best opportunity to achieve that goal.
“Background: Describe in a short paragraph your educational and family background. (E.g., I grew up in New York City, as the 3rd child of a supermarket cashier and a high school principal. I attended Mann High School where my major interests were boxing and drama.)”
Limit: 600 characters
I grew up on a farm, about thirty minutes’ drive from Chicago. My parents were farmers. I attended McCann High School, and I pursued studies in mathematics, participating in mathlete challenges. I contributed to my home farm as well. I also have a strong interest in landscape painting.
“Contribution to Learning Environment: The Committee on Admissions regards the diversity (broadly defined) of an entering class as an important factor in serving the educational mission of the school. You are strongly encouraged to share unique attributes of your personal identity, and/or personally important or challenging factors in your background. Such discussions may include the quality of your early education, gender identity, sexual orientation, any physical challenges, or any other life or work experiences.”
Limit: 2,000 characters
I grew up in a small town, so when I tell you that I was the only person who identified as genderqueer in my entire school, believe me when I say that this is not hyperbole in any way. I was unique in that environment. This led to a lot of scathing self-identity problems, where I was forced to have my identity questioned over and over again, on an almost daily basis. I rarely felt accepted.
The exception was with Bob Smith, my gym teacher, who always made me feel welcome. This was a much-needed respite, given the potential anxiety that can come along with change rooms and other realities of gym class. Mr. Smith made sure I had a private area in which to change.
The rest of the time, however, my very existence was called into being, and I was constantly disrespected on a personal level. I was misgendered, harassed, and bullied. Sometimes, this was overt, but at other times, it was simply through the deployment of microaggressions.
I couldn’t wait to get away, and the psychological and emotional damages that I suffered in that environment will likely ride out the rest of my life with me. I was in therapy by the time I was thirteen, and although my therapist was understanding, and Mr. Smith was protective, these small reliefs were scarcely enough to get me through the day.
I found more acceptance once I moved away to college – and it helped that I moved far away – but I still encountered regular questioning of my truths that were harmful to me. I still don’t know how I keep going some days.
Nevertheless, it’s important to me to continue on, no matter the personal cost, because I know that I can make a difference within the medical community by expanding care for people like me who identify in unusual ways that society just doesn’t seem to understand – often willfully. I want to be a Bob Smith to other people like me, and to provide affirmations to all my future patients.
“Please describe how you have uniquely contributed to a community with which you identify.”
Limit: 1,000 characters
Most people don’t think of “anime fans” as a community, but we are. I love Japanese animation for its breadth of subjects and unique artistic styles.
I speak Japanese, but there are many members of the community who do not speak or read Japanese. They often have to face the frustration of inferior or rushed translations.
So, I contributed to a fan translation site which provides more accurate translations and notes on cultural context.
Over the course of my involvement, I have helped with the translations of over three dozen works of anime, most of which have received five-star ratings on the site.
This might sound like nerd talk to somebody who is not interested in this hobby but let me point out some key benefits.
Anime is an art form, and my work has allowed me to share that art in a more meaningful way for many, many viewers.
Also, my studies connected me to new ideas, and I love being open to new ideas. I consider it a privilege to be able to engage with a different culture.
“Advocacy: Please describe an experience/situation when you advocated for someone else.”
Limit: 1,000 characters
Mike at work wasn’t a bad guy, but he had had a bad day, and messed up a lot. He looked white as a sheet when he came out of the supervisor’s office, and he told me he thought he was going to be fired.
We weren’t working anywhere glamorous – it was just an industrial bakery – but we needed these jobs to pay for college. Mike was really, really worried.
Mike was going through a lot in his personal life: stress with his parents splitting up on top of academic studies. He was losing a lot of sleep. I asked what he had said to the supervisor, and while he had tried to convey what he was going through, he hadn’t gotten it across.
So, with all this on the line, I went to our supervisor and told him that Mike leaving would mean me leaving, too; I told him everything Mike was going through and said he should give Mike another shot. Eventually, he relented, although he made me responsible for improving Mike’s performance at work. I was fine with that, and I helped Mike through.
Want to know the most common secondary essay prompts? Watch this video:
“Special Insights (OPTIONAL): Please describe any lessons, hardships, challenges or opportunities that resulted from the global COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, describe how these insights have informed your motivations and preparation for medical school in areas of academics, research, employment, volunteer service and/or clinical experiences.”
Limit: 1,000 characters
My friendship with Allison wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for COVID-19. It was the sole positive throughout the pandemic restrictions, social distancing, and lockdowns.
I had known Allison for years, but we were never very close. Part of that was due to conflicting schedules and time apart. We met at a summer camp and discovered that we lived fairly close to each other, although not so close that we could meet regularly. So, I had this years-long friendship with somebody who I never really got to know.
However, during the lockdowns, our schedules were wide open. Due to an increase in online communication, we found ourselves chatting almost daily. Now we are extremely close friends.
My friendship with Allison came out of adversity and reminds me to always find the good and the positive, and to look for opportunities amid dark times.
“Anything Else? (OPTIONAL): Please include anything else that will help us understand better how you may uniquely contribute to Stanford Medicine.”
Limit: 1,000 characters
I’m sure I’m not the smartest student you’ll read about in these pages because my academics are good, but not The Best. I’m sure I won’t have as many awards or special distinctions, either. What I do have is my sister Gillian, who has been in a wheelchair since she was four years old – paralyzed in a car accident.
I have been frustrated and angry with her, like any brother, and I love her and care for her, like any brother. I have learned how to help her with her medical needs and limitations, and to respect her and value her for who she is as a person – despite and because of her unique limitations.
I know that the medical community needs understanding and care intertwined, and I know that it isn’t all pleasant. Yes, I have conflict with my sister sometimes – we’re siblings. But doctors will have conflict with patients. We need to remember to put care and humanity first, and I know that I can do that from years and years of very personal experience.
Armed with these expertly written examples, you will fare far better while writing your own essays.
1. Are these prompts different depending on the year?
Yes, but only marginally. Very similar prompts come up in most years, and you can bet that “Why this school?” or similar ones will feature at some point in the list of prompts.
2. Are prompts the same at different schools?
No, there is variation, although again, you will encounter similar prompts. “Why this school?” and “Why medicine?” are common.
3. Can I reuse my essays in different applications?
You can reuse essays only if the prompt is very similar, or identical, to the other. However, you should not just copy-paste one essay from one secondary application to another. The reason is that you might have left school-specific artefacts in the text. Make sure you double-check any essays that you want to reuse.
4. Can I go over the character limit?
No, not even by one character. Character and word limits are hard, and character limits include spaces, so make sure you measure appropriately.
5. How long should I take to write my essays?
We recommend that you spend between 2 and 3 weeks writing your essays, with at least a small amount of time each day set aside for writing. The sooner you start working on your essays, the better.
6. Are these essays graded?
Most admissions essays are not formally graded, but your essays are still being read and judged according to their intrinsic merit, and in relief to other applicants’ essays. So, definitely consider them as being graded to the extent that the quality matters.
7. Does my spelling matter? Can I have spelling and grammar errors?
Of course they do. Even though you aren’t going to get “docked points” for having a spelling error or two, every error – no matter how small or infrequent – is going to send a message to the admissions committee. Errors mean a lack of proofreading, attention to detail, skill, or all of the above. Give the impression of being a qualified, competent communicator.
8. Do I have to write the optional essays?
Write all the essays. You should consider all of them required, even the optional ones. Although, by definition, optional essays are not mandatory, they are another opportunity for you to impress the admissions committee and stand out.