UCLA Secondary Essay Prompts and Examples in 2020

Updated: September 10, 2020

Looking for UCLA secondary essay information? You've come to the right spot. The David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) receives thousands of applicants each year competing for approximately 160 places into its MD program. Upon receiving the supplemental application request letter, students will have just fifteen days to complete and submit their secondary application, which requires addressing 10 different prompts. This is a tight timeline for most, so preparing your UCLA secondary essays in advance will allow for well-thought, well-crafted responses. This post will provide you with the UCLA secondary essay prompts along with sample essay examples.

Here's what we're going to cover:

What are secondary applications?

UCLA application timeline

UCLA secondary essay prompts and examples

3 tips for writing successful UCLA secondary essays

Would you like us to help you with your medical school secondary applications?

What are secondary applications?

Secondary applications are sent by medical schools between August - October to further assess a candidate's suitability for the profession. The secondaries are comprised of questions or prompts that are designed to help the admissions committee learn more about a candidate's passions, interests, and experiences. Applicants are required to answer these prompts while adhering to strict word or character counts. The length of each essay is school dependent, some prompts will require a response in 150 words, while others will allow for 1500 words. While some schools send out secondary applications to all applicants, others only send out secondaries to applicants they are interested in learning more about. While there are many medical school secondary essay examples, "why do you want to be a doctor", "tell me about yourself" and diversity essay medical school prompts are common.

UCLA application timeline

Every institution will have its own medical school application timelines. UCLA accepts applicants on a rolling admissions schedule. Once an applicant has received the secondary application request letter, applicants are given a maximum of 15 days to submit their application, or it's due by UCLA's mid-October deadline, whichever is earlier. Due to this, it's recommended that applicants submit their primary application to AMCAS early, well before the UCLA AMCAS application deadline. Here is UCLA's typical timeline:

October: AMCAS application deadline

Mid-October: Supplemental application deadline

July - November: Screening of applications

July - November: Invitations for interviews

August - November: Interviews

Mid-October: Offers of admission

UCLA secondary essay prompts and examples

Each school has its own list of medical school secondary essays comprised of between one to ten prompts on average. The UCLA medical school requirements call for 10 different secondary essay prompts, probing students to explore their interests, volunteer experience, significant achievements, and hardships. Use the examples below as a guideline to help you create your own unique responses.

1. Describe your involvement in the one most important non-academic activity in your life. (800 char)

In high school, I developed a hobby that quickly turned into a daily habit: exercising. Exercise has had a formidable impact on many areas of my life. Regular exercise creates discipline and amplifies my work ethic. When I was insecure, working out increased my confidence. Exercise gave me a sense of control by displaying the direct correlation between my hard work and the results that are attained. This revelation was first noticed through this habit, but it swiftly carried over to many other areas of my life as well. I strongly believe that this habit played a major role in my character development, and I would not be the same person I am today if I never began exercising.

Click here to see another response to this prompt.

2. What has been the one most unique leadership, entrepreneurial or creative activity in which you participated? (800 char)

While volunteering at the Arts Academy, a society serving those with disabilities, I noticed the boys participated in activities not otherwise available to girls. Many girls had issues making friends, while the boys seemed comfortable with each other. To improve the girl's situation, I started the first girls’ basketball team. Many families were against the girl's participation as they believed sports were for boys. By explaining the mental and physical health benefits of participating, I successfully convinced half of the families. The girls became more confident and self-sufficient. I felt accomplished, not just because I taught them basketball, but because they'd become friends. This experience taught me compassion, commitment, and how to work with people from different backgrounds.

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3. What has been the one most important volunteer work you have done and why was it meaningful? (800 char)

My experience volunteering as an EMT has been instrumental in understanding the significance of serving the community. One night, my team was dispatched to an accident at a busy intersection. The firemen on scene explained that one of the drivers was barricaded and could not move his leg. While the police officers directed traffic, a fireman retrieved the Jaws of Life tool to pry the door on the barricaded car open. At the same time, I helped the paramedic slide the trauma board into the car from the passenger’s side. The ease with which each team member at the scene fulfilled a role contributing to the wellbeing of the patient was inspiring. I finally understood what it meant to be a part of the medical team.

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4. Has there been or will there be a gap between achieving your last degree (baccalaureate or other degrees post baccalaureate) and the expected time of medical school matriculation? (300 char to explain if yes)

I first applied to UCLA in the 2017 application cycle. Unfortunately, shortly after, my family and I were informed that my father needed a liver transplant that summer to treat his cirrhosis. I respectfully withdrew my application as I decided it was best to take the next year to be with my family.

5. What is the one most important honor you have received? Why do you view this as important? (300 char)

My junior year of high school, I received the St. Francis award. The award is meaningful because it is presented to 1 student from each class voted by the students and faculty for displaying “Strong Moral Character, Desire to Serve Community and Proper Use of God-Given Gifts.”

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6. What has been your most scholarly project (thesis, research or field of study in basic or clinical science or in the humanities)? Describe one and give number of hours, dates and advisor. (300 char)

I gave a presentation on creating personalized medicine using patients’ microbiomes for the 2019 Summer Microbiology course I took. This gave me an appreciation of using science to solve real-world problems. The presentation took 15 hours to create. The professor of the lab was Dr. Cate Nightly.

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7. Describe a problem in your life. Include how you dealt with it and how it influenced your growth. (500 char)

I was a nomad, living in China, Japan, Malaysia, and America, changing elementary schools five times. When I moved to Japan, I was bullied because I did not speak Japanese. Once I conformed culturally and linguistically, the bullying ceased. I realized that societies need to be more welcoming to different backgrounds. I learned to accept my past in order to improve the future, vowing to help outsiders and encourage values that enhance cultural diversity.

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8. Section to enter major work experiences, with 4000 char. to explain each experience.

During the spring semester of the school year and into the beginning of the summer for every year during college, I worked as a Senate aide in the State Capitol, averaging about 15-20 hours of work per week. As a Senate aide, I helped Senator Bill in carrying out his duties more efficiently by assisting in research, administration, and communications. My primary research responsibilities involved exploring proposed legislation by attending committee hearings and obtaining copies of different testimonies and records. For example, this past legislative session, a bill was introduced to address medical marijuana for people with debilitating pain. The senator I worked for was against this legislation until I showed him a 2017 study that found that “in states that legalized medical marijuana, the number of hospitalizations for abuse and addiction to painkillers fell by 23 percent from 1997 to 2014.” This information provided the Senator with additional material, allowing him to make a more informed decision of his stance on the matter, and his vote proved highly valuable to the passage of the bill in Arkansas. This experience taught me the effectiveness of seeking evidence to guide decisions. From this side of the table, seeing such a wide range of public issues, including those dealing with healthcare, motivated me to strive in taking an active role in the advocacy for patients and public health in the future.

9. Is there any hardship to which you would like the committee to give special attention in evaluating your application? If yes: Please explain. Include any geographic, language, economic, academic, physical, or mental factors: (500 char)

While studying for and taking the MCAT, I struggled with the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section. Due to English being my second language, I had trouble with vocabulary and quickly comprehending the meanings of certain sentences. However, when there was less stress and pressure, I was able to correctly answer many more questions due to being able to read slower. Since the MCAT, I have been working on improving my reading comprehension skills by reading more complex literature.

10. Where do you see yourself post-graduate education? What experiences have led you to this goal? (500 char)

I want to practice medicine where I am most needed, which is why learning rural and inner-city medicine is important to me. Ideally, I want to take what I learn from my experience after residency and apply my skills in an environment such as Doctors without Borders. I want to practice medicine in an area that best reflects my original intention to study medicine: to serve and provide medical aid to those without access to proper hospital care.

Click here to see another response to this prompt.

3 tips for writing successful UCLA secondary essays

1. Streamline your responses.

The UCLA secondary essay prompts are quite challenging for students. At first glance at the low character counts, you may feel relieved to discover you won't be writing ten different chapters. However, many of the prompts require a response between 300-500 characters, equating to roughly 3-5 sentences. To convey maturity, passion, and lessons learned in only a few sentences is extremely difficult. Students must be able to craft a concise, direct response to the question while adhering strictly to the character count. To create a streamlined response, focus on the main takeaway point that you want to convey, and structure your response around it.

2. Demonstrate self-reflection.

It isn't enough to simply state an experience that you've had when answering the UCLA secondary prompts, you need to be able to demonstrate your ability to self-reflect by conveying to the admissions committee what you learned, how an experience has helped your growth, and how it can benefit you as a physician. If you notice in the examples provided above, each entry includes a takeaway message which not only shows reflection, but also maturity and growth.

3. Perfect your spelling and grammar.

Your UCLA secondary essays have to be perfect as they are a direct reflection of who you are as a candidate. Mistakes indicate a lack of professionalism, a lack of interest, and therefore, a lack of suitability for the profession. It's essential to proofread your essays multiple times to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. 

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