The University of California San Diego (UCSD) secondary essays can help you stand out among thousands of applicants to this highly competitive medical school. In our blog, we will go over UCSD secondary prompts and sample essays and give you tips for how to craft outstanding supplemental essays for your application!

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UCSD School of Medicine Program Streams UCSD Secondary Application Process UCSD Application Timeline UCSD Secondary Prompts UCSD Secondary Essay Examples

Medical school secondary essays are designed to provide admissions committees with additional information on an applicant's suitability for a career in medicine. They use this information to whittle down the pile of applicants into a select number that will be invited to continue through the admission process. As students are likely to receive secondary application requests from a handful of schools in a similar timeframe, students should begin working on their applications ahead of time. 

 The University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine is extremely competitive, receiving approximately 8000 applicants each year that compete for only 110 spots in the MD program. With a success rate of only 1.37%, students must ensure their UCSD secondary essays stand out. The difficult autobiographical sketch requires students to dig deep and construct an essay describing their motivations, accomplishments, and hardships in their journey to medicine. With up to 6000 characters to play with, this essay is even longer than the medical school personal statement. In this blog, you'll learn everything you need to know about the UCSD secondary application and you'll have the chance to review secondary essay prompts and examples.

UCSD School of Medicine Program Streams


The UCSD MD program's mission is to “provide cutting edge resources and education to our students so they may grow into innovative and compassionate physicians, focused on providing superior medical care to the global community.” With a new curriculum, the school aims to provide its graduates with the knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes necessary to become capable and compassionate doctors.

MD PhD vs MD

The joint MD/PhD program is offered through the Medical Scientist Training Program for students who wish to pursue both research and medicine at the same time. The program's mission is to “provide students with the breadth and depth of training necessary to excel as academic physicians. The curriculum combines classroom and clinical training in the UCSD School of Medicine with research in a Graduate Department.”

Program in Medical Education – Health Equity (PRIME-HEQ)

The PRIME – HEQ program is designed to train physicians to meet the needs of underserved populations within California. The program's mission is to “develop leaders to eliminate health disparities in their communities, our nation, and the world.” Students admitted into this program will have the opportunity to identify and work with populations or communities at risk.

Global Health Academic Concentration (GHAC)

The GHAC's mission is to “provide medical students with the knowledge, experiences, and resources needed to prepare them for careers in Global Health by learning about complexities and challenges of global healthcare delivery, ethics of doing Global Health research, and socio-structural bases of health inequities.” Students involved in this stream have the opportunity to complete an international research experience and clinical rotation abroad. Students can apply to this track if they've been invited to complete a secondary application, however, only five students from the applicant pool will be selected.

UCSD Secondary Application Process

UCSD School of Medicine (SOM) does not send out secondary applications to all applicants, instead, they use primary applications as a way to screen applicants and choose who will progress to the next stage of the admissions process. Once a secondary application invitation has been sent, students will have one month to complete and submit their application. Students enrolled in the MD-PhD programs, however, will only be given two weeks to return their completed application. Those that did not receive secondary application invitations will still be considered during a potential second round of review and invitation that occurs in January. Once students return their secondary applications, they may be invited to participate in a MMI, be put on hold for an interview, or they may not be asked to continue further. UCSD's secondary application fee is $120.

UCSD Application Timeline:

UCSD Essay Prompts

While there are many medical school secondary essay examples, UCSD secondary applications contain both required and optional essays depending on an applicant's program of interest. 

UCSD Secondary Required essays

1. Autobiographical Sketch

This should be a true autobiographical statement. Topics to be included are family, childhood, primary and secondary school years, undergraduate years, and, if applicable, what you’ve done since completing your bachelor’s degree. You should also discuss the motivational factors which led you to a career in medicine including any disadvantages or obstacles which might put your accomplishments into context. Looking over medical school personal statement examples may help you get some ideas, but a repeat of your AMCAS statement will not be acceptable. (6000 characters)

Please note: if you are applying to the MD/PhD program, please include why you are specifically interested in seeking MD/PhD training at UCSD.

2. Some medical school applicants are already focused on pursuing a particular career pathway in medicine. While many students will change from this pathway during medical school, knowing of your potential interests does help us to assign interviewers. Your choice below does not influence how the Admissions Committee selects students to interview.

Please select from one of the career pathways listed below. In addition to this selection, please provide a brief description of your future career goals. (400 characters)

  • Academic Medicine (Working as a faculty member at a School of Medicine either as a clinician, a clinician-educator, or a clinician investigator. This could be in any field of medicine)
  • Primary Care and/or work in underserved communities (Working as a general internist, a pediatrician, or a family medicine physician and/or spending the majority of your time working in a community currently underserved by the medical profession)
  • Public Health, administrative leadership in medicine (Pursuing an MPH and/or working for a public health department or organization; working in health care policy; working as a hospital administrator)
  • Specialist in private practice (Working in a private practice or managed care setting as a subspecialist. Examples include cardiologist, infectious disease specialist, obstetrician, orthopedic surgeon, general surgeon, anaesthesiologist, radiologist)
  • Other/undecided

UCSD Secondary Optional Essays

1. Please describe your interest in the PRIME-HEq program. Topics to include are longitudinal experiences that you’ve had with underserved communities, including the type of community that you’ve worked with and your level of involvement. Additionally, you should discuss the length of time that you’ve spent working in these communities. (OPTIONAL)

2. Global Health Academic Concentration: Please describe your interest in Global Health. The term Global Health can have many meanings; for our purposes, we find the definition provided by Koplan et. al. in their 2009 Lancet publication useful: “the area of study, research and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide”. In your essay, be sure to describe any personal or professional experiences that have shaped your interests, and how Global Health issues have influenced your decision to pursue a career in medicine. (OPTIONAL)

3. Please describe your interest in the MAS-Clinical Research program. Topics to include are your previous experience with clinical and/or translational research, your role within the research group, and what you envision for a career that includes clinical and/or translational research. A letter of recommendation from the individual supervising your previous experience is helpful but not required. (OPTIONAL)

UCSD Secondary Essay Examples

1. Autobiographical Sketch

“I can see in the dark! I can see in the dark!” screamed the formerly blind child as she ran around on a dimly lit street late at night. Watching her excitement on a video clip through tears, I could not help but feel immeasurable joy and think, “A week and a half ago, she could not see. Medicine did this.” As a current clinical research associate for the Vision Center team at Children’s Hospital of San Francisco, we provide the first-ever FDA-approved gene therapy that corrects a genetic defect of children who suffer from blindness due to Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. I am a part of this team because of the family I come from, the values that they instilled in me, and the opportunities I pursued because of these values.

I come from three generations of immigrants. From displacement by the Armenian Genocide to resettlement in Soviet Armenia, to immigration to Los Angeles, CA, with each generation of movement came generations of stories. These stories contained pain from which I learned empathy, hope from which I learned resilience, and the pursuit of progress from which I learned perseverance. Most importantly, these stories taught me what it means to be a good listener and to be respectful. Using these anecdotes and my ethnic background as my foundation, I developed a desire to understand other cultures.

While in high school, I joined a non-profit group that aims to empower women who are in cooperatives in Tabasco, Mexico by selling their hand-made artisan goods. During my junior year, I had the opportunity to travel to Tabasco and meet with the women who made these beautiful, ornate pieces. After learning about their lives and seeing the appreciation they had towards us, I knew I needed to be in a field where I could expand my understanding of human cultures and behavior.

While majoring in physical anthropology in college, I worked as an office assistant and interpreter in an ophthalmology clinic over the summers. Because the clinic would get busy quickly and I wanted to ease the burden of the front office staff, I started organizing each week’s patient charts in advance and calling the patients to remind them of their appointments. “You’re like the Energizer Bunny!” said my coworker one day as I handed her a stack of charts. From that moment, the name stuck. My time at the office was valuable because it reinforced my ability to complete projects quickly and efficiently while reminding me of the importance of following any project through to the very end.

Wanting to gain more clinical experience after college, I became a clinical research coordinator at a medical center where I coordinated clinical trials and PI-initiated studies. I interfaced with and integrated a number of healthcare professionals to push forward numerous studies and care for a high volume of patients. One of the projects I worked on extensively required a six-hour, multifaceted consultation visit that was taxing both on the patient and clinic flow. Recognizing the inefficiency, I created a system in clinic that scheduled these visits early in the morning, prepared all forms and rooms for the optometrists and retina specialists in advance, and remained in constant communication with all clinic staff throughout the patient’s visit. Because of these improvements, we shortened the consultation visit time by half and became one of the top enrolling sites for the clinical trial. In addition to being exposed to and enjoying team-based, collaborative delivery of care, I developed a newfound interest in public health.

Following my time as a research coordinator, I pursued an MPH degree in epidemiology at the University of San Fransisco. While in graduate school, I wanted to integrate what I was learning in my classes by working in the community I was living in and by participating in epidemiological research. As a graduate research assistant, I refined my analytical and scientific inquiry and gained the confidence to develop a research project independently. I applied this confidence to my work as a Bloom mentor as I created weekly lesson plans and activities for adolescent girls around themes such as menstrual health and hygiene, bullying, obesity, diversity, and more. Encouraging the girls to participate, I saw them develop trust in the other mentors, their peers, and myself. as they shared their experiences with the difficult themes we presented. My time as a mentor taught me the importance of building rapport, being honest, and communicating clearly and effectively.

I have been exposed to diverse educational and professional opportunities that allowed me to help individuals, deepen my understanding of health and human behavior, and acquire a population-level perspective that places individuals in the context of their environment. I want to be a physician that serves pediatric populations and with a passion for epidemiologic research, I appreciate UCSD SOM’s Center for Better Beginnings which aims to promote maternal health and child development. Under the guidance of Dr. Gill Vandolis, I can build off my previous pediatric epidemiological studies while also volunteering in my future specialty of pediatrics at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego. UC San Diego School of Medicine would allow me to gain a solid understanding of clinical concepts in a research setting, to continue to pursue epidemiologic research, and would help propel me into a future career as a physician and researcher. I aim to improve the lives of children and adolescents through the practice of compassionate medicine and interdisciplinary, innovative research.

Character count: 5601

Click here to see another response to this prompt. 

2. Possible Career Pathway

I envision integrating my future medical education with my MPH to pursue interdisciplinary research and working at a public health organization. Specifically, I want to pursue epidemiological research that informs change. I aim to translate my future research into effective policy changes and innovative, community-based initiatives.

Character count: 335

Click here to see another response to this prompt. 

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Hello, I'm not sure where the information about a 2 week turnaround time for MD-PhD students came from, but I wasn't able to find it anywhere else, including the UCSD MSTP website.


BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Natalie! Thanks for your comment. Please follow any deadlines detailed by UCSD to submit your secondaries.