When writing your medical school admissions essay, you will likely have to answer the “Why This Medical School?” secondary essays prompt. It’s important to know why schools are asking this essay prompt, and how to answer it! Among other tips you’ll come across when learning , having a well written, concise essay that expresses your passion and interest in a specific program is key to getting asked for an interview.
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The application process for medical schools can be daunting and stressful, especially if you're not sure about where to apply or what makes one school better than another. There are several components of each application, and in order to land yourself an interview at your top school(s), you’ll need to write enticing essays that follow the instructions of each prompt, and provide relevant details that will help you stand out among other applicants. One question that all applicants will get asked on their applications is, “why this medical school?” or, a similar variation of the question. This essay prompt can help you stand out from the crowd by showing that your interest in attending this school goes beyond just getting an education—you may have ties to the location and city, or researched their program extensively and find it to be the most unique and intriguing for you and your future goals. But what exactly should you include in your “why this medical school” essay in order to stand out? Read on to learn some tips for writing a strong response to this question, and view a few sample essays.
The "why this medical school?" essay is one of the most important parts of your medical school application. The prompt asks you to explain why you want to go to this particular school, and it lets the admissions committee get a deeper sense of who you are an if you’re a worthy of consideration for an interview. This essay allows them to learn more about your personality and interests, so that they can make an informed decision about whether or not they think you’d be a good fit for their program not simply because you wish to attend medical school, but because you’d fit in well, and are passionate about, their specific program.
In other words, if your goal is getting into your chosen medical school as quickly as possible (and what applicant doesn't want that?), then answering this essay well will dramatically improve your chances! This particular essay helps admissions committees weed out candidates who are impartial about which school they attend, and who may not align with their program’s values, culture and structure. Medical programs are competitive, and many are seeking the ‘best of the best’ applicants who demonstrate passion, intrinsic motivation, and determination to attend their program. That is why it’s crucial that you plan out your responses to your each of your prompts and throughout your application process. Taking your time, writing authentically, crafting several drafts, revising, asking a trusted individual or seeking for support, and submitting your essays on time are all great ways to ensure your “why this medical school” essay is superb.
Are you applying to UCSD? Check out how to prepare your secondary for this competitive institution!
Your response to “why this medical school” must be genuine, personal, and most of all, convincing. You absolutely do not want to fabricate a response, as if you’re invited to interview, it will be clear that you weren’t honest and authentic in your essay, and this may result in a rejection. You must make your intentions and passion clear, and for eager future medical students, this should actually be quite easy to do!
Ask yourself: “Why do I want to attend this particular school? What do I like about the school and their program? What makes them better than another school with a similar program?” You can write down your thoughts first, or, even record yourself speaking as you share your thoughts with a family member or friend. This can be a good way of starting your writing process if you’re experiencing writers block. Additionally, preparing your essay responses aloud is a good way of indirectly preparing for other that will come your way if and when you get invited for an interview!
To structure your essay in a way that flows well and offers a concise, but detailed response, you should aim to describe exactly why this particular medical school is right for you, and why you would make a great addition to their school community. You must also provide enough detail to convince the admissions team that you are eager to attend not just any medical school, but their particular institution. You should specify as much as possible when detailing why you’re choosing to apply to their medical school, this may include the fact that they offer a unique curriculum, that you’re aspiring to conduct research with a particular faculty model, or anything else that is drawing you to their school and program.
Word counts can vary depending on your chosen institution, so it’s always best to double check what each individual application requires prior to writing. In general, most secondary essays require anywhere from 250-1000 words. This is a broad range, and that is why it’s crucial to follow the instructions set out by each institution carefully!
Your essay should have a clear introduction, a few body paragraphs explaining why you’re interested in attending this particular school, and a conclusion that reiterates the key details of your essay. As with any and all admissions essays, steer clear of unusual fonts and formats. Keep it neat, legible, free of errors, and professional. Here are some tips to consider when writing your first draft of your essay:
Looking for more secondary essay tips? Check out this video:
Sample 1, 500-750 words
“I recall the first time I knew, with confidence, that I would one day be a doctor. I knew I needed to be a doctor, in fact, because all I’ve ever wanted to do is learn, and help people. When I was seven years old, a child at the playground who had joined in on a game of tag with my friends and I plummeted from the top of the monkey bars and broke her arm. Many onlookers panicked and ran for help, but without hesitation, I ran to the aid of the injured child and comforted her. I knew, somehow innately, how to keep her calm, and the importance of keeping her injury still until help arrived. I felt excited and honored to help in that moment. For the months that followed, many parents complemented me on my composure and expressed how mature I was when all the other children cried and panicked. To me, it only felt natural to be a helper in my community, and to take charge of a situation, so that was when I realized not everybody felt so automatically inclined—or fascinated with—helping injured and ill people. I knew then what path I had to take, and began looking for opportunities to learn more about health care at my school, and in my community. My community is one that is historically underserved, and members of my community are underrepresented in the medical field, and after years of volunteering at various pop-up clinics and detox centers, I’m eager help to change that.
Attending X University Medical School, means I’ll be learning and getting clinical experience in my own community, and will be able to take part in community outreach programs, and eventually, propose my own ideas for outreach. I know first-hand the medical and mental health care support this community surrounding X University is lacking, and, I know the wonderful people who reside in it that make it the incredible place it is. I would be elated to be a part of a renowned learning environment where I could enhance and develop my technical skills, partake in initiatives throughout my program and beyond, and give back to my community by providing compassionate care.
Throughout my time in secondary and post-secondary, I immersed myself in life sciences and sociology—my other favorite subject, which I will receive a double-major in. I started volunteering in various groups and shadowing with other pre-med students in my second year of study, most notably, the local women’s health facility and shelter. There, I learned the importance of accessible care, and came to understand the systemic inequity that exists in healthcare, especially for women and minorities in underserved communities. I was also able to put my understanding of sociology and social systems to use as I helped women navigate next-step programs, whether they were escaping abusive partnerships or recovering from an addiction. As an eager and accomplished self-started, I feel I could bring forth my existing knowledge and passion to help people, and would excel in X University’s interdisciplinary, self-directed components of the medical program. I also look forward to learning alongside a team of likeminded professionals in your clinical, team-oriented experiences offered as both a part of the program, and as extracurricular opportunities. I feel that although there are many medical schools in the state, X University offers the most comprehensive, appealing program to professionals like myself who want to learn the from the best faculty, and apply what I’ve learned throughout my time in your program, and bring the best care to our budding and evolving community when I one day become an MD.”
Sample 2, 250-500 words
“Attending X University as a medical student means that I would be able to immerse myself into a community renowned for its supportive culture, research alongside incredible faculty, and attend one of the top programs in the country. Because I have a special interest, and experience working with patients with, XYZ, a notoriously under-researched and underfunded area of medicine, I know that X University will provide me with the opportunity to flourish as a future medical professional, and as a future clinical researcher. I have many ground-breaking ideas to explore, and because I’ve followed X University’s research for nearly a decade, I know I would be among like-minded individuals at your institution. Last year, my lab team was awarded the University of Newtown Award for Excellency in Biology and Life Sciences for our project that explored the relation and co-existence between celiac disease and sickle-cell anemia. I enjoyed this extensive research project, and partaking in it only affirmed my dedication and passion for this field of medicine.
My goal as a future medical student it to absorb all learning materials in every form, and take each moment of field experience as both a challenge and an opportunity to shine. Not only will I learn how to best provide care, but to also make the current system better for patients. Whether I do so through my combined passion and knowledge obtained through X University’s program, or through my future research on diseases like XYZ, I will strive to make a difference, and feel the inclusive, non-competitive, supportive learning community at X University is the best place for me access the tools and gain the experiences in order to do so. Because X University has a wonderful reputation for making breakthroughs in the field of medical research, specifically with auto-immune diseases, I am eager and prepared to relocate across the country and begin my professional journey as a member of a prestigious medical school community.”
1. What’s the significance of the question, “why this medical school”?
It might sound like a basic question, but the “why this medical school” essay prompt carries a lot of significance and your response must be well thought out! This prompt is asking you to explain why you want to attend a particular institution, and your response will let the admissions committee understand you, your goals, and get a deeper sense of who you are. This essay will be used to help them assess whether or not you’re worthy of consideration based on your interests, passions, personality, and goals as they relate to the particular medical program you’re applying for.
2. What if I am applying to several medical schools and they all ask this question?
It isn’t uncommon for students to apply to several medical schools. You likely have one or two ‘top’ choices, but in order to secure a chance of admission, you may apply to your ‘plan B’ schools as well. You should never communicate that a school is not your top choice, but rather, focus on what each school and program offers, what you’ll gain from the experience—should you be accepted and attend—and what makes them unique from other schools. Admissions teams know that many students apply to several schools, so be honest in your answer to the extent of why you want to attend the school, but never state that you are applying because a particular school is “close to home”, “is known for easy admittance”, or “because it’s an option”. Take the time to research and get excited about each school individually before you write each essay.
3. What structure and format should I keep in mind when writing my essay?
When drafting and writing your “why this medical school?” essay, and any secondary essay, it’s important that you:
- Stick to a legible, professional and consistent format and font (no colors or creative fonts)
- 1.5-2.0 spacing is always preferred
- Adhere to any specific instructions outlined on your application
- Ensure that you proofread and edit your essay several times to ensure it’s error-free
- This is a personal, professional essay. That means you should write in your own authentic voice, portray yourself as a professional, and include an introduction, body section with appropriate details, and a brief conclusion that reiterates and wraps up your response and prompts the admissions committee to—hopefully—proceed with next steps in your application process.
4. How long should my essay be?
This can vary by school, and every application is different! In general, most admissions and secondary essays span anywhere from 250-1000 words. Always double check your application/essay instructions and stick as closely to the word count as you can.
5. What type of information should I include in my essay?
Your essay should outline what personal experiences, goals and values you have that align with a particular aspect of the school’s program, culture, reputation, and/or curriculum. You should highlight specific aspects of the medical program that are appealing to you and unique to the school, and detail why this is important to you! This is a brief essay, so it’s best to research and decide on a few key points about the school that are relevant to your interest, and detail them, along with a bit about who you are as a prospective medical school student.
6. What should I avoid writing in my essay?
As noted above, this is a brief essay, and schools are trying to get a clear idea of who each applicant is, and why they are interested in their specific medical school program. Avoid detailing irrelevant events, as well as going in-depth about your experience, grades or GPA accomplishments, as a lot of this information was likely already reviewed in your initial application. Along with this, don’t simply regurgitate information from the school’s website! They already know what they offer, so if you’re opting to discuss a specific point, such as a unique curriculum, get specific and detail why it matters to you and aligns with your goals! Finally, it’s important to remember that the admissions team is looking to select candidates with a genuine interest and passion for medicine, and for their school. It’s crucial that your essay is written in your voice, and includes honest details about what entices you about the chosen school specifically.
7. I need additional assistance and support with my medical school application, where can I get help?
You may benefit from seeking help from a . The application process, as well as the interview process, for medical school can be extensive and overwhelming! can help you prepare for various components of your medical school application by offering 1-on-1 preparatory consulting services to guide you through every step of the application process!
8. Is getting asked to write secondary essays indicative of an interview?
Not always! Although it’s a good sign that the admissions committee has reviewed your initial application and would like to learn more about you, some schools send secondary essay prompts to every applicant, and others opt to send them to applicants whom they have interest in. Because it varies by school, it’s important that you prepare and submit your secondary materials as soon as you can to show that you’re eager and interested in the school!