Reading Yale medical school secondary essay examples is a great way to inspire your own. Your secondary essays, much like your medical school recommendation letters or medical school personal statements, should reveal personality characteristics and background information that can help an admissions committee evaluate whether you have the potential qualities of a physician. While it can be tempting to start pre-writing, you should first familiarize yourself with some examples. In this article, we provide samples of secondary essays for Yale medical school to help you prepare strong answers in your submissions.

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Article Contents
11 min read

Tips for Strong Medical School Essays Secondary Essay Formatting Considerations Yale Medical School Secondary Essay #1 Yale Medical School Secondary Essays #2 and #3 Yale Medical School Secondary Essay #4 FAQs

Tips for Strong Medical School Essays

Before we show you any medical secondary essay examples, we have to establish a few ground rules. Fortunately, secondary essays aren’t the be-all and end-all of application success; there are other components you must supply that also determine how likely you are to get into the program of your choice, such as medical school GPA requirements. Admissions committees are looking for evidence of passion and dedication; they want to know that you’re serious about becoming a doctor and that your choice of program and school is sincere.

Familiarize yourself with these tips to help you prepare to write your secondary essays:

Secondary Essay Formatting Considerations

Most schools won’t specify any formatting considerations beyond a word count. The word count is typically between 250 and 500 words. When you receive your secondary essay prompts, take note of the word count requirement and be sure to write it at the top of your page; you can remove it when you’re finished, but having it visible will help you organize your essays and adhere to the requirements. If your essays exceed the word count, they will be discarded; if they are much shorter, they aren’t indicative of a strong essay. Make the most of the word count limit and page by writing as close to it as possible without forcing information.

Yale Medical School Secondary Essay #1

Prompt: “Yale School of Medicine values diversity in all its forms. How will your background and experiences contribute to this important focus of our institution and inform your future role as a physician?”

As someone who grew up and lived in Québec for most of my adult life, I decided to take a chance and apply to undergraduate programs outside of Québec in primarily English-speaking cities. I have a good understanding of written and oral English, but at the time, I wasn’t as confident in my ability as I am now; this was largely because in the city where I grew up, people don’t speak English very often, and a lot of them are resentful toward people who come to the city and don’t speak French. Initially, I was one of those people, and when I moved, I learned that many people inherit prejudice or hostility from their peers instead of challenging the status quo; and because I wasn’t exposed to other parts of the world, my worldview was also egocentric and narrow.

I got accepted into X university for aerospace engineering. Because this was one of the universities located in an English-speaking province, I wasn’t sure I wanted to accept. My indecision was largely due to my prejudice against English-speaking communities. However, I decided to accept the offer because the program had more experience-based activities compared to the other programs I applied to, and it was realistically the highest quality option I had.

When I arrived at the campus, I met many different people from all different backgrounds. Many of them, to my surprise, didn’t speak English very well either. I was taking a calculus class, and I was having trouble understanding some of the terms because I was still developing my English. I barely passed the first test due to the language barrier, and I was starting to regret my decision to be at this school. My professor, Dr. Abel, asked me to stay after class one day. Because he knew that I was francophone from when I participated in certain class discussions, he asked if I was having trouble understanding the lectures. I said that I was, and that the language barrier was making it difficult to learn. He invited me into his office, where he and I went over some of the important terms that I wasn’t understanding; he also referred me to an ESL tutor, who helped improve my English immensely.

Once again, I was skeptical of accepting help because of my bias. However, because the people I met who spoke English were kind, accepting, and compassionate, I learned that not only were my beliefs complete misapprehensions but also unjustifiable for anyone regardless of background. As a prospective physician, it’s essential to understand how pervasive and harmful bias can be but also to identify and extinguish it where possible. I believe the job of a health care provider is to ensure that people who need care receive it in the highest quality, regardless of background. As someone who had their biases thankfully challenged, I will continue to champion an anti-prejudicial attitude as I pursue a career in medicine.

Word count: 490

Yale Medical School Secondary Essays #2 and #3

The subsequent prompt for Yale School of Medicine is, in fact, a conduit for choosing between two prompts.

(Please select one of the following): MD applicants: Please answer either one of the following questions. MD/PhD applicants: Please answer question 2 as it pertains to your proposed PhD research.

“While there is great emphasis on the physician-patient relationship, Yale School of Medicine also emphasizes the importance of training future physicians to care for communities and populations. Describe how your experiences would contribute to this aspect of the mission of the Yale School of Medicine.”

“Research is essential to patient care, and all students at Yale School of Medicine complete a research thesis. Tell us how your research interests, skills and experiences would contribute to scholarship at Yale School of Medicine.”

Prompt #2:

As the daughter of a nurse and a PSW, I’ve had the opportunity from a young age to discuss and experience the perspective of someone who works in public health service. When I was ten, my parents volunteered for a community health program for underprivileged communities called a street health service, where volunteer nurses and doctors travel to certain communities and set up tents to provide people with health assessments and medical prescriptions. There was one location where many homeless people gathered, and I was brought along to hand out flyers and pamphlets with health information: vaccines, mental health, addiction, sleep, and nutrition were among a few of the pamphlets I organized and distributed among the patrons who arrived that day.

I had the pleasure of meeting people who hadn’t access to clinics or health care services as most people do. Many of them were lacking mandatory vaccinations, others were injured, and some were sick but had no medication. I remember there was one patient who arrived limping. One of the doctors assessed him and provided an arch support band to help with the pain and structural disfigurement. The man thanked everyone and was nearly in tears due to the relief he was feeling. This was the first time I understood the reality that some people don’t have the same privileges as I do, and that there are many morally corrupt inequities in access to health care services.

In my second year of undergraduate studies, I volunteered in an interactive health and medicine class for middle school students. I was a junior instructor for a class of about twenty Grade 8 students. My job was to give the students a series of presentations on relevant health topics for their age group. The presentations I created covered physical fitness, personal hygiene, mental and emotional health, healthy eating, and the social determinants of health. What I learned was that students at this age are often confused and anxious about personal health-related issues. To ease their anxiety, I decided to implement an anonymous question box for students to ask questions.

This experience taught me that there are populations, communities, and groups of people who share similar ambivalence or concern regarding their personal health, which means they unfortunately often neglect it as a result. Since that volunteer experience, I understand that people have unique needs and that generalizations are often to blame for inadequate health care quality. I also know that without people constructing unique specialized methods for the proper treatment of people with shared qualities, there would seldom be any progress in quality care. I do believe that I can use this experience to emphasize creativity in evolving health care systems and quality standards for both communities and individuals. My goal is to become a researcher in care community by developing strategies that bring more awareness of diversity and the marginalization of victims of social determinants of health to better achieve enduring solutions.

Word count: 490

Prompt #3:

“Research is essential to patient care, and all students at Yale School of Medicine complete a research thesis. Tell us how your research interests, skills and experiences would contribute to scholarship at Yale School of Medicine.”

As a neuroscience major, I’ve always been interested in cognitive processes; my initial interest in enrolling in a program was to learn about the cognitive architecture of conscious experience. When I was 11 years old, I had my appendix removed in emergency surgery; the anesthesia was an interesting experience, and I remember asking the doctor when I was out of surgery why I felt so drowsy and slightly delirious. He explained that this was because of the medicine they used to prevent me from feeling pain during the procedure and that it tricks my mind into entering a sleep state. Since then, I’ve had a fascination with the human mind, and I’ve wanted to learn more about the technical and neurochemical aspects of this remarkable organ.

In my senior year of undergraduate studies, my lab instructor for cellular and molecular neuroscience was working on a research project on global workspace theory and the prefrontal cortex. What interests me about global workspace theory is that it emphasizes attention more than other cognitive theories; it states that we are conscious of our immediate memory, which is selected by how we manipulate attention under the guidance of various molecular and cellular processes. My instructor’s project was devoted to understanding the role of emotion in the neural processing of immediate memory and attention. My role was to compile evidence from existing psychology and neuroscience studies. I learned that a strong, falsifiable hypothesis needs to take direction from existing evidence in favor of and against the results we predict.

I worked as a technical writer as I completed my undergraduate studies. My job was to create user-friendly technical documentation for software products. One of the most important skills I learned during this time was attention to detail. My primary task was to explore intricate software features and interfaces to make it easy for people of a variety of ages and experience levels to comprehend. Because the job was also very writing-intensive, I learned how to be disciplined and focused with my writing, which I know is a skill that will be essential for writing long and complicated research papers. As a technical writer, I also had to have a good grasp and deep understanding of the software I was writing about. I know that to create a solid research paper, the writer will also need to have a strong understanding of the information they’re writing about to remain objective.

At the Yale School of Medicine, there is significant faculty interest in cellular, molecular, and developmental neuroscience as well as systems, circuits, and cognition. If I am accepted into the program, it would be my pleasure to work with distinguished researchers who specialize in higher cognitive circuits in the prefrontal cortex. My goal is guided by my passion to explore the hard problem of consciousness; I want to educate people on how exposure to stress can dysregulate cognitive ability and how identifying genetic mutations and other cognitive markers can prevent vulnerability to mental illness.

Word count: 498

Yale Medical School Secondary Essay #4

Prompt: “This section is optional. It should be used to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee any important information (personal, academic, or professional) not discussed in other sections of your Yale Secondary Application. If you are a recent graduate, please also list your post-graduation plans/activities in the ‘Additional Information’ section and submit any relevant updates for finalized plans/activities as the application year progresses. Please limit your response to 500 words.”

During high school, I was initially interested in pursuing a career in psychology, particularly in the social sphere. Coming from a family of immigrants, I was aware of the difficulties associated with moving to a new country, and I felt that if I became a social worker, I could work with individuals who were struggling to adapt to a new country. This is also why I decided to get involved at my high school by starting a club for people who were from a new country or city and were looking for tools to help them settle in and find their way.

The goal of my club was to bring awareness to the issues immigrants face; we also connected over 100 students with counselling resources offered within the school. For my family, I know my parents struggled to find jobs in their field. They were both nurses, but the US didn’t recognize their degree backgrounds, which meant they would have to take many courses from a nearby institute if they were going to be recognized with the right credentials. Even though they were offered some tuition coverage, the process was still too expensive and slow to be a reasonable option at the time.

Are you writing your med school personal statement? Find more tips here:

I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology. However, during my second year, I fell into a state of depression and had a change of heart regarding the career I wanted to pursue. I had never experienced a depressive episode, and I was a highly motivated and active student, so it was difficult for me to accept that I was in this condition, which seemed to have no external cause. I quickly connected with a therapist through the campus well-being services. The therapist whom I worked with was incredibly kind, intuitive, and knowledgeable. He spoke with me about the possibility of medication, which prior to discussing it with him, I would have written off as dangerous and unnecessary. This was when I truly understood the value of compassion in the medical profession, and it had a profound effect on the way I thought about medicine and health care in general.

At Yale, I believe I can bridge my original purpose of increasing awareness of the social pressures of being an immigrant with health care excellence by pursuing the psychiatry clerkship. By exploring inpatient care and emergency psychiatry components, I will be well equipped to understand the needs of people who access this type of care so I can promote a message of inclusion. The Psychiatry Student Group Network will also be a vital resource for channeling meaningful contributions and promoting awareness of my message in the community, in addition to learning about the field as a whole.

Words: 449


1. How long are Yale medical school secondary essays supposed to be?

Yale School of Medicine has a 500-word limit, so you should aim for as close to this limit as possible.

2. Do I need research experience to get into Yale Medical School?

Research experience isn’t required to get accepted, but it can improve your ability to write strong secondary essays and thus aid your chances of getting accepted.

3. What experiences should I talk about for the prompt referring to communities and populations?

You should discuss experiences that demonstrate genuine care for a community. Your answer doesn’t have to come from a community service project necessarily, but it’s a great way to develop and reveal this trait. 

4. I’m having trouble thinking of a way to start my secondary essays. What can I do?

Compile a list of your activities during each academic year. Take note of work experience, extracurriculars, non-academic activities, research, volunteering, sports, or community service. Write down as much as you can in this brainstorming session to prepare for the writing phase.

5. What kind of tone should my essays have?

A neutral, objective tone. You’re writing essays, so your document should have structure – an introduction, body, and conclusion. Create an outline to help you structure your answers and avoid derailing them into irrelevant topics.

6. When are the secondary essay prompts sent out?

Secondary essay prompts are usually sent within two to four weeks after a medical school receives your application. Check your inbox regularly to make sure you can start writing immediately.

7. When do I need to submit my essays?

Some schools will give you a specific deadline. However, it’s best to submit secondary essays as soon as possible, as long as you aren’t sacrificing quality. This will show your enthusiasm for the program and school.

8. How do I find faculty research interests for Yale Medical School?

If you go to the Yale School of Medicine website, they have a page dedicated to the directory of faculty interests. This information will be relevant if you choose the second prompt as an MD/PhD applicant.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


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