In recent years, guaranteed-admission medical programs have exploded in popularity. These programs allow students to apply for a guaranteed place in medical school right out of high school. Often, these programs will include compressed undergraduate degree timelines that reduce the total time requirement by one to two years, leading to so-called seven- and eight-year medical programs. These programs have grown increasingly competitive, and acceptance rates are often lower than undergraduate acceptance rates at Ivy League schools.
In addition to the Common App essays (for the latest info, check out our blog post How to Write the Common Application Essays 2017-2018), these specialized programs often require applicants to write separate essays specific to the medical program. The majority of these essays can be grouped into one of two categories.
Either they ask the applicant why he or she wants to be a doctor, or they ask the applicant to address why he or she wants to attend the undergraduate and medical school in the program in addition to detailing the reasons behind their desire to be a doctor. The essays for Case Western’s Pre-Professional Scholars Program (in medicine), as well as for Rutgers Newark’s BA/MD program are presented below as representative archetypes for each style of essay.
We spoke with CollegeVine co-founder and essay specialist Vinay Bhaskara, who was accepted into seven-year medical programs last year about how he would approach these essays.
Case Western Essay Prompt
By applying to the Pre-Professional Scholars Program, you are applying to gain admission to professional school earlier than students who apply in the traditional way. Please indicate why you’re interested in your chosen profession. How do you see yourself being particularly suited to this field? What events and/or experiences have led you to your choice? This essay should be between 250 and 500 words in length.
Rutgers Essay Prompts
Part I. Discuss why you are interested in pursuing a career in medicine. (150 words)
Part II. Describe your health-related volunteer experiences and the time devoted to them. (150 words) Provide supporting documentation in your portfolio from a supervisor, coordinator, etc.
Part III. Discuss what has attracted you to apply to Rutgers University-Newark College of Arts & Sciences, apart from the BA/MD program. (150 words)
Part IV. Discuss why you are specifically interested in attending Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) over other medical schools. (150 words)
Addressing ‘Why Medicine’ in Medical Program Essays
Vinay: The critical thing to remember here is that success in medicine is the synthesis of two equally important factors: a passion for science and a passion for serving humanity. Medical care is not just about being able to recognize symptoms, make a diagnosis, and prescribe the correct course of treatment, it’s also about the second word in that phrase — being able to care for patients and make sure that their emotional state improves alongside the physical healing. These are the core themes that you must communicate with your essay.
The science side of the ledger is relatively easy to describe. You can approach it from the pure science aspect of a passion for biology or biochemistry. If you choose to highlight biology, be sure to research the various biological subfields, such as genetics, neuroscience, et al. and pick the one for which you feel the most affinity.
This approach can also be enhanced by descriptions of your work in a non-class lab environment if you have it. Such experience is advisable for applicants to seven-year programs, though not absolutely essential. Another approach to discussing the academic aspects of medicine is to talk about your passion for the analytic problem-solving that medicine necessitates.
On the passion-for-serving-humanity side, the best approach is to refer to a patient care experience (typically either volunteering at a hospital, nursing home, or clinic, shadowing a physician, or [ideally] both), and relate a specific anecdote from that experience that stuck with you. Using that anecdote as a base, you would then transition into a discussion of how that has inspired you to pursue medicine and heal people.
If you lack patient care experience, the next option is to draw on volunteer or charity exposure (outside of medicine) and follow the same pattern of an anecdote or reflection.
If you don’t have any of these experiences either, a third possibility is to draw on experiences with a family member or friend who dealt with severe health problems and discuss how that experience affected and inspired you. If you don’t have any strong examples of any of these three cases, you can still discuss and analyze a passion for the non-academic aspects of medicine, but it will not have as much substance backing it.
Justifying the Undergraduate and Medical Schools
These parts of the essay are not as important relatively speaking, but you still must make sure that you meet the requirements for these. For the justification of the undergraduate schools, it is the same process as general “Why school XYZ?” essays, which we will cover in a later blog post.
The general guidelines here are to make sure that you discuss things specific about that school, not generic descriptions that could apply to several different schools. You should discuss both academics, and social aspects of the school, paying special attention to unique academic programs as well as specific social philosophies espoused by each school.
With regards to the medical school, you should discuss the specific strengths of that medical school and the things that it can teach you. For example, a major trauma center will expose you to one whole set of patient pathologies, while a hospital in a run down and culturally diverse area of town will expose you to an entirely different set of patient pathologies and interactions.
Similarly, hospitals specializing in oncology or neurology will provide a unique experience that you can highlight in the essay. One good point to always mention is that if the medical school is in a city, it will expose you to a diverse and varied set of patient pathologies and patient interactions, which will enhance your skills as a doctor.
Addressing Why Accelerated Programs
This is usually the hardest part of the essay to write. The answer for most students is simply because it saves them time, but schools do not like to hear this. A better way to approach it is to state that you are certain about your desire to become a physician, and say that the additional academic rigor presented by the program (a science — heavy curriculum, GPA requirements, working through summers, et al.) strongly appeal to you.
If you’re thinking about a BS/MD program, but you’re unsure if it’s the right fit or you don’t know where to begin, consider the CollegeVine BS/MD Apps Assistance Program. Here, you’ll be paired one-on-one with a specialist from one of the top combined undergraduate and medical school programs in the country, who will help to prepare your application, guide your essay choices, and coach you through the interview process.
Zack was an economics major at Harvard before going on indefinite leave to pursue CollegeVine full-time as a founder. In his spare time, he enjoys closely following politics and binge-watching horror movies. To see Zack's full bio, visit the Team page.
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Medical School: Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, 2015
Why did you choose a BS-MD program?
I became interested in being a pediatrician when I was about 8 years old. In high school, through both school subjects and clinical shadowing, my interest in medicine was fortified, and I knew that applying to medical school was in my future. I attended a high school where academic and personal balance were prized, so I knew I wanted a similarly full opportunity in college to pursue other interests before attending medical school. I learned about the Case Western Reserve University BS-MD program—the Pre-Professional Scholar’s Program (PPSP)—during my college interview at the university. It sounded perfect—a full four years of undergraduate studies (or a year of freedom if you finished your degree early), no required courses or major, the freedom to either take the MCAT® exam and apply elsewhere, or forego the stress and stay at CWRU. At the same time, I saw my brother, then a senior in college, struggle through the traditional medical school admissions process. I knew right then that this program was what I wanted.
Do you interact only with BS-MD students, or do you take classes with other medical students?
The university PPSP is fully integrated into both undergraduate and medical school experiences. During undergrad, the PPSP students had a common advisor who coordinated optional monthly meetings featuring various panelists including program graduates who were currently in our medical school, admission directors, and financial aid directors.
How is being a medical student different than the undergraduate program?
Being a medical student is a lot more difficult than I anticipated. I’d always heard getting into medical school was the hard part. Since I had a fairly pain-free admissions experience, I’m definitely biased. Still, no one ever said being here was hard, either. However, there’s a comforting level of camaraderie that’s present in medical school. And unlike undergrad, everything you learn and study is really interesting and directly applicable to your future.
In addition to having an early acceptance into medical school, what are the other perks of being in a BS-MD program?
During my four years prior to medical school, the security and freedom I had in the PPSP allowed me to major in Spanish, something I was interested in and thought would serve me well in my future career. The program also gave me time to take advantage of CWRU’s Integrated Graduate Studies (IGS) program where I earned my Master of Public Health, with a concentration in global health, alongside my degree in Spanish. I consider myself very fortunate that I had the opportunity to take advantage of the amazing programs at CWRU, and that I was able to tailor my education to my professional interest.
What advice do you have for others who are interested in doing a combined BS-MD degree?
Fully embrace whatever degree program you’re enrolled in to make the most out of your experiences.