You’ve taken the MCAT. You’ve submitted your primary application to your top schools, and some others, just to be safe. You’re feeling proud, and you should be! You can just feel it; interviews are on the horizon. But before you get to that pivotal point, you have one more crucial hoop to jump through: crafting exceptional medical school secondary essays.
If your med school primary application, with your personal statement and activities descriptions, is your chance to explain your unique motivations for a career in medicine, your secondaries give you a greater opportunity to make an impassioned case for a specific medical school. Secondaries can include any number of essay prompts; one such essay, becoming increasingly more common, is known as the ‘diversity essay.’
Ah, the diversity essay…perhaps one of the most feared, and most misunderstood, medical school admissions secondaries. It’s a prompt that’s given many med school applicants a good deal of anxiety! But it doesn’t have to be this way. The first step to writing a strong diversity essay for your secondaries is understanding what it is…and its purpose in getting you into medical school.
Your diversity secondary essay is an opportunity to share with admissions committees what you bring to their medical school community. The diversity essay is a place to share a bit more with committees about what makes you, you!
Many students think ‘diversity,’ must apply primarily to individuals or groups that are underrepresented in medicine. Some students think that diversity, must refer to ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation. While those are legitimate (and important!) things to consider in a diversity essay, really this simplified understanding of the term leads to all the confusion. When schools ask you to answer this question, they are really asking how you will contribute to a diverse student body. They want to know what is unique about you; so that you can add, in a meaningful way, to their school community.
Now that you have some background on the diversity essay, let’s dive into writing. Think about writing your diversity secondary the same way you’d write any other essay for your application. Take the time to brainstorm, outline, and edit this essay. As with all your secondaries, this is another opportunity to let programs know they want you! Take it seriously.
Great question…probably in more ways than you realize! Think about experiences that you’ve had that shape how you see the world. Did you grow up speaking another language at home? Do you have many brothers and sisters? Was your family a military family? Where did you grow up? Who raised you? Work experience, life experience, gender identity, religion and family structure can all contribute to a diverse community.
These secondary essays are often short and constricted by character count. For this reason, outlining is key. Make sure you have a thesis statement, and a narrative driven approach to answering the question. Tell a story in your diversity essay. When you develop your outline, be concise, but thorough. I find the following list is a helpful place to start, to make sure you’re not missing any of the key pieces of this prompt. Think of this as a check-list, or simply use this as a guide, and fill in the blanks beside each reminder.
Elements that contribute to my diversity (such as: thoughts, experiences, identities)
Story to illustrate those elements
Connection to medicine and why my diverse experiences will make me a phenomenal doctor
Why this school is right for me, based on these traits
Double check: Did I answer the question? (More on this below!)
As you work to put all the components of your diversity essay into place, focus on taking your outline and putting it into a story. Once you’ve chosen what you’re going to focus on, let’s say, your life growing up on a dairy farm, think about the skills that experience has brought you. Maybe you’re hardworking and down-to-earth. Maybe you know how to compost. Maybe you’re uniquely equipped to connect with patients from more rural communities. Choose which of these traits you wish to highlight and then weave them into a story that illustrates these key components. Tell committee readers why this is proof you’ll be successful, and why their program is the right one for you.
Take some time to double check a few key things within your essay. Make sure that the element or elements you focused on were truly meaningful to you. Sure, you might be the only person you know that can do a backflip, but talents and hobbies, unless substantive and key in informing your worldview, won’t make your diversity case. Also be sure that you’re connecting your traits TO medicine, and specifically, to the school that you’re discussing.
If you pre-write a diversity essay, double check, (then triple, quadruple check!) that you’re including the right program name in the correct essay. Finally, remember to do a final review to be sure that you’re actually answering the question at hand. The diversity essay wears many hats. One school may simply ask you to share unique factors in your background, while another might ask you to comment on how those factors will enhance their program or inform your future scope of work.
Remember, this essay is just another opportunity to show admissions committees who you are! This is an opportunity to say more, share more, and ultimately, help you make that dream of becoming a medical student, a reality.
Example 1: “‘Do you consider yourself a person who would contribute to the diversity of the student body of Tufts University School of Medicine?’ if Yes, briefly explain why.” (Tufts University School of Medicine)
Example 2: “The School of Medicine regards the diversity of an entering class as an important factor in serving the educational mission of the school. Please write about things in your background that have been important to your development or that have been challenging to you on your path to a career in medicine. These could include your socioeconomic status, culture, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sexual identity, and work or life experiences. Explain how these have influenced your goals and preparation for a career in medicine.” (University of Colorado School of Medicine)
Example 3: “We are all differentiated from or connected to one another by individual inflections that constitute our diversity. Explain how your relationship with your own diversity and to the diversities of others manifests in your personal and professional activities.” (Mayo Clinic College of Medicine)
Example 4: “Given the diversity statement of the school, explain how your background and experiences with diversity will bring value to the school.” (University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine)
Example 5: “Tulane University School of Medicine values the diversity of its patients, faculty, staff, and students. Do you identify with a particular group that you believe is underrepresented among medical professionals? These include groups oriented around, but not limited to: ethnicity, race, sexuality, religion, disability, and economic background. (60 Words)” (Tulane University School of Medicine)
Example 6: “How will you contribute to the diversity of your medical school class and the University of Virginia School of Medicine?” (Virginia School of Medicine)
Example 7: “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? (500 words)” (Yale School of Medicine)
Example 8: “The Admissions Committee regards the diversity of an entering class as an important factor in serving the educational mission of our school. The Admissions Committee strongly encourages you to share personal challenges that you have overcome and that are unique to you. These challenges may include the quality of your early educational environment, socioeconomic status, region of residence with respect to its health professional needs, ties to MCG, culture, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or life and/or work experiences. Please discuss how such factors have influenced your goals and preparation for a career in medicine. (400 words)” (Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University)