While one of the most common medical school secondary prompts, it is also one of the most important. This is your opportunity to convince admissions committees at the med schools of which you applied how or why your values align with theirs. As you can imagine, a well-written essay can potentially influence admissions committees to accept an applicant while a poorly written essay may persuade the reader otherwise. Here are a few tips in order to meticulously demonstrate your medical school candidacy:
Not all “Why Our School” secondary prompts are created equal. Some prompts will ask how you will contribute to their school while others ask about qualities you have that would further their medical school’s mission. Similarly, while you may have prepared a response for the “Why Our School” question for another school, you must tailor it to what the school is asking specifically. If you do not do so, the school does not have answers to the question they are explicitly asking. Remember, they are asking the question for a specific reason! Also, a general response may lead admissions committees to assume you have one response you use for “Why Our School” secondary essays, forcing them to believe you are not as interested or knowledgeable about their med school.
It is one thing to know what interests you about this school but another to pinpoint the specifics of the school that make it unique. Doing so can show your genuine interest in that school and that you have correspondingly done your research. You may use their website but do some deep digging as well – use YouTube videos, alumni or medical student outreach, or research the geographic location/community for aspects that interest you. Consider the following questions when doing your own search:
Commonly, students fall into the pitfall of discussing how the mission statement resonates with them. If the mission statement does, in fact, resonate with you, be sure to discuss why as well as show evidence or examples for how this is true. Often, it is important to be specific about what interests you about the school to demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest. Doing so will increase your likelihood of acceptance as admissions committees are interested in accepting students knowledgeable about the school and willing to represent their school enthusiastically. Is there a club or aspect of the curriculum that interests you? Talk about it!
There is certainly a difference between the following:
School X values underserved populations and commitment to community health.
Of particular interest, School X emphasizes underserved communities which has been a passion of mine, evidenced by my involvement in Healthcare for the Homeless.
As you can see, this latter example emphasizes what interests the student about the school while avoiding outright telling the admissions committee a fact about their school.
Therefore, like any other written aspect of your application, it is important to demonstrate additional details about you as a candidate to paint a vivid picture of who you are. As a result, it is essential to marry what interests you about the school and your own personal qualities or characteristics as opposed to solely discussing one or the other. Here, we want to strive to have the best of both worlds. Be honest and genuine – this is the key. Allowing the reader insight into who you are will give them more information to make a decision about your candidacy for acceptance into medical school.
Example 1: “Why have you selected the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine for your medical education? Please be as specific as possible.” (Miami Miller School of Medicine)
Example 2: “Why do you wish to attend Meharry Medical College, School of Medicine?” (Meharry Medical College)
Example 3: “If you are not a Kansas resident, what is your specific interest in applying to the University of Kansas School of Medicine?” (KU School of Medicine)
Example 4: “In 500 words or fewer, please explain your reasons for applying to the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine. Please be specific.” (Jacobs School of Medicine)
Example 5: “Why have you chosen to apply to the Georgetown University School of Medicine and how do you think your education at Georgetown will prepare you to become a physician for the future? (1 page, formatted at your discretion)” (Georgetown 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: “Why have you chosen to apply to CNUCOM? (250 words maximum)” (California Northstate University)
Example 8: “Please write a short essay about why you are applying to the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. We suggest that you limit your essay to about 550 words.” (Pritzker School of Medicine)
When I signed up for the trip, I never imagined that I would hold a human heart in my hands. My high school field trip to the Hackensack University Medical Center in 2013 was a unique experience to tour different departments in the hospital and ultimately learn about medicine. After setting foot in one of the best hospitals in the New Jersey / New York Metropolitan area, I knew this one-day visit was not enough, and I longed to continue learning here. Six years later, I found myself without a job after the scribe program was closed at Englewood Health by the end of August 2019. However, it was this initial disappointment that led to me finding my current job at Hackensack University Medical Center and returning to an excellent learning environment. By working as a scribe at Hackensack University Medical Center and rotating in the surgical ICU and surgical step-down unit, I was able to work with and learn from top-ranked physicians such as Dr. Sanjeev Kaul, Dr. Javier Martin Perez, and Dr. Saraswati Dayal. What draws me to the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine is the opportunity to learn at some of the best hospitals serving northern, central, and southern New Jersey and from one of the most diverse populations in the nation. By beginning my medical education through Hackensack Meridian Health, the largest healthcare network of the state, and being exposed to an extraordinary range of patients, disorders, and challenges, I believe I can develop the ability to serve and provide high-quality care to patients from different backgrounds and with a variety of needs.
In addition to the excellent clinical opportunities, I am also interested in the unique curriculum of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. During high school, I developed an interest in preventive health and became more mindful of aspects such as nutrition, posture, sleep hygiene, and physical activity. I want to train to be a physician who can effectively educate others to also take control of their own health. For this reason, I am especially interested in the Human Dimension course. Through building relationships and interacting with families in the community, I will better understand the social, socioeconomic, and environmental determinants of health and ultimately learn how to proactively improve others’ lives. I am also excited about the special 3+1 curriculum that will enable me to customize my fourth year with many possibilities, including research projects, additional clinical experience, early entry into residencies, community service initiatives, and several dual-degree options. Additionally, the smaller class size will cultivate a close-knit community and enhance my learning experience and training overall. I am fortunate that the school is only a 20-minute drive from home, which would enable me to remain close to my support network and thrive in a familiar environment while attending medical school.
Through this response, the student ties in personal experiences and interests initially within not only Hackensack University but the location. Needless to say, the student does not just include the experience or facts about the school without also making it personal to their journey. The student then progresses to discuss specific elements of the curriculum and class size as well as why it interests them. Therefore, from this response, it is immensely clear why this student is applying to this school specifically as well as what unique aspects interest them about this school.