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Tips for Writing the Medical School Application Essay

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Lauren DiProspero

Written by Lauren DiProsperoon June 16th, 2022

I began my undergraduate admissions career at Stanford University where I helped coordinate diversity events and outreach. This ignited a passion for higher education which led me to Columbia University where, after earning my masters, I began recruiting and reviewing the applications of students applying to Columbia College from all around the country including the northeast, mid-west, Texas and California. I also reviewed the applications of international students from countries across Asia as well as Canada and Mexico. During my time at Columbia, I was Director of Admissions at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons where I oversaw the entire medical school admissions process, including recruitment, application review, interview days, and admitted student events. From there I became the Director of Enrollment Management at the University of San Francisco where I oversaw a team that supported both undergraduate and graduate admissions. In that role I recruited in Southern California and reviewed applications from multiple domestic territories for the undergraduate admissions team. Most recently, I was the senior director at Stanford Medicine, where I again oversaw the entire medical school admissions process.
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by Lauren DiProspero, former admissions officer at Columbia University Now that you’ve completed your medical school application experiences section, it is time to begin writing your personal statement. This essay is your opportunity to share with medical school admissions committees the reasons why you want to become a doctor. A good personal statement makes the reader want to meet the applicant. It is an essay that captures the applicant’s voice and personality. It isn’t the thing that is going to get you the interview, but it is a key part of your application. The prompt is intentionally broad to allow for self-reflection on why you want to become a doctor and how you got to this point. A great place to begin is by thinking about what influenced you to go into medicine and how your experiences have confirmed it is the right path. As you begin writing, remember that the first paragraph is key to engaging the reader. That doesn’t mean you should have an over-the-top story or explain, in detail, something gory or gross. Rather, you want the reader to become curious and motivated to learn more about you. It is also crucial to convey “why medicine” up front; don’t keep them guessing! Given your breadth of experiences, it may be hard to decide what to include. You should not cover everything you’ve done in the essay, but you do need to communicate how you got to the point of applying to medical school. Remember that there are other parts of your application, the experiences section and school-specific essays, which can capture the things you choose not to include in your essay. Try focusing on three themes that provide focus and clarity for the reader. Medical schools want to understand why you want to become a doctor, that you understand the pros/cons of the profession, and that you will bring a perspective that will benefit your future medical school class and colleagues. You will want to show more than you tell in your writing. If you enjoy working with patients, share a story of how a patient interaction changed the way you understood medicine. Or a time when you witnessed the medical team help, or fail to help, a patient. Or how much you enjoyed researching solutions to medical problems in the lab. Authenticity and enthusiasm go a long way! Check out our YouTube series about writing college essays; the same advice can apply to medical school personal statements. A quick reminder: what you write in your essay is fair game to discuss in an interview. Some interviewers or interview formats will not use your application, but many will. That means you must decide if you are comfortable discussing the experiences you share in your application during an interview. Just as I recommended with the experiences section: share this essay with friends, family, and/or advisor. They will have a good sense of whether the essay sounds like you and if it conveys your passion for medicine.

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