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Medical School Additional Information Essay Sample

Part 4: The “Why Us?” Secondary Essay

Example "Why Us?" Essay Prompts

Example 1: “What makes LLUSM particularly attractive to you?” (Loma Linda University School of Medicine)

Example 2: “How will becoming a Creighton educated physician enable you to achieve your lifetime goals and/or aspirations?” (Creighton University School of Medicine)

"Why Us?" Essay Background

These are everyone’s favorite prompts (I wish my sarcasm could jump through the screen).

The first step to writing an effective “Why us?” essay is to restrain yourself from writing about how great their medical school is or where it's located.

Glad that’s out of the way.

Consider why admissions committees want you to answer this question. After all, they know you’re applying to many other schools and that your GPA and MCAT scores are at least reasonably close to their admission averages (learn Where to Apply to Medical School to Maximize Admissions Odds).

Admissions committees read thousands of essays annually and want to know that you’ve considered them for reasons beyond the obvious (location, prestige, average GPA and MCAT, etc.).

By integrating your qualities, experiences, and aspirations with their specific mission, programs, and resources, you will have a unique opportunity to demonstrate "fit" in your application. Don’t take this for granted!

"Why Us?" Essay Misconception 1: “I should just read a school’s mission statement and research available resources on their website, and then rewrite the same information in essay form.”

The vast majority of students approach the “Why us?” essay this way, so it won’t make your response seem very special.

I basically see the expanded version of the following essay 90+% of the time:

“I want to go to [School Name] because of their wonderful [program name] and incredible [resources]. {Program] cultivates [attribute] that helps their students become great physicians. In addition, [resources] provide support to help students reach their potential.”

You should be able to see how this essay says nothing about why YOU want to go to their school.

Moreover, medical schools already know about all of the programs and resources they offer, so you wouldn’t be providing much value through your writing.

The better approach to this essay would be to look through schools’ websites to find programs and resources that actually interest you and to identify what each school keeps boasting about (e.g., perhaps they mention diversity or early clinical experience multiple times on their homepage). Then, consider:

  • How YOUR experiences fit with their offerings
  • What YOU could contribute
  • How YOU would uniquely benefit from their program

For example, if a school focuses a lot on community service and you have similar experiences, mention that. In addition, let the school know how you want to further focus your skills while there. On the other hand, if you have a more research heavy background and are applying to the same school, you could either focus on research or discuss how community service will make you a more well-rounded physician. The more specific you can be, the better.

"Why Us?" Essay Misconception 2: “There’s no other way to find out information about a medical school than by reading their site.”

Looking at a school’s website and demonstrating fit is certainly a tried-and-true approach to answering "Why us?" essay prompts, but it isn’t the only one.

To really impress admissions committees, you could integrate information from current students or recent alumni into your response. Ask these individuals whether they would be willing to share their experiences attending a particular school, and also whether you would be a good fit there given your background and goals.

How do you find these people? The easiest people to contact are those you know personally or through a mutual acquaintance. Otherwise, you could contact a school’s administrative staff and ask whether they could connect you to a current student. While this requires additional work, it will be well worth it for your top school preferences.

If you have to contact a stranger, use the following email template:

“Dear [Student Name],

I hope this email finds you well. My name is [Your Name}, and I am currently completing my med school applications. I’m especially interested in attending [School Name] and am therefore hoping to get some more information about the program. [School Name]'s admissions committee gave me your email address as someone who could help me out.

I'd really appreciate it if you would spare 15-20 minutes to answer 3-5 quick questions in the upcoming days. If so, please let me know some days and times that are most convenient for you, your time zone, and the best number to reach you. I’ll do my best to accommodate.

Thanks for your time and consideration. Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

Best,

[Your Name]

Sample "Why Us?" Essay

(Note: All identifying details have been changed.)

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Throughout my undergrad years, I’ve found that working hard to involve myself with others and their unique perspectives is one of the most productive ways in which I can learn. For example, I used to believe that illnesses were just a set of tangible symptoms that resulted solely from maladaptive genes. However, after working closely with families in Boston's inner city, I have come to realize how racial, physical, and social factors, such as a lack of access to fresh produce or primary health services, can influence the likelihood of disease. As I obtained a broader understanding of the many factors that contribute to health, I find myself asking new questions and wanting to learn more. How can we properly assess a community’s needs and design appropriate solutions? How can an understanding of sociocultural factors be used to heal current patients and prevent new ones? I believe that the answers to these questions and others will come from the Community Health Program at the University of Washington (UW). The year-round lecture series on topics, such as “Health Disparities: An Unequal World's Biggest Challenge,” will allow me to engage closely with faculty and students to work towards developing holistic community-based solutions. Furthermore, the UW PEERS clinic and Friends of UW provide an opportunity to work closely with urban Seattle neighborhoods similar to those I have worked with in Boston. Having connected with a range of Boston families, varying in age, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity, I have improved my sense of self-awareness and cultural sensitivity, attributes I hope to continue developing with the surrounding Seattle community. I am confident that UW and the Community Health Program can further prepare me to be a physician who not only improves the lives of individual patients, but also addresses the needs of entire communities.

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Final Thoughts

Secondary applications will likely be one of the most time-consuming, stressful, and exhausting parts of your application process (the other is the medical school admission interview circuit if you’re fortunate to receive multiple invitations).

Nevertheless, you should give yourself some breaks to recharge so that you never rush submissions for the sake of rolling admissions and sacrifice quality.

Like every other piece of written material you submit, aim not only to answer the prompt, but also to give admissions committees deeper insights into what makes YOU so great for their school specifically.

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Medical School Secondary Applications


Nearly all medical schools have individual applications, called secondary applications, which supplement the centralized AMCAS, AACOMAS or TMDSAS application. Generally secondary applications have additional essay questions and request a secondary application fee.

Medical schools differ in their procedures for providing secondary applications to applicants. Most medical schools will automatically provide a secondary application to all applicants whereas other medical schools prescreen the processed centralized applications and only invite the top candidates to submit a secondary application. For Texas residents, the Texas medical schools make their secondary applications available through the TMDSAS web site, and they should be completed as soon as you submit your TMDSAS application.

The process for receiving secondary applications also varies from school to school. Some medical schools will email you and give you access to their secondary applications, while others are posted on the schools’ web sites to be downloaded when you are ready. You should visit each school’s admissions office web site to see if the secondary is posted there. If the secondary application is available, read the instructions carefully because some medical schools do not want you to submit the secondary application until after they contact you. If it has been 3-4 weeks since the verification of your AMCAS or AACOMAS application, and you have not received a secondary application from a particular medical school, you can then contact the school to ask about the availability of their secondary application.

Miscellaneous advice on completing secondary applications

  • Some secondary applications ask for your SAT or ACT scores. You will not need an official score report form at this time - just the scores. If you cannot remember them, you should be able to access them through Bionic.
  • Some secondary applications will ask you to convert your Bryn Mawr credits to semester hours and to calculate GPAs for the core premedical requirements (general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, and physics). Remember that 1 unit of credit at Bryn Mawr is equal to 4 semester hours.
  • There are sometimes “optional” essays on the secondary appilcation. Read each question carefully. If the tone seems to be discouraging you from answering the optional essays unless you have new or unique information to add to your overall application file, then do not write an essay unless you have such new information. In all other cases, medical schools may believe that not answering an optional question is a missed opportunity to share more information with the admissions committee.

Suggestions on how to respond to essay questions such as "is there anything else you want to share with the admissions committee?"

  • You should write an original essay and not simply recycle your personal statement in this space. The admissions committee has both the centralized application and the secondary application; they will know right away if you simply cut and paste the centralized application essay onto the secondary application. Whenever possible, you should try to personalize your application and add new information and perspectives.
  • Two categories that are always worth writing about: your job and volunteer activities this year, and why you are applying to that school. If those questions have already been asked, then write on another topic. For ideas, look over the drafts of your personal statement and autobiography for things that you could write about. Think about particular situations that have impacted you over the years that have helped shape who you are today. You should also review the selection of sample medical school secondary application questions in the Bryn Mawr Medical School Application Handbook. These questions might inspire ideas for new essay topics.

Suggestions on how to respond to essay questions asking, "Why are you applying to our medical school?"

  • Take the time to look at the medical school's web site carefully. Review the curriculum and educational programs, advising system, institutional affiliations, teaching hospitals, patient populations being served, elective rotation sites, and research opportunities. Also examine the opportunities for medical student involvement in community service and research programs.
  • Reflect upon what you find unique and appealing about each school and explain why those features attract you to that medical school. In the essay do not restate the medical school's web site; ground your response in your personal experiences and goals and how well they fit with these unique features of the medical school.

It is a good idea to complete and submit secondary applications as soon as you can after your centralized application is submitted. While your goal should be to have your AMCAS/AACOMAS/TMDSAS application, MCAT scores, secondary applications and letters of recommendation submitted to the medical schools as soon as realistically possible, you should make sure to submit all materials by the end of August. Many medical schools begin to review completed applications in mid-summer.  Remember it is your responsibility through this entire process to make sure your files are complete at the medical schools and that everything is received in a timely fashion. The application process will take place over several months, and so careful planning from the outset is important.

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