Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Essay Prompts

Harvard Medical School Secondary Essays: Tips To Stand Out & Prompts

Harvard Medical School Secondary Essays by Year + Tips
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    The most important tip to keep in mind as you write your Harvard Medical School secondary essays is to make sure you have a vision to change healthcare and that you show ways in which you’ve already tried to pursue that vision through your extra-curricular activities. Getting accepted to Harvard Medical School (HMS) is hard. Very hard. Submitting an OUTSTANDING Harvard Medical School secondary application is vital to receiving an interview invite, which ultimately can lead to an acceptance. If you have questions about how to write your Harvard secondary essays, contact us below or email us at info@crackingmedadmissions.com. We have numerous mentees get interviewed and accepted to Harvard Medical School (Pathways, HST, and MSTP) throughout the years!

    HMS loves to recruit the best of the best, students from all backgrounds. Therefore, almost all med school applicants receive a Harvard secondary application.

    Questions for Harvard Medical School do not change year to year. This is a good medical school secondary to pre-write. Harvard secondaries have large character limit, so it’s like writing more personal statements. However, there are not too many Harvard Medical School secondary essays, so we think this is an excellent school to start pre-writing without feeling burned out.

    Our Cracking Med School Admissions team has a track record of helping our mentees receive acceptances to Harvard University Medical School year after year. We are successful in helping students receive acceptances to both HST and Pathways. Get started and read our Harvard Medical School secondary application tips below. To learn more about student life, read our popular blog post How to Get Into Harvard Medical School + School Profile

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Essay Prompts 2023 - 2024

    Harvard Medical School Pathways Essay Prompts:
    1. If you have already graduated, briefly summarize your activities since graduation. (4000 characters max)
    2. If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity not addressed elsewhere in the application that may illuminate how you could contribute to the medical school and that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, or other aspects of your personal or family background to place your prior academic achievements in context or provide further information about your motivation for a career in medicine or the perspectives you might bring to the medical school community. Many applicants will not need to answer this question.  (4000 characters max) Wording changed slightly from the 2022-2023 cycle
    3. (Optional) The Committee on Admissions understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted applicants in various ways. If you wish to inform the Committee as to how these events have affected you and have not already done so elsewhere in your application, please use this space to do so. (This is an optional essay; the Committee on Admissions will make no judgment based on your decision to provide a statement or not.) (4000 characters max)
    4. (If Applicable) The interview season for the 2023-2024 cycle will be held virtually and is anticipated to run from mid-September through January 2024. Please indicate any significant (three or more weeks) restriction on your availability for interviews during this period. If none, please leave this section blank. (1000 characters)
    HST Essay Prompts:

    Instructions:
    The HST MD program draws on the combined resources of Harvard and MIT to provide a distinct preclinical education tailored to preparing students for careers as transformative physicians who will shape the future practice of medicine. Our students come from the full spectrum of disciplines including biological, physical, engineering and social sciences. HST classes are small, commonly include graduate students and have an emphasis on quantitative and analytic approaches. The unique HST pre-clinical curriculum prepares students well for the HMS clinical education while also emphasizing disease mechanisms and preparing students to solve critical unmet needs in medicine and healthcare (ranging from novel diagnostics and therapeutics to applications of ‘big data’ and systems engineering). Please focus on how your interests, experiences and aspirations have prepared you for HST (rather than identifying specific HST faculty or research opportunities).
    Limit your comments to the equivalent of one page of single-spaced text with a font size of 10 or 12.

    MD/PhD Essay Prompts:
    1. Briefly list your research interests/areas; use keywords only. This information is not binding. (100 characters max)
    2. Please list publications, indicating for each whether it is published, submitted/under review, or in preparation. Limited to (1,000 characters  max – including spaces).
    3. Describe your reasons and motivations for pursuing a graduate degree in your chosen program of study at Harvard. What experiences led you to your research ambitions? Concisely state your past work in your intended field of study and in related fields. Briefly indicate your career objectives. Your statement should not exceed 1,000 words. Health Policy applicants should indicate the concentration(s) and policy area(s) of interest.

    For other Social Science PhD Programs, please refer to Program Details for any additional instructions pertaining to this essay.

    Tips to Answer Harvard Medical School
     Secondary Essays

    Harvard Secondaries Pre-writing Guidance: Questions for Harvard Medical School do not change year to year. This is a good medical school secondary to pre-write. From our extensive experience, Harvard is not a time-sensitive medical school, so you do not need to rush to submit this Harvard Medical School secondary application.

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Tip #1: Highlight your leadership, passion to change healthcare, and impact on society. We cannot emphasize this enough! If you step inside Harvard Medical School and talk to medical students, they are all passionate about advancing and improving healthcare! You have to exude that same passion to the admissions committee in your Harvard Medical School secondary essays. The Harvard secondaries questions are geared towards learning more about you academic achievements, extra-curricular activity impact, and motivations to change medicine.

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Tip #2: Remember, diversity does not necessarily mean your ethnic diversity. We recommend students write about their strengths, including exceptional extracurricular activity endeavors. Read our tips on diversity essays when answering the question, “If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity, not addressed elsewhere in the application, that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Many applicants will not need to answer this question. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Briefly explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine.” You can literally write about anything. Our students who get accepted to HMS typically write about exceptional leadership experiences or times when they created an impact in the world.

    Most applicants will first go to writing about their family background – particularly their family’s immigrant background – when they see a diversity prompt. While that is not incorrect, Drs. Rizal and Mediratta ask: Is this the best topic to make you stand out? What Harvard Medical School secondary essay topic will best convey your leadership and vision to the admissions committee? 

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Tip #3: Discuss your vision your change healthcare. When the admissions committee reads your application, it needs to be clear how you will make an impact in medicine. The Harvard Med Admissions Committee wants to recruit a student body that has many diverse, exciting, innovative ideas to improve healthcare. For some people, they will discover a new drug for autoimmune diseases. For other applicants, they may build healthcare programs that improve healthcare disparities. Your vision does not have to be research-oriented. Have questions about how you can stand out and convey your vision? Contact us below. Need editing help on your secondary? We can help you through our secondary essay packages. This is a popular secondary premedical students seek our help with. We have helped applicants get accepted into HMS every year. We have several mentees who are medical students, residents, and faculty members at Harvard Medical School – so we know this school well!

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Tip #4: It is important to include stories in your Harvard secondaries. Each Harvard Pathways essay has a 4,000 word character limit. Similar to our tips to write a successful a personal statement, the most compelling Harvard Medical School secondary essays will convey themes and stories to the Harvard Admissions Committee. Tell stories to convey your impact and leadership. For example, if you conducted research over a gap year, tell a story about a challenge you faced or a patient you met while conducting a clinical trial. If you led a health education campaign in the community, you can discuss a story about teaching a workshop and improving the understanding of community members’ health awareness. Some students have written about how their clinical experiences inspired them to make bigger changes in healthcare (created a new health program or started a new research project because of insights they gained through patient care).

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Tip #5: For those applying to the HST program, look at the program details. In your essays, make sure to exhibit your critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a specific area of interest that advances medicine. Many of the strong HST essays Dr. Rishi Mediratta and Dr. Rachel Rizal have read included a combination of good writing + a very clear narrative of the applicant’s interests to change medicine + a very clear vision to change healthcare. Many HST applicants will write technical skills they have developed through their premed journeys. 

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Appliaction Tip #6: Don’t forget to incorporate a little bit about “Why Harvard Medical School” throughout the essay(s) you respond to. Talk about projects, programs and research you want to do at Harvard. Harvard has excellent programs outside of medicine, so feel free to write about your aspirations with Harvard Business School, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Harvard Kennedy School, and other graduate programs throughout the entire University. Read our school profile on Harvard Medical School.  Read our Cracking Med School Admissions advice and an example for answering  why this medical school

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Tip #7: For the Harvard-MIT HST essays, make sure your previous research is directly related to the research you want to do during medical school. Many students convey how their prior work has looked at a field of science in a new light. They discuss skills they learned during their previous projects. These skills include: specific research techniques, computational analysis, statistical background, knowledge in a particular area of medicine, ability to present at conferences, and experiences with relevant clinical patients (if applicable). 

    [Read more secondary essay tips: Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), Yale School of Medicine, Columbia University Vagelos, Weill Cornell Medicine ]

    Your medical school application Coaches, Mentors, & Cheerleaders

    We Personally Advise Every Student We Work With.

    Dr. Rachel Rizal

    Rachel Rizal, M.D.

    Changing the trajectory of people’s lives

    Undergraduate
    Princeton University, cum laude

    Medical School
    Stanford School of Medicine

    Residency
    Harvard, Emergency Medicine

    Awards & Scholarships
    Fulbright Scholar
    USA Today Academic First Team
    Tylenol Scholarship

    Dr. Rishi Mediratta

    Rishi Mediratta, M.D., M.Sc., M.A.

    Advising students to attend their dream schools

    Undergraduate
    Johns Hopkins University, Phi Beta Kappa

    Medical School
    Stanford School of Medicine

    Residency
    Stanford, Pediatrics

    Awards & Scholarships
    Marshall Scholar
    Tylenol Scholarship
    Global Health Scholar

    stand out from other applicants with our secondary essay edit packages

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    Use this essay guide and workbook to write standout secondaries.

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    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Essay Prompts 2022 - 2023

    Harvard Medical School Pathways Essay Prompts:
    1. If you have already graduated, briefly summarize your activities since graduation. (4000 characters max)
    2. If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity, not addressed elsewhere in the application, that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Many applicants will not need to answer this question. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Briefly explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine. (4000 characters max)
    3. (Optional) The Committee on Admissions understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted applicants in various ways. If you wish to inform the Committee as to how these events have affected you and have not already done so elsewhere in your application, please use this space to do so. (This is an optional essay; the Committee on Admissions will make no judgment based on your decision to provide a statement or not.) (4000 characters max)
    HST Essay Prompts:

    Instructions:
    The HST MD program draws on the combined resources of Harvard and MIT to provide a distinct preclinical education tailored to preparing students for careers as transformative physicians who will shape the future practice of medicine. Our students come from the full spectrum of disciplines including biological, physical, engineering and social sciences. HST classes are small, commonly include graduate students and have an emphasis on quantitative and analytic approaches. The unique HST pre-clinical curriculum prepares students well for the HMS clinical education while also emphasizing disease mechanisms and preparing students to solve critical unmet needs in medicine and healthcare (ranging from novel diagnostics and therapeutics to applications of ‘big data’ and systems engineering).

    Please focus on how your interests, experiences and aspirations have prepared you for HST (rather than identifying specific HST faculty or research opportunities).
    Limit your comments to the equivalent of one page of single-spaced text with a font size of 10 or 12.

    MD/PhD Essay Prompts:
    1. Briefly list your research interests/areas; use keywords only. This information is not binding. (100 characters max)
    2. Please list publications, indicating for each whether it is published, submitted/under review, or in preparation. Limited to (1,000 characters  max – including spaces).
    3. Describe your reasons and motivations for pursuing a graduate degree in your chosen program of study at Harvard. What experiences led you to your research ambitions? Concisely state your past work in your intended field of study and in related fields. Briefly indicate your career objectives. Your statement should not exceed 1,000 words. Health Policy applicants should indicate the concentration(s) and policy area(s) of interest.

    For other Social Science PhD Programs, please refer to Program Details for any additional instructions pertaining to this essay.

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    Our students successfully receive interviews at their reach schools.

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Essay Prompts 2021 - 2022

    Harvard Medical School Pathways Essay Prompts:
    1. If you have already graduated, briefly summarize your activities since graduation. (4000 characters max)
    2. If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity, not addressed elsewhere in the application, that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Many applicants will not need to answer this question. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Briefly explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine. (4000 characters max)
    3. (Optional) The Committee on Admissions understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted applicants in various ways. If you wish to inform the Committee as to how these events have affected you and have not already done so elsewhere in your application, please use this space to do so. (This is an optional essay; the Committee on Admissions will make no judgment based on your decision to provide a statement or not.) (4000 characters max)
    HST Essay Prompts:

    Instructions:
    The HST MD program draws on the combined resources of Harvard and MIT to provide a distinct preclinical education tailored to preparing students for careers as transformative physicians who will shape the future practice of medicine. Our students come from the full spectrum of disciplines including biological, physical, engineering and social sciences. HST classes are small, commonly include graduate students and have an emphasis on quantitative and analytic approaches. The unique HST pre-clinical curriculum prepares students well for the HMS clinical education while also emphasizing disease mechanisms and preparing students to solve critical unmet needs in medicine and healthcare (ranging from novel diagnostics and therapeutics to applications of ‘big data’ and systems engineering).

    Please focus on how your interests, experiences and aspirations have prepared you for HST (rather than identifying specific HST faculty or research opportunities).
    Limit your comments to the equivalent of one page of single-spaced text with a font size of 10 or 12.

    MD/PhD Essay Prompts:
    1. Briefly list your research interests/areas; use keywords only. This information is not binding. (100 characters max)
    2. Please list publications, indicating for each whether it is published, submitted/under review, or in preparation. Limited to (1,000 characters  max – including spaces).
    3. Describe your reasons and motivations for pursuing a graduate degree in your chosen program of study at Harvard. What experiences led you to your research ambitions? Concisely state your past work in your intended field of study and in related fields. Briefly indicate your career objectives. Your statement should not exceed 1,000 words. Health Policy applicants should indicate the concentration(s) and policy area(s) of interest.

    For other Social Science PhD Programs, please refer to Program Details for any additional instructions pertaining to this essay.

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Essay Prompts 2020-2021

    Harvard Medical School Pathways Essay Prompts:
    1. If you have already graduated, briefly  summarize your activities since graduation. (4,000 characters max)
    2. If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity, not addressed elsewhere in the application, that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Many applicants will not need to answer this question. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Briefly explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine. (4,000 characters max)
    3. The Committee on Admissions understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted applicants in various ways. If you wish to inform the Committee as to how these events have affected you and have not already done so elsewhere in your application, please use this space to do so. (This is an optional essay; the Committee on Admissions will make no judgment based on your decision to provide a statement or not.) (4,000 characters max)
    HST Essay Prompts:

    The HST MD program draws on the combined resources of Harvard and MIT to provide a distinct preclinical education tailored to preparing students for careers as transformative physicians who will shape the future practice of medicine. Our students come from the full spectrum of disciplines including biological, physical, engineering and social sciences. HST classes are small, commonly include graduate students and have an emphasis on quantitative and analytic approaches. The unique HST pre-clinical curriculum prepares students well for the HMS clinical education while also emphasizing disease mechanisms and preparing students to solve critical unmet needs in medicine and healthcare (ranging from novel diagnostics and therapeutics to applications of ‘big data’ and systems engineering).

    1. Please focus on how your interests, experiences and aspirations have prepared you for HST (rather than identifying specific HST faculty or research opportunities). Limit your comments to the equivalent of one page of single-spaced text with a font size of 10 or 12. (4,000 characters max)

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Essay Prompts 2019-2020

    Harvard Medical School Pathways Essay Prompts:
    1. If you have already graduated, briefly summarize your activities since graduation. (4,000 characters max) 
    2. If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity, not addressed elsewhere in the application, that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Many applicants will not need to answer this question. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.
      Briefly explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine. (4,000 characters max)
    3. Our interview season runs from mid-September through January. Please indicate any significant (three or more weeks) restriction on your availability for interviews during this period. If none, leave blank.
    HST Essay Prompts:

    The HST MD program draws on the combined resources of Harvard and MIT to provide a distinct preclinical education tailored to preparing students for careers as transformative physicians who will shape the future practice of medicine. Our students come from the full spectrum of disciplines including biological, physical, engineering and social sciences. HST classes are small, commonly include graduate students and have an emphasis on quantitative and analytic approaches. The unique HST pre-clinical curriculum prepares students well for the HMS clinical education while also emphasizing disease mechanisms and preparing students to solve critical unmet needs in medicine and healthcare (ranging from novel diagnostics and therapeutics to applications of ‘big data’ and systems engineering).

    1. Please focus on how your interests, experiences and aspirations have prepared you for HST (rather than identifying specific HST faculty or research opportunities). Limit your comments to the equivalent of one page of single-spaced text with a font size of 10 or 12. (4,000 characters max)

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Essay Prompts 2018-2019

    Harvard Medical School Pathways Essay Prompts:
    1. If you have already graduated, briefly summarize your activities since graduation. (4,000 characters max) 
    2. If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity, not addressed elsewhere in the application, that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Many applicants will not need to answer this question. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Briefly explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine. (4,000 characters max)
    3. Our interview season runs from mid-September through January. Please indicate any significant (three or more weeks) restriction on your availability for interviews during this period. If none, leave blank.
    HST Essay Prompts:

    Instructions: The HST MD program draws on the combined resources of Harvard and MIT to provide a distinct preclinical education tailored to preparing students for careers as physician-scientists across the full spectrum of disciplines including biological, physical and engineering sciences. HST classes are small, commonly include graduate students and have an emphasis on quantitative and analytic approaches, centered on understanding disease mechanisms and preparing students to solve unmet needs in medicine ranging from novel diagnostics and therapeutics to applications of ‘big data’ and systems engineering as they relate to healthcare.

    1. Please focus on how your interests, experiences and aspirations have prepared you for HST (rather than identifying specific HST faculty or research opportunities). Limit your comments to the equivalent of one page of single spaced text with a font size of 10 or 12. (4,000 characters max)
    MD/PhD Essay Prompts:
    1. Briefly list your research interests/areas; use keywords only. This information is not binding. (100 characters max)
    2. Please list publications, indicating for each whether it is published, submitted/under review, or in preparation.
    3. For PhD’s in the social sciences only, please complete the following and upload where indicated:
    Statement of Purpose:

    Describe your reasons and motivations for pursuing a graduate degree in your chosen program of study at Harvard. What experiences led you to your research ambitions? Concisely state your past work in your intended field of study and in related fields. Briefly indicate your career objectives. Health Policy applicants should indicate the concentration(s) and policy area(s) of interest. (1,000 words max)

    Please see Harvard Med Program Details to determine whether the program to which you are applying requires a writing sample, CV, or other documents. Please follow departmental requirements on type and size of writing sample. (20 pages max)

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Essay Prompts 2017-2018

    Harvard Medical School Pathways Essay Prompts:
    1. If you have already graduated, briefly summarize your activities since graduation. (4,000 characters max)

    2. If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity, not addressed elsewhere in the application, that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Many applicants will not need to answer this question. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.
      Briefly explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine. (4,000 characters max)

    3. If you are re-applying, briefly summarize your activities since your previous application. (4,000 characters max)

    4. Our 2017-2018 interview season runs from mid-September through January. Please indicate any significant (three or more weeks) restriction on your availability for interviews during this period. If none, leave blank.

    HST Essay Prompts:

    The HST MD program draws on the combined resources of Harvard and MIT to provide a distinct preclinical education tailored to preparing students for careers as physician-scientists across the full spectrum of disciplines including biological, physical and engineering sciences. HST classes are small, commonly include graduate students and have an emphasis on quantitative and analytic approaches, centered on understanding disease mechanisms and preparing students to solve unmet needs in medicine ranging from novel diagnostics and therapeutics to applications of ‘big data’ and systems engineering as they relate to healthcare.

    • Please focus on how your interests, experiences and aspirations have prepared you for HST (rather than identifying specific HST faculty or research opportunities). Limit your comments to the equivalent of one page of single spaced text with a font size of 10 or 12. (4,000 characters max)

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Essay Prompts 2016-2017

    Harvard Medical School Pathways Essay Prompts:
    1. If you have already graduated, briefly summarize your activities since graduation. (4,000 characters max)
    2. If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity, not addressed elsewhere in the application, that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Many applicants will not need to answer this question. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Briefly explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine. (4,000 characters max)
    3. (Optional) Our Harvard Med interview season runs from mid-September through January. Please indicate any significant (three or more weeks) restriction on your availability for interviews during this period. If none, leave blank.

    Harvard Medical School Secondary Application Essay Prompts 2015-2016

    Harvard Medical School Pathways Essay Prompts:
    1. If you have already graduated, briefly summarize your activities since graduation. (4,000 characters max)
    2. If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity, not addressed elsewhere in the application, that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Many applicants will not need to answer this question. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Briefly explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine. (4,000 characters max)
    3. (Optional) Our Harvard Med interview season runs from mid-September through January. Please indicate any significant (three or more weeks) restriction on your availability for interviews during this period. If none, leave blank.
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