Medical schools want to recruit students who embody their institution’s values and would quickly thrive once accepted. One way to prove that you fit this criterion is by writing an outstanding “why this medical school” secondary essay. This prompt asks you to explain why you are applying to a specific medical school and how you would take advantage of unique opportunities at that school. Alternatively, you can think of this prompt as asking you “why would you attend our school over others if we accepted you?” Or, you can think about this prompt asking, “Why would you be a great fit for our medical school over the thousands of other applicants applying?” Need help? Contact us down below.
This “Why This Medical School?” blog post covers:
The “why this medical school” secondary essay can take many forms.
For example, consider the following secondary prompts, which can all be approached as a “why us” secondary:
- Stanford School of Medicine: How will you take advantage of the Stanford Medicine Discovery Curriculum and scholarly concentration requirement to achieve your personal career goals? (1000 characters)
- University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine: Please explain your reasons for applying to the Perelman School of Medicine and limit your response to 1,000 characters.
- Weill Cornell Medical College: Please write a brief statement giving your reasons for applying to Weill Cornell Medical College. (200 words)
- Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine: Given the distinctive educational philosophy and integrated curriculum at FSM, describe how your personal characteristics and learning style would fit the institution. (Limit your response to 200 words)
- University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine: 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.
Even an open-ended “is there anything else you would like us to know” prompt could be used to write a “why do you want to go to this medical school” secondary essay!
Questions to consider for each medical school:
- Are there any programs or organizations unique to that school which you are interested in?
- Are there any faculty members with whom you hope to do research?
- How is the curriculum set up? How many years are pre-clinical versus clinical on clerkships? Is there early clinical exposure? Integration of research into the curriculum?
- Are there any electives or classes you may be interested in? Dual-degree options?
- How is the mentorship for medical students from faculty and the administration?
- What is the “culture” of the school and its student body? Are students known to be involved with research? Social justice? Community service?
- Do you have any personal connections to the school/area?
Where to look:1. School websites– these can be a treasure trove of information, with some variation from school to school. But in general, looking at the medical school’s official website is a great place to start your research!
- Cracking Med School Admissions Pro Tip: Go deep into the school’s website. You should learn about the curriculum, but if there are any specific fields within medicine that you are interested in, look for professors and research opportunities in that field. Additionally, many medical schools are interdisciplinary. If you are interested in public health, then research the Public Health school for that university and other public health opportunities.
3. Faculty members– If you have any contacts or an existing network, take advantage of these to connect with faculty for an alternative perspective about the medical school. You can also cold email faculty, though you may not receive a response as many are busy with clinical/research/administrative duties. Always be respectful, professional, and positive in your email communications!
- Cracking Med School Admissions Pro Tip: Email faculty members who you have mutual interests with. When you email them, tell them about your previous experiences and why you are interested in their work.
Let’s take a look at a why this medical school secondary essay example for the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.
Prompt: 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.
A resident at our homeless shelter frequently spent nights studying while others slept. Concerned about his health, I asked about his sleeping schedule and how I could help. As I began assisting him with his classwork and professional goals during downtimes volunteering, I understood how, despite us both attending [SCHOOL], our life circumstances were worlds apart. To him, professional success was an escape and intense academic devotion was a way to avoid previously harmful habits. And unlike him, I never had to prioritize my livelihood over academics or extracurriculars like many others had at our shelter. Yet we also had much in common despite our differing circumstances. I recall many late-night conversations with him with topics ranging from healthcare and medicine to intense debates about our favorite NBA players.
Shaped by my experiences with these students, my values compel me to shape healthcare policies and conduct research to address problems that broadly affect others. At Pritzker, I will continue researching disease treatment and health policy through the Scholarship & Discovery program, learning from innovators like Dr. David Meltzer. His work about the cost effectiveness of prostate cancer treatments highlights waste in healthcare costs; my own research about shared decision making in prostate cancer patients also inspired me to expose these issues with research and encourage policy changes.
I am particularly interested in how changes in disease treatment inform wider care guidelines. Heading a trial that investigates early sepsis resuscitation, I appreciate how complexities in treating illness are intertwined with policy as standards of care and health policies have immediate impacts on patients and physicians. And when larger policies are misaligned with these individual needs, I believe it is my responsibility to correct them and bridge the gap. An institution which values medical student inquiry, Pritzker will provide me unique opportunities to disseminate my research through its Senior Scientific Session and numerous fellowships to fund presentations at national conferences. My teaching background will help me convey research results in context and connect them to policy implications and drive action from stakeholders.
Pritzker’s unique organizations also reflect the student body’s passion for helping the underserved, mirroring my own values as I aspire to create new programs for these patients. In the student shelter, I revamped our food training to account for variations in volunteers’ cooking experience to feed 10 homeless students. Hearing positive feedback from residents reaffirmed how my ideas could be translated into impactful practices by leading a group toward a shared mission. At Pritzker, I will continue working with underserved populations through student organizations like Chicago Street Medicine. Their work delivering healthcare to homeless patients particularly interests me as I have seen the unique challenges faced by this population in volunteering with homeless students. I want to continue exploring these issues and develop my leadership skills in Chicago Street Medicine. Student organizations at Pritzker will uniquely supplement my medical training with early, hands-on experience caring for these patients and applying my growing medical knowledge to benefit others.
Opportunities to conduct clinical/policy research with faculty leaders and unique student organizations align with my values, motivating me to pursue my medical training at Pritzker.”
#1. Mention specific programs and organizations at the school
One thing this essay does well is its specific inclusion of different programs and organizations at Pritzker. For example, the writer mentions the “Scholarship & Discovery program,” “Senior Scientific Session” event, and a student organization (“Chicago Street Medicine”) to substantiate their interests. This shows your reader that you have done your research on the school and will be able to take readily take advantage of any opportunities once you are accepted. It will always reflect well on you to do your research and “show off” your understanding of the program.
#2. Talk about faculty members you want to work with
Notice that the writer specifically mentions a faculty member by name, “Dr. David Meltzer,” and talks about why they find their research interesting as well as its relation to the writer’s own research goals. Once again, this shows your reader that you have done your research and that you are someone who takes the initiative to get the most out of opportunities. Think about mentioning specific faculty members, in addition to including specific programs and organizations, as analogous to “citations” in a research paper—they substantiate and strengthen your claims for “why this school.”
#3. Connect the school to your background and experiences
One mistake students frequently make in writing a “why this medical school” secondary essay is that they talk too much about the school without focusing on themselves. Remember, at the end of the day your reader still wants to know about you. Explicitly connect your former background and experiences to the different opportunities at the school and convince your reader that you would be a good fit. In this case, the writer connects their prior experiences working with homeless students and clinical research about disease treatment to service-oriented organizations at Pritzker (e.g. Chicago Street Medicine) and research opportunities (funded fellowships, specific programs/faculty). Seamlessly connecting your background/experiences with the school is an excellent strategy!
As with any secondary, it is extremely important to give anecdotes that naturally lead readers to a conclusion rather than stating the conclusion outright. In this case, the writer talks about their experiences with a specific resident at a homeless shelter they volunteered with. This allows reader to infer that the writer easily connects with individuals from different backgrounds, a conclusion that is more convincing when conveyed through a story rather than stated outright. Imagine if the writer had written “I am someone that easily connects with students from different backgrounds as shown by my previous experience working with homeless students.” This is far less convincing than telling a story.
#5. Dream big
Finally, this essay effectively showcases the writer’s ambitions numerous times throughout. Whether it is “to shape healthcare policies” by conducting research to “bridge the gap” between individuals and policies or “create new programs” for “underserved populations,” the writer strikes you as an individual with a clear idea of what they hope to accomplish in medical school and how they will specifically do so. Don’t be afraid to convey your ambitions and relate them to the school!
FREE Medical School Secondary Essay Examples and Brainstorm Tool
Use this workbook to write STELLAR AMCAS descriptions. This section is as important as your personal statement.
While reading about how to write a secondary essay for medical school makes doing so seem easy, it is much harder to put this into practice. As such, we have compiled a list of personal statements and secondary essays. Each one of these essays were written by premeds who successfully got accepted to medical schools across the United States. We think these essays demonstrate successful models.
The best resource for example secondary essays is our Cracking Med School Admissions book! We have over 50 personal statements and secondary essay from successful medical school applicants, including essays from our authors! 🙂
Blog post written by Kevin Li and Dr. Rachel Rizal