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Pre Med Essay Sample

Sample Medical School Essays

This section contains two sample medical school essays

  1. Medical School Sample Essay One
  2. Medical School Sample Essay Two

Medical School Essay One

Prompt: What makes you an excellent candidate for medical school? Why do you want to become a physician?

When I was twelve years old, a drunk driver hit the car my mother was driving while I was in the backseat. I have very few memories of the accident, but I do faintly recall a serious but calming face as I was gently lifted out of the car. The paramedic held my hand as we traveled to the hospital. I was in the hospital for several weeks and that same paramedic came to visit me almost every day. During my stay, I also got to know the various doctors and nurses in the hospital on a personal level. I remember feeling anxiety about my condition, but not sadness or even fear. It seemed to me that those around me, particularly my family, were more fearful of what might happen to me than I was. I don’t believe it was innocence or ignorance, but rather a trust in the abilities of my doctors. It was as if my doctors and I had a silent bond. Now that I’m older I fear death and sickness in a more intense way than I remember experiencing it as a child. My experience as a child sparked a keen interest in how we approach pediatric care, especially as it relates to our psychological and emotional support of children facing serious medical conditions. It was here that I experienced first-hand the power and compassion of medicine, not only in healing but also in bringing unlikely individuals together, such as adults and children, in uncommon yet profound ways. And it was here that I began to take seriously the possibility of becoming a pediatric surgeon.

My interest was sparked even more when, as an undergraduate, I was asked to assist in a study one of my professors was conducting on how children experience and process fear and the prospect of death. This professor was not in the medical field; rather, her background is in cultural anthropology. I was very honored to be part of this project at such an early stage of my career. During the study, we discovered that children face death in extremely different ways than adults do. We found that children facing fatal illnesses are very aware of their condition, even when it hasn’t been fully explained to them, and on the whole were willing to fight their illnesses, but were also more accepting of their potential fate than many adults facing similar diagnoses. We concluded our study by asking whether and to what extent this discovery should impact the type of care given to children in contrast to adults. I am eager to continue this sort of research as I pursue my medical career. The intersection of medicine, psychology, and socialization or culture (in this case, the social variables differentiating adults from children) is quite fascinating and is a field that is in need of better research.

Although much headway has been made in this area in the past twenty or so years, I feel there is a still a tendency in medicine to treat diseases the same way no matter who the patient is. We are slowly learning that procedures and drugs are not always universally effective. Not only must we alter our care of patients depending upon these cultural and social factors, we may also need to alter our entire emotional and psychological approach to them as well.

It is for this reason that I’m applying to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, as it has one of the top programs for pediatric surgery in the country, as well as several renowned researchers delving into the social, generational, and cultural questions in which I’m interested. My approach to medicine will be multidisciplinary, which is evidenced by the fact that I’m already double-majoring in early childhood psychology and pre-med, with a minor in cultural anthropology. This is the type of extraordinary care that I received as a child—care that seemed to approach my injuries with a much larger and deeper picture than that which pure medicine cannot offer—and it is this sort of care I want to provide my future patients. I turned what might have been a debilitating event in my life—a devastating car accident—into the inspiration that has shaped my life since. I am driven and passionate. And while I know that the pediatric surgery program at Johns Hopkins will likely be the second biggest challenge I will face in my life, I know that I am up for it. I am ready to be challenged and prove to myself what I’ve been telling myself since that fateful car accident: I will be a doctor.

Medical School Essay Two

Prompt: Where do you hope to be in ten years’ time?

If you had told me ten years ago that I would be writing this essay and planning for yet another ten years into the future, part of me would have been surprised. I am a planner and a maker of to-do lists, and it has always been my plan to follow in the steps of my father and become a physician. This plan was derailed when I was called to active duty to serve in Iraq as part of the War on Terror.

I joined the National Guard before graduating high school and continued my service when I began college. My goal was to receive training that would be valuable for my future medical career, as I was working in the field of emergency health care. It was also a way to help me pay for college. When I was called to active duty in Iraq for my first deployment, I was forced to withdraw from school, and my deployment was subsequently extended. I spent a total of 24 months deployed overseas, where I provided in-the-field medical support to our combat troops. While the experience was invaluable not only in terms of my future medical career but also in terms of developing leadership and creative thinking skills, it put my undergraduate studies on hold for over two years. Consequently, my carefully-planned journey towards medical school and a medical career was thrown off course. Thus, while ten-year plans are valuable, I have learned from experience how easily such plans can dissolve in situations that are beyond one’s control, as well as the value of perseverance and flexibility.

Eventually, I returned to school. Despite my best efforts to graduate within two years, it took me another three years, as I suffered greatly from post-traumatic stress disorder following my time in Iraq. I considered abandoning my dream of becoming a physician altogether, since I was several years behind my peers with whom I had taken biology and chemistry classes before my deployment. Thanks to the unceasing encouragement of my academic advisor, who even stayed in contact with me when I was overseas, I gathered my strength and courage and began studying for the MCAT. To my surprise, my score was beyond satisfactory and while I am several years behind my original ten-year plan, I am now applying to Brown University’s School of Medicine.

I can describe my new ten-year plan, but I will do so with both optimism and also caution, knowing that I will inevitably face unforeseen complications and will need to adapt appropriately. One of the many insights I gained as a member of the National Guard and by serving in war-time was the incredible creativity medical specialists in the Armed Forces employ to deliver health care services to our wounded soldiers on the ground. I was part of a team that was saving lives under incredibly difficult circumstances—sometimes while under heavy fire and with only the most basic of resources. I am now interested in how I can use these skills to deliver health care in similar circumstances where basic medical infrastructure is lacking. While there is seemingly little in common between the deserts of Fallujah and rural Wyoming, where I’m currently working as a volunteer first responder in a small town located more than 60 miles from the nearest hospital, I see a lot of potential uses for the skills that I gained as a National Guardsman. As I learned from my father, who worked with Doctors Without Borders for a number of years, there is quite a bit in common between my field of knowledge from the military and working in post-conflict zones. I feel I have a unique experience from which to draw as I embark on my medical school journey, experiences that can be applied both here and abroad.

In ten years’ time, I hope to be trained in the field of emergency medicine, which, surprisingly, is a specialization that is actually lacking here in the United States as compared to similarly developed countries. I hope to conduct research in the field of health care infrastructure and work with government agencies and legislators to find creative solutions to improving access to emergency facilities in currently underserved areas of the United States, with an aim towards providing comprehensive policy reports and recommendations on how the US can once again be the world leader in health outcomes. While the problems inherent in our health care system are not one-dimensional and require a dynamic approach, one of the solutions as I see it is to think less in terms of state-of-the-art facilities and more in terms of access to primary care. Much of the care that I provide as a first responder and volunteer is extremely effective and also relatively cheap. More money is always helpful when facing a complex social and political problem, but we must think of solutions above and beyond more money and more taxes. In ten years I want to be a key player in the health care debate in this country and offering innovative solutions to delivering high quality and cost-effective health care to all our nation’s citizens, especially to those in rural and otherwise underserved areas.

Of course, my policy interests do not replace my passion for helping others and delivering emergency medicine. As a doctor, I hope to continue serving in areas of the country that, for one reason or another, are lagging behind in basic health care infrastructure. Eventually, I would also like to take my knowledge and talents abroad and serve in the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders.

In short, I see the role of physicians in society as multifunctional: they are not only doctors who heal, they are also leaders, innovators, social scientists, and patriots. Although my path to medical school has not always been the most direct, my varied and circuitous journey has given me a set of skills and experiences that many otherwise qualified applicants lack. I have no doubt that the next ten years will be similarly unpredictable, but I can assure you that no matter what obstacles I face, my goal will remain the same. I sincerely hope to begin the next phase of my journey at Brown University. Thank you for your kind attention.

To learn more about what to expect from the study of medicine, check out our Study Medicine in the US section.

Sample Essays

Related Content:

Tips for a Successful Medical School Essay

  • If you’re applying through AMCAS, remember to keep your essay more general rather than tailored to a specific medical school, because your essay will be seen by multiple schools.
  • AMCAS essays are limited to 5300 characters—not words! This includes spaces.
  • Make sure the information you include in your essay doesn't conflict with the information in your other application materials.
  • In general, provide additional information that isn’t found in your other application materials. Look at the essay as an opportunity to tell your story rather than a burden.
  • Keep the interview in mind as you write. You will most likely be asked questions regarding your essay during the interview, so think about the experiences you want to talk about.
  • When you are copying and pasting from a word processor to the AMCAS application online, formatting and font will be lost. Don’t waste your time making it look nice. Be sure to look through the essay once you’ve copied it into AMCAS and edit appropriately for any odd characters that result from pasting.
  • Avoid overly controversial topics. While it is fine to take a position and back up your position with evidence, you don’t want to sound narrow-minded.
  • Revise, revise, revise. Have multiple readers look at your essay and make suggestions. Go over your essay yourself many times and rewrite it several times until you feel that it communicates your message effectively and creatively.
  • Make the opening sentence memorable. Admissions officers will read dozens of personal statements in a day. You must say something at the very beginning to catch their attention, encourage them to read the essay in detail, and make yourself stand out from the crowd.
  • Character traits to portray in your essay include: maturity, intellect, critical thinking skills, leadership, tolerance, perseverance, and sincerity.

Additional Tips for a Successful Medical School Essay

  • Regardless of the prompt, you should always address the question of why you want to go to medical school in your essay.
  • Try to always give concrete examples rather than make general statements. If you say that you have perseverance, describe an event in your life that demonstrates perseverance.
  • There should be an overall message or theme in your essay. In the example above, the theme is overcoming unexpected obstacles.
  • Make sure you check and recheck for spelling and grammar!
  • Unless you’re very sure you can pull it off, it is usually not a good idea to use humor or to employ the skills you learned in creative writing class in your personal statement. While you want to paint a picture, you don’t want to be too poetic or literary.
  • Turn potential weaknesses into positives. As in the example above, address any potential weaknesses in your application and make them strengths, if possible. If you have low MCAT scores or something else that can’t be easily explained or turned into a positive, simply don’t mention it.

Thank you to all who submitted an essay to the 2011 Premed Essay Contest!  We received over 50 entries from 22 different colleges and universities in which scholarship recipients, semifinalists, and honorable mentions were selected!


Congratulations to the following individuals!


Natalia Khosla
Undergraduate Institution & Major: 
Sophomore studying Psychology and Neuroscience at Yale University
Title of Essay: “The ‘Model Minority’: A Chronic Headache”

The “Model Minority”: A Chronic Heartache

        Meet Pedro Andrada*. He is a fifty two year old man living in a one-room shack in El Cajon, California with his wife, Marina*, and their four kids. Ever since they migrated from the Philippines to the United States, Pedro and Marina have been working tirelessly to make ends meet. Pedro is a bus conductor for a company located an hour away from his home. He recently started sleeping on the bus during the weekdays to avoid the cost of travel to and from work everyday, seeing his family only on the weekends. Marina started making and selling popsicles to help. Pedro, Marina, and their four children work hard in hopes of an easier life some day. The difficulty? Pedro was recently diagnosed with coronary artery disease and is in dire need of a $60,000 heart procedure that he does not have insurance to cover.

I encountered Pedro’s story as an intern this summer. I was writing press releases for the medical fundraising company, GiveForward. Pedro’s story is only one of many. A disproportionately high number of patients diagnosed with chronic conditions in the U.S. fall under the group  “Asian Pacific American” (APA).

The chief issue in improving the health of APAs is overcoming the myth that they are the “model minority”: hardworking and quick to rise in ranks, and therefore acceptable to ignore. The statistics show that the Hmong, Laotian, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Samoan, and Tongan have a higher poverty rate than the general U.S. population—far from not needing aid (U.S. census, 1992). The stereotype that most APAs are “well-off” is an illusion created by per capita income calculations, which don’t take into account the average number of workers per family. The result is insufficient knowledge regarding the illnesses that affect them physically and especially mentally.

This misconception results in insufficient support for APA immigrants, making them especially susceptible to the isolation caused by immigration. They arrive in this country without a network of friends or family to consult for help with medical concerns. They find U.S. health services culturally and financially inaccessible, and are unfamiliar with health conditions prevalent in the U.S. (such as cancer and heart disease). The immigrant’s typically affordable and accessible diet leads to unhealthy intake of saturated fats, salt, and cholesterol (Kagan, Harris, Winkelstein, et al., 1974). They tend to be in denial of health concerns, viewing these as “minor” issues compared to the economic burdens and expectations placed on them. Family pride causes unwillingness to seek medical help, and attachment to indigenous home health remedies delays timely diagnosis.

The way to improve the health of APAs is to nationally identify their poor health status, and to create community support programs tailored to their needs. A good model to follow is “Live Empowered”: one of the African-American support programs started by the American Diabetes Association (there are also Latino and Native American programs, but none for APAs). The programs must target high-risk populations (for example, native Hawaiians’ high rate of obesity and diabetes compared to other groups), and work with local policy makers to provide incentives to participate (for example, free transportation, childcare help, or discounted food items). The programs must first address imminent issues such as unemployment, language, and immigration status before introducing health concerns. Finally, the programs must establish trust: working with religious leaders, community members, and culturally and linguistically pertinent materials.

So far, the APA community has been one of the most ignored due to bias. Once the bias is overcome, we can do much to ease the burden on families like Pedro’s.

*Real names undisclosed

Literature Cited:
Kagan, A., et al. Epidemiologic studies of coronary heart disease and stroke in Japanese             men living in Japan, Hawaii and California: demographic, physical, dietary and             biochemical statistics. J Chronic Dis. 1974 Sep; 27 (7-8): 345-64.


Joy Lin
Undergraduate Institution & Major
: Senior studying bioengineering at the University of California San Diego
Title of Essay: “Bridging Gaps”

As a little girl, I would accompany my mother on her Saturday morning trips to Taiwanese supermarkets. While she stocked up on rice and bok choy, I would dart up and down the aisles, wondering how many rice crackers and tofu puddings I could get away with piling into her shopping cart.

As a college student, I still spend my Saturday mornings at Asian grocery stores, but now I serve in a much different role as a community health educator for the Moores UCSD Cancer Center’s Outreach Team. Most shoppers, like my mother, are middle-aged, first generation Asian-American women. I speak to them in their native tongue because if I spoke to them in English, they would barely glance at me and continue on their trajectory towards the parking lot. But, when I speak to the women in Mandarin, they stop and listen as I tell them about the importance of yearly mammograms and clinical breast exams. Many women, upon practicing lump detection on our model breasts, become eager to learn more. Others are incredulous (“Are they sure that screening is necessary? I’m sure I’d notice if I had a tumor.”) or misinformed (“Those guidelines are obviously only for white people. Asians don’t get breast cancer!”). Whatever their attitude, they become more open to having a sensitive, potentially life-saving conversation with me. As a university student who shares their language and understands their culture, I am trusted as one of their own.

In America, marginalized communities are often isolated from mainstream sources of information, a trend I have noticed within my own immigrant family. My relatives only read Taiwanese newspapers and glean American news through word-of-mouth, a dubious source of information. My grandfather discouraged me from seeing a doctor when an angry, persistent rash crawled its way down my thigh, suggesting instead that I meditate to restore the circulation force (“qi”) within my body. (Later, I was diagnosed with cellulitis and put on antibiotics for a month.) As a bicultural community health educator, I want to reach out to these marginalized groups and bridge the gap between them and native born residents with the best that American medicine has to offer.

While I work with groups with whom I am familiar, I also want to learn about other environments and cultures. With this in mind, I volunteered for a medical mission trip to Tijuana last summer. In preparing for my trip, I learned that if the US side of the border were to become the 51st state, it would rank last in per capita income, access to health care, and number of uninsured children. I met a young man with an advanced corneal ulcer and an elderly woman blinded by extremely mature cataracts, situations that could have been prevented had they had better access to health care. With no knowledge of Spanish, I often found it challenging to connect with the patients. Once, when I struggled to obtain a reasonable blood pressure reading with an old sphygmomanometer, the patient became alarmed and dissolved into a frenzy. My attempts to reassure her with universal emotions fell short, and I had to recruit a Spanish-speaking friend to calm her down.

This summer, I am studying abroad to further develop my cultural and linguistic skills. Learning to understand different lifestyles and customs will enable me to deliver the best care possible as an aspiring medical student and physician. Like the women at the Taiwanese grocery store, I hope that other marginalized communities will someday put their trust in me, even if I don’t speak their language.

Charles Wang
Undergraduate Institution & Major
: Received degrees in Genetics and Economics from the University of California Davis
Graduate Institution & Field of Study: Masters degree in Physiology from Georgetown University
Current Position: Research assistant at UC Davis.
Title of Essay: “Shame and Mental Health in the Asian American Community”

While cleaning my sister’s room during a trip back to Los Angeles to celebrate her birthday, I found a small photo album. I flipped through pictures that rekindled memories of my sister that I had long forgotten. The first was of her cradling me in her arms during a visit to a park. She must have been only ten or eleven at the time, but her face lit with joy and pride while I slept in a bundle of clothes. In the second picture, she was giving me a piggy-back ride along the beachfront and our faces radiated with laughter. The final picture was of her holding onto the back of my seat while I was riding my bike for the first time. Her face tensed with a look of concern as I rode fully protected in bright plastic gear.

As the memories flooded back, my vision began to blur from tears. The sister in those photos no longer seems to exist after being ravaged by years of untreated schizophrenia. Now my sister routinely accuses strangers of attempting to do her harm, starves herself to the bone without care, and will wallow in her own filth if unassisted.  Despite all this, I still believe that the loving and brilliant sister is still buried somewhere within her scarred mind.

What is even more heart breaking is that it need not have been this way. When my sister was first diagnosed with schizophrenia while a student at UCLA, it seemed like a bolt from the blue. My family and I were ignorant of the nature of her condition due to the stigma associated with mental illness in Asian culture. My parents adamantly denied her diagnosis with phrases such as “just lazy” and “weak minded”, as if schizophrenia was a choice rather than an actual disease. Their attempts to “will” my sister into health, however, only agitated her further and caused her to flee from our home. It has been nearly a decade since her diagnosis, and only now is she starting to accept her illness. I can’t help but feel that our collective stigma only reinforced her reluctance to seek help and prolonged her suffering.

Upon researching my sister’s condition, I was surprised to find that my impression was supported by scientific literature. Published analyses of the 2002-2003 National Latino and Asian American Study revealed that mentally ill members of the Asian American community significantly under-utilized mental health services in comparison to other population groups. These analyses further suggest that this is due to the stigma and shame associated with mental illness in Asian culture.

The cultural stigma associated with mental illness leads to a desire to tuck away the “problems” for fear of being judged, discriminated, and eventually ostracized. As such, it plays a significant role in the prognosis of mental illness in contrast to other conditions that are prevalent in the Asian American community. For illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes the patients willingness to seek treatment is much less of a limiting factor than the effectiveness of the treatment.

While Asian Americans can rest passively and reap the benefits made by others for diseases unhindered by stigma, overcoming the culture of “saving-face” requires that we become actively involved in dispelling the myths surrounding mental illness. Only by reaching out and educating entire families, rather than focusing solely on individual patients, can we move past our unfounded prejudices. The need to deconstruct the stigma that is so rooted in our culture is what makes mental health the most important, and perhaps the most difficult issue facing Asian Americans.




Jinal Desai is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

William Wang is a senior at the University of Michigan

Jennifer Xu is a junior at the University of Michigan

Lucy Xu is a junior at the University of California Berkeley


Honorable Mention

Michelle Chen is a senior at the University of California Los Angeles

Arshya Gurbani is a sophomore at the University of Southern California

Naveen Kakaraparthi is a sophomore at the University of Michigan

Susan Lee is a senior at the University of Southern California

Vicki Hsieh is a junior at the University of California Berkeley

Tim Xu is a senior at Vanderbilt University

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