Congratulations on your decision to apply for admission to medical school. The fact that you have the courage to attempt such an exhausting and intense undertaking as getting a graduate school in medicine says a lot about you, and sets you apart from the vast majority of your peers. Unfortunately, courage and determination, while important, are not enough to get you into medical school. The competition for admission to medical school is fierce, and gets worse every year. It goes without saying that you’ve achieved top notch grades in college as well as an outstanding score on the MCAT. But so have the tens of thousands of other prospective medical students whom you’ll be competing against for a slot in a medical school first year class. You’ll need to set yourself apart and stand out from this highly qualified crowd. At this stage of the process, your best chance of doing this is with a very strong medical school essay. Picking and choosing the best medical school applicants when so many of them are so well qualified is not an easy task. When everyone has a high GPA, a high score on the MCAT, excellent recommendations, etc., the admissions committee must rely on the essay to distinguish the best from the very, very good. Of course, they’ll be looking for the obvious-strong writing and grammar skills, good style, a rich vocabulary. But more importantly, they’ll also be looking for that personal factor, that unique quality or qualities you possess which will lead them to believe you’ll do well in medical school, and that you’ll make a caring, qualified doctor.
They’ll be looking for qualities like compassion, empathy, integrity, commitment to principles, etc. And it won’t be enough to simply state that you have those qualities. You’ll need to write an essay that conveys these things without putting them into so many words. The best way to do that is to write a story that relates in some way to your decision to become a doctor. A story about something that happened to you or a loved one, or a story about a particularly skilled or caring medical professional that you’re acquainted with who inspired you to become a doctor. Or a story about a summer trip to a third world country which left you overwhelmed at the amount of suffering in the world. Or it can be about caring for a family pet that had been injured, and nursing it back to health, or comforting it in its old age. The important thing is that it’s something that happened personally to you, which awakened your instincts to care for others, and which reveals the humanistic qualities mentioned above that every good doctor needs. The second most important factor is that the story is uniquely yours. You must be yourself, and tell your own story. Do that, and do it with grace and skill, and you’ll have a good chance of making that all important human connection with the people who read your essay. Use details, and not just statements about why you’ve always wanted to be a doctor. Show them exactly why you want to be a doctor, and make it clear that it’s not just something that you thought sounded like a good idea, but something you’ve given a lot of thought to, and are fully committed to.
Along with the main question of Why Do You Want To Be A Doctor, you may also be asked such questions as Why Do You Think You’re Qualified To Be A Doctor, or What Makes You An Exceptional Candidate For A Medical Career? Both these questions are an opportunity for you to toot your own horn, so to speak, to put your best foot forward and make your best case. You don’t want to overdo it and come across as arrogant, but you certainly don’t want to downplay anything in your life that will enhance your chances for admission. You want to write about any unique qualities, skills, or experiences you have, even if doing so in a social situation would sound like bragging. The medical school is asking you to showcase your particular talents and abilities, so it’s perfectly alright to do so. Just be sure you do it in a matter of fact manner, and take care to be neither boastful nor self deprecating. If you’ve worked in a hospital or doctor’s office, don’t be shy about it. Write about it; tell them what you learned, what insights you gained into what being a doctor is all about. If you’ve volunteered on a children’s burn unit at a hospital, they’ll want to know about it, and you’ll be able to communicate the compassion and empathy you learned from such an incredible experience. Maybe you have no experiences in the medical field at all; that’s no reason to be discouraged. You’ve certainly had some life experiences that set you apart from everyone else, that make you unique, that have given you uncommon insights into the human condition. Just be yourself, and write about what it is that you think makes you a great candidate for medical school. You’ve obviously got something to write about along these lines, or you wouldn’t be applying for admission. So think about it, come up with a topic, and don’t sell yourself short. This is your chance to shine.