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Essay Writing: Lesson I
 

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Medical School Essay Question Help
by Essayedge


Why I Want to Be a Doctor?

Many people look back in time to find the moment of their initial inspiration. Some people have wanted to be a doctor so long they do not even know what originally inspired them. To incorporate this theme, look back to the material you gathered in the last chapter, specifically in response to “The Chronological Method,” “Note Major Influences,” and “Identify Your Goals.” Ask yourself these questions: How old was I when I first wanted to become a doctor? Was there a defining moment? Was there ever any ambivalence? Was I inspired by a specific person? What kind of doctor do I want to be and how does that tie into my motivation?

Here are a few of the common ways that students incorporate this theme:

“I’ve Always Wanted to Be a Doctor”

AKA: “I’ve Wanted to Be a Doctor Since I Was…” and “Everyone Has Always Said I’d Be a Doctor”

This is perhaps the most common approach of all. The secret to doing it well is to show, not just tell, why you want to be a doctor. You cannot just say it and expect it to stand on its own. Take the advice of one admissions officer:

“The “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor” essay has been done to death. I think candidates need to be careful to show that their decision was not only a pre-adolescent one and has been tested over the years and approached in a mature manner.”

Supply believable details from your life to make your desire real to the reader. One secret to avoiding the “here we go again” reaction is to be particularly careful with your first line. Starting with “I’ve wanted to be a doctor since…” makes the reader cringe. It’s an easy line to fall back on, but admissions officers have read this sentence more times than they care to count; don’t add to the statistic.

“My Parents are Doctors”

This approach to the “why I want to be a doctor” theme is dangerous for a different reason. Says one officer:

“It’s a prejudice of mine, but the legacy essay, the one that reads, “My dad and my grandpa and my great-grandpa were all doctors so I should be too,” makes me suspect immaturity. I envision young people who can’t think for themselves or make up their own minds.”

This is not the opinion of every officer, though. The point is not to avoid admitting that your parent is an M.D., it is to avoid depending on that as the sole reason for you wanting to go to medical school. If a parent truly was your inspiration, then describe exactly why you were inspired.

“My Doctor Changed My Life!”

AKA: “Being a Patient Made Me Want to Become a Doctor”

Some people claim to be motivated to become doctors because they have had personal experience of illness or disability. Notes an admissions officer:

“I had a student who grew up with a chronic illness. She spent much time with physicians and other health care providers throughout her young life. In her essay she wrote about this continuing experience and how the medical professionals treated her. She wrote of her admiration of them as well as her understanding that they couldn’t yet cure her. Her essay literally jumped off the page as being unique to her and a compelling understanding of and testament to her desire to join the people who had been so important to her life.”

If your personal experience with the medical profession sincerely is your motivation for attending medical school, then do write about it. The problem is that many students fall back on this topic even when it does not particularly hold true for them. We cannot stress enough that you do not have to have a life-defining ability or a dramatic experience to have an exciting statement. Admissions committees receive piles of accident- and illness-related essays and the ones that seem insincere stick out like sore thumbs (pun intended!) and do not reflect well on you as a candidate. Says another officer:

“My orthodontist changed my life!” “My dentist gave me my smile back!” These types of themes are certainly valid, but go beyond that to what particular aspect of the profession intrigues you. Do you understand how many years of study your orthodontist had to have in order to reach his level of practice? Have you observed your dentist for any significant amount of time? Do you know that the profession now is much different than it was when he or she was starting out? Have you given any thought to the danger of infectious diseases to all health-care professionals? Present a well-organized, complete essay dealing with these points.”

You may just want to mention your own experience only briefly toward the end of the essay. Use it as a confirmation of your decision to be a doctor (instead of as his primary motivation) and demonstrate that because of the experience you will become a better doctor. Try not to dwell on the experience and provide plenty of further evidence of your sincere motivation.

“My Mom Had Cancer”

This theme is really just a variation of “I was a patient myself” and the same advice applies: If a loved one’s battle with illness, trauma, or disability is truly what inspired your wish to become a doctor, then by all means mention it. But don’t dwell on it, don’t overdramatize, and don’t let it stand as your sole motivation-show that you’ve done your research and you understand the life of a doctor and you chose it for a variety of reasons.

The Hard-Luck Tale

Some truly outstanding essays are about strong emotional experiences such as a childhood struggle with disease or the death of a loved one. Some of these are done so effectively that they are held up as role models for all essays. Says one officer:

“I had a student who was considered a weak candidate because of poor grades and low test scores. She was African-American and although she had pursued all the right avenues (classes, MCAT, volunteer experiences) to prepare herself for medical school, she remained undistinguished as a candidate- until, that is, she wrote her essay. The essay revealed her tremendous and sincere drive. She was from a crime-riddled area of New York City and several of her siblings had been violently killed. She wrote about her experience and her desire to practice medicine in the city and improve the neighborhood where she was raised. It was compelling, believable, and truly inspiring.”

While it is true that these poignant tales can provide very strong evidence of motivation for medical school, they are difficult to do well and need to be handled with extreme care and sensitivity. And, as we have said before, do not rely on the tale itself to carry you through; you always need to clearly show your motivation. Notes another admissions officer:

“This is going to sound harsh, but I don’t like the tales of woe such as the ones that begin with the mother’s death from cancer. Frankly, I feel manipulated and I don’t think that the personal statement is the proper mode of expression for that kind of emotion.”

The Medical Dichotomy

One of the major draws of the medical field is its dualistic nature combining hard-core science with the softer side of helping people. This is described by people in many ways; some describe it as a dichotomy of science to art; to others it is intellectualism to humanism, theory to application, research to creativity, or qualitative to social skills. No matter how you choose to phrase it, if you mention the dichotomy, then be sure to touch on your qualifications and experience in both areas.

 

 From ESSAYS THAT WILL GET YOU INTO COLLEGE, by Amy Burnham, Daniel Kaufman, and Chris Dowhan.
Copyright 1998 by Dan Kaufman.  Reprinted by arrangement with Barron's Educational Series, Inc.


 

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