16 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing Your Medical School Essays

16 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing Your Medical School Essays

As discussed in my previous post on the medical school personal statement, your medical school essays should demonstrate that you are genuinely passionate about and interested in medicine.

This can be done in a number of ways: you might give specific examples of personal events which kindled your passion for medicine, experiences in the medical field that furthered your determination to attend medical school, or ambitions for your future medical career. By the end of your medical school essay, an admissions officer should believe that your interest in medicine is genuine and enduring: i.e. – that your decision to attend med school resulted from years of introspection, reflection, and experience.

For many, it is extremely difficult to articulate why they are interested in medicine.

One of the best ways to come up with grist for this task is to ask yourself the following 16 questions before you start writing your medical school essays:

  1. When did you first know you wanted to go to med school? When did you first want to become a doctor?
  2. Did your passion to pursue a career in medicine grow over time?
  3. Alternatively, was there a formative event which sparked your interest in medicine?
  4. How did your passion for medicine, or commitment to becoming a doctor, evolve over time?
  5. Did the areas of medicine which most interested you change over time? Why?
  6. What was your biggest concern in making this decision (to attend med school) and how did you overcome it?
  7. What significance does medicine play in your life?
  8. Is there a particular area of medicine which is especially interesting to you? Why?
  9. Have you ever worked in a hospital? A lab? Did you like it?
  10. What aspects of medical work were most appealing to you? Why?
  11. Why would you be a good doctor?
  12. Why would you succeed in medical school?
  13. Are there physicians who have been particularly influential in your life? In what ways have they influenced you?
  14. If doctors were paid half as much, would you still go to medical school? Why?
  15. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you do? Why?
  16. When you think about your future career, what first comes to mind? Try and be more specific than simply “being a doctor.” Who are you treating? Where? For what?

However you choose to reflect on this issue, you should always be asking follow-up questions to probe your justifications. That is, for every answer you have to the question “why do I want to go to medical school?” you should subsequently ask why that answer is true, or how you can demonstrate that it is true. For example, if you want to attend medical school because you genuinely want to devote your life to helping others, you should ask yourself why that is the case, and what experiences you’ve had that can attest to this fact.

In short, do not brush off this task before writing your medical school essays.

You wouldn’t think much of someone who, when asked why they chose to propose to their new fiancee replied, “Well, I’ve always wanted to get married since I was a little kid.” Serious decisions require serious justifications.

Rest assured, the decision to attend medical school and become a doctor is one of the most momentous and significant decisions that you will ever make. You should treat it accordingly!


About the Author

Joel Butterly, Co-founder and CEO of InGenius Prep, is an experienced admissions counselor and entrepreneur. Joel comes from a rich educational background—his immediate family alone has 14 Ivy League Degrees—from Harvard, Yale, Cornell, and Dartmouth.

Joel attended Dartmouth College, where he studied Government, Geography, and the Philosophy of Ethics. He was inducted early into Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated Summa Cum Laude. He graduated with a double major in Government and International Studies, and a minor in Ethical Philosophy.

After Dartmouth, Joel attended Yale Law School, where he served on the executive board of the Journal on Regulation, as well as the Law School’s entrepreneurship society.

Joel currently resides at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut. He lives with his fiance – Emily – who teaches and is receiving her PhD in Medieval History from Yale.