Medical School Sample Essay
Harvard University: Denied
There are only two things to do in Washington, DC when the heat of August is inexorably descending: escape to the swimming pool or the Smithsonian. I learned this lesson well when I first worked in DC, so why was I now spending my second summer in DC inside, studying organic chemistry? With my molecular models spread around me, I berated myself for my career ambivalence during the two years when I should have been taking pre-med classes-ironically, the only time in my life when I was not sure that I wanted to be a doctor. In that moment, that indecision seemed foolhardy. Now I believe that the path that I took was the best way for me to make a fully informed and committed decision to be a physician. Mine has not been a traditional road to medical school, but the meandering way that I have taken has been the difference between an instinctive decision and a commitment that is both considered and heartfelt.
I had always assumed that I would go to medical school; as a child, when I was temporarily distracted by the excitement of other professions, I merely expanded my plans: I might be an astronaut-doctor, a diplomat-doctor, a Peace Corps-doctor or even a doctor who was president, but my vision of my future always included being a physician. I come from a family of doctors: pulmonologist, physiatrist, cardiovascular surgeon, general practitioner, cardiologist is the litany of the specialties so far, and it was always assumed that I would be the next M.D. in the family. I never objected; I did, after all "want to help people," and that seemed to be what doctors did. I had been around hospitals all my life, volunteered in medical offices and a nursing home, and excelled in science and math. I was seemingly on a straight path to medical school.
In my freshman year of college, the comfortable certainty of my future suddenly became oppressive. Was I going to medical school because I really wanted to go, or because I had always been expected to? Knowing the life of a doctor, I felt that medical school should be entered with complete dedication and conviction. When I became uncertain of my decision, I eschewed medicine, and dropped my pre-med curriculum. Academically and personally, I was intrigued by the power and complexity of the brain, so I made that my focus. I became interested in the functions of the brain and their explanation from philosophical, anthropological, political, and psychological perspectives. By the beginning of my sophomore year, I was pursuing an individual research project on the accessibility of "forgotten" information in memory; over the next three years, this research question would become the basis for my senior thesis, which would eventually be presented at the Texas Cognition Conference.
My extracurricular activities also reflected my belief in the power of the mind and the extent of human capabilities. I became involved with the Rice Psychology Association, eventually becoming president and organizing notable speakers on topics such as behavioral medicine, false memories, and developmental psychology. In addition, I volunteered in a clinical research project on autistic children, which led to a position as a behavior therapist for a mildly autistic three year old. Related to my accent on human potential, I became integrally involved in the admissions process at Rice: first as a tour guide, then as a high school recruiter, and finally as an senior interviewer and one of the three students to read applications on the Admissions Committee. My involvement with the admissions process was a hands-on, everyday way to see and appreciate the capabilities of my peers; the task of assessing the needs and abilities of each applicant was a continually changing puzzle. I fully enjoyed the academic challenge of Rice, but I was also very involved in outside activities; identifying people who would be able to contribute to Rice in both of these ways was a challenging and enlightening job.
While it was no longer my major focus, I always remained peripherally involved in medical issues. As a College Health Education Representative, then as president of the organization, I found presenters and developed materials to educate my peers about nutrition, exercise, AIDS, safe sex, contraception, and the myriad other health issues of our generation. As a peer counselor, I taught stress management techniques and served as a referral resource for students, raising awareness about coping with the pressures of the college environment.
I continued to study psychology, and I also pursued a policy studies degree in health and human resources. When I learned about the structure of health care organizations around the world and the belief systems underlying different health care practices, I wanted to compare the practice of health policy implementation to the academic presentation. I obtained a position as an intern with the Alzheimer's Association Public Policy Office in Washington, DC. In my work for the Director of Federal Affairs, I monitored legislation, wrote analyses of current bills and proposals, and drafted summaries and alerts for other policy offices interested in similar issues. Since the Alzheimer's Association is primarily a grass roots organization, I also had contact with physicians, spouses, and other caretakers that summer. While I was intrigued by the political process and the development of new legislation, I was repeatedly drawn to the problems of medical management of Alzheimer's patients. The doctors I worked with were wonderful role models: they were open-minded, competent, and creative; they had warm relationships with their patients, and they seemed aware of the many factors that affected a person's life outside of his medical condition. Though seeing the impact that recent health policy reforms have on doctors seems an unlikely impetus to be a physician, my experiences that summer convinced me to start taking pre-med classes again.
My college career was characterized by a whirlwind pace of activities and academics; still, after I received my degree, I felt that real world exposure would be an important complement to my school experiences. This year, I am the office manager and health educator for a certified nurse-midwife in her private practice. I am learning the practicalities of setting up a medical office and dealing with insurance companies, as well as drawing blood, taking blood pressures, and doing histories. I am also responsible for patient education as a complement to the office medical care. I already enjoy the constant contact with different kinds of people, and I look forward to the time when I will have the medical expertise to treat patients myself.
Last year, I interviewed for the Rhodes Scholarship and met some of the most amazing, accomplished 22-year-olds in the country. This year, I volunteer at an AIDS hospice, and in these totally diverse populations, I recognize the same basic core of resilience and strength that drives all of us. I have always been a caretaker and a believer in people, and growing up in a family of physicians, I know the life of a doctor. I am driven by a belief in the capabilities of human beings and a desire for them to optimize their potential. I can see no greater challenge or reward than to combine a scientific, problem solving approach to patients' illnesses with an intuitive yet pragmatic perspective on their social situations and coping abilities. Beyond the desire to help people which is still strong in me, I find that I am drawn to medicine because it poses a constantly evolving challenge: an opportunity to accompany, assist, and motivate people through their experiences of exhilaration, relief, and, unfortunately, at times, even despair. Now, I can see the importance of every experience that led me to the decision to be a doctor. My indirect route to medicine has left me with a greater appreciation of the importance and responsibility of being a doctor in today's world. At times, I still think about being a Peace Corps-doctor or a diplomat-doctor, but now I know that being a physician would be the most rewarding, fulfilling, and challenging commitment of my life.
This essay is generally well written, but it is excessively long. There are too many things going on; the writer should pick one strong, clear theme and write the essay around it. Because the writer has packed her essay with so many experiences and observations, he or she often ends up jumping from one to another without completely fleshing them out or commenting them on them sufficiently. Keep in mind that it is unnecessary to chronicle every single medicine-related experience to convince your reader of your commitment to the profession.