Medical School Sample Essay
John Hopkins University: Denied
I did not always know that I wanted to be a physician. As a child, my dream was to become an Olympic swimmer. Swimming brought me in touch with my competitive nature, and allowed me to see first hand how determination and effort can help one accomplish any goal. In college, as a 5' 2" swimmer, I was outsized by most of my competitors. I rose to this challenge by setting personal goals throughout each season, and viewing every accomplishment I made as a stepping stone toward the next. By my sophomore year in college, I became an All-American swimmer. More importantly, I discovered personal fortitude, and a continuing thirst for challenges.
My enthusiasm and drive in the pool were mirrored outside of athletics. The demands of academia and a number of work and volunteer experiences stimulated me as well. During my high school years, I developed an affinity for science, a true kinship that inspired me in college to major in chemistry. As a lifeguard on Cape Cod during the summer, I provided daily care for those suffering from an array of ailments, including heat exhaustion and the effects of near-drowning experiences. That summer was my initial foray into health care and the role of the care provider. In athletics, I found inner strength. In the classroom, I found the discipline of science. As a lifeguard, I realized my passion for becoming a caregiver.
Considering my love for science and my desire to help others, I believe the role of a doctor embodies all the values that are most important to me. I had the opportunity to personally examine this profession when I worked with a pediatric cardiologist the summer after my junior year in college. I continued to pursue my awareness of medicine by engaging in an independent study with a gastroenterologist at a community hospital during my senior year. In participating hands-on, I was happy to discover in medicine all that I sought in a career. It allowed, in fact demanded, room for the mentally tough swimmer in me, the disciplined student, and the compassionate care provider.
During my last year of college, I took pause to consider all that I had accomplished. I felt satisfaction in knowing that I had used college to learn as much about myself as about the world around me. I had reached my goals as an athlete, as a student, and as a member of my community. Perhaps more importantly, I had confirmed my desire for a career in medicine. However, I still felt that something was lacking. I was still in search of some yet undefined experience. To satiate this inner calling, I applied to the World Teach Program.
During the past year, I have taught English in a multi-level classroom at a university in Riobamba, Ecuador. I have lived with a family that speaks only Spanish, and I have been completely immersed in the Ecuadorian lifestyle and culture. In my daily walk from my house to the university, I often encounter starving children begging for money, people urinating in the street, and women washing clothes in the city's source of drinking water. My exposure to such a completely different lifestyle has further confirmed my desire to practice medicine in a word lacking adequate medical care.
My most recent experience in Ecuador is one that I will not forget. I acted as a volunteer translator for a group of North American physicians who were examining prisoners in a provincial jail. One of the prisoners was in urgent need of medical attention. Another prisoner wielding a machete had attacked him while he was sleeping. He was missing fingers, bandaged in a makeshift cardboard cast, and covered with slash marks. Other men were HIV positive, and did not realize they could infect other people. The state of these men's lives, and of the country as a whole, allowed me to see not only the dismal health conditions that some people face, but also the capacity of man to endure.
My decision to pursue a career as a physician has developed and solidified over many years, through many experiences. My maturity, responsibility, and organizational skills have been thoroughly tested. These attributes have helped shape me into person who not only is prepared for the challenges of medical school, but who also is equipped beyond the classroom for life as a physician.
The writer has had a lot of rich, diverse experiences and some of the images in the essay, particularly in the discussion of the prison in Ecuador, are powerful and vivid. But the writer must be more clear about exactly how these disparate relate to the decision to become a doctor; the reader is left unconvinced, specifically, of the relevance of the applicant's accomplishments as a swimmer to his or her potential performance as a physician. And thus the essay, at times, has a tendency to read like a laundry list of the applicant's experience and activities.
Parts of the essay are generic, applicable to any number of people. For example, the last paragraph reads like the end of a cover letter when it should instead reinforce the main points the applicant wants to drive home about himself as a unique individual. The writer would do well to provide more illustrative details in place of such vague, generalized-and in some cases unsupported-assertions as "My maturity, responsibility, and organizational skills have been thoroughly tested."