Application Essays & Activities

Your Application writing for Medical/Veterinary/Dental or other health professions school is another essential part of your application.

Along with the numbers on your transcript and MCAT score, medical schools have only two ways to learn more about your personal characteristics, motivation, experience, and readiness; through what they read about you in your Letters of Evaluation, and what YOU have to say for yourself in your own application writing.

After all the dedication, work, and involvement you will have had to become a strong applicant for medical school, it is important to respect the journey you have been on and take the time to assess, consider, and reflect on the journey itself so that you can do your best writing.

The Writing Portions of the Application

The Primary Application Writing (i.e. one common app sent to about 20 schools)

  • A personal statement/essay: 5300 characters (about a page and ½ single space), that will answer the question, "Why Medicine?" for you and how your experiences back you up.
  • An experiences/activities section: 15 boxes available. Each allow 700 characters (a paragraph) and you will choose 3 of those and add up to another 1325 characters to discuss why they are the "Most meaningful." Medical schools don't take your formal resume.

The Secondary Application Writing (an application from each individual school, so approximately 20 secondary apps)

Requirements for Writing an Excellent Application 

Contemplation and Reflection

Collect and reflect on your meaningful academic, extracurricular, scholarly, and life experiences, as well as the influential people in your life, your personal growth over time, and the development of your perspectives, inspirations, and motivations. As such, you will be keeping in mind their relevance to the goal of Medical/Veterinary/Dental, etc. school.


Once you have a sense of what you want to say, it takes time and intention to produce a skillful and well-written product that will be compelling to read.

Excellent Writing

What makes an essay interesting? Excellent writing. An applicant who is prepared to apply will have all the "material" they need to write a strong application. What makes it compelling and meaningful for the admissions committee when they read it is excellent writing. Take the time to write skillfully. For instance:

  • Use active language rather than passive
  • Integrate anecdotes. Illustrate what you mean with examples
  • Be genuine
  • Work on cohesive writing with an introduction, excellent transition sentences between paragraphs, and a conclusion.
  • Don't be hyperbolic, or overstated.
  • Don't pontificate, be grounded in specifics of your own actual experience
  • Don't be afraid of multiple drafts to get to where you want to get. You have to start somewhere, and it will lead you to the essay you want to write.

Important Points to Remember

YOUR motivation for becoming a physician

It is not important to have a unique reason for wishing to become a physician/medical practitioner. It is important however that you write about your reasons with sincerity. There are certain elements that many applicants will inevitably have in common. For example, many applicants will likely have some array of service experiences, scholarly experiences, and clinical experiences. Many were inspired in part, by a family member or the medical experience of someone close to them, exposure to healthcare disparities, or a love of research. These are natural similarities because one needs certain kinds of motivation and growth to prepare for a medical profession. However, it is important to be able to articulate your narrative and show through your writing how you have uniquely developed your motivation intellectually and through your actions.

Work on your activities section in parallel

As you do so, it will help you clarify what you can focus on in those 15 activity blurbs vs the main essay, and what you can hone in on the essay.

Get Feedback!

It is important to have some readers and get honest, thoughtful feedback. Your pre-health advisors are happy to give you feedback on your writing as well. On the other hand, be mindful about not having "too many cooks in the kitchen." In the end it is your essay/activities, and your writing.