In recent years, guaranteed-admission medical programs have exploded in popularity. These programs allow students to apply for a guaranteed place in medical school right out of high school. Often, these programs will include compressed undergraduate degree timelines that reduce the total time requirement by one to two years, leading to so-called seven- and eight-year medical programs. These programs have grown increasingly competitive, and acceptance rates are often lower than undergraduate acceptance rates at Ivy League schools.
In addition to the Common App essays (for the latest info, check out our blog post How to Write the Common Application Essays 2017-2018), these specialized programs often require applicants to write separate essays specific to the medical program. The majority of these essays can be grouped into one of two categories.
Either they ask the applicant why he or she wants to be a doctor, or they ask the applicant to address why he or she wants to attend the undergraduate and medical school in the program in addition to detailing the reasons behind their desire to be a doctor. The essays for Case Western’s Pre-Professional Scholars Program (in medicine), as well as for Rutgers Newark’s BA/MD program are presented below as representative archetypes for each style of essay.
We spoke with CollegeVine co-founder and essay specialist Vinay Bhaskara, who was accepted into seven-year medical programs last year about how he would approach these essays.
Case Western Essay Prompt
By applying to the Pre-Professional Scholars Program, you are applying to gain admission to professional school earlier than students who apply in the traditional way. Please indicate why you’re interested in your chosen profession. How do you see yourself being particularly suited to this field? What events and/or experiences have led you to your choice? This essay should be between 250 and 500 words in length.
Rutgers Essay Prompts
Part I. Discuss why you are interested in pursuing a career in medicine. (150 words)
Part II. Describe your health-related volunteer experiences and the time devoted to them. (150 words) Provide supporting documentation in your portfolio from a supervisor, coordinator, etc.
Part III. Discuss what has attracted you to apply to Rutgers University-Newark College of Arts & Sciences, apart from the BA/MD program. (150 words)
Part IV. Discuss why you are specifically interested in attending Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) over other medical schools. (150 words)
Addressing ‘Why Medicine’ in Medical Program Essays
Vinay: The critical thing to remember here is that success in medicine is the synthesis of two equally important factors: a passion for science and a passion for serving humanity. Medical care is not just about being able to recognize symptoms, make a diagnosis, and prescribe the correct course of treatment, it’s also about the second word in that phrase — being able to care for patients and make sure that their emotional state improves alongside the physical healing. These are the core themes that you must communicate with your essay.
The science side of the ledger is relatively easy to describe. You can approach it from the pure science aspect of a passion for biology or biochemistry. If you choose to highlight biology, be sure to research the various biological subfields, such as genetics, neuroscience, et al. and pick the one for which you feel the most affinity.
This approach can also be enhanced by descriptions of your work in a non-class lab environment if you have it. Such experience is advisable for applicants to seven-year programs, though not absolutely essential. Another approach to discussing the academic aspects of medicine is to talk about your passion for the analytic problem-solving that medicine necessitates.
On the passion-for-serving-humanity side, the best approach is to refer to a patient care experience (typically either volunteering at a hospital, nursing home, or clinic, shadowing a physician, or [ideally] both), and relate a specific anecdote from that experience that stuck with you. Using that anecdote as a base, you would then transition into a discussion of how that has inspired you to pursue medicine and heal people.
If you lack patient care experience, the next option is to draw on volunteer or charity exposure (outside of medicine) and follow the same pattern of an anecdote or reflection.
If you don’t have any of these experiences either, a third possibility is to draw on experiences with a family member or friend who dealt with severe health problems and discuss how that experience affected and inspired you. If you don’t have any strong examples of any of these three cases, you can still discuss and analyze a passion for the non-academic aspects of medicine, but it will not have as much substance backing it.
Justifying the Undergraduate and Medical Schools
These parts of the essay are not as important relatively speaking, but you still must make sure that you meet the requirements for these. For the justification of the undergraduate schools, it is the same process as general “Why school XYZ?” essays, which we will cover in a later blog post.
The general guidelines here are to make sure that you discuss things specific about that school, not generic descriptions that could apply to several different schools. You should discuss both academics, and social aspects of the school, paying special attention to unique academic programs as well as specific social philosophies espoused by each school.
With regards to the medical school, you should discuss the specific strengths of that medical school and the things that it can teach you. For example, a major trauma center will expose you to one whole set of patient pathologies, while a hospital in a run down and culturally diverse area of town will expose you to an entirely different set of patient pathologies and interactions.
Similarly, hospitals specializing in oncology or neurology will provide a unique experience that you can highlight in the essay. One good point to always mention is that if the medical school is in a city, it will expose you to a diverse and varied set of patient pathologies and patient interactions, which will enhance your skills as a doctor.
Addressing Why Accelerated Programs
This is usually the hardest part of the essay to write. The answer for most students is simply because it saves them time, but schools do not like to hear this. A better way to approach it is to state that you are certain about your desire to become a physician, and say that the additional academic rigor presented by the program (a science — heavy curriculum, GPA requirements, working through summers, et al.) strongly appeal to you.
If you’re thinking about a BS/MD program, but you’re unsure if it’s the right fit or you don’t know where to begin, consider the CollegeVine BS/MD Apps Assistance Program. Here, you’ll be paired one-on-one with a specialist from one of the top combined undergraduate and medical school programs in the country, who will help to prepare your application, guide your essay choices, and coach you through the interview process.
Zack was an economics major at Harvard before going on indefinite leave to pursue CollegeVine full-time as a founder. In his spare time, he enjoys closely following politics and binge-watching horror movies. To see Zack's full bio, visit the Team page.
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Conditionally Guaranteed Admission to the University's Professional Schools
The Pre-Professional Scholars Programs in Medicine and Dentistry grant to a few outstanding entering first-year undergraduates conditional commitments of admission to the corresponding professional school at Case Western Reserve University. These commitments are honored upon successful completion of the requirements established by each professional school. Students admitted to these programs are relieved of much of the anxiety and uncertainty associated with pre-professional studies. Consequently, they feel free to undertake challenging courses of study and pursue a variety of interests as they prepare for professional studies. Pre-Professional Scholars in Medicine are free to choose any of the bachelor’s degrees available in the University. Pre-Professional Scholars in Dentistry are not required to complete a bachelor's degree, but may elect to do so in any of the bachelor's degrees available. Participants who wish to change their career goals or apply for admission to other professional schools are free to do so.
Pre-Professional Scholars Program in Dentistry
Each year, approximately 10 exceptionally well-qualified high school seniors who plan to pursue careers in dentistry are offered places in the Pre-Professional Scholars Program in Dentistry. This program requires seven years: three years of successful undergraduate study and four years at the School of Dental Medicine.
Pre-Professional Scholars in Dentistry are not required to complete a major, but if they elect to earn a bachelor's degree they are free to choose a major in an area of interest. Students who elect to complete a bachelor's degree must either complete all degree requirements by the end of their third year or switch to the Senior Year in Professional Studies program, which permits them to substitute the work of the first year in dental school for that required during the last year as an undergraduate pursuing a Bachelor of Arts. Students who switch to the Senior Year in Professional Studies program in order to complete their bachelor's degree will not lose their conditional admission to the School of Dental Medicine, but they are expected to complete all requirements for the Pre-Professional Scholars Program.
To qualify for the place reserved in the School of Dental Medicine, a Pre-Professional Scholar in Dentistry must achieve the following:
1) A cumulative grade point average of 3.500 or higher for all coursework, as well as for all science coursework taken, including, but not exclusively, biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics.
2) A Perceptual Ability score of 18 or higher and an Academic Average score of 19 or higher on the Dental Admission Test (DAT) of the American Dental Association. The test must be taken no later than October of the third year.
3) Successful completion of the following courses, with a minimum of 30 credit-hours in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics taken at Case Western Reserve University:
|Course ID||Course Title||Credits|
|BIOL 214 & 214L||Genes, Evolution and Ecology & Genes, Evolution and Ecology Lab||4|
|BIOL 215 & 215L||Cells and Proteins & Cells and Proteins Laboratory||4|
|BIOL 216 & 216L||Development and Physiology & Development and Physiology Lab||4|
|Course ID||Course Title||Credits|
|CHEM 105||Principles of Chemistry I||3|
|CHEM 106||Principles of Chemistry II||3|
|CHEM 113||Principles of Chemistry Laboratory||2|
|CHEM 223||Introductory Organic Chemistry I||3|
|CHEM 224||Introductory Organic Chemistry II||3|
|CHEM 233||Introductory Organic Chemistry Laboratory I||2|
|CHEM 234||Introductory Organic Chemistry Laboratory II||2|
|Course ID||Course Title||Credits|
|MATH 125||Math and Calculus Applications for Life, Managerial, and Social Sci I||4|
|Course ID||Course Title||Credits|
|PHYS 115||Introductory Physics I||4|
|PHYS 116||Introductory Physics II||4|
4) Successful completion of a SAGES First Seminar, two University Seminars, a SAGES writing portfolio, at least one course in the arts and humanities, at least one course in the social sciences, and two semesters of physical education.
5) A successful transition interview with faculty representing the School of Dental Medicine's admissions committee, usually scheduled after the receipt of grades from the fall semester of the third year.
Pre-Professional Scholars Program in Medicine
Each year, 15 to 20 exceptionally well-qualified high school seniors who plan to pursue careers in medicine are offered places in the Pre-Professional Scholars Program in Medicine. Pre-Professional Scholars receive a conditional commitment of admission to the University Program of the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine to be honored upon successful progress toward and completion of the bachelor’s degree. The Pre-Professional Scholars Program in Medicine requires eight years: four years of successful undergraduate study leading to the bachelor’s degree followed by four years in the University Program of the School of Medicine. Pre-Professional Scholars in Medicine who complete their undergraduate degree requirements in fewer than four years are required to pursue other experiences intended to enhance their professional and personal development during the period following the receipt of their bachelor’s degree and until study at the School of Medicine begins.
Pre-Professional Scholars in Medicine are free to choose from among all of the degree and major programs offered in the university, but must complete the courses in biochemistry, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics/statistics, and behavioral sciences listed in the Conditions of Admission letter they received when accepted to the program. Pre-Professional Scholars are expected to demonstrate successful academic progress by meeting the following level of performance: A CWRU cumulative GPA of 3.63 and a cumulative American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) GPA and AMCAS Biology, Chemistry, Physics and MATH (BCPM) GPA of 3.63 at the time of application and maintained on final graduation transcripts. They are also expected to continue to fulfill expectations for outstanding professional and personal development as outlined in the Condition of Admission letter. These expectations include, but are not limited to, maintaining academic integrity and adhering to the university’s standards of conduct (all academic integrity and judicial offenses will be reported to the School of Medicine), clinical shadowing, and involvement in undergraduate activities and community programs.
Pre-Professional Scholars in Medicine are not required to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) for the program. However, if they do take the MCAT, they are expected to achieve a score that is above the 94th percentile. Program participants who have an interest in applying to other medical schools or who wish to be considered for a dean’s merit scholarship at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine should plan on taking this test.
Progress is reviewed with each student at regular intervals in the program. At the end of the third year, Pre-Professional Scholars in Medicine who have met the required levels of performance go through the normal admission procedures for the University Program of the School of Medicine, including submitting an application through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) and an interview. Participants who do not meet the required levels of performance may still be admitted into the University Program of the School of Medicine, but such admission will be subject to review and approval by the School of Medicine’s Admissions Committee.
Successful completion of the Pre-Professional Scholars Program in Medicine guarantees admission only to the University Program of the School of Medicine. Students seeking admission to the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine must complete a separate application and will be considered in competition with all applicants for that program.
Applying to the Pre-Professional Scholars Program
Prospective students who wish to apply to either of the Pre-Professional Scholars Programs should do so through the Office of Undergraduate Admission. All forms are included within the application materials. Select Regular Decision or Early Decision I as your preferred admission plan. Later in the application you will be able to indicate your interest in applying for PPSP.
Those who apply Regular Decision and are not selected as a PPSP finalist will have an opportunity to be considered under the Regular Decision admission plan.
Pre-Professional Scholars candidates who apply under the Early Decision I admission plan commit to attending Case Western Reserve if admitted to the undergraduate program, regardless of whether they are selected as finalists for the Pre-Professional Scholars Program. This commitment needs to be made before candidates would know about their status with the Pre-Professional Scholars Program.
Admission to the Pre-Professional Scholars Program is highly competitive. Students who are not selected for the program may still be considered for undergraduate admission to Case Western Reserve, and many choose to enroll in the first-year class.
For more information, contact the Office of Undergraduate Admission:
Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Eastern
*Effective for students entering fall 2017 and beyond: The PPSP program is no longer available in law, social work, and the six-year dental program.*
Pre-Professional Scholars Program in Law
Each year, approximately twelve exceptionally well-qualified high school seniors who plan to pursue careers in law will be offered places in the Pre-Professional Scholars Program in Law at Case Western Reserve University. Pre-Professional Scholars receive a conditional commitment of admission to the Case Western Reserve School of Law, to be honored upon completion of the bachelor’s degree at the university. The Pre-Professional Scholars in Law are encouraged to gain a wide cultural experience in their undergraduate studies, to major in the area that most interests them, and to choose courses in which they will learn habits of rigor and logical analysis. The law school encourages applications from all majors, including engineering and the sciences. The School of Law recommends that Pre-Professional Scholars in Law take courses in accounting, economics, history, and philosophy and that they gain as much writing experience as possible, because the ability to write effectively is critical to success in law school and legal practice.
Students admitted to the Pre-Professional Scholars Program in Law will be guaranteed a seat in the School of Law upon graduation from Case Western Reserve University if they satisfy the requirements set out at the time of admission to the program.
Pre-Professional Scholars Program in Social Work
Each year, as many as ten high school seniors who plan to pursue careers in social work are offered places in the Pre-Professional Scholars Program in Social Work. The program gives a conditional commitment of admission to the Case Western Reserve University Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences to be honored upon successful completion of the bachelor’s degree.
Admission to the master’s degree program in social work at MSASS is dependent upon the following requirements:
- Graduation from the university with a cumulative grade point average of 3.000 in the junior and senior years.
- Completion of a minimum of 24 semester hours in the social and behavioral sciences.
- Continued evidence of a combination of personal qualities which are considered essential for the professional practice of social work.
Pre-Professional Scholars in Social Work who wish to accelerate their program may apply for the senior year in professional studies privilege.
Six-Year Dental Program
Each year a few exceptionally well-qualified high school seniors who plan to pursue careers in dentistry are offered places in the Six-Year Dental Program.
The first two years of the program are spent pursuing undergraduate studies, advised by the director of health career advising. Students are required to earn a minimum of 60 semester hours. They are required to take all of the science and mathematics courses listed above for the Pre-Professional Scholars Program in Dentistry. If Advanced Placement credit is used to satisfy some of these science requirements, a minimum of 30 semester hours in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics must be taken during the two years of undergraduate study. Additionally, to meet general education requirements, students must take one year of physical education, First Seminar, two University Seminars, one course in the area of Arts and Humanities, and one courses in the area of Social Sciences, and must complete a writing portfolio. To qualify for the place reserved in the School of Dental Medicine, a student in the program must achieve the following:
- A cumulative grade point average of 3.250 or higher for all course work completed;
- Grades of B or higher in the required courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics;
- An average score of 18 or higher on both the academic and PAT portions of the Dental Admission Test of the American Dental Association. The test must be taken no later than April of the second year.