Tips for the Pre-Pre-Med Student, Part 2

  By Aylise Grossenbacher-McGlamery

So you think you want to be pre-med in college, and you want to talk about it in your application essay. This is a worthy and sensible aspiration, but beware: it is also a common one. Goals change, new opportunities arise, and many people change their minds about going to medical school within their first semester of college. Essay readers know this. They will not be impressed by your pre-medical ambition unless you have some motivations to back it up.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about it. As with any application essay, there are things you can do to bolster your credibility and make yourself stand out. Here are a few specific tips for the pre-med hopefuls who don’t want to come across as being “just another pre-med hopeful.”

1. Things Not To Do When Writing Your Pre-Med Essay

A couple of phrases that you want to avoid are “I have always loved biology” and “I want to help people.” Most admissions officers have read those two sentences more times than they’d care to count. Apart from being true of everyone else who’s pre-med, they’re not specific enough to the medical field to really justify your ambition. There are many biology-related fields that don’t include medical school, and most jobs do involve “helping people” in some way, shape, or form.

Another platitude to avoid is “I have wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember.” It might be true, but the goal you’ve had since kindergarten should have evolved in some way by now. You need to talk about that evolution.

2. How To Start When You Don’t Know How To Start

You want to really examine your own motivations and be specific. Try to zero in on the original experiences that have made YOU want to be pre-med. Hands-on experience is the best: if you’ve spent time volunteering, shadowing, or working at a clinic or research lab, and that’s what got you interested, then perfect. Dig deep into your clinical stories for the parts that you enjoyed, the parts that you found meaningful.

If you don’t have any such stories, do not despair. Direct experience can be hard for high-schoolers to come by, and there are many other ways to creatively demonstrate your passion for the medical field.

If there is a specific pathology, medical case, or public health issue that you’ve become interested in (perhaps a disease that you’ve researched, or a health problem that has affected you or someone you know), then write about it. If there’s a specific biomedical advancement that you’ve learned about and are excited by, write about it. If there’s a medically-related book that you’ve read and loved, write about it. (Be careful with the shows: it’s fine to love Grey’s Anatomy, but you don’t want to cite it as your sole motivation for becoming a doctor. It can serve as your jumping-off point, but it can’t be your endpoint too. (You need something else there.)

The key in all of these cases is to talk about why. You don’t want to merely summarize what you’ve learned; you want to demonstrate the reasons for your deeper interest in medicine, and where you’d like to go with those interests. It’s all right – in fact, it’s almost preferable – if your route is unconventional. No one expects you to have it all figured out at this stage in your education, but it will help your case if you can show that your direction has not been chosen at random.