College Essays for Pre-Meds: The Best Example + Writing Tips

The Best College Essay Example + Writing Tips for Aspiring Pre-Meds

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Posted in: Applying to Medical School

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When you write a college essay, you need to convince an admissions board that you are a good fit for their specific school. A college essay or personal statement lets you discuss yourself outside of the typical info the college application asks you about. If you’re applying to a competitive institution for pre-meds, a well-written essay can help you on your way. 

Both the Common App and the Coalition App have a set of essay prompts you can choose from.  Pick one of these prompts to provide what the admission committees are looking for — and then some!

I have consulted with countless hopeful college students on improving their college admissions essays, particularly with their future hopes set on medical school. Below is one fantastic example essay I picked out that can help you understand what a good essay looks like. 

The best practices for writing these remain pretty much the same across these college admission essays and those you’ll write later when applying to medical school and even residency. 

Need help brainstorming, drafting, and editing your college essay? Maximize your odds of getting that acceptance letter with 1-on-1 admissions consulting, built for pre-meds.

Example College Essay: A Perspective on Privilege (699 Words)

“These are just for science and math,” my cousin said with a hint of pride as she returned from her closet with a stack of notebooks reaching the top of her head. She placed the collection on her bed, and I grabbed a notebook and began flipping through it. “What grade are you in again?” I asked. Having just finished 6th grade, her notes were more organized, in-depth, and about topics that I had just finished as a sophomore. Uncertainty crept through my body, and as I returned her notebook, I suddenly began to feel very self-conscious. Here I was, complaining my way through AP Calculus when my 12-year-old cousin from India was breezing through derivatives like it was nothing. Was there something wrong with me?

But it didn’t start in India. My older brother’s outstanding character and academic excellence set the bar high for me. His first language wasn’t even English, but he didn’t let that stop him from success. Every teacher I had who had also taught him praised him dearly and hoped that I would be similar to him. Instead of feeling proud of this, I despised it. Why did he have to be so good? I unknowingly (and very ironically) began to cultivate the mindset of the underdog.

It didn’t take long, though, before I realized that what was really going on was that in emulating the underdog, never mind that nothing was really stacked against me, I was merely attempting to avoid failure by giving myself an out. It was nothing more than an extension of the fact that I was afraid to fail, given all my advantages in life. The real reason that I felt the need to outwork my cousins and brother was because they had done well with fewer resources than I had. In my eyes, every failure I had was compounded by cousins and brothers who succeeded with less than me. My brother had to work twice as hard to pave the way for me, being the first one in my family to go through childhood in America. He gave me a leg up in this world, and instead of being grateful and seeing the truth, I thought of it as a challenge. My cousins in India had to devote their lives to their studies to overcome the extreme competition that was presented to them from a young age. I used to think that they had a head start on me when in reality, I am the one who was afforded the opportunity to not have to fight for everything I get.

I felt ashamed to have an advantage because I saw, and still see, privilege as unfair, which it is. And I know now that I was afraid I would not use it correctly. This led me to try and forge a path that I was lucky enough not to need. It is not lost on me that this exhibited the ultimate form of privilege. I overcompensated for the guilt I felt by trying to deny something I couldn’t, something I shouldn’t, because that just invalidated the countless sacrifices my parents and grandparents made on my generation’s behalf. Denying privilege wasn’t the answer–learning to leverage it for others’ benefit is.

After all this reflection, my youthful belief that depending on myself would lead me to “make it” faded into a more mature understanding of the importance of keeping things in the proper perspective. The lens through which we see things makes a major impact, and moving forward, I know that I want to work to keep my lens clear, laboring to understand the true meaning behind what is happening within–and around–me.

We all walk through life as the main character of our own story and tend to forget that there are 8 billion people out there all playing out their own stories. Therein lies the complexity and beauty of our existence, which makes seeing the big picture so difficult, yet so rewarding. I work every day and will continue to work to keep all this in mind as I immerse myself in my education, new communities, and all that comes after to ensure the privileges afforded me aren’t wasted.

Hoping your essay can be as good as this one? Here are 10 handy essay tips I recommend when helping students with their college application essays. 

1. Begin Writing Early

Give yourself plenty of time (1-2 months) for brainstorming and revisiting your first draft. Revise the essay based on input from family, best friends, undergrad professors, and real-world professionals in your field of study. 

The brainstorming, writing, and revisions typically take a combined 4-8 hours. Consult the school’s specific application timeline for more guidance.

2. Choose a Central Theme

An unfocused essay leaves the reader confused and uninterested. Your college essay needs a compelling hook in the intro paragraph. Develop the theme through the body, then return to that hook in the closing paragraph.

3. Reuse Essays

Don’t completely rewrite supplemental essays for each school you’re applying to. A lot of colleges ask the same personal essay questions with different wording. 

Common essay questions include the diversity essay, the challenge essay, or the accomplishment essay. 

With some light editing, a single essay may answer multiple essay topics. Always remember to answer the exact prompt in the first place, and tailor your edits to that specific school.

4. Describe How You Fit

These admissions committees want you to show how you’re a good fit for their school and campus culture. Demonstrating fit may be the most important thing to include in a college essay. Give details about why this college is your dream school. 

The top school applicants show how they fit even when the prompts don’t explicitly ask them to.

5. Show, Don’t Tell

Avoid clichés that committees have heard countless times. Don’t say, “I want to help people,” or “I always knew I wanted to be…” Recount your unique personal experiences (with details) and show how those experiences impacted you as a person.

6. Directly Address the Prompt Questions

You may be answering college essay prompts that will ask you specific questions. Include the specific answer without getting distracted by providing too much context or tangential information.

7. Focus on Today, Not the Future

Forecasting your future may come across as lofty, arrogant, or empty. Focus on your current extracurricular and academic interests. Successful college essays show how you’ve grown, not necessarily how you predict you’ll continue to grow. 

This is especially important as many students change their minds about a medical career as they study during their undergraduate years. 

How can you display that you, right now, will be an asset to your college community, even if your aspiration to become a doctor isn’t the same four years from now? 

8. Research Word Count

You may be able to find out from Reddit or other social media whether a particular college responds better to shorter or longer writing styles. In general, I suggest keeping things relatively short. Focus on quality, not quantity.

9. Be Vulnerable

Admissions boards consist of people, not robots ticking boxes. Show emotion and vulnerability to make your essay come alive. 

A common application mistake is dry essay writing. Turn your average essay into a great essay with vulnerable emotions — without exaggerating or crossing a professional line. Consider sharing about your mental health, your struggles with bullying, or why your upbringing presented certain challenges.

Just don’t go over the top, and always remember to keep things professional. 

10. Put Yourself In the Reader’s Shoes

Admissions officers read thousands of these essays during the college application process. Everyone has a personal experience, but pay attention to how you can really stand out. Look at sample essays to see how successful applicants stood above the crowd.

Increase Your Chances With College Essay Support

Whether it’s undergrad college essays or med school personal statements, essays can make all the difference in your college admissions process and other admissions processes down the road. College essays, specifically, are your chance to give the admissions committee a window into who you are beyond your test scores and high school GPA.

If you need help with your college essay writing skills, our College Advisors will help you draft, proofread, and edit your essays. They will work tirelessly to ensure you get the attention needed to create a masterpiece.

Pair up with a College Advisor for expert support through every step of the college app process — build a customized school list, strengthen your resume, polish your application essays, and get those acceptance letters.
Picture of Kachiu Lee, MD

Kachiu Lee, MD

Dr. Lee specializes in BS/MD admissions. She was accepted into seven combined bachelor-medical degree programs. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northwestern University and proceeded to Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL. After completing a dermatology residency at Brown University, Dr. Lee pursued a fellowship in Photomedicine, Lasers, and Cosmetics at Massachusetts General Hospital and was a Clinical Fellow at Harvard Medical School. Academically, she has over 100 peer-reviewed publications and lectures internationally.

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