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Llusm Admissions Essay

Part 4: The “Why Us?” Secondary Essay

Example "Why Us?" Essay Prompts

Example 1: “What makes LLUSM particularly attractive to you?” (Loma Linda University School of Medicine)

Example 2: “How will becoming a Creighton educated physician enable you to achieve your lifetime goals and/or aspirations?” (Creighton University School of Medicine)

"Why Us?" Essay Background

These are everyone’s favorite prompts (I wish my sarcasm could jump through the screen).

The first step to writing an effective “Why us?” essay is to restrain yourself from writing about how great their medical school is or where it's located.

Glad that’s out of the way.

Consider why admissions committees want you to answer this question. After all, they know you’re applying to many other schools and that your GPA and MCAT scores are at least reasonably close to their admission averages (learn Where to Apply to Medical School to Maximize Admissions Odds).

Admissions committees read thousands of essays annually and want to know that you’ve considered them for reasons beyond the obvious (location, prestige, average GPA and MCAT, etc.).

By integrating your qualities, experiences, and aspirations with their specific mission, programs, and resources, you will have a unique opportunity to demonstrate "fit" in your application. Don’t take this for granted!

"Why Us?" Essay Misconception 1: “I should just read a school’s mission statement and research available resources on their website, and then rewrite the same information in essay form.”

The vast majority of students approach the “Why us?” essay this way, so it won’t make your response seem very special.

I basically see the expanded version of the following essay 90+% of the time:

“I want to go to [School Name] because of their wonderful [program name] and incredible [resources]. {Program] cultivates [attribute] that helps their students become great physicians. In addition, [resources] provide support to help students reach their potential.”

You should be able to see how this essay says nothing about why YOU want to go to their school.

Moreover, medical schools already know about all of the programs and resources they offer, so you wouldn’t be providing much value through your writing.

The better approach to this essay would be to look through schools’ websites to find programs and resources that actually interest you and to identify what each school keeps boasting about (e.g., perhaps they mention diversity or early clinical experience multiple times on their homepage). Then, consider:

  • How YOUR experiences fit with their offerings
  • What YOU could contribute
  • How YOU would uniquely benefit from their program

For example, if a school focuses a lot on community service and you have similar experiences, mention that. In addition, let the school know how you want to further focus your skills while there. On the other hand, if you have a more research heavy background and are applying to the same school, you could either focus on research or discuss how community service will make you a more well-rounded physician. The more specific you can be, the better.

"Why Us?" Essay Misconception 2: “There’s no other way to find out information about a medical school than by reading their site.”

Looking at a school’s website and demonstrating fit is certainly a tried-and-true approach to answering "Why us?" essay prompts, but it isn’t the only one.

To really impress admissions committees, you could integrate information from current students or recent alumni into your response. Ask these individuals whether they would be willing to share their experiences attending a particular school, and also whether you would be a good fit there given your background and goals.

How do you find these people? The easiest people to contact are those you know personally or through a mutual acquaintance. Otherwise, you could contact a school’s administrative staff and ask whether they could connect you to a current student. While this requires additional work, it will be well worth it for your top school preferences.

If you have to contact a stranger, use the following email template:

“Dear [Student Name],

I hope this email finds you well. My name is [Your Name}, and I am currently completing my med school applications. I’m especially interested in attending [School Name] and am therefore hoping to get some more information about the program. [School Name]'s admissions committee gave me your email address as someone who could help me out.

I'd really appreciate it if you would spare 15-20 minutes to answer 3-5 quick questions in the upcoming days. If so, please let me know some days and times that are most convenient for you, your time zone, and the best number to reach you. I’ll do my best to accommodate.

Thanks for your time and consideration. Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

Best,

[Your Name]

Sample "Why Us?" Essay

(Note: All identifying details have been changed.)

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Throughout my undergrad years, I’ve found that working hard to involve myself with others and their unique perspectives is one of the most productive ways in which I can learn. For example, I used to believe that illnesses were just a set of tangible symptoms that resulted solely from maladaptive genes. However, after working closely with families in Boston's inner city, I have come to realize how racial, physical, and social factors, such as a lack of access to fresh produce or primary health services, can influence the likelihood of disease. As I obtained a broader understanding of the many factors that contribute to health, I find myself asking new questions and wanting to learn more. How can we properly assess a community’s needs and design appropriate solutions? How can an understanding of sociocultural factors be used to heal current patients and prevent new ones? I believe that the answers to these questions and others will come from the Community Health Program at the University of Washington (UW). The year-round lecture series on topics, such as “Health Disparities: An Unequal World's Biggest Challenge,” will allow me to engage closely with faculty and students to work towards developing holistic community-based solutions. Furthermore, the UW PEERS clinic and Friends of UW provide an opportunity to work closely with urban Seattle neighborhoods similar to those I have worked with in Boston. Having connected with a range of Boston families, varying in age, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity, I have improved my sense of self-awareness and cultural sensitivity, attributes I hope to continue developing with the surrounding Seattle community. I am confident that UW and the Community Health Program can further prepare me to be a physician who not only improves the lives of individual patients, but also addresses the needs of entire communities.

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Final Thoughts

Secondary applications will likely be one of the most time-consuming, stressful, and exhausting parts of your application process (the other is the medical school admission interview circuit if you’re fortunate to receive multiple invitations).

Nevertheless, you should give yourself some breaks to recharge so that you never rush submissions for the sake of rolling admissions and sacrifice quality.

Like every other piece of written material you submit, aim not only to answer the prompt, but also to give admissions committees deeper insights into what makes YOU so great for their school specifically.

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Secondary Essay Prompts for the Loma Linda University School of Medicine

Below are the secondary essay prompts for the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in Loma Linda, CA.

2017 – 2018

  1. Describe the extent and source of your knowledge of Loma Linda University School of Medicine (LLUSM). (750 characters max)
    • This is a straightforward question and you should give specifics about the who and the what. Who have you have spoken to about LLUSM and what have they shared? It would be appropriate to name any mentors, faculty members, family friends, current students or residents that you have interacted with. Beyond what they have told you about LLUSM, you could comment on the gestalt tone you noted – their enthusiasm or fondness for the school.
    • If you have learned about LLUSM through visits, classes, videos, or their website, you can say this here. It would also be appropriate to say that you are eager to learn more, especially if you truly don’t know much about LLUSM.
  2. What makes LLUSM particularly attractive to you? (750 characters max)
    • You should be able to talk about a few areas that appeal to you most. Is there something about their curriculum – specific content areas such as public health or end of life communication skills and decision making – or do you like the way they teach or approach teaching? Do they offer interesting opportunities during the 4th year or blocks of time for individualized or tailored experiences? Do you like the focus on care for a certain population (ie. disadvantaged populations)? Do you want this location and why? 
  3. What qualities make you a desirable candidate for admission to LLUSM? (750 characters max)
    • Match some of your interpersonal strengths to their “ideal candidate.” Think about your abilities in the areas of interpersonal and communication skills and also professional behavior. (these are both graduation competencies for medical school and residency) This would be an appropriate place to talk about how your religion, faith or spirituality influences you or has shaped you.
  4. Discuss how your spiritual experience has influenced your life and how you integrate it into your daily life. (750 characters max)
    • This is quite specific. I would recommend giving particulars about your religion, faith or spirituality and your daily/ weekly / monthly practices. It could be as simple as meditation or prayer or more extensive involvement with an organized group. You can also explain the origin of your religion/faith/spirituality (any precipitating events) and subsequent development.
  5.  What experiences in your life would illustrate your perspective on service to others? (750 characters max)
    • This is where you should talk about any service you do from your individual helping of others (taking food to neighbors, cooking for roomates, etc) to larger scale efforts. From these activities, who have you become? What qualities have you internalized that will help in medicine?
  6. As a Christian educational institution the medical curriculum integrates spiritual, ethical, and relational issues from a Christian perspective into the practice of medicine. Weekly chapel services and religion courses are part of this program. Please respond to the above as it relates to your personal educational and career goals. (750 characters max)
    • This prompt seems to be asking you to tell them about your past and current involvement in both services/rituals and religious coursework (either college coursework or more informal course work done through your church – Bible or text studies). You could talk here about the benefits you have experienced through attending chapel or church, or more informal services. And, how these benefits would help you be a more well rounded and healthy medical student. (ie. Self care)
  7. Loma Linda University is a Seventh-day Adventist institution that has lifestyle expectations that include abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs/substances in all forms. In the past year, have you used any of these substances? If so, which one(s)? (250 characters max)
    • This is tricky because this isn’t an answer the admissions committee will be able to check out or vet. As in all application materials, be honest. If appropriate, explain the context where you drank or used drugs (ie to celebrate at a family wedding). If this is not a lifestyle commitment you can truly make, this is not the school for you. I would recommend downloading and reviewing their student handbook, which has extensive information in the introduction and student life sections. 
  8. If accepted to LLUSM, are you willing to abide by the lifestyle policies of Loma Linda University School of Medicine? (250 characters max)
    • Medical school is difficult in the best of circumstances. If this is not an environment you can thrive in, do not say yes and do not submit the secondary.

2016 – 2017

MedEdits advises against using outdated prompts for the current season.

  • Describe the extent and source of your knowledge of Loma Linda University School of Medicine (LLUSM). (750 characters)
  • What makes LLUSM particularly attractive to you? (750 characters)
  • What qualities make you a desirable candidate for admission to LLUSM? (750 characters)
  • Discuss how your spiritual experience has influenced your life and how you integrate it into your daily life. (750 characters)
  • What experiences in your life would illustrate your perspective on service to others? (750 characters)
  • As a Christian educational institution the medical curriculum integrates spiritual, ethical, and relational issues from a Christian perspective into the practice of medicine. Weekly chapel services and religion courses are part of this program. Please respond to the above as it relates to your personal educational and career goals. (750 characters)
  • Loma Linda University is a Seventh-day Adventist institution that has lifestyle expectations that include abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs/substances in all forms. In the past year, have you used any of these substances? If so, which one(s)? (250 characters)
  • If accepted to LLUSM, are you willing to abide by the lifestyle policies of Loma Linda University School of Medicine? (250 characters)
  • Describe your involvement with your religious group: (750 characters)