Podcast Episodes

Podcast 68: Applying to BS/MD


Yash and Shree are back to share more of their BSMD knowledge. This episode focuses on applying to BSMD programs, giving insight into what to keep in mind when writing essays. We also hear about the writing processes that Yash and Shree went through and learn some tips from them.

[0:55] Essays for BSMD.

These essays are fundamentally different from any other ones you will write. They are asking for a specific answer to a specific question. The question is “why do you want to pursue medicine?” You must convince the committee that at such a young age, you know for sure that you want to take this path.

[5:06] Yash and Shree’s essay writing processes.

Yash started with a very rough draft. Even though it was far from perfect, it was a very important step because it simply helped him get started. He later made his own outline.

Shree continually thought about what the committee would want to see, which stopped him from putting his own experiences on paper. Once he got over this, ideas started flying. He has learned that the essay should be very personal.

Both students agree that having your essay read over by many people is necessary. Ideas may be clear to you when you write them down, but they may be confusing for others.

[13:25] Types of essays.

There can be multiple essays for each school. They can ask why you chose medicine or why you chose this school, and common application essays are possible as well. Yash wanted to demonstrate that he had a curiosity for science and liked helping people. It’s also good to add in any personal connections that draw you to medicine.

[20:08] Technicalities of writing.

You don’t have to be a stellar writer, but Shree says that showing, not telling, can make your essay stand out. Deeply describe how you felt in a situation instead of using general adjectives.

[23:01] Conclusion.

The most important takeaway is to make the essays your own. They will stand out if they are truly personalized.


Full Episode Transcription

[00:00:00.930] Welcome to the Prospective Doctor podcast brought to you by MedSchoolCoach. Each week we cover topics related to the pre-med journey to medical school and beyond. From the MCAT to completing your application, and from starting medical school to choosing a specialty. Our podcast will provide essential information for anyone contemplating a career in medicine.

[00:00:20.790] Welcome back to the Prospective Doctor podcast. This is Yash and Shree. If you remember last time we talked about BS/MB programs. That’s the series that we’re doing here at Prospective Doctor, and we wanted to kind of do three or four or even more episodes about how we got involved in BS/MD programs and what they are. So last episode was about the search in terms of how do you narrow down which programs to apply to. Now that we’ve covered that we wanted to talk about how you apply in terms of the nitty gritty stuff and the first part of the application that we’re going to talk about is arguably the most important in my opinion and that’s the essay.

[00:01:02.130] And in terms of the essay there are multiple essays that you have to write. But first we’re gonna start off with what goes into a good college application essay and a BS/MD application essay and then we’re going to talk about the technicalities in terms of how many do you have. So Yash do you want to start it off in terms of what exactly do you have to look for in a BS/MD applicant’s essay and why is it important.

[00:01:27.870] Yeah for sure. So I think one of the biggest like most important things is that these essays are fundamentally different from any of the other essays you’re going to write during your college application process. Sure you might be writing lots of different supplementals and you might be writing lots of different college so specific essays, but the essay for why medicine that most of these BS/MD programs require is just going to be different in the sense that they’re asking for a specific answer to a specific question.

[00:02:04.420] Now obviously this answer is different for everyone. The question is why do you want to pursue medicine and more than that it’s you know convince us that at this young age you know for sure that you want to pursue medicine. That’s really what they’re looking for. And so I think at least for me I felt like this was a very different essay from the other stuff that I was writing. I really had to take some time to think about it and separate myself from the other essays I was writing because it’s hard to think about this in the same lens that you’d think of your other essays.

[00:02:38.640] The other thing about these essays is that it’s really the only look at these schools get at you before they obviously interview you as to your passion for medicine or why you want to do medicine.

[00:02:50.760] So it’s really their only way of getting to know your story before they make some decisions, at least some preliminary decisions, which would be a great to way express yourself and a great way to get your story out there. Yeah what did you think Shree about that just in terms of how to look at the essay when you’re getting into it or evaluating it?

[00:03:10.740] I think that at least before even talking about the process of looking at an essay. What really scared me about that part of the application is that that was a most variable part of the application and that’s the most chance that you get to show your own character. Everything else on your application is kind of set in stone by the time you get to the phase of actually writing your application all the activities that you’ve done so you’ve kind of mulled them over for a long time. But with the essay I was just afraid of not getting it right the first time and I think that’s a really bad way of just thinking about the essay in general.

[00:03:50.100] It’s not this like one stop shop like you have time to revise and resubmit and that’s why it takes like two to three months to even get to a finished product. Like I can’t tell you how many drafts I’ve made of my college application essay and going through each iteration with the people who are proofreading it definitely helped me tone down that story you were talking about so I just want to make that point clear just before you moved on to what to put in the essay.

[00:04:17.190] Yeah exactly. I think that’s a great point right. That it can seem a kind of a daunting aspect. Like I think I mentioned this earlier that like you know convince me like why at the age of 18 or 17, 16 maybe, you think you’re set for a career in medicine. That can seem pretty overwhelming and daunting. But I think what I experience that I think what you are getting to is the process of writing this essay can A) actually help you understand that better for yourself and B) the sequential draft versus drafts and then also consulting with different people and getting help and having people help you revise it can help you kind of get to that more finalized essay too. So it’s not something to kind of be too worried or afraid of it’s just something that I think you have to know you have to look at all but differently.

[00:05:04.620] Right. Right exactly. And speaking of which you have to do differently. Do you want to talk a little bit about what planning that you did in order to get to your final product in terms of how you thought about like the story that you finally put to paper when you were planning.

[00:05:24.440] Yeah for sure. So first kind of looked at the essay. I did a very rough first draft and honestly that draft was probably terrible. I think I might still have it somewhere but for starters I was well above the word limit. All these essays are going to have anywhere from four to five hundred word limits on it. And I think I was probably like a thousand and when I wrote my first one. I just kind of went into it, I tried writing something about like my first experiences in medicine and then wrote more about I kind of went chronologically throughout the course of my life and different medical experiences that had tried connecting them to each other. I thought that would be the best way to do it. And I just spent a lot of time using describing different events in my life and such and ended up like what I thought was you know a good essay to read maybe something interesting but definitely not a good like “why medicine” essay I was just too much information with not actual with nothing like really actually deliverable. There are some parts to use or not as a whole it wasn’t what what should be submitted so but I think that step is very important for me even though it didn’t end up being anywhere close to my final draft just kind of writing all my thoughts down in some prose like really helped me just get started. Just have something to go off of. I don’t know if you use a different method. I know it like some some people use outlines and stuff like that and I just kind of decided to go for it and then I made an outline after that. What did you do when you were planning, Shree?

[00:07:00.890] Yeah. So I think that that’s like a perfect segue way in terms of like what I did and when I came into the process. So I was really kind of confused in terms of what exactly a college application looked like. So I kind of asked around in terms of like teachers and stuff just to get an idea because they read so many applications like they would kind of have a vein and they all give me the same advice which was don’t take anyone else’s advice and kind of do your own thing. I was too busy just thinking about what would the person across the table reading my essay want to see that I didn’t get to put my own experiences onto paper so once I got that idea out of my head the ideas flew way faster in terms of out of my head onto paper.

[00:07:49.460] And I think that that’s like the biggest advice that I have in terms of crafting a good story. It has to be very personable and since you’ve lived it you should always tell the truth in terms of like how you experienced it because it’s your truth. And that’s like what you should portray on this application. Now that being said like obviously there are some facets that you may need to kind of drag on that may not have like felt that way in the moment but like in order to tell a good story that shows your character, I think that you may need to kind of dwell on some moments more than others if that makes sense.

[00:08:28.010] Yeah I definitely understand what you’re trying to say. I think like it’s important to be telling an authentic true story that you’ve experienced. But the process of writing the essay you’ll be able to understand like which moments and which parts that you need to emphasize which may have not felt as emphasized or as important when you were living it is that kind of what you meant?

[00:08:50.570] Yeah exactly that’s what I meant. And I think so I chose to write about one experience that I had when I was volunteering at a nursing home. And I think that the day to day minutia may not have seemed like a story when I was living in it but then when I kinda was removed from the experience and I was sitting at my computer and writing it, I was like “wow,” like all of these experience really point to a common arc in terms of a story and that’s like I really like helping people and kind of move putting all those experiences that I’ve had and into like one linked story at the end I was like, Wow, I feel like I’ve had all of this, but as you mentioned it was like way over the word limit at first and I had I had to call down the important moments that I could kind of have to portray some other aspect of my life in terms of my own character.

[00:09:39.950] Yeah I think that’s actually a great segway for what I wanted to say next which is the importance of showing that you mean something by telling stories about stuff that you did. Like you mentioned that your experiences volunteering. I think that’s a great example of you know you have this feeling that I like helping people, I want to go into medicine, I want to help people, but you need to illustrate that you really mean that it’s something that you’ve learned doing and not just through thinking about and saying right. And that that in itself is in conflict when you’re trying to tell us through a story or an essay. At least for me, I felt like it was kind of weird like I’m basically like I thought like I have to write a story I had to tell someone something I have to tell someone something through the lens of me like experiencing and doing things which seems counterintuitive sometimes and balancing that is very important.

[00:10:38.870] The other part of that is that you also have to balance you know telling your life story really which is what this is while also telling important stuff about yourself and things that you’ve done. And that’s just like this juxtaposition of you know how you feel like that what drives you balanced with your experiences and stuff that you’ve done in your life so far.

[00:11:04.570] Right. Right. And a lot of the times when I get asked about oh how should I plan my essays by people who are trying to apply to be assembly program and they’re looking for a cookie cutter response in terms of Paragraph One say this, Paragraph Two, say that – it’s really not like that just because having a narrative flow to your story after hundreds of applications of the same print out of their resumé basically admissions officers are looking for someone fresh someone new and just telling your own experience is it’s something unique and I think that that’s just the point that I want to impress.

[00:11:44.000] And the second point that I wanted to kind of say from your experiences of like writing and getting to this story is that your experiences may seem clear to you when you write it but other people when they read it they may say this is not clear or this doesn’t really make sense to me. And I’ve definitely gotten a lot of that. So my other advice would be have a lot of people look over it, and diverse people too. So not just your parents or your friends but also your teachers your guidance counselor, anyone who has a hand in terms of having read essays before and having a good idea of what a good essay looks like.

[00:12:21.340] I 100 percent agree with that. Their input, just fresh eyes in general, can mean so much. You’re laboring over writing something and not just the you know any kind of essay like this to a different perspective can mean so much in terms of the final product. I think that’s a great point. In terms of what you’re talking about with writing about your experiences and stuff like that and how there’s no really cookie cutter way to go about this. I think that’s also a very important point to stress.

[00:12:51.890] If there was like you know a formula as to how this “why medicine” essay should go everyone would be just writing the same “why medicine” essays and you know theoretically they could all be the same that I’m getting into med school right. That’s just not the case. That is I think these counselors, the admissions people, are really looking for unique perspectives and that’s where like your life story and what you’re what you’re saying apart from the experiences is really going to matter and how you deliver your story is also going to matter.

[00:13:24.950] Right. Right. And I think that delivering your story is like a good segway to talk about what you should stress in terms of your essay. I know you said there’s no cookie cutter thing but there are definitely application tips that we could give in terms of what was in our essays. So as I mentioned before I talked about a volunteer experience that was very clinical but it doesn’t necessarily have to be clinical it could be a research realization. It could be something that kind of talks to your ability of succeeding in med school and there are different essays that you have to write.

[00:14:00.410] Some schools have more than others. I remember for my BS/MD program it was just a common application essay, but there are multiple essays for each med school and you really have to keep on top of the deadlines for each one. I know we talked about that in the previous episode but it also applies very heavily to essays just because there are more than one application. There’s one for the undergrad college and there may also be one for the medical school and both of them have essays of their own. So there’s definitely going to be a “why medicine” essay for example there’s going to be a “why our school” essay and there’s obviously going to be the common application essay.

[00:14:38.660] So between those three you have three major essays that probably each school will want and they may not be they may be in some variation of that. They may be short answer or they may be a full-on essay but obviously they each have their word limits and their true response. So you have to kind of craft a story that fits in that word limit.

[00:15:00.380] Definitely agree. Yeah earlier when I said there’s no cookie cutter way to go about this. And you said Paragraph One is this, Paragraph Two is this. That is true. But that being said like you said there are some parts that you have to include in these essays. Yeah I’m glad you mentioned that. I think I’ve been talking mainly about the “why medicine” essay but I’m glad you mentioned that you know there are these other essays too that are going to be a part of your application. Typically these are essays that you would probably have to complete even if you weren’t applying a combined programs like supplemental essays and stuff.

[00:15:34.460] As far as the “why medicine” essay goes and what stuff you have to include. We could talk a little bit about some of the key components but just know that for a more detailed kind of explanations and kind of lists of what things you should be thinking about and stuff to include in the essay in the “why medicine” essay specifically MedSchoolCoach has some great resources online that might be able to help with that.

[00:16:00.620] When I was writing that essay, loosely I was not not in any particular order, stuff I was thinking about as I wanted to illustrate that A) I had a curiosity and passion for science. B) I liked helping people write a lot of like experiences and working with other people and helping people and that’s what I wanted to do. And then the last part was I wanted to talk about the stuff that I’d done throughout high school that led me to believe that. The synthesis of these three main kind of ideals is what led to my essay. Obviously there’s more to it than that but I think it’s a good place to start.

[00:16:38.780] I guess a fourth part that you could include is a personal kind of connection if you have any kind of personal reasons for why medicine is the path you’ve chosen.

[00:16:50.320] Right. And I just wanted to add a little bit onto what you said and I think that two resources that we didn’t mention were first reading a lot of essays that your school may have in terms of they may have solicited upper-classmen who got into good schools or good universities and they kind of may have an example for you to look at in terms of what does a good essay look like.

[00:17:17.020] And a lot of the times you may even have a direct connection to upper-classmen in college or in high school that have successfully applied that you know and then they can give you a good idea of how the school looks like. If there’s one thing that I want to emphasize is the research aspect definitely. This is a school that you’re probably going to spend three plus, four plus years at and you’re definitely going to want to look into what kind of classes are offered there? How is a social life like? These things are important for the search obviously but they can also be very valuable to the research for your essays because for example if you’re applying to maybe a small school in the Midwest maybe don’t talk about how you like to go out with friends to a big city because there may not be a big city around. School admissions officers look for that because they’re like oh do this person just copy/paste from a bigger school and do they really want to come here.

[00:18:17.920] So it may seem that you’re not really doing due diligence when you’re writing these essays. And then the second thing that I wanted to say and you were definitely right about talking about like what you put in your essays, Yosh, because I think that you always have to relate it back to you. If I if I talk about the experiences is a nursing home for example and I didn’t related back to me and I just talked about the residents and how the residents were so helpful they’re like then maybe we should admit them and not you. So I think that just another point to mention is just like you should definitely relate it back to you.

[00:18:53.530] I think that’s a good example right. You want to tell a story but make sure that story is about you and you’re the main character in the story. I think those are some really points research-wise, looking into the school, connecting with people who have gone through this all key parts. I definitely would emphasize the part about not copy/pasting and making sure that your essays are tailored to each school. Obviously once you make one core essay that you finalized for “why medicine” specifically, you’re going to be able to use a lot of that for your other essays and we’re not saying that you can’t copy/paste like anything. I think like college application process, if you apply to a lot of schools, anyone will tell you that you’re kind of able to use some essays multiple times with some customization obviously right. But that customization is key, that’s what is important I think making those silly mistakes like you mentioned about applying to a small midwestern school and having something in there about a big city, that’s just that’s just something that’s going to immediately take you out of the running. So that’s something to pay attention to.

[00:20:08.710] One more thing that I did want to mention is the technicalities of writing. You don’t have to be a stellar writer in terms of you don’t have to practice writing but some things can kind of make your essay stand out. And that’s like definitely showing, not telling. If you use all your five senses. I know a lot of English teachers just stress that but I just want to stress it again in terms of your college application essay because it just like how did you feel in that moment.

[00:20:37.060] Like in the moment that you’re talking about maybe you’re feeling really nervous right. Like so a good way to kind of talk about that nervousness is just like how did you see the crowd maybe like if you’re giving a speech and debate. How did you see the crowd like how did like your blood was pumping. The energy was like uncontrollable. It’s just like the environment. How did you describe that environment. Think about it that way rather than just saying like oh I was really nervous when I stepped up to give the speech because that’s just like that’s a given right. Like everyone’s gonna be nervous when they’re speaking in front of public. But you really want to paint a picture of like how you felt during that moment.

[00:21:21.150] I think it’s really important to write. I had a sentence. I was trying to say something about the first time that I shadowed a surgeon and I think when I first wrote it I literally just wrote like I had the opportunity to see my first surgery and it was awesome or something. Not obviously not like that but something like that where I was just telling the fact that I did that. And then the final product was actually something about me explaining the emotions that I was feeling while I was watching that surgery which is it seems like it’s the same thing but it’s actually completely different. I can deliver a much better depiction of not only like what you did but also like how you felt and what that meant to you. So simple like a different way of going about the same thing different way of going about the same thing can make a huge difference.

[00:22:11.940] Exactly. Exactly. And I think that that is a great place to look kind of conclude it. We talked about a little bit about like what we should think about when you’re like applying in terms of the research component then like how you should think about structuring your “why medicine” essay which is definitely by far the most important essay and definitely what you’re going to be using to talk about in the interview. And then finally we concluded with the kind of the nitty gritty stuff with the technicalities of how you should write this essay and definitely if you were looking for like one stop shop to describe your life we can’t really do that because we don’t know who is listening to this and you’re the best person to kind of distill your life experiences into one essay but with the tools recorded in this podcast I think you should definitely be at a very very good point.

[00:23:00.780] I agree. I think if I had one take home thing I wanted to give out of this it would be make it your own. Everyone kind of goes looking for a rubric or outline or something. Make your own outline. Like I said there are some key parts that you have to include and there’s some key things to be thinking about. Make everything personalized and relate it back to your story and you want to mention your expenses et cetera et cetera. Everyone knows these things and there’s ample resources available for these things but I think the key part like what I think is important what’s going to make essays stand out and honestly I think admissions councilors can sense this. It’s when it’s authentic and truly yourself and you kind of make it go your own way about it and you make it personalized. For me at least the most important part about this process.

[00:23:52.500] Yeah yeah. Thanks Yosh. I think that that’s a great place to conclude. This has been part two of the BS/MD series that we’re doing and just as a concluding statement I think that it’s really comes down to your own story. We’ve kind of repeated that multiple times but it’s just a take home message and the next episode we’re probably going to be talking about the next part of the process in terms of we talked about the application, we talked about a search, and now we’re going to be talking about when you actually get there. What do you say. And that’s the interview.

[00:24:25.820] So catch us next time on the Prospective Doctors podcast and if you need any more information we’ll be sure to include our contact information in the show notes so definitely check those out. Thanks and have a great day.

[00:24:39.130] Our mission is to inspire encourage and inform students as your journey through a rigorous and intricate process of achieving your dreams in medicine. Visit us a ProspectiveDoctor.com and MedSchoolCoach.com for more essential resources in your medical school journey and beyond.

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