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Tips for Writing a Great Post-Bacc Application Essay

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Ready to apply to a post-bacc program? You may be anxious about the essay (or “personal statement”) aspect of the application, and that’s fine—it’s common for people to feel anxious when asked to write about themselves. It’s even more common to feel anxious when something as important as your chances at a future medical career could be riding on how well you perform.

Understanding what that information is and how to present it can help you nail your personal statement.

Explain Your Motivation for Pursuing a Medical Career

Taking on a post-bacc is an investment in your medical career, but don’t forget that post-bacc programs are investing in you, too. Post-bacc programs are resource-intensive and have limited spots. The admissions committees aim to identify students who are most likely to succeed both at the post-bacc program and beyond.

In your essay, take the time to explain when, how and why you became motivated to become a doctor (or whatever your desired profession may be). Was a relative or friend a medical professional? Were you or a relative treated for a serious condition or injury by a doctor who changed your life? Did you find yourself working in a healthcare-related job and becoming absorbed in the details of the doctors’ jobs? However it got started, describe for the committee what your motivation is (pro tip: leave out your obsession with Grey’s Anatomy and E.R.)

Explain Why You Think You’d Be a Great Doctor

Motivation is the spark for a career in healthcare. Describe personal qualities of yours that you think would help you be a great doctor. These may include:

  • Analytical and problem-solving skills
  • An ability to stay calm and critically think under pressure
  • Stamina—the ability to keep going even after long, intensive hours
  • An ability to relate to many different types of people—especially those who are in distress or confrontational
  • An ability to work within teams of professionals
  • Good listening and communication skills
  • Curiosity about other cultures and different patient needs

When listing your personality traits, try to give a specific example of a time you put them into action.

Explain What You’ve Done So Far on Your Quest to Become a Doctor

Another way to show post-bacc programs you are serious about becoming a doctor is to explain what you’ve already achieved on your journey. Talk about the pre-med courses you loved. Describe any medical shadowing or volunteering you’ve done. Talk about any pre-med student groups you participated in, conferences you attended, books you’ve read or publications you follow—anything that shows drive and passion for the profession.

Describe Specific Aspects of the Post-Bacc That Support Your Goals

You’re applying to a post-bacc because you need additional preparation before you apply to medical school. Make sure you explain what it is about this specific post-bacc that addresses your needs. If you weren’t pre-med as an undergrad and the program is aimed at career changers, mention that and explain why the program appeals to you. If you were pre-med and have specific areas of weakness, discuss how the post-bacc you’re applying to addresses those. Does it offer research experience you don’t have? Does it focus on boosting an applicant’s science GPA?

You may also be interested in a specific medical school linkage program offered by the post-bacc you’re applying to. If so, make sure you understand the terms of this linkage and can explain why you think it would be a good fit for you.

Show That You Take the Post-Bacc Seriously

Even if you are pursuing a post-bacc to boost your GPA, it’s important to remember that they aren’t remedial programs. They’re competitive, intensive academic programs designed to better prepare you for medical school. Post-bacc admissions committees will want to see that you consider gaining admission to their program just as important as gaining admission to medical school.

Nail the Basics

One way to show that you take the post-bacc seriously is to take writing the essay seriously. Make sure you address everything the post-bacc admissions committee asks for in their essay prompt and stick to their suggested word or page count.

Also take time to follow a few guidelines for clear, compelling writing. These include:

  • Getting rid of passive voice (for example, writing “I enjoyed volunteering with veterans most,” instead of “Volunteering with veterans was most enjoyable.”)
  • Using correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Your word processor’s spelling and grammar checkers won’t catch everything. Invest in membership to one of the major style guides (AP Stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style, APA Style Guide) and check your work against it.
  • Cutting out “fluff” words such as “very”, “really”, “quite” and most adverbs ending in -ly.

Most importantly, don’t leave writing your essay until the last minute! You’ll want to spend at least a weekend writing your essay. Leaving a few hours between the first draft and your next edit can help you return to the writing fresh. Leaving enough time for at least three edits gives you time to polish your essay and make it shine.

Polishing Your Essay Off

To finish off editing your essay, there are two final steps you should consider:

Send it to a friend. Ask one of your friends who’s a strong writer to look over your essay. Research shows that it’s difficult for people to proofread their own writing. Having a second set of eyes on your essay means someone else will spot your typo before the admissions committee does.

Read it out loud. Reading your essay out loud is a great way to check your writing. When reading, it’s common to come across words which repeat too often and jargon words. A strong essay read aloud should sound like natural, if polished and prepared, speech. If you finish your read-through thinking, “I’d accept this candidate,” you’re on the right track. Good luck!

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