Columbia’s medical school places a high premium on creating physician-leaders who can communicate with their patients and who are positioned to collaborate with other health care professionals in different settings.
Columbia Medical School (Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons) 2022 – 2023 secondary application essay tips
Columbia Medical School secondary application essay #1
Have you previously applied to Medical School? (200 characters)
A simple no is fine. A simple yes might suffice but a positive explanation about what you’ve done since then might reframe a “failed to get accepted” response into a truthful and convincing “ready to get accepted” response. The latter should demonstrate that you had the maturity and conviction to build upon your readiness with an immersion in clinical experiences or research, and community service, since not getting accepted to medical school previously. Or perhaps you excelled in a postbac program or retook and raised your MCAT significantly. Any of these steps would convey, “I’m a better candidate this time around.”
Columbia Medical School secondary essay #2
If you took time off from your undergraduate studies, please briefly summarize your reasons for doing so. (250 words)
There are legitimate reasons why someone might withdraw or choose to not matriculate for a semester or two. Typically, a leave of absence is due to medical issues, injuries, necessary surgeries, a family crisis that needs your presence, and at times, time off to work. Keep your answer straightforward. Explain why you took time off and conclude with how you came back to school ready to resume excellent academic progress and embrace your education.
Columbia Medical School secondary essay #3
Did you work for compensation during college (either during the school year or summers)? How many hours a week did you work? (300 words)
This is another straight-forward question, requiring applicants to choose one of two paths to answer it: yes or no. This is not a trick-question, so do not read into it.
If you worked for compensation, explain what work you did, what it entailed and why you did it. This is not an opportunity to complain, blame, or imply disadvantage. Quite the opposite. This prompt could assist an admissions committee in identifying applicants who have worked for compensation in order to reduce bias against them, because working for compensation out of necessity may result in less volunteer work or fewer (and perhaps more pedestrian) internships. A working parent, for instance, may not be able to travel globally for a public health mission. A twenty-something applicant may have to work for compensation to pay student loans. A first-generation college student may have familial expectations, or need, for financial independence at a younger age than other medical school applicants.
Medical schools seek well-rounded attributes among students accepted for incoming classes, so there is no “right” answer to this question. Tell your truth honestly, and tell it well.
Columbia Medical School secondary essay #4
If you have graduated from college, please briefly summarize what you have done in the interim. (300 words)
If you’ve already graduated from college, you should explain what you were doing over the last year(s) including work and volunteer activities.
Provide details about the level of your responsibilities, what you are learning, how you are impacting the community you are working with and/or how the experience is influencing your life goals as a future physician.
Your answers should convey your engagement with the work that you’re doing, revealing what’s rich in opportunity, growth and learning. Why is this work a very wise way to use your time during a gap year?
Columbia Medical School secondary essay #5
Please describe your most meaningful leadership positions. (300 words)
There are two key words in this prompt. The first key word is “leadership.” Within its multiple definitions, leadership is a word that provides quite a bit of latitude for finding your fit with it.
First look up the word leadership in a good dictionary. Find several different meanings for it. List your experiences (and roles) in the relevant categories of leadership that you have chosen. You may find a connection among your entries within one sub-definition of the word. You may find a connection among your entries across sub-definitions. If you write about leadership from more than one definition, be sure to redefine the word leadership as you transition in your essay to explain another kind of leadership.
This prompt asks you to write to a theme. To stay clear, the definition of leadership you use should be directly stated in the first paragraph. Then, do not evade or sidestep the theme. If you choose to redefine leadership to suit another experience, be sure to redefine leadership positively in your transition. Stay tight and true to your experiences.
Do not replicate an activity description. Do not generalize about the importance of leadership. The importance of physician leadership is made explicit by the prompt already.
The second key word is “positions.” First, the word “position” in the context of this prompt refers to “rank.” Were you the “head” of any paid, volunteer, or student endeavor? Stay true to what you have done in your life. Do not fabricate or exaggerate your responsibility.
This is not a prompt about being a superhero. Leadership is not necessarily about being heroic; you do not need to have saved a sinking ship. Ordinary leadership can stem from personal attributes that in time put you in a key role as a leader because you instilled trust in others, instilled confidence, or empowered a collective value for diversity. Were you ever the self-appointed spokesperson for “good trouble?” How did that turn out?
Also, there is a way to turn a “non-prescribed” leadership role into a leadership story. This leadership story is about suddenly finding yourself having to take the reins. Can you identify a moment when a situation turned – suddenly a supervisor dropped out of a project, or got sick, and your role changed? How did you stand tall in light of new responsibility?
Another note about the second key word, “positions,” is that it is plural. You should have more than one story to tell. The stories you do tell do not need to be cut from the same cloth. You could have another leadership role within a family experience, for instance.
Avoid using this prompt as an opportunity to list everything you have done. Choose two or three moments that you can thread together and tell well. Your tone should be explanatory and insightful about the purpose or impact of your efforts. Did you lead a team in delivering meals to an underserved community? How many meals did your team deliver? How did a leadership decision increase volunteer members or increase the number of people served?
Columbia Medical School secondary essay #6
Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons values diversity in all its forms. How will your background and experiences contribute to this important focus of our institution and inform your future role as a physician? (300 words)
This prompt ties the past to the future. Talk forward about your life.
If you have diverse characteristics in your pedigree, explore them. How will these personal attributes improve the scope of medicine for all? How does this truth assist the mission of Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons? Speak to their mission as your diversity relates to it, and how this is an asset to patient care.
If you don’t see diversity in your pedigree (if you are white, middle-class, straight and male) speak toward a situation when you found yourself less represented, less privileged, and write about what you learned in this instance that has become a core value in your vision as a physician moving forward. What has sensitized you toward a core value of inclusion? What did this experience teach you about marginalization?
Columbia Medical School secondary essay #7
Is there anything else you would like us to know? (400 words)
This prompt is an opportunity to reveal something about yourself that is not otherwise in your application. Do not reiterate or summarize application content or the content of your personal essay. Not everyone will have an “Anything else?” That is okay. If there is nothing further to say, do not pad this prompt, yet do not leave this prompt completely blank.
It appears this prompt is required. There is no disclaimer that says this prompt is optional. So, if you do not have anything else to say, find a simple way to say that.
This prompt is an opportunity to say “and there’s this” – as long as “this” is beyond what is stated in the application thus far. ‘Anything else’ – could be a specific circumstance that highlights a feat beyond the odds. Did you find your birth mother? Did you take the MCAT after a car accident? Did you win the State Spelling Bee? How did you learn to manage a disability? Did you perform CPR on someone at the park?
Others may want to approach this prompt another way. Tell a story about yourself, a situation or anecdote, that circumscribes a core value. As a child, did you get to meet John Lewis? Is there a book by a physician that moved you so deeply it changed your vision of what it means to be a doctor? Have you published poetry? Do you paint abstract impressionism? Are you a concert violinist? Do you run marathons?
Applying to Columbia Medical School? Here are some stats:
Columbia Medical School average MCAT score: 521
Columbia Medical School average GPA: 3.9
Columbia Medical School acceptance rate: 3.6%
U.S. News ranks Columbia #3 for research and #75 for primary care.
You’ve worked so hard to get where you are in life. Now that you’re ready for your next achievement, make sure you know how to present yourself to maximum advantage in your medical school applications. Don’t skip a vital step on your carefully planned path. Click here to check out how Accepted’s experienced, caring consultants can guide you on this fulfilling journey.
Columbia Medical School 2022-2023 application timeline
|AMCAS application due||October 15|
|Secondary applications due||October 22|
|Supporting documents (i.e., secondary application fee, MCAT score and LORs) due||October 29|
|Offers of admission are sent||March|
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
Dr. Mary Mahoney, Ph.D. is the Medical Humanities Director at Elmira College and has over 20 years of experience as an advisor and essay reviewer for med school applicants. She is a tenured English Professor with an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and a PhD in Literature and Writing from the University of Houston. For the last twenty years, Mary has served as a grad school advisor and essay reviewer for med school applicants. Want Mary to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!