Duke University’s Medical School is ranked 8th among its peers with a focus on interdisciplinary learning. They aim to use medical research to solve global problems. Duke emphasizes diversity, inclusion, and attention to community health problems. The secondary application questions ask you to consider your role as a physician in global and local communities.
Duke University’s 2018 Secondary Application Essay Questions:
• Applicants should use single-spacing and 12-point font.
• Be sure you do not repeat examples in the different essays.
Secondary Application Essays:
1. Describe the community in which you were nurtured or spent the majority of your early development with respect to its demographics. What core values did you receive and how will these translate into the contributions that you hope to make to your community as a medical student and to your career in medicine? What improvements do you think might make the described community better? (600 words)
This question asks you to look at your own background and examine your values. Make a list of the communities to which you belong and what you have learned from each one. Then, ask yourself how these lessons apply to your motivation to pursue medicine. Finally, step back and look critically at the big picture – how does you community fit into the larger scope of the world? What can you say about your own community with some objective perspective and informed outlook that would improve it?
2. Describe a situation where you have chosen to advocate for someone who is different from yourself. What does advocacy mean to you and how has your advocacy developed? How do you see it linked to your role as a physician/leader? What risks, if any, might be associated with your choice to be an advocate? (600 words)
For this prompt, make a list of times you have either helped someone express his or her needs or obtain a needed service or acknowledgement. The prompt asks for an individual example, but you can also think about an individual you have worked with who represents a broader group of people. This question is asking you to think about your role as a physician-advocate, someone who will represent her patient in the quest to obtain fair and adequate healthcare. The question also addresses Duke’s emphasis on the physician as a member of the community with a duty to improve care for all.
3. What has been your most humbling experience and how will that experience affect your interactions with your peers and patients? (600 words)
This prompt requires that you address an experience where things did not go as planned. You should give an example honestly while avoiding any response that implies you did something illegal or immoral. Your answer should emphasize what you did after this experience – how did you recover? What lesson did you learn? What would you do differently next time?
4. Describe a situation where you failed. What did you learn from the experience? Describe at least one functional impact of the experience. (600 words)
Here, the AdCom wants to know how you accept failure and what you do about it. The failure can be personal or professional (avoid anything immoral or cruel, of course). When you are responding to this kind of prompt, don’t shy away from admitting you have failed or made mistakes, and never write that you haven’t failed. The most important part of the essay is what you learned. Here, avoid trite lessons, like “I learned how to be persistent,” and, instead, really think about the incident in terms of emotional and intellectual growth. These types of questions are trying to get at your resilience and maturity as a person.
Don’t use the same situation as you used for #3.
5. What qualities will you bring to the practice of medicine? (600 words)
This question is asking you to match your personal and professional qualities with those associated with the practice of medicine. Consider times that you have shown empathy, an ability to communicate, teamwork, an appreciation for community, analytical ability and a talent for serving others. Choose 2-3 of those qualities and use specific examples from your personal, professional or academic experience to illustrate how you have displayed those qualities.
The most important part of this essay is the “show don’t tell” concept. Avoid telling the AdCom that you are caring; show that quality by writing about a time when you went above and beyond what was expected. I suggest focusing on moments where you saw something missing and decided to solve a problem proactively or where the stakes were high and you persisted.
6. What role has research had in your preparation for medicine? (250 words)
To answer this question, describe any research experience that you have. Then, explain how your time in the lab relates to your desire to study medicine by linking your work to medical applications and desirable qualities, e.g. the value of trial-and-error, persistence, teamwork, analytical thinking and creativity. The root of this question is your understanding of your research, so be sure to describe it accurately.
If you would like professional guidance with your Duke University School of Medicine application materials, check out Accepted’s Medical School Admissions Consulting and Editing Services, which include advising, editing, and interview coaching for Duke’s application materials.
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***Jessica Pishko graduated with a J.D. from Harvard Law School and received an M.F.A. from Columbia University. She spent two years guiding students through the medical school application process at Columbia’s Postbac Program and teaches writing at all levels. Want Jessica to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• The Ultimate Guide to Secondary Essay Questions from Top Med Schools
• Put the Med School Application Puzzle Together: Advice from Cydney Foote, a podcast episode
• Secondary Application Tips: The Experts Speak