“For more than a century, the doctors of the Keck School of Medicine of USC have cared for those of us who are most vulnerable. We accomplish this through excellence in research, clinical care and education.”
The Keck School of Medicine of USC is one of the largest teaching centers in the United States, with approximately 186 spots per year. Students rotate through Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Keck Hospital of USC, and Norris Cancer Center.
The admissions committee evaluates applicants on academics, as well as personal motivation, integrity and ethics, reliability, research experience, extracurriculars, and service commitments. They do not require any specific undergraduate courses, but state that they expect applicants to do well in their chosen major. A hallmark of the first year is the Introduction to Clinical Medicine course, in which students can choose to participate in a Longitudinal Primary Care Community Clinical Experience. Students are required to complete a Required Scholarly Project in bench or clinical research, by the end of their four years.
Keck SOM of USC secondary application essay questions:
The questions on the Keck secondary are some of the most unique ones out there, and show Keck’s desire to look behind the numbers and see the individual.
Keck SOM short answer questions
The following questions allow the Admissions Committee to become acquainted with you as an individual. Please answer the questions in 3-5 sentences.
Short answer question #1: What is the most fun you’ve had lately?
Think of a time when you felt yourself living in the moment. It does not have to be a medicine-related activity, which might seem too forced. Good examples are being with a favorite person, having a conversation on a topic you care deeply about, or doing an exciting activity for the first time. It’s a chance to reveal your adventurous, fun-loving, or human side. If you write about travel or sports, think of something unique about that moment that made it special to you. I like to approach this essay by having clients write an entire page, and then look back to see which sentences speak most about who they are at their core.
Short answer question #2: If you had to give yourself a nickname, what would it be?
Think of this question as an opportunity to highlight a personal strength. Are you a great listener? Name yourself after something with big ears. Are you a fun teacher? Think of a professor from literature or the movies. What trait do you have that would be there regardless of your desire to pursue medicine? Remember, there are many different personalities and qualities of excellent doctors, so there is no one way to answer this. Your answer can be serious, but a touch of humor always helps.
Short answer question #3: If you had enormous wealth, how would you allocate your charitable donations?
The hardest part of this question is answering in only 3-5 sentences! There are many ways to donate money, but only a few of them speak to who you are, so avoid reciting a laundry list of worthwhile charities. Think of a person in your life with challenges, and a charity that would benefit them. Or maybe you volunteer for a group that does good work, but needs more funding. The “why” of this question tells us who you are, so choose a cause, briefly describe it, and use the majority of the space to tell us why you selected it. This question is designed to let you share your compassionate side.
Short answer question #4: Describe a situation in which you didn’t get something you felt you deserved.
The challenge of this question is to avoid complaining. The key is to show that you have resilience, self-insight and an ability to grow. Think of an unfair thing that happened to you, and then describe how you pushed on (resilience), learned something new about yourself (self-insight), and wound up better off for having had the experience (ability to grow). Most importantly, show that you can recover from setbacks and move forward on a new path.
Keck SOM essay question #1
What do you see as the physician’s role in Public Health?
Please answer the question in 150 words or less.
If physicians only saw patients who walk into their office or ER, but did not share their clinical knowledge with policy makers and program developers, what would happen? Whether your interest is in infectious disease, chronic illness, mental health, injury prevention, health education, or other disciplines, discuss ways in which physicians can have a greater impact. This is not a one size fits all. Ways to contribute might include advocacy, research, education, teaching, and many others. With only 150 words, briefly state your main point, then give 1-2 examples of how you think physicians can and should play a role.
150 words is 1-2 paragraphs. You need to be very succinct.
To give you an idea of length, the tip for Essay Question #2 (Optional) is 217 words.
Keck SOM essay question #2 (Optional)
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
If yes, please answer the question in 200 words or less.
To answer, or not to answer, that is the question! Many successful applicants leave the optional essay blank, so don’t worry if you think your application is stronger without it. However, if you feel like there is an important issue you did not get to write about, such as achievements in research, leadership, volunteer work, or something else unique about you that was not described in your PS, go for it! They are basically saying, we know we didn’t ask everything, so go ahead and tell us. This is a great place to tell them that Keck is one of your top choices, but only if you can support your claim (you have strong family connections to the area, you speak fluent Spanish, or you hope to work in a specific research lab). You might discuss your desire to take advantage of a unique Keck program (e.g. the Longitudinal Primary Care Community Clinical Experience). Whatever you write about, make sure it is supported by the rest of your application. To make your essay stronger, limit it to one subject. A list of unrelated facts will confuse and bore the reader. You want to leave them with an impression of what makes you interesting and special, so stay on topic and conclude with a message they will remember.
Applying to Keck? Here are some stats:
Keck School of Medicine average MCAT score: 517
Keck School of Medicine average GPA: 3.76
Keck School of Medicine acceptance rate: 4.5%
U.S. News ranks Keck #29 for research and #46 for primary care.
Has this blog post helped you feel more confident about approaching your USC Keck application? We hope so. It’s our mission to help smart, talented applicants like you gain acceptance to your target schools. With so much at stake, why not hire a consultant whose expertise and personalized guidance can help you make your dream come true? We have several flexible consulting options—click here to get started today!
Keck School of Medicine application timeline 2021-22
|AMCAS Application Deadline||November 1st|
|Supplemental Application Deadline||December 1st|
Source: Keck School of Medicine website
*Strong recommendation: Submit your secondaries within two weeks after receipt.
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***Dr. Suzi Schweikert has served on the UCSD School of Medicine’s admissions committee, and has mentored students in healthcare programs for over 20 years. She holds a BA in English Lit from UCLA, an MD from UCSD, and an MPH from SDSU. Want Suzi to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch with Dr. Suzi Schweikert.
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- School-Specific Secondary Essay Tips