“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, personal motivation, integrity and ethics, reliability, research, extracurriculars, and service commitments. They do not require any specific undergraduate courses, but expect applicants to do well in their chosen major.
A hallmark of USC’s training is their innovative Physician-Citizen-Scholar Curriculum, which emphasizes longitudinal integration of content and experiences in health justice, clinical skills, professional identity formation, health systems science, humanities, ethics, economics, art and law, and scholarship. In the first year students are matched with Longitudinal Learning Communities, which continue throughout their four years. Students also 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. Each answer must be 65 words or less.
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: What are three things you don’t care about at all?
The writers got a little creative with this one, so you can have fun with it too. Remember, they are not asking for things you dislike. Think of things you don’t want to waste your energy or headspace on, e.g. time wasters, money wasters, resource wasters, or anything that seems a bit ridiculous or uninteresting to you. Your answers can be humorous, serious, or a little of both. Try not to come across as overly critical (e.g. don’t disparage another person’s taste in music). Your goal is to leave them thinking about you in a positive mindset. It’s okay to explain your answers or, especially if they are funny, let them speak for themselves.
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.
Short answer question #5: Are you a member of a group that is under-represented in medicine? (Y/N)
If yes, which group? How does under-representation affect your community?
Under-represented in medicine is defined by AAMC as “those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population.” Although not in the definition, many would include the LGBTQ+ community in this category. To effectively answer this question, discuss barriers people in your community face when seeking healthcare (financial, cultural, language, others). Have you seen people in your community avoid visiting a doctor, or suffer from preventable illnesses? How will having a physician who understands these barriers improve access to care?
Short answer question #6: Have you previously applied to medical school (M.D. , D.O., international)? (Y/N)
If yes, upon reflection, what do you think went wrong?
Hopefully you got feedback on your first application and made efforts to strengthen it. For example, did you retake the MCAT, do a postbac, get more clinical experience, or start a paid research job? It’s not enough just to say that you did these things. You also want to show how you grew and are stronger as a result of the experience. Hint: Avoid blaming external factors for your rejection (my school did not prepare me enough), and try not to place negative labels on yourself (I was lazy). Instead, show that you are a mature person who is able to acknowledge and learn from setbacks. It is the ability to push forward and improve that they are looking for, not the excuses.
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 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 topic or experience 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 primary or Keck’s applications, 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 be sure to 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: 3.8
Keck School of Medicine acceptance rate: 4%
U.S. News ranks Keck #28 for research and #52 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 2022-23
|AMCAS Application Deadline||November 1st|
|Supplemental Application Deadline||December 1st|
Source: Keck School of Medicine website
***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!
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