The Accepted consultants recently had a productive discussion about the Personal Characteristics Essay from this year’s TMDSAS application. Here’s the prompt:
Learning from others is enhanced in educational settings that include individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Please describe your personal characteristics (background, talents, skills, etc.) or experiences that would add to the educational experience of others.
Is this primarily a diversity question? A question about your unique educational experiences? A combination?
Here’s what Dr. Herman (Flash) Gordon, one of our expert med school consultants, had to say:
“As a med school educator, and former chair of admissions, I see this as a purposeful question. Medical education is changing from the old didactic style to peer-peer education (a subset of “interactive learning”). Typical models are case-based instruction, team learning, and pair-share. For this to be most effective, there needs to be something to learn from your peers. In general, the more diverse your peers, the more you will learn.
“So I see this prompt as trying to elicit how well the candidate will fit into the new model of med ed. It would be good for applicants to describe experience with such educational models and to reflect on what they got out of the experience, as well as what they were able to contribute to others.”
In other words: this is both a diversity essay and something more than that—it’s asking you to think through the ways that your unique background and experiences will help you contribute to an evolving peer-peer education model. Being able to discuss previous experiences in a meaningful way will help you here.
A diversity essay, like any personal essay, can be anxiety-producing for applicants: some people get caught up in telling the stories they think the committee wants to hear (but not putting their own, unique imprint on them), or block their own writing process by convincing themselves that they don’t have an experience worth sharing.
Another member of our med team, Dr. Rebecca Blustein, shared her advice: “It’s worth remembering that your experience doesn’t need to be earth-shattering. You don’t need to have cured cancer or climbed Everest. What it needs to be is meaningful. That means that you’ve thought through what this experience means to you, how it has prepared you for the environment you’ll encounter in med school, and how your unique/diverse perspective will help you contribute.”
As always, if you need help with essay strategy, our experts would be happy to speak with you!
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