“At UCSF, our mission is to advance health worldwide, and we are attracting some of the nation’s best and brightest students to help us achieve that goal. One of the reasons our students come to UCSF is to work in a culture of discovery and innovation.”
The feeling that applicants often get from a UCSF interview is that the school is looking for interesting people, not just smart ones. Sure, your MCATs and GPA need to be high, but these are not enough. Just one look at the number of UCSF student-run organizations (at last glance it was 30) and special interest groups (23) makes one wonder if everyone at UCSF has started their own club. It seems that the adcom is looking for (and finding) future leaders. Treat your secondary essay as a chance to show them what you are capable of. Write about an experience when you took the initiative, perhaps to solve a problem, modify a protocol, or organize people to support a cause. Show that you can hold your own in a medical school class filled with strong leaders.
The UCSF Bridges Curriculum emphasizes the “assessment FOR learning” philosophy, which gives students ongoing feedback and guidance to help guide their next steps. This means that students are evaluated not simply with a grade or score, but with constructive feedback that encourages them to improve and learn as a result of the assessment process. They want applicants who can learn in a wide variety of experiences and situations, so think about a time when you learned in an unusual way, or from an unexpected source.
There are seven core competencies in the UCSF curriculum that all students must meet. For electives, they have five Pathways to Learning, of which students select one of the following: Clinical and Translational Research Pathway, Global Health Pathway, Health & Society Pathway, Health Professions Education Pathway, or Molecular Medicine Pathway. If you are interested in one of these pathways, emphasize your activities and experiences that support this. You can demonstrate evidence of your leadership and hard work, but be careful not to overstate your role. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, there is a good chance it will be with someone a world expert in your area of interest.
Given UCSF’s assessment style, you can expect the interview to teach you something. Remember, they are looking for students who can handle feedback and criticism, so they will notice if you get defensive or resist guidance. They might even push you into admitting that you don’t know an answer on a topic you feel comfortable with. Maintain your composure and show an eagerness to learn from the interviewer. To help you do well on your UCSF interview, it is crucial to do mock-interviews with their “assessment for learning” approach in mind. Contact a consultant at Accepted if you’d like to know more about our mock-interview services and guidance.
Here are the UCSF secondary application instructions:
1. Applicants are interviewed by invitation only. Please note that we do not conduct regional interviews. Interviews are scheduled from September to February (days vary). Please let us know if you will be out of the country during the interview season. (300 characters)
Only answer this question if you will be unavailable for a specified time, such as a semester abroad. If yes, briefly states the reason and dates.
2. If you wish to update or expand upon your activities, you may provide additional information below. (500 words)
This is your chance to show the adcom you are someone who will make a significant impact on the medical field. There is no single way to do this, and in fact, they are hoping to find a variety of people. Show them your leadership, problem-solving, creativity, or organizing abilities, and while you’re doing that, make sure to express a healthy degree of humility. Emphasize if you led or inspired others to join you, and how that made the impact of your work greater than if you had tackled it alone. Yes, they want leaders, but they also want people who know how to work with others.
3. If you are a 2017 or earlier college graduate, please use the space below to tell us what you have done since completing your undergraduate degree. (350 words)
Focus this essay on an experience that highlights your active participation. A passive description of shadowing or studying is not going to be enough here. Describe a time when you made a difference to someone or something around you, and show how your actions led you to understand the world in a new way. Strategically bring their attention to your ability to learn in unexpected situations, and how your time after college has made you a better person and a stronger future physician.
If you would like professional guidance with your University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine application materials, check out Accepted’s Medical School Admissions Consulting and Editing Services, which include advising, editing, and interview coaching for UCSF’s application materials.
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
Suzi Schweikert is a former UCSD School of Medicine adcom member who has mentored students in healthcare programs for over 20 years. She has 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!