With excellent ratings in research and primary care, UPENN’s Perelman School of Medicine is looking for students with strong communication skills who can articulate their motivations to study medicine and serve as community leaders. Providing further information and insight in this secondary application about the reasons why you are motivated to study medicine at UPENN will be important. Even better, if those motivations illuminate character and the way your life goals have shaped you as a person and leader, you will impress the adcom.
To learn more about UPenn Med School, check out our recent podcast interview: Deep Dive Into Penn Perelman School of Medicine With Dr. Neha Vapiwala, Dean for Admissions >>
UPenn Medical School 2022-23 secondary application essays
UPenn Medical School essay #1
Were there changes to your academic work and/or personal circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic that you would like to share with the committee? Y/N
If Y, Please describe these changes during this time in 500 characters or less.
It might be helpful to brainstorm a little before answering this prompt. Other schools categorize the adjustments due to COVID-19 in three ways: personal, professional and educational. Stay factual. You do not have a lot of room here (500 characters or less). Close positively. What did you do to engage the pandemic and help the vulnerable? How did this unprecedented world moment teach you something about being a physician, about population health? How did a pandemic motivate you to get involved in the community in new ways?
UPenn Medical School essay #2
If you were offered an option to continue courses with a standard grading system or switch to Pass/Fail, and you elected Pass/Fail, please describe the reason(s) for your decision here. (500 characters)
Historically in higher education, Pass/Fail is an opportunity for students to explore without consequence a subject matter that is not germane to their degree, or it’s an intervention for an impending poor final grade, which could have a variety of causes. If you chose Pass/Fail during the pandemic, there may be a very reasonable explanation. Also, sometimes, the reason for choosing Pass/Fail for Spring coursework in 2020 has something to do with your college or university’s policies. Don’t over-explain. Don’t be emotional. Just explain the course and the circumstances that made Pass/Fail the right option. If there was institutional precedent to encourage students to choose the Pass/Fail option explain that rationale here. Schools have different circumstances and reasons for the pandemic decisions they made. If you quarantined during Spring 2020 and this influenced your decision to switch to Pass / Fail, explain what is reasonable about having made that decision. Keep it short and clear.
UPenn Medical School essay #3
Have you taken any online courses for credit? (not due to the COVID-19 pandemic)
You should answer this question directly and honestly, giving your grades on the courses. If you took a course online to offset a grade for the same course taken in person at your school because you were unhappy with your performance, please explain what happened, if anything, that influenced your performance without blaming others. If there was a positive reason for taking that online class that had nothing to do with poor performance, tell them that too. Please list all science courses taken online.
UPenn Medical School essay #4
Have you been nominated for or received an award from any state, regional or national organization?
You should answer this question practically, providing the award, an explanation of what the award is for if it is not immediately clear in the award name, the awarding organization, and the year of the award. You need very little story here. State your awards and honors simply, clearly and directly. Don’t pad this answer. No gloating.
UPenn Medical School essay #5
Have you taken or are you planning to take time off between college graduation and medical school matriculation? If so explain in 500 characters or less.
If you have already graduated from college, you should explain what you were doing over the last year(s). If you haven’t yet graduated, you should describe plans for the gap year(s), including positions for which you plan to apply and planned or actual volunteer work.
Staying engaged in clinical activities is key. Building upon your exposure to patient care and research is wise as well. You might travel abroad for a medical mission trip, volunteer, or work in health care for pay. Are you a scribe? An EMT? The gap year experience must be an opportunity to show the admissions committee how practically or imaginatively you utilized this time to engage health care, locally or abroad, or re-engaged academia in a master’s program, to offset a low GPA, to show your commitment to becoming a doctor.
Show that your gap year will be a growth year!
UPenn Medical School essay #6
Have you participated in any global activities outside of the U.S. prior to submitting your AMCAS application? If so, explain in 1,000 characters or less.
For this question, you should respond if you have done any volunteer, paid or academic work outside of the U.S. This would include overseas missions and study abroad programs. For each activity, provide a brief explanation, including the amount of time you were abroad and the general scope of your activities there. This response should be direct and to-the-point. Be sure to provide the name and brief mission of the organization, if that is how you participated in a medical or humanitarian mission. Conclude with what you learned.
UPenn Medical School essay #7
The Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM) is deeply committed to recruiting a diverse class to enrich an inclusive team-based learning experience. How would you and your experiences contribute to the diversity of the student body and/or how would you contribute to an inclusive atmosphere at PSOM? Please explain and limit your response to 1,000 characters.
Please explain an aspect of your identity or culture or upbringing as a valuable contribution to a diverse and inclusive group of medical students, or tell a brief story about how you advocated for someone who experienced bias or discrimination. Witnessing bias or discrimnation and not doing anything about it is not a wise story to tell here. Schools want to see advocacy not solely as an ideal, but as a verb, as an action in the name of inclusivity.
UPenn Medical School essay #8
We are all navigating through challenging times, and physicians and physician-scientists must contend with many instances of uncertainty. Describe a time when you faced a situation that was ambiguous, confusing, or uncertain, and how you navigated making a decision without complete information (3000 characters)
This is a new prompt for UPenn. Uncertainty, in medicine, engages an academic concept from Philosophy called epistemology, or knowing, and is often included in Narrative Medicine curricula. Uncertainty is a concern in the study of epistemology about encounters in human experience where there is a lapse in or absence of explicit evidence. It is a lapse between what we already know about data-driven truths and a lack of information present in what is being assessed, whether communities and cultures, pandemics, the human body, disease or human biology – or the research related to any of these subjects. Uncertainty happens in medicine when health care professionals, in this case, physicians, shift from textbook knowledge of medicine to the practice of medicine. Also, uncertainty happens in medicine when faced with novel situations, take COVID-19, for instance.
Uncertainty enters into the professional experiences of physicians acutely when they begin to practice and will continue through the whole arc of their career. Handling uncertainty is an advanced skill, yet a necessary one, for physicians and scientists.
What does a physician do when they do not have quite enough “truths” related to a patient’s condition and situation? The first step is to identify where the lapse exists. Does the physician need to further educate themself on a topic or call upon another physician who has the specialized knowledge necessary in order to understand what they’re assessing? Or is the topic still rife with opaque mysteries and thereby requires further study and investigation? Or both?
Once the source of the lapse is identified explicitly, a physician makes a decision about what to do under less than ideal circumstances based on pathways including but not limited to improving or finding further medical evidence, improving or employing health information technology such as extracting data from electronic health systems and databases or improving electronic patient notification systems, finding and correcting bias, and developing theoretical approaches to making predictions for a plan to move forward.
In answering this prompt, begin with identifying and defining what was uncertain about a problem you faced. Then explain how you identified the source of the lapse of knowledge. Then explain how you figured out what to do about it, to the best of your ability. Do not feel compelled to make the uncertainty go away. Remember, so much uncertainty in medicine is intricately related to the vital space of research and discovery situated at the demarcation between what we already know and what we do not yet know.
UPenn Medical School essay #9
Do you identify as a first-generation college graduate and/or having a low-income background?
We recognize that the definition of “low income” can vary based on geographic location and size of your household, but there are other factors that may be consistent with low-income, such as having qualified for free/reduced lunch in middle/high school, having received Pell grants or work-study aid during college, having qualified for Medicaid/Social Security benefits, or having attended a high school with low per capita funding or title 1 designation and/or a low percentage of seniors receiving a high school diploma.
If you are not a first-generation college graduate and do not have nor have had a low-income background simply state that.
If your family or school circumstances fit any of the examples, please state which ones and give a little context. For instance, if your public high school was a Title 1 school, a school with at least a 40% low-income population, state that information while providing some facts about the school or school district’s demographics. It’s likely you can find these facts online.
This prompt aims to rectify bias, yet they are not asking for a personal story. They are seeking the facts that are strong indicators that your life, compared to others, likely had more hardship. If your family or school circumstances contain any low-income identifiers, it’s likely U Penn is trying to use this information to help eliminate bias that is not necessarily evident by solely asking for your family income, as they do in another part of the application.
They ask about some indicators of socio-economic disparities to catch any SES ambiguity. For instance, a family of six living in San Francisco may have a higher income than a family of three in Average Town, USA, but they may experience much more economic hardship because the cost of living in San Francisco is exorbitant. Or someone might be from a family whose income is not notably low, but they may have received Medicaid benefits because they were adopted through the county under high-risk circumstances.
Also, feel free to provide any other facts that might point toward disparity in any way, as long as the facts are true, including changes in family circumstances. Sometimes a family falls into hard times, loses an income, suffers the loss of a parent, or a parent became disabled and qualified for social security disability while you were in high school. If you were still a child when any hardship happened, it’s worth mentioning.
UPenn Medical School essay #10
Have you or your family experienced economic hardships? (1000 characters if yes)
If you answer yes to this question, you should briefly explain what those hardships were and how they impacted your journey to medical school (etc. frequent moves, working during school, etc.). If you left and returned to school because of hardship, please explain that here.
This prompt is linked to the #9 in that you can answer this prompt with a story of hardship rather than providing potential evidence of low-income hardship, as you may have done in the previous prompt.
UPenn Medical School essay #11
Have you ever been employed at the University of Pennsylvania Health System or Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and worked with a University of Pennsylvania faculty mentor? If yes, please indicate name, department, phone number of faculty member(s), and start/end dates.
You should answer this question briefly with the information requested.
UPenn Medical School essay #12
Please explain your reasons for applying to the Perelman School of Medicine and limit your response to 1,000 characters.
Since this secondary question requests a short essay, be succinct in your response. Start by doing your research on UPENN; read their mission statement, standards for admission, and basic requirements. Check out the structure and focus of their curriculum.
What excites you about their school? Do you have a connection to their location? Do they offer any special programs or specialties that you are interested in? In what ways are the school’s goals similar to your own? How will Perelman’s faculty, curriculum, or special programs better prepare you for a career in medicine? This is an opportunity to show Perelman that you understand who they are, and how you’re a good fit for them — not just what they can do for you.
Watch: Perelman’s Dean of Admissions debunks common myths about the program
Applying to UPenn Med School? Here are some stats:
UPenn median MCAT score: 522
UPenn Medical School median GPA: 3.95
UPenn Medical School acceptance rate: 8.8%
U.S. News ranks UPenn #6 for research and #20 for primary care.
Has this blog post helped you feel more confident about approaching your UPenn Med School application? We hope so. It’s our mission to help smart, talented applicants like you gain acceptance to your top choice med school. 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!
University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine application timeline [2022-2023]
|Deadline for Early Decision Program applicants to complete AMCAS application||Aug 1|
|Deadline for Early Decision Program applicants to complete AMCAS application||Aug 15|
|Deadline for submitting the AMCAS application||October 15|
|Supplemental application and all required materials (supplemental application, supplemental fee payment, MCAT score, and LORs) are due||November 15|
|Interview Invitations are released||September-January|
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
Dr. Mary Mahoney, Ph.D. is the Medical Humanities Director at Elmira College and has over 20 years of experience as an advisor and essay reviewer for med school applicants. She is a tenured English Professor with an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and a PhD in Literature and Writing from the University of Houston. For the last twenty years, Mary has served as a grad school advisor and essay reviewer for med school applicants. Want Mary to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!