By: Ryan Kelly
Writing secondary essays is a daunting project for any pre-med, but what if all your schools required you to submit a video project instead?
Thankfully (for you), there’s only one medical school that makes such a strange request: Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine in New Mexico.
Here’s how Burrell worded its prompt last application cycle:
“Please provide us with a video of no more than two minutes duration that will help us understand you better. Alternatively, you may provide a written statement of no more than 500 words showing why you think BCOM is the perfect place for you and what qualities you feel you would bring to BCOM that would help develop and foster the climate of our school or submit a physical exhibit (art piece, published research, etc.) to the BCOM Admissions Office.”
What sets BCOM apart:
(taken from the school’s official website)
A philosophy of partnering with students to fulfill the college’s mission of improving healthcare para la gente y el futuro: for the people and the future.
Clinical affiliations with large medical centers in Chihuahua, Mexico for students desiring elective experience south of the border, including clerkships and residency components.
A unique public-private partnership that maximizes the value of both governance models, while minimizing potential disadvantages.
Unsurprisingly, BCOM’s prompt tends to baffle pre-meds. But we’re here to clear the air and help guide your amateur video production:
Tips for Burrell’s Secondary Video Essay
Tip #1 - Illustrate Your Commitment to the Underserved
One of the primary goals for Burrell Institute for Health Policy & Research is to “improve understanding of health risk behaviors and personal health care choices, with special focus on minority and disadvantaged populations, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Border residents.”
If you have direct experience with these populations, especially in proximity to the Mexican border, it’s certainly worthwhile to show Burrell this aspect of your background. It would seem wise to alternate between a closeup of your face and footage from the experience/location. You could also do a slideshow or montage of clips with your voiceover in the background.
Here’s a good example:
Tip #2 - Show Your Humble Beginnings
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor” and “I come from a long line of physicians” are bad cliches that should be avoided in your medical school application, but they’re particularly inappropriate for the Burrell secondary. This is not the time or place to highlight your privilege.
Instead, focus on the aspects of your background that represent hard work and sacrifice. Do you come from a middle-class family? Have you ever worked a manual labor job? Did you attend school in a poor or underserved district?
Obviously, you can’t change where you come from or what your parents do for a living. But at the very least, you can choose to emphasize the events and roles you’ve experienced that have humbled you the most.
Here’s a good example:
Tip #3 - Highlight Your Diversity
You don’t have to come from a diverse background to attend Burrell, but it can certainly give your application more credence in the eyes of the admissions committee.
It’s attractive for them to accept candidates who understand the struggles of the disadvantaged or marginalized. It’s worthwhile to share information about your family background, your bilingualism, or extensive cultural exposure.
The example below does a great job of highlighting diversity without being exploitive or overblown:
Tip #4 - Let Others Do the Talking
There’s a reason why medical schools request letters of recommendation; they show that other people are willing to speak on your behalf about your best qualities.
There’s no reason why your Burrell secondary video can’t accomplish the same thing. Even though it’s only two minutes long, you can probably afford to squeeze in a few testimonials from people who are familiar with your work and character.
It’s especially effective if the testimonials are given by people outside of your family and friends. Perhaps an underserved patient that you’ve regularly assisted, or a doctor you’ve worked alongside during your volunteering.
This strategy removes some of the burden that comes with marketing yourself, and it’s a great way to highlight your strengths and impact without sounding braggy:
Tip #5 - Use Humor (Carefully)
Check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YTa_przUoQ
Did you laugh? Good! Did you also get a sense of the candidate’s strengths and best qualities? Check! That’s the big lesson here. Humor is a powerful tool, but it can’t be used at the expense of substance.
Notice how this candidate frontloads his personality through the humorous skits, and then backloads his credentials to leave a dominant impression.
He’s also the only person we’ve seen who has thanked Burrell for making the secondary application process fun. It’s a smart move, since you can clearly tell he enjoyed the process. It’s a nice, subtle hint that he’d be a good fit at Burrell.
We hope these tips are useful when filming your own video for Burrell. If you heed our advice and incorporate our tips, they’re guaranteed to elevate your application and impress the admissions committee! Good luck!