May 13, 2019

A Guide to the University of Michigan Medical School’s (UMMS) Secondary Essays

via Wikimedia Commons

“The only constant is change.” You’re probably familiar with this phrase, but you probably don’t know how it relates to the University of Michigan Medical School.

Turns out UMMS is all about change.

When you check out the school’s mission, it’s abundantly clear that UMMS is looking for visionaries with big ideas and “change agents” in society.

The school even lists five compelling reasons they’re so concerned with change:

  1. Our discipline is growing exponentially with regard to knowledge, skills, and attributes – far exceeding what could be covered within the confines of a medical school curriculum.
  2. Medical education programs are structured in serial silos; yet development must be integrated and longitudinal.
  3. Assessment tools are inadequate and incomplete with regard to what students will be expected to do.
  4. The intensity of the practice environment and its associated requirements are disconnecting our instructors and assessors from our learners.
  5. Society is asking for a different kind of health system and health practitioner.



Global REACH Program and Global Health Disparities Path of Excellence

Interprofessional Clinical Experience (ICE)

Creating Adventurous and Mindful Physicians (CAMP)

The “Impact” Curriculum and the Capstone for Impact (CFI)

Geriatrics Center and Institute of Gerontology

Besides change, the school also promotes the dual goals of “Excellence and Impact.”

University of Michigan secondaries

University of Michigan secondaries

So, you want your secondary essays for UMMS to show you as a changemaker who can improve communities and systems you’re a part of. It would also be wise to show yourself as someone with BIG ideas who can also apply BIG follow-through to get the job done.

Let’s look at the three prompts for UMMS specifically so you know how to tackle them:


1500 characters max for each.

1. Choose one of the following areas in which you have interest (biological and biomedical sciences, entrepreneurial medicine, and public health). Comment on how you would hope to impact medicine in this area.

Hopefully, your experiences have clear synergy with one of these areas. For some candidates, this area of mini-expertise might have been the focus of their general diversity essay, which would be especially convenient. If that’s the case, use your diversity essay here and your challenge essay for Michigan’s second prompt.

If not, you’ll need to repurpose an essay about research, leadership, or community involvement (to match with the three areas of interest respectively), or write an original essay to explain this interest. Make sure to spend some time illustrating your involvement through anecdotes and examples before declaring your area of interest (show first, tell later).

Don’t forget to include a future projection to how you might influence medicine through this area of interest. But it’s okay if you cover your goals in only 2-3 sentences. Showing why you have those goals is more important.

2. At the University of Michigan Medical School, we are committed to building a superb educational community with students of diverse talents, experiences, opinions, and backgrounds. What would you as an individual bring to our medical school community?

Depending on the candidate, this essay could draw upon past answers to the common challenge or diversity prompts.

If you’re stuck, here are some other ways to ask the question:

  • How are you going to make their campus a more interesting place?
  • Have you ever had an unusual job? Did you major in something unique? What makes you different from other pre-meds?
  • Pretend you’re in a conversation with your future medical school classmates about the state of healthcare in the United States. What point of view could you contribute to that conversation?

This prompt also has opportunities for “Why Our School” elements. Ideally, you’d celebrate one of your major accomplishments/special projects (with challenges along the way), and then briefly connect that experience to the school’s mission and opportunities.

3. If you would like to comment in depth regarding your research background you may answer this optional question. How would your past experiences in laboratory-based research on fundamental problems in the biological and biomedical sciences motivate you to pursue similar efforts as a physician-scientist?

If you selected ‘biological and biomedical sciences’ as your area of interest, you should definitely use this space to elaborate, even if it seems like you’ve already answered the question in the first prompt. Other candidates will, so your goal is to do it better than them.

Without pandering, you could connect your research efforts to ongoing projects/studies at UMMS. Another option would be to expand on possible future inquiries or research avenues you could explore as medicine evolves, based on your personal topics of interest.

Even if you selected entrepreneurial medicine or public health, it’s still probably a good idea to include some information for this prompt, if your experiences qualify (to show your research cred). Just be careful not to send mixed messages about your career goals. The most ideal situation would be if your biological/biomedical research was interdisciplinary or somehow involved the other two areas of interest.  

Was this guide helpful? Still have questions about UCR or its prompts? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll respond personally!

Good luck, and stay tuned for more school-specific secondary guides!

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