March 18, 2019

How to Answer NYU Long Island School of Medicine’s New Secondary Essays

Ryan Kelly

Are you looking for a last-minute application for the 2018-2019 medical school cycle? Are you interested in primary care and have some degree of ties to New York? Do you want to write secondary essays that are 2500 words each?

If you answered yes to these questions, then we’ve got good news for you. New York University Long Island School of Medicine (NYULISOM) released its secondary essays recently and will be conducting its interviews from April 1 - May 10, 2019.


Back in November, plans were announced to establish a medical school on the campus of NYU Winthrop in Mineola with the goal of educating primary care physicians. More news has surfaced, confirming that NYULISOM will offer a three-year program with full-tuition scholarships, regardless of merit or financial need.

The program has received preliminary accreditation by the LCME, paving the way for the recruitment of its first class for July 2019. Final approval from the New York State Education Department is expected later this spring. The proposed medical school would accept 24 students for its first class, with additional slots opening in future years, eventually accommodating 40 students in each of its first three classeNYULISOM will be the only accelerated three-year MD program focused on primary care, including internal and community medicine, pediatrics, OB/GYN, and surgery. It will also offer students a conditional acceptance to an NYU Winthrop residency slot upon matriculation.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, but if you want to apply, you’ll need to crank out these secondary essays quickly. Never fear - we’re here to help!


#1. Please indicate which specialty you are interested in applying for (Please choose one): Internal Medicine -- Pediatrics -- OB/Gyn -- Surgery

Please indicate your reasons for choosing this particular field. Please demonstrate for our admission committee how your previous health-related and non-health-related experiences and your personal attributes helped inform your decision. 2500 Words

#2. (Optional) Applicants have occasionally had to overcome significant adversities in their lives. Our admission committee would be most interested not only in hearing about how you overcame such an adversity, but also how doing so helped you succeed. 2500 Words

#3. (Optional) Please comment on any significant fluctuations in your academic record, or other application irregularities, not already addressed elsewhere. 2500 Words

According to reports on Student Doctor Network, applicants have called into the school and confirmed that you indeed have 2500 words, not characters. In these reports, the school has claimed that it wanted to give applicants all the space they’d need, but that it doesn’t expect candidates to use all of that space.

Our recommendation: DO NOT write 2500 words. No secondary essay would ever merit that much information, and no one wants to read such an exhaustive narrative. If you imagine them as 2500 characters, that’s far more appropriate, but even that amount is rather long for your average secondary.

1000-1500 characters is usually enough to convey your point, if you write strategically and don’t waste your space. Let’s break down each of the secondary prompts - we’ll offer advice and a short example for each.


Please indicate your reasons for choosing this particular field. Please demonstrate for our admission committee how your previous health-related and non-health-related experiences and your personal attributes helped inform your decision. 2500 Words

Basically, it’s asking why you’re drawn to this specialty in particular. We’ve covered the “where do you see yourself in 10 years” prompt before, but this one’s a little trickier.

Since this is the prompt that ALL applicants will have to answer, let’s look at a strong example that can guide your own writing:


Hemorrhaging, various pill concoctions, unbearable side effects, and tremendous weight gain. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome was reeking havoc on my life, resulting in the decline of my physical and emotional health throughout high school.

My life changed when I sought the help of an OB/GYN, Dr. Z. He never viewed my problems as insurmountable, and he ultimately saved one of my ovaries from being surgically removed. Dr. Z recommended lifestyle changes which helped me lose weight, regain my self-confidence, and revitalize my health. His sincere concern and timeliness in remedying my situation inspired me to pursue medicine, and more specifically, OB/GYN.

At my university, I immersed myself in activities related to women’s health to see if OB/GYN was right for me. I applied to reproductive medicine research labs and worked with a PI who studied vaginal prolapse and pelvic floor muscle disorders. I was given my own research project and earned a publication as second author. Despite being published, the solitude of working in an empty lab made me value human interaction. Research showed me that I did not want to become a scientist, but instead a physician who harvests data for science while also interacting with patients and translating my research into treatment options.

Shadowing Dr. P, an OB/GYN, confirmed my passion for obstetrics and gynecology while simulating the diagnostic side of being a doctor. It was exciting to be alongside Dr. P during patient visits, constantly being challenged to integrate science concepts while answering questions about diagnoses. During one check-up with a woman who had gestational diabetes, Dr. P asked me to explain the organ and hormones that regulate blood sugar. I enjoyed the thrill of being put on the spot, interacting with patients, and discussing their OB/GYN issues.

The delicate intertwining of personal relationships, science, and medical expertise is what draws me to OB/GYN. I look forward to a career that offers social fulfillment alongside the exciting analytical challenge of treating unique patient cases, similar to my own. I strive to be an OB/GYN who uplifts patients in the face of adversity and provides specific, tailored care that best suits their needs.

This example is under 2500 characters and hits a lot of the key components you’ll want in your own essay.

*Personal relevance

You might not have your own health ailment to discuss, but you’ll need to find a way to make the specialty personally meaningful. In many ways, this question is more about your past than your future, so make sure you have some foundation for your exploration of the field, even if that’s from a purely intellectual standpoint.

*Tested commitment through exposure

It will be hard to be convincing if you’ve never taken the time to shadow a doctor in the specialty. The admissions committee will want to hear your firsthand account of observing, scribing, or working alongside a specialist.

*Exploration of specialty outside of clinic

This is the big bonus, since it will help you be distinct and show a clear trend towards the specialty. The admissions committee will be wondering, “Does this person REALLY love this field, or are they just choosing whichever specialty they happened to shadow?”

Having outside exploration is key, especially since the prompt emphasizes non-clinical experiences and personal attributes.


Note: optional MEANS optional. Do not feel obligated to put something here.

You should probably only answer this if you wrote a disadvantaged essay in your primary application. You’ll be compared to candidates with stories of growing up underserved, immigrating into poverty, etc. You don’t want to submit a general challenge essay that could make you look oblivious or privileged.

What CAN you write about?

Some possibilities:

* Taking two hours of public transportation to and from high school

* Attending school in a poor or underachieving school district

* Working part-time in high school and college to help support family

* Helping raise younger siblings in a single-parent household

* Translating legal and medical documents for your immigrant parents

* Not being able to apply to internships or research positions due to cost of travel

* Navigating the college application process without help from your parents

* Hardships of living with abuse, neglect, or family drug problems


2-3 sentences to explain the factors that contribute to your disadvantaged status

I am blessed to have been adopted by my grandparents, who provided a stable life by removing me from a destructive environment with an absent father and drug-addicted mother. However, due to my grandparents’ age and physical limits, I missed out on many things people take for granted, like playing catch with one’s father or enjoying student-parent activities.


5-6 sentences to illustrate the day-to-day struggles as a result of your status

I am a first-generation college student who has been financially independent since age 18. My discipline stems from my teenage years when I worked manual labor on construction sites. This translated into dedication and focus, as I later sought a scholarship to subsidize my schooling and worked full-time alongside a rigorous course load. To fund my college experience, I attended a local university and gained merit-based aid, balancing school (20+ unit semesters) and three jobs (totaling 40+ hours/week). My lack of expendable income prevented me from accessing certain opportunities off-campus. Luckily, the Wilkinson Honors Scholarship provided a dorm stipend that covered most of my living expenses. However, to further cut costs, I went without a car and obtained an on-campus job and research opportunity.


1-2 sentences to explain the growth, personal qualities, and lessons you’ve gained as a result of your status

Overall, my obstacles have given me more resolve to plan ahead, meet my goals, and help others do the same.

Our advice: keep this answer brief (1000-1500 characters) and don’t editorialize too much; let the circumstances speak for themselves.


Again, optional MEANS optional. This will only apply to certain students, and you’ll probably know who you are.

Only answer this question if your poor performance is significant: more than one C probably merits a mention, as would anything lower than a C. MCAT scores usually speak for themselves (presumably, if you had a bad test day, you would simply re-take). But if there are extenuating circumstances to mention, then do so.

Don’t apologize; do explain. Try to focus on ‘compounding factors’ in your life that led to the anomalous performance.

Were you caring for a sick family member? Did you take on new, unfamiliar responsibilities as part of a job or student organization? Were you taking 18 or 20 credits so that you could graduate on time? Did all of these things happen at once?

Your academic issues will seem more forgivable if you show yourself being pulled in multiple directions. In the end, though, you’ll need to own up to the shortcoming and show a forward-thinking attitude.

It’s also smart to focus on the positives, like an upward trend in grades (if applicable) or better performance in future similar classes. You could also mention some concrete habits or activities that would attest to your improved academic grit or credibility.

If you’ve used the ‘compounding factors’ strategy, make sure to explain that the issues have been resolved and that you’re prepared to handle the rigors of medical school.

There’s no need for this essay to exceed 1000-1500 characters. The shorter, the better.

If you need more inspiration, we’ve written countless guides about secondary essays that should steer you in the right direction.

Have any questions about NYULISOM or its secondary essays? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll get back to you ASAP!

Good luck!

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