June 19, 2014

How to tackle secondaries: How will you contribute to our campus's diversity?

Rob Humbracht

If you're like most applicants to medical school, you're just not that diverse.  You are racially or ethnically over-represented.  You didn't face many particular hardships growing up, and you haven't had enough life experiences to make you different from the thousands of others applying to med school.  That means you'll have to get creative in how you answer this question.

Sample prompts:


The Committee on Admissions regards the diversity (broadly defined) of an entering class as an important factor in serving the educational mission of the school. The Committee on Admissions strongly encourages you to share unique, personally important, and/or challenging factors in your background, such as the quality of your early educational environment, socioeconomic status, culture, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and life or work experiences. Please discuss how such factors have influenced your goals and preparation for a career in medicine. 2000characters

UC Davis

How will your family, community, academic, work or other life experiences enhance the UC Davis School of Medicine community? (1500 characters)

George Washington

3. What makes you a unique individual? What challenges have you faced? How will these factors help you contribute to the diversity of the student body at GW? (1000 characters)


Georgetown University School of Medicine strives to ensure that its students become respectful physicians who embrace all dimensions of diversity. Please describe how any personal characteristics or life experiences will contribute to the diversity of, and bring educational benefits to, our student body. (1000 characters)

Why med schools ask this question:

Most med school classes are small (typically 100-300 students total), which is so small it feels like a return to high school.  You know pretty much everybody, and a huge portion of your experience at the school depends on your classmates. Similarly, a lot of the learning you will do in med school will come from your classmates.  As a result, med schools are looking for students who have different experiences they can bring to the table to share with their future classmates. Med schools want to know what you have to offer in this regard.

Other ways to ask this question:

How are you going to make our campus a more interesting place?

What different viewpoints can you share on the state of healthcare in the United States or in the world?

What have you done in your past that is unusual (compared to other pre-meds)?

Quick tips:

1. Think beyond the traditional definition of diversity (race and culture).  Are you a dancer?  An athlete?  Had an unusual job?  Did you major in something unique?  What makes you different from other premeds?

2. If you do want to write about a "typical" case of diversity (socioeconomic or cultural diversity), then be sure to indicate how your experiences have influenced how you see the world and how it will influence you as a physician.

3. This essay doesn't have to relate to medicine (unless the prompt explicitly asks you about it).  You can pick any part of your past or your personality to help differentiate you from other applicants.  In fact, we've found that the best answers to this question have little to do with the typical pre-med experiences.

4.  If all else fails, focus on your talents.  Are you particularly creative?  Good at talking to other people?  A good friend?  What are your personal strengths that will make you a good physician and that will contribute to the lives of your classmates?

Learn to be Savvy! Get creative pre-med strategies delivered right to your inbox.
FREE Medical School Application Timeline when you subscribe.

We follow the email Golden Rule: we will never send you anything without your permission.