Secondary Essay Prompts for the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Below are the secondary essay prompts for the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, NY.

2019-2020

*No word limits.
What were/are your undergraduate major(s) and minor(s)?
Please select one of the options below that best describe your major.
  • Biological sciences (biology, microbiology, zoology, etc.)
  • Physical sciences (biochemistry, chemistry, engineering, etc)
  • Social sciences/humanities (sociology, economics, English, etc)
  • Other health professions (nursing, pharmacy, etc.)
  • All Others (including double majors and mixed disciplines)
If your name is often mispronounced, how do you pronounce it? What is your preferred name?
Have you previously applied to Medical School?
  • Yes or No
If you took time off from your undergraduate studies, please briefly summarize your reasons for doing so.
Did you work for compensation during college, during the year, or the summer?
  • Yes or No
If so, what did you do? How many hours a week did you work?
If you have graduated from college, please briefly summarize what you have done in the interim.
Please describe your most meaningful leadership positions.
Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons values diversity in all its forms. How will your background and experiences contribute to this important focus of our institution and inform your future role as a physician?
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
Do you have a parent who graduated from or is affiliated with Columbia University?
  • Yes or No

 

2018-2019

MD-Only:

  1. If you took time off from your undergraduate studies, please briefly summarize your reasons for doing so. (250 words)

For this question, we suggest a straightforward response. Write in full sentences and be clear about what you did elaborating as space allows.

2.  In what collegiate extracurriculars did you engage? (400 characters)

The biggest concern applicants have about this question is repeating information that is already in the primary application. EVERY applicant will be forced to repeat information! You cannot recreate what you did as an undergraduate. With such a brief character limit, there is little opportunity to elaborate. Depending on how many activities you have, you can create a bulleted list with brief descriptions of each activity or you can write a narrative explaining your extracurriculars.

3.  If you have graduated from college, please briefly summarize what you have done in   the interim. (300 words)

Like prompt #1, it’s best to be direct with this prompt. If you are graduating this year, write about what you plan to do in the upcoming year. If you aren’t sure yet, include information about the types of opportunities you are currently exploring for your gap year.

4. What challenges do you expect to arise from living and working in a complex urban environment? How will you meet them? (300 words) (This is the only required question)

This is a question our applicants often find challenging. Columbia wants to know that you understand the challenges of living in New York City which is very urban. Think about your living conditions; you might not have much space. What about the noise? Sometimes it is tough to escape the hustle bustle of the city. How about transportation? Not everyone loves New York City subways, the unexpected delays, and the crowds. New York is also a very diverse city both in the hospital and outside. While very exciting, this can also present challenges. Show that you truly understand the challenges of urban living.

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5. Is there anything else you would like us to know? (300 words)

If anything new has happened since you submitted your application that you haven’t mentioned, write about that here. Did you leave anything out of your application that you’d like to include? Some students use this place to explain his or her specific interest in Columbia since there is no other opportunity to do that. However, if you have nothing to add, there is nothing wrong with leaving this space blank.

6. Please describe your parents’ occupations. (100 characters)

Make this one short and sweet. Be direct. Be honest.

7. If you answer yes to the “Did you work during undergrad?” checkbox, this question appears:
“Did you work for compensation during college during the year or the summer? If so, what did you do? How many hours a week did you work? (300 words)”

This another question that requires a direct response. Elaborate as much as space allows.

MSTP:

  1. What Academic Honors Have You Received? (e.g. prizes, scholarships, fellowships, honors societies). (5000 Characters)
  2. What are your major research interests? (20 words)
  3. PhD Goals (5000 characters)
  4. Additional Information (5000 Characters)

Columbia Bassett:

  1. Columbia-Bassett application adds one essay of “What aspect of Columbia-Bassett has the most appeal to you?”

Medical Schools in New York

Get individualized help on your Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons secondary essays.

Personalized Secondary Editing.

  1. What challenges do you expect to arise from living and working in a complex urban environment? How will you meet them? (300 words) (This is the only required question) $225
  • Up to two revisions per essay
  • Please allow 3-4 business days per revision
  • After submitting payment, send an email to info@MedEdits.com indicatng which essay editing option you are purchasing.  We will then set up your account and send directions on how to proceed.  
  • Read about our outstanding team.
  • Have questions? Call 646.217.4674

What challenges do you expect to arise from living and working in a complex urban environment? How will you meet them?

Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Admissions Requirements

2017-2018 Accepted Student Data
Median GPA = 3.87
Median MCAT = 519
Applications = 8188
Interviewed = 1035
Matriculated = 150

Learn more about this school:

Columbia U Vagelos Coll of P&S
Admissions Office, Room 105
New York City, NY 10032 USA

(212) 305-3595

(212) 305-3601

Below are the secondary essay prompts for the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

MedEdits advises against using outdated prompts for the current season.

2017 – 2018

  • The Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons strives to ensure that its students become respectful physicians who embrace all dimensions of caring for the whole person. Please describe how your personal characteristics or life experiences will contribute to the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons community and bring educational benefits to our student body. (1000 characters)
  • Is there any further information that you would like the Committee on Admissions to be aware of when reviewing your file that you were not able to notate in another section of this or the AMCAS Application? (1000 characters)
  • Why have you chosen to apply to the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and how do you think your education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons will prepare you to become a physician for the future? (1 page, formatted at your discretion, upload as PDF)
  • If you took time off from your undergraduate studies, please briefly summarize your reasons for doing so. (250 words)
  • From which languages can you translate scholarly material into English?
  • In what collegiate extracurriculars did you engage? (400 words)
  • If you have graduated from college, please briefly summarize what you have done in the interim. (300 words)
  • What challenges do you expect to arise from living and working in a complex urban environment? How will you meet them? (300 words)
  • Is there anything else you would like us to know? (300 words)
  • Please describe your parents’ occupations: (100 words)

2016 – 2017

  • If your name is often mispronounced, how do you pronounce it? What is your preferred name? (25 characters)
  • If your last name is often mispronounced, how do you pronounce it? (25 characters)
    If you took time off from your undergraduate studies, please briefly summarize your reasons for doing so. (250 words)
  • From which languages can you translate scholarly material into English?
  • In what collegiate extracurriculars did you engage? (400 words)
  • If you have graduated from college, please briefly summarize what you have done in the interim. (300 words)
  • What challenges do you expect to arise from living and working in a complex urban environment? How will you meet them? (300 words)
  • Is there anything else you would like us to know? (300 words)
  • Please describe your parents’ occupations. (100 characters)

Secondary essay webcast with Dr. Jessica Freedman, founder and president of MedEdits Medical Admissions.  Read more about Dr. Freedman.

Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Secondary Application

Topics covered in this presentation:

  • When should I submit my secondary essays?
  • Pay attention to the word/character limits.
  • Can I recycle secondary essay prompts for multiple schools?
  • Identify topics that you left out of your primary application.
  • And, much more.

Secondary Essay Prompts for Other Schools

 

Do you want to see secondary essay prompts for other medical schools?

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How To: Master the Med School Secondary Essay

After you submit your  primary applications, medical schools will ask you to submit secondary applications (most automatically) the majority of which require you to write secondary essays of varying lengths. The topics will give you clues to the culture of the medical school. As you research each school to apply to, begin to make notes about what draws you to that school so you can use these thoughts in your secondary essays. You can prepare for these in advance by organizing notes in these areas: my accomplishments, obstacles I have overcome, challenges I have had and how I’ve handled these, why I want to attend this school, what kind of physician I want to be, what activities I’ve been most intimately involved with and what have I learned.

Getting into a medical school has never been more competitive. Let the experts at MedEdits help you with your medical school application materials. We’ve worked with more than 5,000 students and 94% have been admitted to medical school.

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Most Common Essay Prompts

Several common secondary essay topics that are listed below.

Greatest Challenge/Failure/Adversity Essay

Essays that ask about personal challenges, failures or adversities are seeking information about your ability to manage conflict and challenge. They also want to know how you cope with conflict and that you can be objective when things don’t go your way. Schools want to know that you are level headed, and that you won’t crumble when feeling vulnerable or faced with less than ideal situations. Students often immediately gravitate to academic or scholarly subjects for these essays, but, sometimes the most compelling topics are those that are personal. Why? These topics can often say much more about your character, values, ideals, and decision making. Ideally, you should also write about what you learned and how you grew or changed as a result of the challenge, failure, or adversity. 

Students also consider writing about red flags for this topic such as a class failure, poor MCAT exam or institutional action. Generally speaking, we find that these topics are usually less interesting and don’t offer enough information about who you are as a person.

Essay Example:

I had worked on my presentation for weeks. I knew it was so important, not only for me, but for my principal investigator (PI), that I present the work we had done succinctly and clearly since I would be speaking in front of the entire biochemistry department. Public speaking has never been a strength and I was very nervous. Before it was my time to speak, I could feel my heart racing and my palms sweating. When I got to the podium, I was literally unable to speak; I was shaking uncontrollably and had to sit down while my PI took over. It was the most humiliating experience of my life. I was able to calm down, and, rather than leaving the auditorium, I waited until the conference was over and apologized to my PI who was kind and forgiving. I then resolved to improve my public speaking skills. The the next day I signed up for a Toastmaster’s course and have taken every opportunity since this incident to speak in public. Although I still get nervous before I have to speak, I have learned to actually enjoy speaking in public.

Essay Example:

I saw the Microsoft Word document on the screen of my roommate’s computer. It looked familiar. I realized that this essay my roommate had written on the works and life of Jane Austen contained the exact language I had seen elsewhere. Where had I seen it? Why was this so familiar? I also asked myself, “Do I have a right to be looking at  this document?”

Then it dawned on me. When my roommate got this assignment for her literature class, we discussed it with our housemates from down the hall.  One girl offered to give my roommate a paper she had written on this topic for an AP class in high school. She printed out the paper and gave it to me to give to my roommate. Curious about the topic, since I am a Jane Austen fan, I read it before handing it to my roommate. The document on the computer in front of me contained parts of this paper that were copied, verbatim.

The issues here were complicated. First of all, I was invading my roommate’s privacy. I should not have been looking at her computer even though we often shared our computers. But now that I was aware of what she had done, I felt an obligation to confront her.

That night, when my roommate returned home from studying, I first apologized for invading her privacy and explained that I had read the document on the screen. I then told her that I realized she had plagiarized and told her I thought this was wrong. She explained that she felt under tremendous pressure since she also had a big organic chemistry mid-term that week and it just seemed so easy to copy the paper even though she recognized it was not right to do so. With my urging, since she had not yet handed the paper in, she stayed up late into the night to compose an original essay and, in the end, she thanked me for noticing and for encouraging her to do the right thing. I realized that even confronting my roommate, which was uncomfortable and awkward for me, encouraged her to make a better choice and reinforced for me the importance of acting ethically even if these easier choice would have been to look away.

Diversity Essay

Medical schools have broadened their definitions of diversity and for essays like this you can write about your unique interests, talents, or experiences. Maybe you have a distinctive background, perspective, or outlook. Think outside the box when writing about diversity. Do you have a special hobby or accomplishment that sets you apart? Or, you can also choose to write about your own experiences with diverse or minority populations which most people think of as the more “traditional” approach to questions about diversity. 

Essay Example:

I grew up in a diverse community even though my undergraduate college was quite homogeneous. During college, I sought out  experiences beyond campus to immerse myself in more diverse communities. I volunteered in a free clinic, tutored children in Africa, and traveled during my vacations, when possible. I gained insights into the challenges facing  others and how their backgrounds and experiences influenced their perspectives and attitudes. On a medical mission abroad the summer after my junior year, I worked in medical clinics helping to care for Mexican families, which helped me understand that such challenges and unfair inequalities in education and health care also exist internationally.

Through my experiences, I came to realize that all patients, regardless of their background, fare better when their unique circumstances, cultures, and outlooks are considered. To improve my ability to communicate with some of these populations, I minored in Spanish and became more proficient in  the language through my studies in Spain. I have learned the importance of listening and seeing situations through the eyes of those I help. Throughout such experiences, apart from realizing that I hope to work with these populations as a future physician, I was continually reminded of the pervasive societal inequalities and injustices both locally and internationally.

Another Example:

Whether playing a Beethoven or Brahms sonata, playing music has always been an outlet for me. Since the age of seven, I have emulated my mother, a professional cellist. In fact, even during college, my goal was to practice medicine while working as a professional pianist. While doing my premedical coursework and majoring in biology, I also minored in music and composed my own work. The year following college, while playing piano professionally, I realized this wasn’t what I wanted to pursue for my lifetime. However, my musical interests will always be more than a hobby and serve as my escape from the stresses of daily life.

Why XXXXX School Essay

Medical schools want to know that you have the qualities and characteristics they are seeking. Before writing these essays, read the medical school’s mission statement and review their student biographies (if offered) to get a sense of what the school values in applicants. The key in writing “Why our School Essays” is to offer as many specifics as possible. You want to show you will take advantage of the medical school’s opportunities and that you will make valuable contributions as a medical student. Do this by showcasing how your interests and experiences are aligned with opportunities at the medical school, that you can benefit from what the medical school offers and that you will contribute to the medical school community.

Example Essay:

My interest in geriatrics and emergency medicine evolved as I worked clinically in these two departments last summer. Through my coursework in health policy, I also learned of the imminent need for geriatric specialized physicians to support the aging baby boomer generation. Through your hospital’s renowned telemedicine and information technology departments, I would be offered the unique opportunity to explore this interest further. I would also take advantage of the medical school’s summer research program to participate in research projects related to geriatrics or  emergency medicine.

At the clinic where I worked, I gained first hand exposure to disease complications, which often were  caused by lack of access to primary care. My travels and work in India have shown me how common these issues also are internationally. Your unique medical school program would allow me to continue my active community participation during my first year, while providing care to diverse populations who lack access to care. This endeavor also could be augmented through participation in research and study in South America, so I could pursue my interest in global health while caring for other underserved communities and  improving my language skills.

Of supreme importance, the urban location and suburban hospitals affiliated with the medical school as well as the Level I trauma center would offer unparalleled exposure to novel academic and clinical opportunities. Apart from the school’s location in my favorite city of Great City, it is the superior curriculum, supportive medical educational environment, opportunity for community involvement, and team-oriented culture that would make your medical school a perfect fit for me.

What are you doing next year or what have you done since graduating from college?

Answer these questions in a straight forward fashion. Typically, medical schools require that only applicants who are not full-time students answer the question. In answering these questions, write about what you will be doing, but also include information about what you hope to learn and how this will prepare you for medical school.

Example Essay:

For the upcoming academic year, I will continue my research on breast cancer at Outstanding Oncology Center, where I have been working for one year. Our findings last year have already provided evidence for the etiology of what receptor is involved in  the development of tiny cell cancer, and we hope to build on these findings to continue our work. I have already become proficient in using the literature to design experiments, and I hope that this year I will learn how to analyze our findings. My hope is that our findings will be significant enough to lead to a publication on which I would be an author.

I  will also shadow several doctors throughout the year to broaden my understanding of clinical medicine. Right now I have plans to shadow an internist, a surgeon, and an ophthalmologist.

My Saturday mornings will be spent volunteering at Inner City Clinic, where I will be promoted to the level of triage. I will be responsible for taking vital signs and basic intake histories on patients.

This year will be productive and, I hope, will provide the foundation I need to be an excellent medical student.

Writing Tips

For each essay prompt you receive, pay attention to the character and word limits and use them as cues for how much information a medical school is seeking. A medical school that limits your responses to only 50 words, for example, is asking you for a simple, straightforward response. On the other hand, the school that allows 1,000 words per essay wants you to elaborate and go into some detail.

Secondary prompts vary, and I find that students can often recycle essays for multiple schools. But reading secondary prompts carefully is important. The most common mistake students make is providing a response that does not really address what is being asked. Even though writing secondary essays can get laborious, don’t try to make an essay you have already written “fit” for a prompt if it just doesn’t work. Remember, good secondary essays can help you earn a  medical school interview.

Sometimes, especially if your primary application is comprehensive, responding to a secondary essay may force you to repeat information that is already in your primary application. That not only is  okay but also suggests that you are in good shape; many schools determine prompts by identifying topics that applicants frequently leave out of primary applications.

I discourage  applicants from  writing a “one size  fits all document” for various secondary essay themes. Since the character/word limit for secondary essays is so variable (50 – 3,000 words) it would be a waste of time to write an essay before knowing specific character limits for each prompt. Having an idea of what you would write about for  each of the common themes is wise, however. Some schools’ secondary essay prompts do not vary from year to year, and you can often find these essay prompts and start working on them in advance. But, be warned, schools do change secondary essay prompts on occasion.

Above all, just as you did with your personal statement, write authentically and honestly and don’t try to spin your responses to tell admissions committees what you think they want to read. 

A couple of additional tips: 

  • Never quote others; your essays should be about you!
  • Optional secondary essays are truly optional. Don’t fill a space or recycle an essay unless you have a good reason to do so.
  • Unless medical schools specify a secondary essay “due date,” there are no real turn around rules. Submit your essays when they are ready and ideally within two to three weeks after receiving the secondary application.

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Secondary Essay Prompts By School

*Data collected from MSAR 2018-2019, 2018-2019 Osteopathic Medical College Information Book, and institution website.

Disclaimer: The information on this page was shared by students and/or can be found on each medical school’s website. MedEdits does not guarantee it’s accuracy or authenticity.

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