How to Write the Medical School Secondary Diversity Essay


The medical school secondary diversity essay exists because admissions committees want to ensure their campus is as diverse as possible. Medical schools want to attract applicants from all walks of life so that each student contributes something unique to the student body. The diversity essay is an opportunity for applicants to discuss their minority background or otherwise unique history or identity and how their uniqueness will contribute to the college community.

In this post, we’ll break down why this prompt is asked, what admissions committees are looking for, and how to best answer it.


Medical School Secondaries

The AMCAS application opens for the following year’s medical school class around the first week of May. Submissions open around the end of May to early June, so you have a month to prepare your primary application. Therefore, if you hope to begin medical school in the fall of 2023, you must apply in the spring of 2022.

Your secondary applications will take about two to four weeks to arrive after you submit your primary application. Secondaries must be completed as soon as possible without compromising quality. We recommend taking no longer than 7-14 days to submit each secondary you receive.

This is especially true because, at Med School Insiders, we recommend applicants apply to around 20 different medical schools. This could mean receiving 20 different secondaries, all within the same general time frame.

Medical School Application Timeline

For more information about ideal scheduling, read our Medical School Application Timeline Guide.


Why Do Schools Include a Diversity Essay?

Colleges, and not just medical schools, believe their college culture, community, and campus learning experience can be enriched by including a wide array of different backgrounds, perspectives, identities, and beliefs. Therefore, many admissions committees assign a diversity essay so that each applicant can explain in their own words how their identity and background will help enhance the student body at large.

Diversity essays are an opportunity for applicants with minority backgrounds, unique family histories, an unconventional education, or otherwise distinctive experiences to explain how their uniqueness will add to the campus community.


How to Answer the Medical School Secondary Diversity Essay

1 | Diversity Comes in Many Forms

This is an extremely important point, as many applicants who don’t come from a specific socioeconomic or ethnocultural background believe they are unable to add diversity to a prospective medical school class. This is a common misconception. Diversity isn’t limited to the color of your skin or which religion your family belongs to.

Did you experience a non-traditional upbringing growing up? This could include losing a family member, having a sibling or family member with a health concern or disability, growing up in a single parent home, needing to work at a young age, or much more. There are many, many factors that could contribute to your diversity.

Focus on your story. Which personal qualities make you unique? What aspect of your personal identity, upbringing, or family has separated you from your peers?

2 | What is Your Personal Identity?

If you’re stuck on what direction to take this essay, take time to look inward and consider your own identity. Who are you? What kind of person are you? What makes you, well, you? What makes you unique from other candidates?

Your identity is made up of a number of different factors, including your ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and health.

You might also consider any non-traditional experiences you’ve had or a non-traditional upbringing.

  • What was your home life like?
  • What was your financial situation growing up?
  • What is your family’s education level?
  • How much did you have to work when you were younger?
  • Do you come from a multicultural background?
  • Have you experienced a personal health scare?
  • Do you have family members who have significant health concerns?
  • Have you lost close family members?
  • Did you lose a parent at a young age?
  • Did you grow up in a single parent home?
  • Have you experienced any kind of traumatic event that has informed your values and identity?

3 | Get Personal

Don’t hold back when sharing your experiences. Surface-level stories or bland anecdotes will not stand out. What personal details can you add that will better illustrate your points?

Describe in detail how the experience made you feel. What did you learn? What qualities have you developed as a result of the experience? How will you apply what you learned and the qualities you earned to your medical education and eventual career?

At the same time, remember that your experience may be brought up during your interview. Anything you mention in your application is fair game to be asked about on the interview trail. Do not write about any experience you will be unable to speak about in person. It’s good to be open and show vulnerability, but it’s also vital that you maintain your composure during your interview.

If you don’t think you can speak about the experience face-to-face with an interviewer, leave it out of your essay.

4 | Don’t Repeat Yourself

You may have been asked a diversity question in your primary application, or you may have chosen to focus on this aspect of your life in your personal statement.

Do not repeat yourself in your secondary. Admissions committees already have access to your primary application. Repeating the same stories won’t provide adcoms with any additional insight into who you are. The secondaries are an opportunity to add something new to your story.

If you’re going to touch on an experience, moment, or lesson you’ve already mentioned, ensure that you are adding to it. You must provide a notable amount of additional context if you utilize the same examples in your secondaries.

5 | Continue Crafting Your Narrative

An essential piece of a successful primary application is the cohesive narrative you build throughout it about who you are and why you want to be a doctor. The secondary application is no different. The diversity essay is an opportunity to continue the narrative you established in your primary application.

It’s important that the diversity essay fits well with the rest of your secondary application. Each piece of the application should add to your story and provide additional context about how you’ve arrived at where you are today.

Learn How to Develop a Cohesive Narrative for Medical School Applications.


Medical School Secondary Diversity Essay Examples

There are a number of different directions you can take your diversity essay.

You might discuss a time when you or someone you care about experienced prejudice. How did that experience make you feel? What did you learn? How did it shape who you are? If you took action in response to this, what action did you take? Did you try to support others who are experiencing prejudice?

You might discuss the difficulties you’ve had growing up with parents who have different values than your own. How did these differences change your relationship with your family? How did that conflict in your life shape who you are today? Were you able to resolve your differences with your family, or did you need to prioritize your own needs and identity?

You might discuss how your cultural background has been a positive influence on your life. How has learning another language and participating in cultural values distinct from those of the US shaped who you are? What have you learned from the traditional values of your family? How can you apply what you’ve learned to interacting with people who come from other ethnic or socioeconomic backgrounds?

You might discuss how from a very young age you needed to help support your family financially. How did taking on that burden when you were young shape you? How were you able to help and support your family? Was it financially or with your time? What did you learn from that experience growing up, and how has it informed your priorities and outlook on life?


Other Common Secondary Questions

The diversity essay is only one of the common medical school secondary prompts you can expect to see in one form or another. Knowing which questions are likely to appear on secondaries will help you prepare your answers in advance.

Some of the most common secondary questions include:

  • Why are you a good fit for our school?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why do you want to be a doctor?
  • Why us? / Why do you want to join this program?
  • Describe a moral or ethical dilemma you faced. What did you learn from the experience?
  • Describe a time when you failed and what you learned.
  • Did you take time off after undergrad? What did you achieve during this time?
  • Where do you see yourself in ten years?

With these questions in mind, start writing your responses to common secondary questions long before you actually receive your secondaries. Once you do receive a secondary, deeply research the program and tailor your answers to suit their values and offerings.

Learn more about the complete secondary process and how to plan ahead in our Medical School Secondary Application Guide.


Secondary Application Editing With Med School Insiders

We get it. We understand how long you’ve already been working on the application process,  but now is not the time to give up. It’s time to knuckle down and drive this thing home.

Med School Insiders can help. Our Medical School Secondary Application Editing services will help you write the kind of singular secondary applications that will get you noticed by your top choice medical schools. Our doctor advisors have served on medical school admissions committees, and they’ve read hundreds of secondary essays. Our team will help you craft a stellar secondary application tailored to each school you apply to.


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