Chairman, Committee on Admissions College of Physicians and Surgeons (Columbia University)
WE LOOK FOR HONESTY (as far as we can discern it), simplicity, straightforwardness. 1 lend to be put off by too many self-congratulatory statements, such as, "I'm an excellent candidate for medical school; 1 have great compassion"—that kind of thing. One person wrote, "As part of my personality, I radiate a high degree of warmth and sincerity"—and that was not good.
Try to sound natural A lot of students would like to think that maybe they can somehow' talk themselves into medical school, especially if their application is otherwise average or mediocre. They think there's some golden combination of words that, if only they can find it, will unlock the doors and get them in. I just don't think that's true.
It shouldn't bejjgoiapi)Pur application forms have a certain amount of space, and we prefertHatthe candidates don't go over that- Some people seem afflicted with a desire to write novel-length statements and those are difficult to read. Why do most people want to become doctors? They want to help other people, they're interested in science, and medicine seems to represent a good combination of both these impulses. Making the whole statement too lengthy or too flowery doesn't do them any good. Grammatical mistakes are bad. Spelling mistakes 1 tend to forgive because spelling is not perfecdy correlated with intelligence, and even people who are quite bright can make spelling mistakes. But if it's full of spelling mistakes, that's not encouraging.
Our form used to ask. "Why do you want to be a doctor?," but eight or nine years ago we changed it to, "What satisfaction do you cxpect to receive from being a doctor?" A lot of people don't answer it; they just write their standard essay.
Some students have told me that they plan to spend a good part of their summer working on their essay, and I think that's nonsense. My own feeling is rhat the essay has been more a cause of people getting downgraded than being favorably judged, usually because it is too contrived or patently insincere. As an admissions committee member, after you've gone through thirty or forty such applications in an afternoon, you're so grateful for somebody who just says something simply and straightforwardly. The poor people who are reading these don't want highly wrought compositions.
Dr. Thomas Lentz
Assistant Dean for Admissions Yale University School of Medicine
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