How to write about your most meaningful medical experience

medical school admissions secondary applications
By Simran

The AMCAS allows medical school applicants to select three activities as your “most meaningful” activities, and provides applicants with 1325 characters to describe why. A meaningful activity can represent something different for every applicant, but should generally encompass activities that have significantly impacted your personal development and desire to pursue medicine. In general, it is advisable for at least one of these activities to be a clinical experience in order to provide evidence of your dedication to medicine. Here are some tips for writing a "most meaningful experience" essay about a clinical experience that will be sure to capture your reader’s attention.

Tip 1: Organize your narrative. 

This essay is an opportunity to present a unique facet of your personality and skill set to the admissions committee. Before you begin writing, brainstorm what attributes you want to shine through in this essay. For example, you could demonstrate your dedication to service by describing a time you went above and beyond for a patient. Alternatively, you could showcase your problem solving skills by describing a challenge you identified and addressed in a clinical setting. Make sure the message you convey is distinct from that of your personal statement. 

Tip 2: Avoid using shadowing as a most meaningful activity. 

While shadowing can be an incredibly impactful experience on aspiring medical students, it is an inherently passive activity that doesn’t add much depth to your personal narrative. Reserve your "most meaningful experience" essay for experiences that highlight an active role in the clinical setting. Some examples of clinical experiences include volunteering, scribing, or providing patient care as part of a healthcare team. 

Tip 3: Know your audience. 

The person reading your application may be a current medical student or faculty member; in any case, they will be deeply familiar with the field of medicine. Avoid being too simplistic about common medical concepts. Additionally, refrain from being too critical about medicine; though our healthcare system has lots of room to grow, this may subconsciously alienate your reader. That being said, free to include statements about how you hope to leave your impact on medicine! 

Tip 4: Briefly describe the experience. 

At the beginning of this essay, briefly describe the experience in more detail than in the main activity description. Make sure to include any honors, awards, publications, or leadership positions you received as part of the activity. Try to keep this section short so you can focus on the impact that this experience had on you.

Tip 5: Tell a story. 

The key to this essay is showing the reader how this experience impacted your personal growth. Refrain from merely stating the strengths and attributes you gained from the experience; instead opt for providing rich, descriptive anecdotes that actively convey this message. This is a great place to include a story about a particularly impactful patient or physician you worked with (making sure to de-identify all personal information). Make sure to include any lessons or takeaways from this experience. Convince the admissions committee that you are prepared for the rigors of pursuing a career in medicine, and showcase what sets you apart!

Simran is pursuing a combined MD/PhD in the Harvard-MIT MD program and Immunology PhD program. Previously, she was a research technician at Fred Hutch, where she helped design novel protein-based cancer therapeutics and a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

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