There are literally thousands of secondary essays put out by medical schools each and every year. But most of those essays can be subdivided into specific categories and dealt with in groups. In this blog, we’re discussing the ‘diversity’ category.


DEFINITION OF THE DIVERSITY CATEGORY


Any medical school secondary essay which either asks how your unique experience as a part of a subculture has influenced the way you intend to approach medicine, OR how your exposure to a particular subculture has influenced the way you intend to approach medicine. The focus should be not on your particular opinions of the subculture, but rather on your lived experiences and how they landed on you, personally. Avoid attempts to universalize and reach beyond yourself -- instead, stay focused on what you have directly experienced, and analzye how it has affected you.


EXAMPLES OF SECONDARY PROMPTS IN THE DIVERSITY CATEGORY


 Mt. Sinai MD 2017 1 What makes you unique, someone who will add to the Mount Sinai community? (Suggested 250 words or less) 250 words
New York University School of Medicine MD 2017 3 What unique qualities or experiences do you possess that would contribute specifically to the NYU School of Medicine community? 2500 characters
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine MD 2017 6 If you wish, use this space to provide more detail about your selections above and how you would bring diversity to the Northwestern community. 250 words
Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine MD 2017 1 What experience have you had that has given you insight into the patients you hope to eventually serve? 1500 characters


TECHNIQUE FOR ANSWERING THE DIVERSITY CATEGORY

Most people think they know what a diversity essay is -- in their minds, they translate diversity to 'belonging to an ethnic or gender minority', figure out which box they think they fit into, and write accordingly. But this is a dramatic oversimplification of what elite medical schools mean by diversity.

You can write a diversity essay about any quality under the sun that is outside your direct control, for which you were silently judged, categorized, stereotyped or evaluated by others.  Perhaps it's the area of the world you grew up in, the number of siblings you had, a disability you had to deal with, or simply how incredibly short you were!  You can write about being poor, or even about being rich!

If you just can't think of anything at all that sets you apart, think again.

If you still can't think of anything at all that sets you apart, then you can write an essay about being exposed to diversity. This type of essay covers a discrete moment, or period, where you encountered a person or group of people belonging to any type of subculture which faces discrimination and prejudice. Exposure to diversity essays should be about how, over time, you grew to understand the deeper nature of your new friends' struggles, and ... this is key ... how you CHANGED because of it. No change, no essay. Change must be concrete -- IE, something you actually did differently as a result of the experience.

One common failing of these types of essays happens when you feel like you have to show off or prevent yourself from looking bad by avoiding admitting anything you think might make you look insensitive. But without mistakes, there can be no growth -- so if you want to write a great essay, your attitudes at the beginning must be markedly different from your attitudes at the end.

Another thing that makes a diversity essay really work is a strong focus on characters and settings. Giving detailed and interesting descriptions can really bring your essay to life on the page, plus, it shows you have really taken the time to think through your experiences.

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Do you have more questions about this secondary essay, or about other secondary essays?  Feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

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Photo by Fady Habib, Article by Forster-Thomas

You're freaking out right now!

Don't worry, it's normal. Everybody freaks out the first time they're applying to internships. It's a completely normal, completely terrifying part of becoming a professional in the workplace. But what are the key stages of an internship, and how do you, as the title of this blog says, kick ass and take names, becoming intern of the year, decade, or century?

Sourcing the internship

Where can i find a great internship?  This is one of the most vexing questions for aspiring interns, and like most vexing questions, there’s no easy answer.  It's true you never forget your first, but everybody comes by theirs differently.

Your personal connections are your first and most promising source of leads. Does your immediate or extended family have contacts you can take advantage of?  This is the first place you should go because it’s the easiest and has the greatest odds of success, but it can also have drawbacks – maybe you’re not interested in doing what your parents did for a living, or maybe the help comes with too many strings. Fortunately, there are other ways to find a great internship –

Try paying a visit to your university’s career services department!  These departments run the gamut from excellent to terrible, but one thing they all have in common is that they won’t come looking for you – it has to be the other way around.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease in life, and nowhere is this more true than in the world of hunting for great job opportunities.  Become your career counselor’s best friend, and make her job easy – have a clear sense of what kind of job you’re after, and a strong pitch for why you deserve it.  Work on your resume and recommendations, where appropriate, to strengthen your candidacy even more.  If your career services department isn’t cutting it, you could consider transferring to a school with more relevant connections, or applying method 3 –

Internet research!  Don’t knock it – many many people get their first internships via online job postings. Just remember that RESEARCH part of the equation – a lot of companies on the internet make themselves sound more impressive than they really are, and it would be a shame to waste a summer doing something that you could have figured out from the start wasn’t going to be a good fit. That said, this is a great time to experiment and try different career paths, so don’t be afraid to take a chance on an unusual, exciting internship you discover.

So how do you judge the merits of one internship over another?  Your priority should always be relationships, relationships, relationships.  Choose the internship that is going to allow you to connect with the people who are doing the job you want to be doing. You’ll be more motivated and learn more under those circumstances. But there are other important factors to consider.  Does the internship pay any money?  For some people, that is essential, although paid internships aren’t common in most fields.  Are the roles and responsibilities clearly defined, and is the work at least somewhat interesting?  It’s never a good idea to prioritize interesting work over relationships and name brand recognition, but you don’t learn much from getting people coffee all day, either.

When you find a promising lead, try to contact people who have held the internship before – firsthand accounts are worth a thousand internet postings when it comes to really understanding what makes a particular place of business tick.

Landing the internship

So now that you’ve found that perfect internship, how do you make it your own?

Remember all that research you did while you were sourcing your internship?  Here’s where it really starts to pay off. At this point, you should be a mini-expert on your target company. You should know their strengths, their weaknesses, their key competitors, their plans for the near future. Most of all, you  should know what they’re going to expect of you.

If your internship requires an interview (most do), remember to present yourself humbly, confidently, sympathetically and professionally.  Never run from a difficult question, and take pride in your achievements, even if they seem rather trivial compared to the person you’re interviewing with!  Articulate your plan for your time at the company, and listen to feedback on that plan – are you giving your potential boss what she wants, or demanding what you want? One thing no boss wants is a needy intern.

Apply broadly – that way, even if your first couple internships don’t pan out, you’ll still have plenty of time to find something apropos.

Acing the internship

No matter what your job or your field, there are a few things you can always do as an intern to impress your superiors: show up on time, dress ten percent better than everyone else is dressing, think before speaking, write in complete sentences, and show off your personality.

So much for presentation. How about the job itself?

Success as an intern is all about anticipating your supervisor’s needs and being productive without requiring micromanagement. The reasons interns are given jobs is because nobody else at the company has time to do them. That means that if you’re eating up a ton of your boss’s time with problems related to your job, you’re doing the opposite of what they want. That said, if you do the whole job wrong, you’ll put them in an even worse situation. So think carefully about what you’re being asked to do. Assess whether it is realistic. If it isn’t, try to gently propose improvements, refinements and alternatives that give the boss what she needs. If it is realistic, and you know how to do it, then go do it!  If you have no idea what your boss is talking about, ask somebody other than your boss for help and clarification. Try not to overload any one person, instead, getting to know many people. After all, the more relationships you build, the better your post-internship experience will be.

Maintaining the relationship

An internship will be, most likely, your first or second source of career connections in your chosen field, depending on what your parents did for a living and how well connected they happen to be. So it’s vitally important, after you have done a great job and put in all that effort to impress your bosses, that they remember your name and face. Who’s going to give you your first recommendation?  Who will connect you with your first paying job?  There’s a very good chance it’ll be that same boss.

So how do you maintain the relationship?  Remember that relationships are two sided, so it’s important to engage with your boss’s priorities as much or more than you ask her to engage with yours.  Keep track of the company, send her a congratulations when you see something in the news or hear something through the grapevine – and at the same time, maybe mention in passing a few of the things you’ve been up to lately.

Email newsletters are another great communication tool, in certain professional fields, particularly creative and entrepreneurial ones. Nobody wants an email update from their accountant – unless you’re just that cool of an accountant – but realtors, musicians, instagrammers and personal trainers are another matter.

Above all, use your head before hitting send. Is the email you’ve just written something you would be excited to receive?  Are you putting your best, most enthusiastic foot forward, or are you sounding needy or demanding?  If you’re having trouble being objective, ask a trusted friend or a professional consultant for help.

Next steps

You now know everything you need to land that first big internship. So go out and make us all proud to have ever known you!  If you have more questions, feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to answer you directly or put out another blog later on.


PHOTO BY SEAN MACENTEE, ARTICLE BY FORSTER-THOMAS, INC.