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Undergraduate Medicine Written Application Guide

Published on
May 11, 2024
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How to ace your undergraduate medical school written application

Before We Begin… 

Have you sat down to write your medical application for undergraduate medical school and become frustrated with not knowing what to put down or where to begin? The Undergraduate Medicine Written Application Guide is designed to allay your anxiety and to help you structure the best possible answers for your written application to stand out enough to get that medical interview offer

This document has been developed by med students who were successful applicants at undergraduate medical schools that require a written application. We encourage you to read this before starting to write.

Undergraduate Medicine Written Application: An introduction 

The Written Application is a chance for you to reflect upon your personal qualities, development, and innermost motivations and experiences for entering a career in medicine. Because of this, written applications can arguably be the most challenging part of your medical school application. How do you stand out from the group of thousands of applications? How do you make that university choose your application over the next candidate? 

Having successfully received interviews and gone through the process of becoming medical students, we know the importance of making your story unique to the admissions body. Since it is they who will decide your acceptance, we want to ensure that you will leave a lasting impression on them. The journey into medicine is difficult and can be emotionally draining, getting your application right will help you to understand why you are endeavouring to undertake the challenge, keeping you focused when you’re feeling the stress!

How to Begin 

It may seem daunting and overwhelming, however, application questions are often a useful source of reflection on why you chose this path and can really summarise your motivations. The one attribute that all successful applicants have in common is their passion to contribute to medicine. But how does this passion and commitment to medicine arise? What makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd? Why do you want to do medicine and why should your preferred medical school choose you? Why do you specifically want to go to this medical school?

Consider the set of application questions contributing to one complete application. You shouldn’t need to repeat yourself across the questions, and you don’t want to leave out any key points. Start by considering the aims of your application before writing and recognizing the points you need to address and where they fit best across the questions. How do you demonstrate that you have the attributes to be an upstanding medical student, and eventually, a medical practitioner? Do you have the potential to develop and grow into a competent member of the medical profession, and if so, how?

This requires not only personal attributes and experiences but also an understanding of the reality yet to come. Furthermore, acknowledging a desire for continuous growth shows enthusiasm for both the educational pursuit and professional career of medicine. 

To get started, consider the following: 

  1. Compile the skills, experiences, and achievements that you have gained throughout your life
  2. Relate them to your aims, ensuring you give justifications for each statement 
  3. Demonstrate insights from your experiences and what you have learned or gained
  4. Tie all these skills and qualities into what the specific school is looking for and how you can contribute as a prospective student and future doctor

Keep in mind that what the medical schools are looking for are your insights and reflections from what you experienced on your journey, even if it's from your day-to-day activities. Medical schools are not expecting you to have ground-breaking achievements (i.e. being a previous astronomer, developing a cure for cancer, etc.), but rather looking for students who have depth and can extrapolate meaning from what they experience.

Beyond that, maturity and a well-thought-out decision as to why to study medicine are also important in showing your commitment to the challenges of the course and vocation ahead.

Important Tips:

1. Avoid Clichés 

The vast majority of applicants will state in their applications that their motivation to study medicine is ‘a desire/passion/wanting to help people. Please DO NOT be one of those people! Instead, demonstrate through key insights and reflections from your experiences that this career is right for you because of x, y, z…

2. Connect your experiences to the particular qualities the universities are looking for

Every university has a slightly different ‘ideal medical student’ that they are looking for in their applications and interviews. Consider the specifics of your university - what are their values and what are they renowned for?

3. See each of your application questions as one complete piece

You have a very limited amount of space to impress your examiners and show them why you are the ideal candidate for their medical school. With this in mind, it’s important to try and avoid repeating examples, motivations, or skills across the different questions. Instead try and find where each example/motivation/skill fits best, and instead show them a broader variety of your assets across the complete application.

4.Transition Words/Phrases

Transition words and phrases are key to making sure the overall flow is smooth and not choppy. Use them between points or paragraphs and make sure each one is linked to the other.

5. Showing vs. Telling

Please do not state that you’re compassionate and ethical. Unfortunately, a lot of applicants fall into this mistake. Instead, give solid examples to draw the spotlight onto who you truly are, and then explore how that makes you compassionate or ethical. Prove it by relating a story, sharing a reflection, or showing how these events affected you.

James Cook University (JCU) Medicine Written Application

James Cook University (JCU) is based in Townsville, Queensland, and offers a 6-year undergraduate MBBS degree. JCU does not use the UCAT to determine interview offers but instead requires students to provide a written application by responding to a number of short answer questions. They also require students to send up to 3 written references with this application. Finally, a ‘predicted ATAR’ form is also required to be sent with this application, completed by a teacher at your school.

Each section is part of a form that requires students to hand-write their responses in the space provided. This means there is no strict word count, but space varies between 15 and 19 lines (approximately 215-275 words). 

How are the JCU medicine written application questions used?

At JCU medicine, the written application questions are a key aspect of the application process. As JCU does not consider the UCAT in their application process, interview offers are determined from a combination of ATAR  and the written application questions. This makes them an extremely valuable asset if you put the effort in! 

When should I start? 

There is no time too early to start the application process. The application questions remain relatively unchanged each year and getting a head start on your brainstorming process never hurts. Seeing as the written application is due at a busy time for year 12 students, they often feel rushed when constructing their application and don’t put enough effort into it - harming their chance for an offer.

It can take some time to compose your responses, often with repeated redrafts. Don’t expect to sit down and write out your answers straight onto the form first go! Writing is like polishing a stained mirror and it will take several attempts before it glistens. Hence, make sure you schedule the time to review and rewrite over and over again until it is perfect. Since written applications are due September 30th (and submitted by post!), the period between the UCAT (if you are applying to other medical schools) and the application due date is a good time to write these applications.

However, in this instance, there is no such thing as starting an application too early. But no matter what, try not to let yourself wait until the last minute to get started.  This puts you in a situation with considerable time pressure and this may come across in your writing. To begin, you should list all the ideas and thoughts you want to mention in your written application, and start writing! 

Examples of James Cook University (JCU) Medicine Written Application

Question 1: Why do you want to become a medical practitioner/ health professional? 

This question requires you to delve into your motivations for studying medicine. There is no ‘perfect’ answer for this but try and resist the urge to just talk about ‘helping people’ or rattling off an endless list of reasons. A strong response will be personal and honest, but will also delve into each reason and explain it properly. A strong candidate will also provide reasons specific to medicine rather than features that may be generically found in many healthcare careers. There are 15 lines allocated to this question, we suggest this should equate to approximately 215 words. 

Bad Example:

Both of my parents are doctors and I have always looked up to them. Ever since I was young I always knew I wanted to follow in their footsteps and become a doctor too. I also want to be able to give back to my community and help others in times of need...

Good Example: 

A key factor that led to my interest in medicine is my own fathers’ run-in with atherosclerosis which was initially put down to stress. This experience reinforced my idea of the kind of doctor I wanted to be, a doctor who utilizes their problem-solving skills and resources to correctly diagnose and treat patients based on their symptomatology to create a lasting impact on their life...

Question 2: What activities (paid employment, work experience, or voluntary work) have you undertaken, in addition to your studies, which indicate your motivation to study Medicine or another Health Professional degree at James Cook University?

Many students use this as an opportunity to talk about the work experience they have done with a doctor/health professional and what they learned there. But your experiences by no means need to be medically relevant. Whether it be sporting commitments or volunteering experiences this question is an opportunity to explore the skills and qualities you have gained from such experiences and why they will serve you well as a medical student and future doctor. It can also be a good chance to show your understanding of healthcare outcomes, for example, if your experiences relate to marginalized communities or medical systems.

There are 15 lines allocated to this question, we suggest this should equate to approximately 215 words. 

Bad example:

I was a year 2 Mathematics and English tutor at a small tuition center called “Study Smart”. In addition to teaching, my role included preparing class materials, correcting homework, and answering questions. I liked being a tutor and thought the students were really cute and funny...

Good Example: 

As a head receptionist in the Butler clinic, my responsibility was to coordinate clinic staff & lead the smooth operation of the practice. I took it upon myself to implement new clinic administration practices, which both built a detailed understanding of medical systems as well as bolstering skills in organization and team engagement...

Question 3: Tell us why you are interested in enrolling for a course where important themes are Indigenous and tropical medicine and tropical health and rural/remote medicine? 

This question requires applicants to demonstrate their understanding of these issues. The easiest way to prepare for this question is to do some research online- there are plenty of resources out there! If you do have a personal connection to these issues, be sure to mention it. Whilst this can be an added bonus, it is not necessary to have a personal connection. Instead, all applicants can discuss elements of the role they can play in solving the health crises in these areas of healthcare. Writing about all four of these themes can be very difficult in the space provided given that they all are very different. It is also reasonable to tailor your writing to one or two issues if you have enough to discuss them. There are 18 lines allocated to this question, we suggest this should equate to approximately 260 words. 

Bad Example:

I am passionate about rural health and serving the needs of rural communities. I also think that as Australians we all have an obligation to improve the health of our indigenous communities, who have a notably reduced lifespan and far poorer health outcomes...

Good Example: 

Having grown up in far North Queensland I learned first-hand the impact of doctor shortages in rural communities, and how my community experienced poorer health outcomes due to poor health education, limited access to specialists, and culture of ‘grin and bear it’... 

Question 4: Provide any other information you believe will support your application

Use this as an opportunity to include information that has not already been stated. Whilst numerous students leave this section blank (and have in the past received an interview offer), it is important to recognize it as an opportunity to provide further evidence for why you are the perfect candidate for JCU! Include information that you deem to set you apart and make you a better applicant, ensuring it isn’t a repeat of information previously provided. It’s also a great place to get creative – JCU wants to enroll people with human experiences and human stories; this is a time to showcase who you are as a person. There are 19 lines allocated to this question, we suggest this should equate to approximately 275 words. 

Bad Example:

In year 9, my partner and I were placed first in the Japanese oral competition. Our oral presentation was about Japanese martial arts. In preparation for the competition, my partner and I wrote the script and prepared our costumes together. Afterward, we asked our teacher to proofread the script and we practiced on a weekly basis after school...

Good Example: 

During my Honours year at the Gordon Institute, I was asked to present a poster at the Jacksonville conference depicting my work on youth relationships with alcohol and their associated harms. It was inspiring to be influenced by academics who shared my passion for improving the lives of our community through public health strategies...

How to approach letters of support

A letter of support is a letter written by someone who can attest to your personal qualities and thus strengthen your application. Students often seek these from a teacher, head of year or family friend. These can take a while to write, so be sure to ask these people early! Many applicants think these need to be from a  medical professional or someone who will ‘impress’ the JCU admissions team - this is not the case. Think carefully about who you want to write your letter of support, it should be the people who will know you the best, and be able to write glowing descriptions of your attributes, having known you for a sufficient period of time. 

University of New South Wales (UNSW) Medicine Written Application

How are the UNSW application questions used?

Unlike JCU, UNSW doesn’t use their application questions to determine interview offers. Instead, they are only used to help guide interview questions on the day. Despite this, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put effort into your application! If you are successful in receiving an interview, these questions will help guide your interview- so set yourself up for success!

When should I start?

The Medicine Application Portal (MAP) opens on April 1 and remains open until the 30th of September 2020. Students need to apply here as well as through the state’s tertiary admissions center (UAC). These questions are all short and simplistic but change every year. It is strongly recommended that you make an early start so that you can put some thought into your answers and get the wording right within the word limit. 

How to respond to the questions?

In 2020, the questions range from ‘Tell us who you are’ to ‘Identify the person who contributed the most to your success in life to date'. The word count for these questions range from 30-50 words, so the key is to get to the point and show off your qualities in the minimal words you have. To start with, we recommend that you write down a list of your strongest qualities or experiences. Reflect on what you have learned or gained from these experiences. Then come back to the questions and look where some of these ideas may fit, ensuring that you don’t repeat yourself and that collectively you are presenting a wide range of skills and assets that make you an impressive candidate, and future medical student. 

Also remember to save a copy of your responses elsewhere, so that you can review them before your interview!

FAQs

Here is a list of common questions you might find helpful:

I don’t have anything to write about for a written application, what do I do?

This feeling of having nothing to write about is common. If you are struggling with ideas consider writing a brief timeline of your past 5-10 years in chronological order. Thinking about your past this way will help you remember the activities you were involved in. Consider looking at your resume along with asking family and friends can also help yield some ideas to include in your written application. Keep in mind your professional experience can also be used to form some of your examples, even as unimpressive as working on checkout can be used to demonstrate teamwork and lots of conflict resolution with difficult customers.

I have so many things to write about, how do I choose which activities to include and which ones to exclude? 

The activities you should be including first should be the ones that are able to be emphasized the most and written to match the selection criteria as best possible. It is not just about creating a written application full of altruistic activities, or even what the experiences are, rather how they shaped you to be an excellent candidate for the university you are applying to. The way that you reflect and the body of experiences both matter.

I want to apply to JCU but I am not from a rural area and I don't have any experience in rural / Indigenous/tropical health, should I still apply? 

Yes, you should still apply. JCU does not expect students to enter the program with a comprehensive understanding or experience handling rural/regional/indigenous/tropical medicine issues. On the other hand, they do look for students who can demonstrate a genuine interest in learning about these areas. Consider reading up about some of the key issues in this area to help you answer the second question in particular. It is important to understand that you should be genuinely interested in the specific JCU medical program and be willing to do rural placements.

We hope that you found our Undergraduate Medicine Written Application Guide useful. Many of us at Fraser’s know this process and understand how it can seem prohibitively overwhelming. However, now that you have the information, you’re already halfway there!

We wish you the best of luck with your upcoming undergraduate medicine application.

What To Do Next?

Check out the range of Undergraduate Courses we offer at Fraser's to help you improve your performance in medical interviews, written applications and much more!