UMass Medical School
Admissions Consulting Services
The mission of the University of Massachusetts Medical School is to advance the health and well-being of the people of the commonwealth and the world through pioneering advances in education, research and health care delivery.
When thinking about how to respond to any secondary
application questions, applicants should consider the fact that
Admissions Committees (AdComs) are not just simply looking
to accept qualified medical students. Their actual goal is to
vet and accept future physicians knowing that acceptance to
medical school is the biggest hurdle to overcome to guarantee
a career in medicine. After all, 97% of medical students
graduate from medical school and 94% of medical school
graduates match to a residency in their first attempt. AdComs
are tasked with choosing applicants who will not only do well
in medical school but eventually, successfully practice as
physicians. The questions asked are therefore focused on
assessing aptitude, resilience, commitment and intellectual
curiosity, qualities needed for longevity in medicine.
1. Please respond to four of the following seven prompts related to competencies that are important for a physician to possess. (150 words/item, 600 words/total)
a) Describe a time when you have made a decision that was not popular and how you handled this. (Leadership competency)
Although medicine has moved towards a team based model of care, Physicians continue to be placed in positions of leadership and are expected to be thoughtful and ethical in their decision making. This question is trying to highlight how you handled making an unpopular choice but showed conviction in defending that decision. Leadership requires making tough choices and then effectively communicating your thought process and why you made that choice to others. When answering this question, choose an example of an ethical choice that perhaps was not popular for multiple reasons (imposed an inconvenience to others, was not a “quick fix”, demanded more from those involved, etc.) Avoid examples that are morally ambiguous (your readers should side with you and see your choice as the ethical one). Avoid using any example where you can appear arrogant or self-serving and instead, use examples that highlight you advocating for someone else despite it not being the easy choice.
b) Describe a time when you were on a team that was dysfunctional in some regard. How did you address the situation? (Teamwork)
Team based clinical care is how healthcare is delivered and physicians are expected to manage and lead teams. Being able to navigate difficult team interactions is a skill that medical schools are looking for so this question is getting at this competency. Use an example that has a positive outcome and allows you to demonstrate your leadership experience, your ability to be a rational and calm person under stress and demonstrates your insight on what the problem in team dynamics was and how you were able to address it. The example doesn’t have to be complex or high stakes but should be mature and show insight.
c) Describe a meaningful interaction you have had with a person whom you have helped at work, school or another activity. (Empathy/Compassion)
For this question, if you’ve had a meaningful interaction in the setting of service or advocacy, use that example. A story is an excellent way to approach this (i.e. using a volunteer experience anecdote). Using examples where you show commitment to service is ideal. The important thing to include in your answer is your assessment of the other person’s point of view and how you were able to see it (empathy) so placing yourself “in their shoes” and communicating that in your essay will be important.
d) Have you ever been in the middle of a situation where there was poor communication? What did you do to improve it? (Communication)
Again, see answers above regarding the importance of communication. Having strong interpersonal skills is crucial for success in medical school, residency and the practice of medicine. In your example, show your ability to identify why it was poor communication and subsequently, how you fixed the problem. Again, you do not have to choose any examples in medicine. Any previous experience is acceptable as long as it answer the questions of why this was poor communication, how you thought through the issue, how you approached the issue (talking to the other party and how you approached that with maturity is key to your answer) and more importantly, how you improved it. Use examples with clear outcomes (the issue was resolved) rather than leave it open ended.
e) Describe a time when you have “thought outside the box” to solve a problem. (Inquiry)
When thinking about this question, you can use any example, whether it be something like a scientific experiment, service project, volunteer experience, etc. As long as you can communicate creativity and problem solving, you don’t have to stick to a generic medical/scientific/clinical encounter. Being creative in whatever context shows this best is the recommended approach.
f) Describe a time when you suffered a setback. How did you respond to this challenge? (Persistence/Grit)
Resilience is one of the most important attributes a physician can possess. In fact, resilience is seen as a predictor of completion of training and transition to practice. The example you choose should not be a trivial experience or appear self-serving (not getting something you believe you deserved, etc.) This question is a derivation of the “tell me a time you failed” question that is commonly asked in interviews in many disciplines. The real important part of the question is the second half or the “how did you respond to this challenge”. Keep that in mind when coming up with an answer. Being sincere and showing emotional maturity and self-awareness is important in answering this question. It can be a broad/general example (being the first college graduate) or specific (an event that changed your life, etc.). Regardless of what you choose, make sure you show maturity in your response and how you grew from this conflict/challenge.
g) Describe a challenging time when you advocated for someone. (Advocacy/Cultural Competence)
UMMS places a large emphasis on advocacy and this is something that all physicians are being asked to do on behalf of their patients and the practice of medicine. Again, this does not have to be a clinical/medical example but can be from any point in your life when you had to bear the burden of standing up for someone else. Use an example when you had to sacrifice something to fight for someone else.
Q2) Please discuss any part of your application that you feel requires further explanation – for example, grades or MCAT scores that do not reflect your true ability, a gap in time that is not explained elsewhere in your application. If you are reapplying to UMass SOM, highlight how you have strengthened your application. (250 word limit)
Although your CV and timeline are included in your AMCAS application, this is where you get to discuss context. For example, a bad MCAT score that prompted a repeat test would be something you could explain here and then subsequently, show how you improved your score by being more focused, having a study plan, etc. The why and how matters a lot here and big red flags should be addressed here with the emphasis being HOW you learned and subsequently improved that deficit in your application. Be careful to not appear as if you are making excuses (this would show lack of introspection and self-awareness) but instead, show how you took responsibility and turned things around by addressing the problem head on. If you have time that is not on your CV (a year without anything “academic” or even employment related) be honest but try to frame the answer as a positive experience that helped you build a skill, or helped you grow. If you are a re-applicant, this is where you show your self-awareness of why you weren’t accepted last time you applied and how you addressed those weaknesses (MCAT score, not enough clinical exposure, not enough service, bad grades, etc.). By showing self-awareness, identifying the weaknesses in the application and addressing them, you show maturity and resilience, two important qualities they are looking for.
Q3) If you have participated in UMass SOM or UMass Memorial Health Care, or UMMS Baystate sponsored programs (SEP, Summer Research Program, Worcester Pipeline Collaborative, AHEC, BaccMD, HSPP, Academic Internships, BSEP, Summer Scholars) please describe how these programs helped you decide to apply to UMass SOM. (200 word limit)
This question is aimed at a very specific group of applicants who have participated in the above mentioned programs and will not apply to 95% of the applicants.
Q4) Why are you interested in UMass SOM? What will you bring to your class and the SOM community? (200 word limit)
You should consider the UMMS Mission Statement when answering this question:
The UMass Medical School of Medicine was founded in 1962 with the mission to advance the health and well-being of the people of the commonwealth and the world through pioneering education, research, and health care delivery. The School of Medicine educational experience inspires our future physicians and physician scientists to excel in patient care, innovation, discovery, leadership and service. UMMS students are highly motivated, intelligent, thoughtful and compassionate. They volunteer to work with community organizations and are fully imbued with the school's commitment to public service. Students in the School of Medicine are educated in a range of medical disciplines with an emphasis on training for practice in general medicine and primary care specialties in the public sector. UMMS approaches all applications with a holistic view and no specific scores or grades guarantee an interview. Instead, they look at the entire application and value different aspects of a candidate’s road to medicine. They embrace diversity in all forms.
This question gives you an opportunity to express how your strengths and interests align with the UMMS Mission Statement and the resources they offer. Use real examples of either research that is being conducted (if you have an interest in research) or outreach in the community that is being done at UMMS. You should be as specific as possible and show that you have researched the school and are knowledgeable about why it would be a good fit for you and how you can contribute. Look at your CV and see what parts of it align with UMMS’ mission of service to the public and to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (if you are an in-state applicant). They are accepting a small group of out of state applicants so you should emphasize public service as much as possible. Talk about diversity here, specifically, diversity of your experiences and how you’ve contributed to society. If you are interested in primary care, you should mention that here and how you envision UMMS would help you reach that goal. Be humble in your tone and your writing style. Since it is only 200 words, be mindful to make sure you make your case succinctly. Think of this question as an opportunity to express your passion and aptitude for service, advocacy, leadership, scientific inquiry and how you hope to contribute to the school.
UMass Medical School Application Timeline:
AMCAS Application submission deadline: October 15, 2019
Early Decision Application submission to AMCAS: August 1, 2019
Early Decision Application submission to UMMS: September 1, 2019
Applicants notified of Early Decision: October 1, 2019
Secondary Application submission deadline: December 2, 2019
For more information about the medical school application process,
contact us at 1.646.598.8174 or .