University of Houston HonorsMed Program

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We’ve written about the various BS/MD programs offered by Texas colleges before (along with a more general guide to these programs), and now are adding a new one to the listing, as University of Houston has just introduced their own such program: HonorsMed. The appeal of BS/MD programs is clear, as med school applications are an incredible hurdle; why not get the stress dealt with early?

In this article, we’ll explore what University of Houston’s HonorsMed program is, what it offers to students, and how to apply to it. We’ll cover the application in some detail, especially the essays, because as with all BS/MD programs it is incredibly substantial. Let’s get started!

What is the HonorsMed Program?

Run as a subsidiary of University of Houston’s Honors College, the HonorsMed program is a conditional acceptance program to the Fertitta Family College of Medicine. Students spend four years in the Honors College at UH, followed by four years in medical school. 

You may major in any subject you wish in undergrad, but must complete the honors curriculum. You must also minor in Medicine and Society, and fulfill all of the prerequisites for medical school. Matriculation is conditional on maintaining at least a 3.5 GPA and scoring at least a 500 on the MCAT. 

As this is a fairly new program, this is mostly still theoretical; the first class has only just applied this fall. As the program continues to develop, we anticipate it will gain further resources and options for students; currently new trails are being blazed. 

Applying to the HonorsMed Program

Students must first apply to the University of Houston, and its honors program. Once this is done, you may complete the application to the HonorsMed program. This application is due by November 1st; late or incomplete applications will not be reviewed. 

The primary portion of the application is the essays. HonorsMed asks for four essays of a thousand words apiece. This is the most asked for by any BS/MD program in terms of word count; the longest essays otherwise are 800 words. We’ll go through each prompt in turn, and discuss what the school is looking for, and how best you can fulfill this truly epic word count. For a more general guide to writing BS/MD essays, see our article on the topic.

Why Medicine?

Here is the prompt:

  • What aspirations, experiences or relationships have motivated you to study in the eight-year UH Medical Scholars Program? (1000 Words)

This is a question asked by many BS/MD programs, and it makes sense; this program is a major commitment of time and resources, and they want to be sure of your motivations before you begin. These essays should first cover what brought you to study medicine in the first place: what sparked your interest?

This can be almost anything, but for most students is their own early brushes with the medical field. This can be from your own injury or illness, those of a loved one, or a family member who works in the field. All of these are quite common stories, and admissions officers read hundreds of versions of them. Your goal with this essay is to make your own story and experiences unique.

In order to do this, you need to demonstrate how your initial interest was nurtured into a true passion for medicine. This is a unique journey for everyone, and is how you can both differentiate yourself from other applicants, and show off some of your past experiences with the medical field. As this essay is so long, we recommend using it to really explore your journey through medicine over time. 

At the end of this essay, we recommend having a paragraph on why you want to study medicine at UH specifically, and explain why it is the logical endpoint for your journey in medicine. There is no specific “Why Us” prompt from HonorsMed, so this section should fulfill that purpose. Discuss specific programs, organizations, or research opportunities you want to get involved with on campus, and how specifically they support your goals in medicine. 

Extracurricular Essay

Here is the prompt:

  • What makes you a good candidate for the HMED program? (1000 Words)

The point of this prompt is to give you a chance to explain your preparation for the program, and to show off your accomplishments in the field of medicine. Your resume is known to admissions officers, but this is a chance to go further into depth on one of your experiences (or more). 

BS/MD programs are looking for students with extracurricular experience in clinical settings, doing research, and with medicine. This prompt is an invitation to discuss these experiences, and describe how they have prepared you for the rigors of the BS/MD program. 

We recommend being very specific in this essay; cover what you learned, how you grew as a scholar, and any insights you gained into science and medicine. You want to display not just the practical pieces of what you accomplished, but your best traits, be they leadership, attention to detail, care for others, or any of the other traits needed to be a successful doctor. 

This is a very long essay, which means you can discuss more than one experience. We recommend this; a thousand words is a lot to discuss a single activity. Instead spending the first half on one activity, and then the second half exploring another, is far more effective. There should be a central theme to the essay, some grander lesson you learned about yourself or the field, but this can be expressed through multiple activities. 

In this way you are better able to demonstrate your achievements, and demonstrate fully to admissions officers what you have done to prepare yourself for their program. 

Medical Change

Here is the prompt: 

  • What aspect of healthcare in your city/area needs to be disrupted and how do you envision your future career as a physician playing a role? (1000 Words)

This prompt has two portions; the first is asking you about some issue within healthcare you see as needing to be addressed, and the second is asking how you may confront it in your future career as a physician. 

Both of these are semi-frequent questions on BS/MD applications. Healthcare is a complicated and constantly evolving field, and these programs are looking for students who will be at the forefront of this innovation, working to confront past mistakes and to better the field for patients and practitioners alike. 

When discussing a problem you have observed in healthcare, it is best if this comes from your own experience. BS/MD programs want you to have clinical and shadowing experience; this will have exposed you to medicine in person, and all that goes with it. From this experience you may have seen gaps, shortcomings, or things you would change if you had the chance. 

Thus you both get to discuss one of your extracurriculars, while also addressing the prompt. This should take up the first half of the essay or so; identifying what the problem is, and any experience you have with it.

For the second part, discuss what you would do as a doctor to address the issue you have seen in medicine. When covering this, you want to give examples of how you have dealt with issues in the past. What previous experience do you have in dealing with issues in this way?

We realize that you have probably not created fundamental change in the field of medicine, but you do have experience in problem solving and dealing with real world issues. You should use your past experiences to demonstrate your capability for affecting change, while also giving admissions officers further insight into your accomplishments. 

Challenge Essay

Here is the prompt: 

  • Think of a time when things didn’t go your way. What made you realize you had to change course and how did you decide on your new direction? (1000 Words)

Overcoming failure is a common theme in BS/MD essays, and this prompt is an example of it. What admissions officers are looking for when they ask these questions is signs of resilience, and your ability to rebound from setbacks. 

Medical school is hard, and the road to becoming a doctor is full of challenges. Admissions officers know this, and want to be sure that the students they admit are able to handle adversity healthily. The best way to ensure this is to ask about your past setbacks, and see whether you were able to handle them in a productive way. 

The most important part of this essay is not the setback you encountered, but how you dealt with it. The setback itself should be significant enough to be notable, but does not need to be directly related to science or medicine. A challenge you have faced in any part of your life can serve as an example. 

This can be a chance to talk about an extracurricular you have not yet mentioned. If you are reusing one of your extracurriculars from another essay, then focus on new aspects. You do not want to repeat information, as all admissions officers will know about you is what you tell them. 

When discussing how you dealt with the setback, you should cover your initial reaction, how you dealt with it in the moment, what you learned from the experience, and how you applied what you learned going forward. You want to demonstrate personal growth, and the ability to learn from your mistakes without them overwhelming you.

Final Thoughts

All BS/MD applications are difficult, but the one for University of Houston’s HonorsMed program is notable for the sheer mass of words they require, with the longest word counts of any essay we have seen. The program is a new one however, and we will see if they alter expectations for the next admissions cycle. 

We hope that this article has given you insight into what UH’s program is looking for in applicants, and how you should approach their application and essays. We know that BS/MD applications can be especially challenging for students; if you want advice on how to approach them, or to hear more about how we can help you, schedule a free consultation today.

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