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Blog / Everything You Need To Know About A Secondary Application For Medical School

Everything You Need to Know About A Secondary Application for Medical School

Written by Keenan on Apr 15, 2022

Many students have trouble with medical school secondary applications. They are usually confused about what a secondary application for medical school is and how they should prepare for it. Before getting into details about secondary application, it’s a good idea to first clarify the purpose of secondary applications

What Is A Secondary Application For Medical School?

The main purpose of the secondary medical school application is to determine whether or not you are a the right person who is in line with the mission, vision and values of the institution you are applying to. In other words, will be a good fit for that institution.

Secondary applications usually focus on evaluating your qualifications and characteristics as an individual. Secondary applications can vary depending on the school. Some medical schools will require you to write up to four additional essays, others require short answer responses, and even some include simple yes or no questions. 

The quality of your secondary essays can significantly increase your chances of getting invitations for an interview. In addition, writing essays with given prompts can actually help you answer interview questions with much more efficiency because you have already practiced. 

This article will review some of the most important keys to sending out killer secondary applications including tips on how to successfully write about the most common essay prompts that will catch the admission committee’s attention.

Who Receives a Secondary Application Package?

Schools usually do either one of two options, they either send secondary application offers to ALL of the students who have applied, or they will send a selected number of offers only to those students who have passed the initial screening process. 

The time you receive essay prompts for secondary application generally depends on how long it will take for AMCAS to process your application (which can take up to six weeks) and how long each individual school will take to consider your primary application. You can check the medical school application timeline to make sure about the general deadline for each stage of your application.

Writing secondary essays can be time-consuming and tedious but here are two small pieces of good news: 

  • Secondary essays are usually shorter than your personal statement.
  • Some of the topics you have to work on have come up repeatedly during the previous rounds of invites so there are numerous sources to help you write your essays successfully.

5 of the Most Common Secondary Essay Prompts and How to Write Them

In your journey to medical school, time is precious. You need to work according to a plan so that you don’t lose opportunities due to the lack of time management. It’s a good idea to do as much preparation as possible in the spare time you get after the primary applications are sent out. You can use a part of this time to prepare your secondary essays. These essays are your key to getting an interview invite. We suggest you take them seriously.

There is some preparatory work you can do in order to have enough time to polish your essays to perfection.

You can start by checking out the list of medical school secondary essay prompts and pulling out the common themes for the schools you want to apply to. 

Next, you should create an outline or rough draft for each of the themes. Although some schools change their prompts every year, planning ahead can reduce your anxiety about time pressure and give you an opportunity to focus on your writing. 

If you can pre-write some parts of your secondary application essays, then you can invest your time in crafting a well-thought piece of writing that meets all the requirements for each individual institution.

Now we will go over some of the most common prompts and how to write about them: 

Why Our School?

The key to answering this question perfectly is conducting a thorough research about your school. You should familiarize yourself with the school’s core values, mission statement and vision. Information about the student body, curriculum, extra-curricular activities offered to students, their programs and the requirements can help you develop a great understanding of the school and measure the information against your own personal set values, goals and learning opportunities you are looking for. 

Doing your homework and being well-informed will show the admissions committee how interested you are in the program in addition to giving you enough material to show that you are a good fit for that school.

Cultural Competency

Generally speaking, the questions about cultural competency want to see your ability to interact with people of different cultures and belief systems. They want to know if you can help people in a way that is aligned with their values and beliefs. It is also important to realize the vital role that effective communication plays in bridging cultural differences. In these essays, you should focus on how you have employed a strategy to help someone and overcame the communication barriers to finally be able to help someone despite all the differences. These prompts usually want your essay to focus on how you use your skills to help someone from a different socio-cultural background, how you can overcome the language barrier, and communication strategies to help people.

Overcoming Challenges

This prompt is a closer look at your resilience. You will in one way or another, face many difficulties and challenges in your training to become a doctor. Medical schools want to make sure that their candidates are up to it. They want candidates who can handle challenges and are mature enough to take the right approach in times of need. Using real-life examples can give you a good idea about how you should write your essay. Examples such as a time when you had to overcome a setback, illness, or injury. 

Make sure you keep your essay on the positive side of things. The committee wants to know how you handle a dire situation or a difficult challenge. They want to see how you dealt with the problem and not how the problem took over your life. End on a positive note and how you overcame the challenges in life and became a better person. 

Future Goals

For many students, it might be difficult to talk about their future goals in detail. For example, you might not have decided what kind of a doctor you want to be. And that is okay. For this prompt, it’s best you focus on the part of your life experience that led to your decision to become a doctor. Go into the specifics about the experiences that made you want to become a doctor. If you write about your personal experiences and stories, you don’t need to worry about not sounding authentic or original. You know that whatever you write, it will be honest. If you haven’t decided about what kind of doctor you want to be, you should focus on the general and broader direction you expect your career to take. You might change your mind after a while in medical school. So don’t forget to mention that you are always keeping an eye on new opportunities to explore.

Academic Lapses or Breaks

If there are any lapses in your academic resume or you have taken any breaks, you might be asked to further explain about this issue to the admissions committee. This is one of the prompts that you can pre-write in advance. Bear in mind to focus on what is asked of you and what is important to mention. You need to first explain clearly and briefly what led to the decision to take a break, how you overcame the situation, and what you learned from the experience.

DO’s and DON’Ts of Medical School Secondary Application

  • Each essay should be specific to the prompt.
  • Have as many people as possible to proofread your essays.
  • Make sure your essay makes sense. Don’t just cut and paste different parts from different essays. Read it for a couple of times to make sure you sound coherent.
  • Don’t just repeat the information you have already shared on your primary application. The purpose of the medical school secondary application is for the admissions committee to get to know you more in depth.
  • If you are required to make any payments, make sure you do so. Sometimes these small details are easy to forget.

5 Tips on Managing Medical School Secondary Application Successfully.

Be Organized

Various credible sources suggest you create a spreadsheet where you can keep all the necessary data and links in one place. We suggest the same. This way, you can easily access the information and track your progress with each application. You don’t want to miss out on a deadline after all the hard work you have done simply because you forgot. 

Submit Early

Here we talk in detail about the golden rule of medical school application, the sooner, the better. The same rule applied to the secondary applications. A prompt application usually indicates how interested you are in a particular program. Two weeks is enough time to go by before you send your application. There is one exception to this rule and that is when submitting early means sacrificing the quality.

Stay Ahead of the Game

Some medical schools provide the essay prompts on their website. If they are available, that means you can get a head start on your essay writing process. Keep in mind that saving time can help you a great deal during the application process.

Set Your Priorities Straight

Writing medical school secondary application essays can be arduous but they should be your top priority if becoming a doctor is your priority. When writing secondary essays, prioritize completing each essay based on the priority you have in mind for potential programs. Write the essay for the particular school you are interested in first. You should also complete your application for your safe option – a school or institution where your chances of acceptance are higher. 

Read Sample Essays

In order to have a better understanding of what is asked of you to write about, you should put some time into reading essay samples. Reading sample essays can be beneficial in two aspects: first to get a clear understanding of what you are supposed to write about and second, to see how you employ different approaches to write about one topic. You will also learn not to use some of the clichés that are overused in these essays.

Final Words 

Medical school secondary applications will probably be one of the most time-consuming, stressful, and tedious parts of your journey towards becoming a doctor but you’re almost at the finish line. 

Each of these stages are designed to test you in a different way. Your knowledge, your patience, your perseverance and resilience and much more are all being tested in this process. Staying focused, on schedule and relaxed will help you a great deal. 

When writing medical school secondary essays, keep in mind that you should not aim to only answer the question you are being asked, but also you are providing an opportunity for your reader to get a more in-depth understanding of your character and qualities. Just keep your eyes on the final prize and don’t forget why you are doing this.

When in Doubt Get Help

If you are doubting your application and struggling with the process, the Jack Westin Admissions team is here to help. Whether you need assistance writing your Personal Statement Essay, or you want professional editors taking a look at your secondary essays, we’re here to help. To get started with the Jack Westin team, CLICK HERE.



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