Much of the focus of the medical school applicant prior to submitting the primary application is on the personal statement. This is for good reason, as the personal statement is an important component of the initial application which cannot be taken lightly. Equally important though is the secondary application. It is absolutely crucial not to overlook this part of the application process. Secondary essays must be handled with great attention and care. A systematic approach to secondary writing will facilitate this process. The key points outlined here provide a great framework of strategies to use and pitfalls to avoid when crafting a secondary application.
BackgroundFirst of all, what is the secondary application? As its name suggests, it is the second component that is sent to an applicant after they submit the primary application. They are also referred to by some programs as the “supplemental application.” Each school has a unique secondary, which contrasts the common primary which was sent to several schools through AMCAS, AACOMAS, or TMDSAS. The secondary is a chance for each school to get more information from the applicant through a series of short essay questions. Questions will be unique to each program, though there is a fair amount of overlap among them. There is a spectrum of what secondaries actually look like. Some consist of several short answer questions, while a few request a longer essay. The average secondary consists of 2-3 short essays about the applicant’s experiences and interest in that particular school. For those who submit their primary in June, secondary invitations will arrive in late June and early July, continuing throughout the summer thereafter. For more details on the background and approach, see our prior content on secondary applications.
Tips for Crafting an Outstanding Secondary
1 | Get OrganizedSecondary applications can be overwhelming in that they arrive in quick succession. Each school will send a different secondary with unique essay questions. This means you will be faced with several, possibly dozens of applications within a 1-2 month period. This necessitates organization in your approach. I recommend creating a spreadsheet listing each program with the following components: name of school, date of secondary receipt, submission deadline, number of essay questions, school ranking, relative ranking of importance to you. See this example based on secondaries from last application cycle: This system will allow you to keep track of each school and organize your approach.
2 | Prioritize Certain SchoolsYou will have to decide on which secondaries to do in which order, as you will likely get several at a time. Using the spreadsheet you created, you will have the information needed to make the decision. Here are some points to consider in choosing your possible approach:
- Consider applying to your top choice or best fit schools first. This will allow you to get ahead of the curve of rolling admissions, maximizing your position to get an interview.
- Consider applying to the most competitive schools first, for the same reason as above.
- Consider submitting some secondaries for the lower ranked/lower preference schools prior to submitting higher ranked/higher preference ones. This will afford you some practice, possibly making your later secondary essays more effective. This point has merit, but can quickly be mitigated by the rapid-turnaround Med School Insiders secondary application editing that we offer. Our advisors are real doctors that have served on medical school admissions committees, so they know what it takes to stand out.
- I would recommend some combination of the above approaches. Just as it is useful to create a spread of competitiveness in your chosen schools, you can initially have a spread of schools which you respond to so that you give yourself some safety options but also prioritize preference. Once you have done this and honed your essay writing a bit, focus on the competitive or high-priority programs.