2023 AACOMAS Secondary Application Guide


Your primary medical school application may be submitted, but your journey to becoming an osteopathic doctor (DO) is far from over. While you may be ready for a long break, the AACOMAS secondary application is headed straight for you—and it’s going to arrive sooner than you think.

Your AACOMAS secondary applications are your chance to demonstrate to the admissions committees of the osteopathic schools of your choice why you’re a perfect fit for their program and why their program is a perfect fit for you. Learn how to create a stand out AACOMAS secondary application, including secondary deadlines, costs, the types of questions asked, and critical strategies designed to get you interviews.


AACOMAS vs. AMCAS Applications

There are a few different medical school application services in the United States, and the one you choose will depend on where in the country you want to study as well as the type of doctor you want to become; namely, an osteopathic (DO) doctor or allopathic (MD) doctor.

The vast majority of students applying to osteopathic (DO) schools will use the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) to apply to medical school, whereas the vast majority of medical school applicants studying to become an allopathic (MD) doctor will use the American Medical Colleges Application Service (AMCAS) to apply to medical school.

Both are centralized online application services, meaning that you only need to prepare one set of application materials to submit to the service, which will then verify, process, and send out the materials to the schools of your choosing. If you are considering applying to both DO and MD schools, you will need to use both services to apply.

While the application requirements of both services are very similar, there are a few key differences to be aware of.

Learn more in our guide to AMCAS vs. AACOMAS vs. TMDSAS Med School Application Differences.

There are a few different reasons why you might choose to become an osteopathic doctor over an allopathic doctor. Osteopaths distinguish themselves from MDs with a holistic, whole-body approach that treats the person, not the symptoms. Osteopaths focus on preventative medicine as well as the interconnectedness of various organs and systems in the body and how each can affect or influence each other. Just like MDs, osteopaths have to complete four years of medical school followed by residency, they can pursue specializations, and they can perform surgery.

It should be noted that a DO degree generally doesn’t have the same reputation as an MD degree, largely because the statistics for acceptance at osteopathic schools are often lower than allopathic (MD) schools, and DOs have a harder time practicing medicine outside of the US.

That said, you should consider applying to osteopathic schools if:

  • You have a passion for osteopathic medicine
  • You only plan/want to practice medicine in the US
  • You had a DO as a mentor or have worked closely with osteopaths
  • You don’t have the GPA or MCAT scores to be accepted at allopathic (MD) schools

Contact the Med School Insiders team to learn more about our MCAT Tutoring, Courses, and Application Editing Services.


An Intro to the AACOMAS Secondary Application

After you submit your primary application materials through AACOMAS, that’s it, right? Wrong. You might think you’ve earned a break after the painstaking process of acquiring great letters of recommendation, crafting a personal statement, deciding how many medical schools to apply to, and everything in between, but secondary applications arrive as early as two weeks after the medical schools of your choosing receive your primary. Unfortunately, this is just as most medical school applicants are burning out on the whole process.

But it is imperative that you PUSH ON. Secondary applications are every bit as important, if not more important, than primary applications. Secondaries are your chance to demonstrate to an admissions committee why you’ll make an excellent student, why you’re interested in attending their unique program, and how you will specifically add value to the student body. In other words, secondaries are your chance to sell yourself and demonstrate intimate knowledge of the programs you hope to attend.

Whereas you only need to submit one set of primary application materials through AACOMAS, secondaries are sent out by the individual schools you applied to. Although receiving a secondary used to be a sign that a school was interested in you, it’s now common practice for medical schools to send out secondaries to nearly every applicant.

This is both because most schools collect a fee for secondary applications and because admissions committees can better gauge your genuine level of interest in attending their program. If you don’t submit a secondary within a reasonable time frame, the admissions committee will deduce that their program is far from your top choice.

If you applied to 20 schools, which is what we recommend, you could potentially receive as many secondaries, which is why it’s so important to prepare in advance.


AACOMAS Secondary Deadlines and Timeline

The AACOMAS application will typically open in early May for the following year’s medical school class. By mid-June, colleges begin to receive and process applications. This means if you plan on starting medical school in the fall of 2023, you need to begin the application process in the spring of 2022. Once you submit your primary application, you can expect to receive secondaries within two to four weeks.

Medical School Application Timeline

Your chances of being accepted to medical school decrease the later you submit your application due to rolling admissions, so it is imperative that you stay on top of all deadlines and prepare to submit your primary and secondary applications long before the actual deadline.

Secondary applications should be completed as soon as possible without sacrificing quality.

Despite the amount of secondaries you may receive, it’s vital that you submit quality responses within 7-14 days. It’s a lot of work to complete in such a short time frame, which is why you must prepare for your secondaries well in advance.

Once secondaries are submitted, invitations for interviews could arrive as early as late August or as late as spring of the following year. Since you may receive invitations at any point during this time, it is critical that you start preparing for interviews well before you begin to receive them.

For more information about ideal scheduling, read our Medical School Application Timeline Guide.


AACOMAS Secondary Application Cost

In addition to the other innumerable costs that come with applying to medical school, many medical schools charge a fee for secondaries. Osteopathic schools are no exception. Secondary fees range in cost depending on the prestige and ranking of the school. More prestigious or recognized programs will come with higher fees, but generally, DO schools charge around $100 for secondary applications. Unlike primary application fees, fees for secondaries are paid directly to the schools.

Sending secondaries is a win-win for medical schools, as they can collect additional fees, and admissions committees can better ascertain the candidates who are most interested in attending their program.

It is possible that you may qualify for a fee waiver. Learn more about AACOMAS Application Fees and Fee Waivers.


AACOMAS Secondary Questions

Each osteopathic school has a secondary application unique to the school that asks a few targeted essay questions. The number of essay prompts and the required length of your responses will vary from school to school, but you can expect to respond to 2-8 essay questions for each secondary.

Example Medical School Secondary Prompts:

  • The mission statement of our medical school is “X.” Please state why you are a great fit for our community.
  • Please describe a moral or ethical dilemma that was particularly memorable and what you learned from this experience.
  • Describe a challenge you’ve faced and the steps you took to overcome it.
  • After residency, describe the community in which you see yourself practicing medicine.
  • Indicate any special experiences, unusual factors, or other information you feel would be helpful in evaluating you, i.e., education, employment, extracurricular activities, or prevailing over adversity.
  • Describe an experience you had in interacting/relating with people whose backgrounds are different from your own. What did you learn from it? How did it change your perspective?
  • Why have you chosen to apply to our program, and how will we help make you the physician you aspire to be?
  • Do you have any immediate family members who have graduated from our program?

For more of these types of questions, we’ve created a free Secondary Essay Prompts Database that is continuously updated.


Medical School Secondary Strategies

Application Checklist paper with checkmarks

1 | Plan and Prioritize Secondaries

Secondary applications will begin to arrive within two to four weeks of a medical school receiving your primary application. If you applied to 20 or more programs, most of them will verify your application and send out secondaries around the same time, with additional secondaries arriving in the following weeks. And since medical school interview invitations are sent out on a rolling basis, it’s critical that you submit secondaries as soon as possible.

It’s quite a lot of work, which is why it’s important to prioritize certain secondaries over others. Although you may have applied to 20 or more programs, there’s likely a choice few that you really want to be a part of. Prioritize responding to these secondaries first.

In addition, if you notice a secondary is a lot more intensive than others, start with that one first. This way, you can get a sense of the kinds of questions you can expect to respond to and how long the process takes. Plus, you will have more material to recycle for your other secondaries (more on that below!)

How to Order Secondary Applications infographic

2 | Submit Your Secondaries Within 1-2 Weeks

The sooner you submit your secondaries, the more likely it is you’ll receive an interview for that particular school, which is why we recommend submitting secondaries within 7-14 days of receiving them.

It’s not a lot of time to draft a convincing, thoughtful response to each of the medical schools you applied to. The best way you can prepare yourself is by drafting your responses early.

3 | Draft Secondaries Based On Common Questions

Don’t wait until you receive a secondary to begin drafting a response. Medical schools repeat a lot of the same general questions, and since a school rarely changes their secondary essay questions from the previous year, you can get started in advance. Once you actually start receiving secondaries, you can then edit your responses to suit the school’s specific questions.

While it’s not always the case that a school will repeat the same questions from the preceding year, it’s still smart to draft answers to the questions you expect to receive—especially when it comes to the schools you’re most interested in attending.

Prewriting your secondaries is an essential preparation tactic that will better enable you to submit quality responses to your secondary applications within the 7-14 day window.

Visit our free Secondary Essay Prompts Database to get a better sense of what questions you may be asked based on the schools you apply to.

4 | Do Your Research For the “Why Us” Question

Secondary “Why Us” Question person pointing at self

It’s safe to assume you’ll receive one or more variations of the “Why Us” question on each secondary application. Although it appears generic on the surface, this question is asking much more than what the school’s own mission statement is.

Simply regurgitating the school’s mission statement or saying you’ve always wanted to live where the school is located does not adequately convey your interest in the specific program. These kinds of ineffectual responses are automatic red flags for admissions committees.

Why are you a specifically great fit for the school’s specific program?

The first step is researching the school. Do some digging. What sets them apart from the other programs you’ve researched? What are the school’s values? What type of medicine do they specialize in? Relate your discoveries to your own experiences. Is there an extracurricular they offer that you were actively involved in in the past? Is there a physician at the school you’re particularly excited to work with? How do your past experiences embody the school’s values?

Leave no stone unturned in your research, and be specific and authentic with your responses.

5 | Carefully Review School Names

If you are recycling responses from one secondary to the next, take special care to review the school names. Yes, it may seem like obvious advice, but don’t misname the school you’re responding to in your secondary. Admissions committees do not appreciate it, and it demonstrates severe carelessness on your part. The words ‘severe carelessness’ and ‘doctor’ do not go hand in hand.

6 | Make Time For Revisions and Proofreading

Proofread your work for typos and grammar, and review all school names. We recommend using online editing apps like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor to screen for more obvious errors, but do not rely on these apps alone. They catch a lot, but being that they’re only bots, they can miss extremely obvious errors your ten-year-old cousin could catch in an instant.

Never submit secondaries without triple-checking them first. Consider asking a trusted friend, family member, or mentor to read them over as well. Spelling and grammar mistakes are immediate red flags to admissions committees. They once again exhibit carelessness, which is never a good look for an aspiring DO.

List of Medical School Secondary Best Practices


Secondary Application Editing With Med School Insiders

Applying to medical school doesn’t end after you submit your primary application. Secondary applications are confusing, exhausting, and very time-consuming—and they arrive just when most students are ready for a break. While we understand the struggle, it is vital that you buckle down and don’t give up during this critical time.

Med School Insiders can help. Our Medical School Secondary Application Editing services will help you craft the kind of singular osteopathic secondary applications that will get you noticed by your desired medical schools. Our doctor advisors have served on medical school admissions committees and have read hundreds of secondary essays. We know what it takes to stand out, and we’ll help you craft a stellar AACOMAS secondary application for each school.


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