This Is the Ideal Order to Complete Secondary Applications


*Sigh*—You just submitted your primary application and are ready for a pat on the back and a long break, right? Well, not so fast. The next step of the application process is right on your heels. As soon as you submit your primary application and have taken a breath, it’s time to switch your attention to secondary applications.

Even though you are technically waiting for secondary applications to arrive, strong applicants begin working on secondary applications right away. Proactivity is the name of the game, and that means drafting answers to common questions as soon as possible and being intentional with your time.

Don’t leave any aspect of your secondary applications up to chance. Form a clear plan for how you will tackle them using the following strategies.


6 Strategies for Ordering Secondaries

Due to rolling admissions, the sooner you move through each phase of the application, the better. Schools consider applications in the order they receive them, which is why submitting your primary application as soon as possible after applications open is one of the most essential strategies for applicants.

The same is true of secondaries. The sooner you submit secondary applications, the sooner schools can review them to make interview decisions. The first applicants interviewed have the first chance at earning an acceptance. You don’t want to fall behind your equally-qualified peers at any stage of the application process.

But with so many secondaries coming through at once, how do you plan ahead, and how do you prioritize which secondaries to tackle first?

There are a few schools of thought here, and, ultimately, the strategy you choose is dependent on your unique situation and which secondary applications you receive when. What’s most critical is that you plan ahead and complete the leg work in advance. Go into secondaries with a clear plan of action so that you know right away which secondary application request to complete first. Be intentional about your priorities.

Keep in mind that all of this depends on when you receive secondary requests. They won’t all come in at the same time. You may have a few days with only a couple, you may receive the majority in the same few days, or you may be waiting on one or two long after you’ve completed most of them. If you have only received one secondary application so far, it will be your primary focus. Don’t put off responding to it because you’re waiting on something better.

How to Order Secondary Applications infographic

1 | Complete Top Choice Schools First

Your top choice school should take priority throughout the application process. Of course, don’t neglect your other applications in favor of your favorite schools, but be clear on your priorities.

If you have multiple options for which secondaries to work on first, schedule your top choice schools as soon as possible. The earlier the schools receive your secondary applications, the sooner they can begin making interview decisions.

Getting interviews at your top schools early on in the application process is a huge benefit, as you’ll have peace of mind knowing you have a good shot at earning an acceptance at the schools you favor most. Plus, hearing from your top schools early will help you make clear admissions decisions without waiting for the schools you prefer to get back to you.

2 | Complete Most Competitive First

Another important factor to consider is how competitive the school is. If the school is extremely competitive, your fellow applicants will be prioritizing getting their secondaries submitted as soon as possible, too, so it’s imperative you do the same.

If you have competitive schools on your list, prioritize these over less-competitive schools. For the competitive schools, you’ll need every advantage you can find, so the sooner you can submit secondaries and continue moving through the application process, the better.

3 | Complete Lower Rank First

There’s also an argument for completing a couple of lower-ranked schools’ secondaries first, especially if essay writing is one of your weaker areas. This gives you the opportunity to hone your skills with less anxiety and pressure. The more secondary answers you complete, the more you’ll understand how to most effectively craft your responses.

It will feel like a real letdown if you rush through the secondaries from your highest-ranked schools only to develop more effective and thoughtful answers for schools you’re not as passionate about attending. There are, of course, no do-overs.

Learning the ins and outs of responding to secondaries early on is more likely to result in secondary essays you are truly proud to submit to your highest-ranked schools. But, ideally, you will have taken the time to craft answers to many common questions well in advance of receiving any secondary requests. The sooner you begin working on common essay questions, the more you can perfect those answers for all of the schools you apply to.

4 | Complete Most Questions First

If you have many secondary requests to pick from, you might choose to tackle one of the schools with the most questions first. This will get a lot of the hard work out of the way early on.

You’ll then have foundational answers to many common secondary questions that you can evolve and expand on to align with each school. Adapt your answers to how the question was asked, as well as what you know about each specific school.

Remember that even though you’ve answered the same question before, each school is different, and each school has slightly different priorities when choosing between medical student candidates. Ensure your answers consider the curriculum, mission statement, and values of each of the schools you’re applying to when crafting your secondary answers. This brings us to another important point.

5 | Don’t Switch Between Schools

Once you begin receiving secondary requests, choose a school, and stick to it.

The best secondary answers are tailored to each specific school. Take time to research what makes each school different, and get in the mindset of the specific school as you craft and perfect your secondary answers.

Switching between them may cause you to mix up each school’s mission statement; plus, the more generic and applicable to each school your answers are, the less compelling you make yourself.

Avoid jumping back-and-forth between the secondary applications of different schools so that you can better tailor your answers. If you’re already part-way through working on a secondary for one school and receive a request for a preferred or more competitive school, don’t stop midway through. Continue with the secondary application you’re working on, and then move on to your next highest priority.

6 | Complete Static Questions Early

Beyond the order in which you complete and submit your secondary applications, how you prepare and the amount of preparation time you put in before they arrive will ease the process during these whirlwind weeks. You can and should begin crafting secondary application answers before you receive them. You will receive many secondary application requests within a short period of time, which will make it difficult to evenly space out the work.

There are many common secondary application questions that you are guaranteed to encounter in some form or another. Check out our guide on common secondary application questions, which includes strategies for how to answer them.

Some common secondary applications questions are:

Familiarize yourself with common questions early on and begin crafting answers to these questions well before secondaries roll in. Take your strategy up a notch by researching which questions were asked in previous application cycles by the schools you applied to. Many schools recycle the same questions year after year, so you’ll have a decent idea of what you’ll be asked before your questions come through.

Look at secondary questions for your top choice schools from a few years back to determine which questions are static versus dynamic. Static questions are ones that are asked year after year and are likely to stay the same for your application cycle. These you can begin crafting school-specific answers for in advance.

Dynamic questions are ones that change from year to year or are newly added. These questions may not be exactly what you’ll encounter on your secondaries, so crafting answers in advance is a lower priority.

List of Medical School Secondary Best Practices

For more tips and advice, read our comprehensive Secondary Application Guide, which includes ideal application timelines, secondary best practices, and frequently asked questions.

If you’re applying to medical schools in Texas or osteopathic schools, read our TMDSAS Secondary Application Guide and AACOMAS Secondary Application Guide.


Planning Ahead

Applying to medical school is a long journey, and it doesn’t end after you submit your primary application. Secondary applications are time-consuming, and they arrive right when students are ready for a break. While we understand the struggle, it is vital that you knuckle down and focus; whatever you do, do not ease off or throw in the towel during this critical time.

Plan ahead on every step of the application process with our Medical School Application Schedule. It’s updated for each application cycle and includes a month-by-month breakdown of everything you need to complete and when.

For the latest guides, how-to advice, strategies, and industry trends, follow the Med School Insiders blog and sign up for our weekly newsletter to receive our latest articles, videos, and study strategies straight to your inbox.


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