Four Tips For The Best Secondary Application

‘Tis the season for secondaries! Now that you’ve got the attention of the admissions committee with a stellar primary application, the secondary application is the prime opportunity to let yourself shine. Some schools send their secondary questions to every applicant, while others are more selective. In any case, crafting a meaningful answer to the questions would be in your best interest if you’re looking to gain admission to medical school.

Follow the rules. Although secondary essays are shorter than the main AMCAS application, they are significantly harder. Take the time to actually read any instructions and be mindful of the word count for each question. Keep in mind the word count is not optional; 101 words is not the same as 100 words. Another common mistake is not actually answering the question being asked. If a school asks how you work well with others, you should not answer that with an anecdote showcasing your leadership qualities. Another thing that is important is to keep track of the schools you’re writing for and adhere to their specific requirements. If you have a question, email or call the school and do not make your own assumptions. Also, do not copy and paste what you’ve written before either from the primary application or secondary application for another school, even if you’re applying to MD and DO programs. If you’re finding yourself doing that, really ask yourself why you’re even applying to that particular program. Like all things in life, consider quality over quantity.

But, also break the rules. Please do not sound like a research-loving candidate if you hated your research experience. You must differentiate yourself from other applicants, but there’s no need to be someone you’re not just to please your reader. If you have a special skill or interest, the secondary application is definitely the place to share that with the school. If you’re truly passionate about art, you should definitely write about it even if it doesn’t seem like it’s relevant to the medical school. Focus on what you want the school to know about you.

Be authentic. Having read several essays, I can advise with utmost surety that the biggest mistake is writing in a way that makes you sound “smart.” It’s important to sound like a real person. In the same vain, write about things that are important to you and not activities or interests that you think others want to read about.

Light a match. If you’re really excited about a particular program, it would be wise to write answers that are deeper than surface level. Understanding the school’s history, mission, and core values are a great first step in crafting your secondary. For example, some schools are research-driven while others are service-oriented. The reader should feel confident that you’re interested in their school, not just medical school in general. Paint a picture in the readers’ mind that convinces them that you’re a good fit.

Keep calm and write on.

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Sonal Kumar

Sonal Kumar is passionate about combining science and storytelling. She has vast experiences outside of healthcare including marketing and advertising, print and broadcast journalism, including TV/radio production. Sonal is an alumna of Columbia University. She tweets @sonalkumar2011.