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Medical School Secondary Essays: 5 Tips to Nail Them

By April 23, 2018 March 20th, 2019 Admissions Advice, Secondary Applications

Medical School Secondary Essays: 5 Tips to Nail Them

Right about now, you’re probably at that time when you’ve submitted your AMCAS Application.  Pat yourself on the back because a big portion of your application is successfully complete! The thing is, it seems like only a few weeks have passed and you’re now beginning to receive medical school secondary application prompts from the medical schools you applied to, signaling the next battle in the medical school admissions process: the secondary application.

Medical school secondary application burnout

What are Medical School Secondaries?

After submitting your primary application, many medical schools will ask you to complete a secondary application. Most medical schools, in addition to asking for an additional fee, will also ask you to write an additional essay or multiple additional essays that vary in length and focus. These essays are called secondary essays, but despite their name, they are still of primary importance!

Medical school secondary essays can be a very heavy lift, especially if you applied to several medical schools with your AMCAS application. However, these essays are still very important and you should try to write them to the best of your ability. There are several things you can do to minimize your pain in writing secondary essays, while giving yourself the best chance of getting granted a medical school interview.

Contact us if you need help editing your medical school secondaries and check out our medical school secondary application packages.

Secondary Packages

5 Tips to Nail Your Medical School Secondary Essays

1. Look Up Secondary Essays From Med School Applicants in Previous Years

Don’t wait to receive the prompts from the schools you applied to — take advantage of the few weeks in between filling out your AMCAS application and receiving secondary essay prompts! Medical schools don’t change their secondary essay prompts every year, so you can Google search previous years’ prompts and get started outlining or writing your secondaries before the essay prompts even come! This is a great way to save time later on, and you’ll need all the time you can get, because secondary essay prompts tend to differ between schools.

2. Your Medical School Secondary Application Needs to Complement Your AMCAS

Your medical school application should be one cohesive document where everything ties together in some way, and different parts of the application should complement one another. Don’t think of your secondary application as a separate entity — remember the story you told in your primary application and continue telling that story in your secondary application!

Look carefully at your primary application. What have you already covered? What could use further elaboration? Are there puzzle pieces in your application that haven’t been put in place yet? Do the pieces of your application fit together? These are critical questions that you must consider when writing your medical school secondary application. While it’s okay to repeat some things from your primary, you don’t want to write the same thing verbatim. You can also take the opportunity to write full essays about topics that may have been included as one-sentence descriptions in your AMCAS Application. Another approach is to introduce a whole new topic that complements and supports the story you told in your primary. In any case, the most important thing, as always, is to have a cohesive application that connects your past accomplishments with your future goals.

3. Answer Secondary Essay Prompts Carefully — Don’t Copy and Paste

This may seem obvious to most, but it’s worth repeating here. Take time to answer each secondary essay prompt with care and thoughtfulness. A lot of times, applicants are exhausted by the time they start writing medical school secondary essays and try to cut corners in an effort to save time. Copy-pasting and repeating verbatim from information in your primary application is a recipe for disaster. Or worse yet, answering the prompt of another school’s essay while not adequately responding to the school at hand’s prompt, is a very embarrassing situation! While there’s no guarantee that admissions officers will read all your secondary essays — particularly if your primary application blows them away — if they make it to your secondary application, having them be poor quality will make it much more difficult for you to land an interview.

Some tips to make your secondary sound unique for each school:

  • Look at specific programs and research mentors you want at each school
  • Discuss how the curriculum at each school is different. With the pre-clinical curriculum, some medical schools are problem-based, others are organ-based. Some med schools offer classes in public health and entrepreneurship. With the clinical curriculum, some medical schools have almost all “electives” during their fourth year while others have stringent clinical rotation requirements. Discuss why these elements are important to YOU.
  • Write about unique opportunities and projects you want to be involved with at that specific med school. For example, if you are interested in pursuing global health, research what the global health opportunities are at each med school and how you see yourself taking advantage of them.

4. Have a Fast Turnaround Time with the Secondary Application

The time sensitivity of medical school applications is something people don’t talk about enough, and unfortunately it’s news to many med school applicants when it’s too late. Interview spots dwindle the later in the application cycle you are. A quality secondary application done in a short time window will increase your likelihood of getting an interview. This goes back to point #1 of front-loading the process; you don’t want to wait til the last minute and either submit secondary essays late, or submit them on time with poor quality. Quality and timeliness are both equally important.

5. Stuck? Ask Us to Review Your Primary and We Can Suggest Topics For Your Secondary Application!

At Cracking Med School Admissions, we’ve written over a hundred secondary essays between ourselves, as well as edited hundreds more for successful medical school applicants! We’ve experienced getting secondary application requests from a wide range of schools including Harvard, Stanford, UCSF, Johns Hopkins, and Yale. We know what it takes to write a great secondary application, and we’ve passed on our knowledge to help hundreds of students succeed too. Check out our secondary essay packages and other services we offer.


As always, you can email us questions at info@crackingmedadmissions.com


Author Rishi MEDIRATTA

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