Medical School Secondary Essays

Medical School Secondary Essays: 5 Tips to Nail Them & Essay Prompts

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 your are now beginning to receive medical school secondary essays, signaling the next battle in the medical school admissions process: the secondary application.

Topics Covered In This Blog Post:

Now that secondary essays are being sent to medical school applicants, if you want to see a compiled list of secondary essay prompts for 2019-2020, check out our latest blog post: Medical School Secondary Essays 2019 Prompts

Medical School Secondary Essays:
Everything You Need to Know Including Tips, FAQs, & School Prompts

Medical school secondary application burnout

What are Medical School Secondary Essays?


After submitting your primary AMCAS 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 medical school secondary essays, but despite their name, they are still of PRIMARY importance!

Medical school secondary essays can be a very heavy load of work. Again, 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.

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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.

Better yet, check out our database of medical school secondary essay prompts down below.

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!

The authors of Cracking Med School Admissions have written over a hundred secondary essays among ourselves as well as edited THOUSANDS of medical school secondary essays! 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

Medical School Secondary Essay Prompts Database

We’ve compiled the secondary essay prompts from current and previous years and made several blog posts on the Cracking Med School Admissions website. We’ll include links to all the schools here!


Q: When do I have to submit secondaries by?

As soon as possible. We do not like to exchange quality for quantity (quick turnaround). An ideal turnaround time for secondaries is within 2 weeks of receiving them. 

Q: Can you help me brainstorm topics for my secondary essays?

This requires an extremely personalized approach and answer. Please contact us below or email us at if you need help!

Q: Do you have any tips about medical school secondary essays that ask you to write about the autobiography?

Purpose: The purpose of the medical school secondary autobiography is to tell the admissions committee about your values and roots. Your autobiographical stories need to show and convey to the reader who you are. Therefore, every single paragraph and story you tell about your childhood and upbringing needs to reflect something about you. If you talk about your  relatives, what did they teach you? If you talk about music, then why is that meaningful to you? If you bring up your mom’s career, how did that motivate you? 

Tips: After you talk about some of your values, you need to then tie it to your more recent experiences. Your values really need to reflect that you have done in college and beyond. Your values and personality traits should be apparent through the activities that you chose to pursue.

Thinking about these connections will help you write a superb medical school secondary essay autobiography! 

Q. What topics can I write about for the “Diversity essay?”

Diversity can literally mean ANYTHING. Don’t think that diversity only equals discussing your ethnic or cultural background.

Our Cracking Med School Admissions mentees have written about these topics for the diversity essays:

  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Difficult up-bringing
  • Interesting aspects about their up-bringing
  • Jobs they have held
  • Leadership positions
  • Travel experiences
  • Global health activities
  • LGBT 
  • Cultural influences, including cultural instruments and dance

Q. A school has optional essays. What are your thoughts about answering them?

In general, the Cracking Med School Admissions team thinks that almost all the time, 

Q: One of the schools asked about “challenges in my pre-med journey.” What are appropriate topics to write about?

Students in the past have used this optional essay to write about difficult circumstances in their: family situation, upbringing, health issues, and failing a course. 

Q: Does having a B- in a course sound like a challenge?

Typically, we advise students to NOT write about B-‘s as a challenging life circumstance. It usually comes off as very superficial!

Q: What are your prices for secondary essay editing? 

Please see our secondary packages below. 


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