Your primary application to a medical school might have seemed like a challenge, but wait until you receive your secondary essay assignment. And probably the worst thing about it for is that you don’t know what to do.
Do not panic since we think we have the answers to your questions. Hopefully, after reading through our guide, you will know precisely what you need to do.
Why the secondary application?
The primary purpose of the secondary medical school application is to determine whether you are complying with the requirements and whether you will be a good fit for the school’s mission.
Furthermore, medical schools send out secondary essays to evaluate the applicants’ unique characteristics that haven’t been addressed in the AMCAS Work/Activities Section.
After processing the primary application, medical schools may send out either secondary application packages to all applicants or secondary application essays to those applicants who have passed the preliminary screening.
When you will receive the essay prompts depends on how quickly the AMCAS processes your application. This may take up to six weeks during peak application season.
How long can I take with the secondary essay?
This question has a simple answer – the sooner, the better. If you send in the secondary essay quickly, you will demonstrate that you are interested in the program. Thus, you should allow no more than about two weeks to elapse before submitting your secondary essay.
Medical school secondary essay prompts
Medical schools require that you write a response to several prompts. Each medical school has its own common prompt themes, so it isn’t really possible to provide you with guidelines on absolutely every single prompt out there. However, there are some general tips that could help you with writing a strong secondary essay.
Examples of prompts are:
- Why have you applied to our school?
- How will you enhance our school’s diversity?
- Academic lapses or breaks.
- Describing a significant challenge.
- Your future goals.
It is a very good idea to prepare your answers for the most common prompts of the school you are going to apply to in advance. If you have a roughly outlined essay prepared, you will be able to manage your writing much more efficiently, as well as create a more well-thought-out essay.
Now, we’ll give you a couple of tips on how to respond to similar prompts.
Why have you applied to our school?
This prompt requires deep research of the medical school you are applying to.
Namely, do you thoroughly understand the medical school’s values and its mission statement? How does the school describe its student body? Is the research program of the school strong? Do the medical school’s values correspond with your own values, learning needs, or goals?
Being informed about the medical school you are applying to will demonstrate that you are indeed interested in their program.
So, here is how you should approach this prompt:
- Focus on your own personal experience and traits to demonstrate how exactly you will be a good fit for the school’s culture and values.
- Highlight interests or passions that are common with and are relevant to the school’s requirements.
- Highlight any personal connections to the school. If you’ve grown nearby or have a support network in the area, mention it.
- Tell what you are excited about the most when you think about attending the school. Is it global health, research, or community outreach?
How will you enhance our school’s diversity?
Think of something that makes you different from other pre-meds. Maybe you have had an unusual job or an occupation. Maybe you are an athlete. Or you might have majored in something unique.
Imagine that you are in a conversation with your future classmates at the medical school about the US healthcare system. Or any other health-related topic. What unique input would you have for that conversation? This is what your answer to this prompt would be.
Academic breaks or lapses prompt
If you have had an academic lapse or took a break, you want to prepare your answer to this prompt in advance.
Clearly and briefly explain the situation that has led to the lapse or the break. Describe how you moved past the situation, as well as outline the valuable experience you’ve gained during the break.
If you’ve put your time and energy into one activity during your break, describe the commitment and responsibility it required in detail. Alternatively, if you’ve had a lot of smaller experiences during the break, write a short overview or catalog to demonstrate your wide exposure in a short time period.
Describe a significant challenge prompt
Approach this prompt with honesty. There are certain challenges that would raise a red flag and that should not be covered (psychiatric conditions, for example), but you should overall open up and be honest.
Try to choose situations in which you were close to giving up. Alternatively, go for scenarios that challenged your ethics through a conflict of interest.
A good approach to these prompts is to tell about times when you stepped out of your comfort zone and/or dealt with a learning curve. Your shortcomings will be more forgivable since the ability to make tough decisions is a highly valued trait.
Medical schools also value resilience, as well as mature coping strategies which would allow you to proficiently navigate through whatever challenges life or the medical school may throw at you.
Future goals prompt
You may not know what kind of a doctor you want to be, but it’s perfectly alright. For this prompt, you may focus on the experiences that reinforced your decision to pursue medicine. In particular:
- Describe how and why your experiences caused a desire within you to become a doctor.
- What and why fascinates you about medicine the most?
- What patient population have you enjoyed working with the most and why?
You may then say what kind of a doctor you would like to be or, alternatively, suggest a more general direction you would like your career to go in. After a couple of years in a medical school, many students change their minds, so it is okay for you not to have made a decision yet.