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What are secondary essays?

Welcome back to the GAMD blog!  Today, I want to discuss one of the biggest hurdles of the medical school application process: secondary essays.  After you get through the monumental task of submitting your primary medical school application, the work isn’t quite over yet because secondary essays can take just as much, if not more, effort than the primary application.  


What are secondary essays?

Secondary essays are school-specific essays that are sent out once you have submitted your primary application.  Each school has a unique set of questions although there are some common themes that you will encounter (see below).  Some schools only have one or two questions but other schools have many questions (up to 15 questions some schools). Most schools have a number of questions in between these two extremes. 


What is the point of secondary essays? 

You may be asking, “I have already spent hours writing my narrative in my personal statement and included more information in my AMCAS application, what else could medical schools ask in the secondary essays?” Well, there is actually a lot more they can ask but there are a few broad categories that most secondary essay prompts will fall into: 

  1. Diversity: what unique characteristics or experiences will you bring to that medical school? Medical schools are seeking to have the most diverse classes possible so that they can foster an environment of learning from others.  

  2. Challenges: what challenges have you faced up to this point in your journey to medical school? This could include academic, professional, or personal challenges.  The goal with these types of secondary essays is to see how you responded to these challenges and overcame them, not necessarily the challenge itself.  

  3. Goals: what are your career goals and how will that medical school help you achieve them?  The way that you answer this question will help the school gauge if you will be a good fit for their school based on your career goals and if these goals are vastly different from what the medical school focuses on, then it may not be the best fit.  For example, if you are interested in a very specific field in the future such as pediatric neurosurgery and the medical school is very primary care focused, then perhaps this school would not be a great place for you to succeed and may not provide you with the resources needed in order to match into a good residency program.  


While getting more information around the questions above from you, the secondary essays also serve as a way to add fees so that they can help support the admissions process.  Some schools have fees as little as $20 but some schools charge much more ($100-$200).  

 

How to succeed on your secondary essays

I will go more in depth on this topic in a future post but two of the biggest things to consider are starting early and staying organized.  Once you have finalized your school list, you should start a spreadsheet to track your secondary essays if you haven’t already.  While some schools have distinct deadlines that they state their secondary essays must be submitted by, other schools do not and they just have an overall application deadline (which is usually much later than you would want to submit your application). The goal should be to submit your secondary essays within two weeks from receiving them from the school.  With adequate planning and a little work Stay tuned for a future post where I will show you how I keep track of secondary essays.  


Secondary essays are a crucial component of the medical school application process and can cause a good deal of stress among medical school applicants.  With the above tips along with the future posts, I hope to make this process a bit easier for you.  If you have questions, please reach out to me at david@getadmittedmd.com. See you next time!

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