Tips for completing the secondary med school application

December 2, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Submitting your primary applications is the first step to getting into medical school. If some of the schools you selected are interested in you, you will most likely be asked to submit a secondary application.


What is a secondary application for medical school?

Students waiting on the wards in Tanzania When applying to med school, your initial application is submitted through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). The AMCAS is the service most med schools in the United States use to process applications. Using a centralized application service streamlines the process, making it easier for both schools and students.

The application you submit through the AMCAS is considered your primary application. It includes information on your background, medical shadowing or volunteer experience and academic history.

Letters of recommendations and school transcripts are also part of the primary application. Pay close attention to the application process in order to avoid delays with your applications.

After you submit the primary application, it is sent to the schools you select. If any of the med schools want to learn more about you, they will send you a secondary application to complete. Some medical schools send secondary applications to everyone while others only send the application to candidates they are interested in.


What is involved in a secondary application?

Most medical schools charge a fee for submitting a secondary application, which usually ranges from about $50 to about $100 per application. When you are sent a secondary application, you will be given a deadline to submit it. Regardless of the deadline, try to return the application within a week. The earlier you submit a secondary application, the sooner you may be offered an interview, if the school feels you are a good candidate.

While the primary applications are sent through AMCAS, secondary applications are submitted directly to the individual med schools. Most schools have you submit the secondary application online through their website.

The secondary application involves answering several essay type questions. Schools ask different questions and may change questions from year to year. Questions asked may be related to the field of medicine and your goals. For example, you may be asked why you want to be a physician or why you want to attend that particular med school. Other questions may pertain to your ultimate career goals. Some schools ask questions unrelated to the field of medicine. For instance, you may be asked to discuss an accomplishment, talk about an inspirational book you have read or write about your hero.  

The number of essay questions asked may vary. Some schools may only ask you to answer two questions while others may ask you to complete four or more essays. When you receive your secondary application, be sure to read the instructions carefully. There may be a word count limit and formatting instructions.


How do med schools evaluate secondary applications?

Gap Medics student Angela and her mentor in the pediatric department of Tosamaganga Hospital Medical school application committees are reviewing secondary applications in order to determine more about the applicants. Information on the primary application provides your grades and academic accomplishments. But it can be hard to get a sense of who a person is. That’s where a secondary application can help.

School admissions committees are also looking for something in the applicant’s background, which makes them a standout candidate. Schools have different processes for evaluating secondary applications. In some instances, a panel of several people will read the application. In most cases, at least two people will review your secondary application.


Secondary application tips

It can be difficult to know exactly what a med school is looking for when it comes to secondary applications. But there are some things you should consider when competing the applications.

When you write your secondary applications, you need to tailor them to each individual school. That can be difficult to do if you do not know much about the school. Since you selected the med school, you probably have some reasons you want to attend. But gathering a bit more information can be helpful.

Although you are not writing a novel, an attention grabbing lead can capture the reader’s interest. Keep in mind, admission committee members may be reading many essays. It can be easy to lose interest. 

Whether you are writing about your favorite movie or your family, your goal is for the admissions panel to get to know more about you. If possible, refer to specific things in your life, which shaped your desire to be a doctor.

Before you submit your application, reread what you wrote, and make sure you are answering the question. In addition, your answers should be clear, interesting and paint a picture of who you are.   

Getting a second opinion on your essays can be very valuable. Ask someone you trust to give you their honest feedback regarding your answers. A little constructive criticism can make the difference between a decent essay and an excellent one.  

Don’t ever make anything up on a secondary application to make yourself more interesting. For example, don’t talk about climbing Mt. Everest, if you never have. Embellishing accomplishments is never a good idea.  

The point of a secondary application is to allow med schools to see what makes you a unique candidate. If you are just rewriting your resume, you are not taking the opportunity to state what makes you a good choice. 

There is no need to use big words to try to impress with your vocabulary. After all, med school admission panels are made up of accomplished and intelligent individuals. They probably know more words than you anyway.

Nothing will ruin your secondary application faster than having spelling and grammar errors.  

When you complete your secondary applications, be sincere and write from your heart. Your message and voice will come across clearer if you believe what you are writing.