As described in another blog post, secondary applications are an enormously important component of the medical school application process. Secondaries are designed to suit the needs of individual medical schools. As such, medical schools pay as much attention to the secondary applications as they do to the primary. Give the secondaries the attention they warrant and be sure to write carefully composed and thoughtful essays. Always be sure to answer the prompt given. Don’t let your essay meander from the question posed; these are targeted questions, requiring specific answers.
While secondary application prompts may vary from school to school, there are some general themes/questions that are common. The most common questions involve the following topics, with examples of secondary prompts given:
Discuss what you might contribute to the diversity of our school.
Describe a situation in which you were not in the majority.
Our school values diversity. Please share unique or challenging factors in your background and how they have influenced your preparation for a career in medicine.
What personal accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
Medical Experience and Future Intentions:
Describe your most meaningful clinical experience.
Discuss what areas of medicine interest you. Why do you feel you are particularly suited for this practice scenario? What knowledge, skills and attitudes have you developed that have prepared you for this career path?
What does it mean to be entering a profession?
What do you consider to be the role of a physician in the community?
Personal/Professional Hardships Encountered:
Please share a difficult or challenging situation and how you handled it. Identify the coping skills used to resolve the dilemma and the individuals from whom you sought help or advice.
What has been your most humbling experience and how will that experience affect your interactions with peers and future patients?
What is the most difficult feedback you have ever received? Why was it difficult and how did you handle it?
Good Fit for Our School:
Describe the characteristics and values that make you a good candidate for medicine. How will X School foster these traits and nurture your development in becoming an outstanding physician?
Please read our mission statement, which is an expression of our purpose and philosophy. Reflect on its content and write an essay describing why you’re a great “fit” for our school.
Describe your personality and personal characteristics and why you think they will lead to success in our curriculum and learning environment.
What is your leadership style? Give an example of when you were in a leadership role and what made you effective.
Tell us about a situation in which working collaboratively with others was challenging.
If there is anything specific that you would like for us to know regarding how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected you and your application you may do so here.
Questions regarding COVID/its impact on you are widespread on secondary applications.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that isn’t in other parts of your application.
Expand on something in your application that you feel like you didn’t get enough space to address.
Describe a personal or professional passion.
What are you doing this year, if not in school?
What are people most likely to misunderstand about you?
As you can see from the prompts, the secondaries contain targeted, specific questions requiring answers with evidence to back them up. Writing secondary essays requires time and thought. Be sure to think carefully about your responses and write essays which answer the questions posed. If you want help with secondary applications, please contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting
First posted in 2013 and updated in 2016, 2017, and 2022