Students applying to medical school have already spent weeks or months preparing their primary application, consisting of writing their personal statement, compiling their activity list, asking for letters of recommendation and more.
Once their primary application has been verified and sent to the medical schools, they face the next unique challenge: tackling their secondary essays. These essays provide a further opportunity for applicants to showcase their personal attributes, qualifications and experiences that would make them great physicians. Taking the time to write compelling secondary essays can help competitive applicants differentiate themselves from the thousands of other equally competitive applicants.
How To Write More Effective Secondary Essays
The University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine received more than 13,000 applications for just 173 spots, with an acceptance rate of 1.3%. Many qualified applicants were rejected because there simply wasn’t enough space. When the edge between acceptance and rejection is so thin, students should take extra care in every aspect of their applications, including their secondary applications. Here are three tips for writing more effective secondary essays.
1. Research The School
When making your medical school list, you likely researched the schools on the list to ensure they were a good fit for your learning style and future career goals. To write more effective secondary applications, you should research the schools and their distinct mission, values and curriculum. By thoroughly checking out the med school’s mission statement, website and offerings, you can better understand the school’s focus area. Use your essays to demonstrate how you align with their values and goals.
2. Use Specific (And Recent) Examples
Often, the prompts will ask you about your leadership experiences or a challenge you had to overcome. Show rather than tell what your experiences are so they can see real-world examples of your attributes. As you come up with stories from your extracurricular activities and volunteering, you might be tempted to draw on an experience from high school or even younger. However, you might be doing yourself a disservice by doing so.
Think of it from the admissions committee experience. If you were to write about a significant challenge you overcame in elementary school, that is signaling to them that you haven’t faced any challenges since then. The road to becoming a physician isn’t always smooth, so you want to prove to the admissions committee that you can overcome challenges.
3. Prewrite The Common Secondary Essays
When you start receiving your secondary applications, the general rule is that you should send them back within two weeks. As the average applicant is sending in 18 applications, with some sending in much more than that, it can be a lot of essays thrown your way at once. Because there is such a short turnaround time, you should begin to prewrite the common supplemental essays so you can reuse stories and essays across multiple schools. By starting early, you can present a more cohesive narrative to the admissions committee.
Five Common Secondary Essays For Medical School
How will you contribute to our school’s diversity?
Medical schools ask this question because they want a diverse set of personalities and backgrounds for their small classes to enhance the educational environment as we learn the most from those who are different from us.
Other ways to ask this question include, “How would your life experiences contribute to making our campus a more interesting place?” or “Pretend you’re in a conversation with your future med school classmates about the state of health care in the United States. What point of view could you contribute to that conversation?”
Don’t feel confined to discussing race, culture or socioeconomic status. Think about what qualities, talents or experiences might make you stand out from your peers.
Why do you want to attend our medical school?
When deciding who to choose for an interview invite, medical schools want to select candidates that will not only seriously consider attending their school but also will make a good match with their curriculum and culture. Admissions committees want to know that you have done your research on their program and can identify ways that you will benefit from and contribute to their school.
Discuss a failure or challenge you had to overcome and what you learned from it.
It’s no secret that medical school is challenging, and being a doctor requires resilience. Although you may or may not have experienced a major life hardship, admissions committees need to know that you have the tools to withstand pressure. Show that you can handle the stress of medical school by being honest about a shortcoming without raising any major red flags.
Discuss your leadership experience.
As a physician, you will be leading a healthcare team. While you may still be growing in leadership skills, show the admissions committee that you have demonstrated enough strong decision-making, communication or organizational skills to make you a future competent leader.
How do you envision your career as a doctor?
Your answer to this question should make sense within the context of your personal statement and the theme of your application. If you say elsewhere in your application that you aspire to uplift rural communities, then it wouldn’t make sense to say here that you see yourself working at a large research institution.
While you don’t need to repeat what you have said elsewhere, it should all make sense together. You will not be expected to double down on a specific specialty, but you should have a general idea of what direction you might like to go in, whether that be research, primary care or a dual degree. Put some thought into your answer while realizing that you are at the beginning of your medical journey, and remember, no one is going to hold you to this answer.
Secondary Applications for Medical School
Start before you receive your first secondary application from medical schools to give yourself the best chance to get accepted into a U.S. medical school.
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