How To Tailor Your Secondary Application

The secondary application process typically begins around July, when verified primary applications from AMCAS start getting sent to individual institutions.

Some medical schools, such as the MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM), automatically invite all applicants to submit secondary applications. In contrast, other schools review their candidates before deciding who is allowed to send a secondary.

Now in August, you may already have a nice stack of secondary applications, each with several essay prompts. The secondary essay prompts, in general, should help address any deficiencies in the application, helping the reviewers better assess the applicant.

Each school has their own set of prompts, specific to what they are looking for in a candidate. So while applicants may encounter similar questions and prompts, note that secondaries should be tailored in two specific ways that, essentially, go hand-in-hand.

1. Secondary applications should fill in the gaps.

Reviewers and admissions teams have already seen a ton of academic profiles, MCAT scores, and AMCAS essays. Institutions are now trying to acquire information not covered in the primary application. This means that your secondary should not, for the most part, repeat information that was already given in your primary.

Instead, your secondary should go further in-depth to complement the other parts of the application without overlap. Discuss experiences that you were not able to bring up in your primary or take different angles to experiences you have discussed.

The goal is to distinguish yourself and, most importantly, show why you should be accepted. Keep it interesting and present your case. Boring writing and repetitive information will get your application looked over.

2. Each secondary should correspond to that particular medical school.

It's important to fill in the gaps so reviewers can better assess whether you're a good fit. Each school has a different mission and the whole point of the review process is to find applicants who resonate with what the institution is accomplishing.

At CHM, a big part of our mission is to respond to the needs of the medically underserved. Additional optional essay prompts in our secondary application are directly correlated with two special programs that help carry out this mission: Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved (LMU) as well as Leadership in Rural Medicine (LRM).

Other schools may have additional optional prompts as well. If you have a good amount of secondaries to go through though, it's understandable to be a little burned out with essay writing. However, do not be tempted to recycle your essays. It's important to follow each school's individual instructions and answer each specific prompt.

Not crafting your answers for each school poses two issues. First, simply using the same answers over and over again may mean not directly addressing each school's different prompts. Basically, answer the prompt. While you might find recurring themes throughout the applications, generic answers may not go in depth enough to show each school how you fit.

Do not underestimate how important "fit" is. For many schools, the secondary is the barrier between you and the next step—an interview.

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