Friday, September 11, 2015

What Is A Secondary Application? Tips and More

You've studied hard and taken the MCAT. You've gathered all the necessary forms, letters, and paperwork. You've written a solid personal statement and submitted your AMCAS application.

You've thrown you're hat into the application process. What's next?

Whereas the AMCAS is a centralized application service, individual medical schools will now have applicants submit school-specific applications that supplement the primary. These are referred to as secondary applications.

Medical schools tend to send out secondary information within a few weeks or even days of receiving the verified AMCAS application. Which applicants receive the secondary may differ depending on procedure.

Most medical schools, including the MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM), will automatically provide a secondary application to all applicants. Other medical schools, however, may screen applicants upon receiving verified AMCAS files. In this case, only those they consider top candidates will be offered to submit a secondary.

Many schools will not review your file until all secondary application materials, including letters of recommendation, have been received.

It may feel a little overwhelming to have a sizable stack of secondaries to work on. But don’t be discouraged. Secondary essays can be the key to getting an interview so it's important to give them the proper time and focus.

Secondary applications are often the deciding factor in who receives an invitation to interview

An application fee must first be paid  to access the secondary, unless the applicant receives a fee waiver. CHM, as well as most AMCAS-participating medical schools, will waive the secondary application fee for applicants who have been granted fee assistance by the AAMC.

Secondary applications like our own usually include essay prompts or short-answer questions. Don't underestimate the given essay prompts, as they are carefully composed by med schools for important reasons. The secondary gives schools the opportunity to cover information not addressed in the primary.

Schools are looking to find out who you are as a person as much as how you would perform as a medical student. This leads to a second point: schools want to assess whether their specific mission resonates with you. Are you a good fit?

If you believe you are a good fit with CHM, one of our optional clinical programs may be of interest. The MSU College of Human Medicine's secondary application is also where applicants can submit additional, optional essays for our Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved (LMU) and Leadership in Rural Medicine (LRM) programs.

Failing to give schools a reason to accept them (or at least, a reason to be interviewed) is typically where people go wrong with their secondaries. By the time reviewers get to a secondary, they've already learned a bit about the person from the information given on the primary. Make sure to offer new, personal information. Not distinguishing yourself or providing convincing content may be missing out on a crucial opportunity.

Here are a few more quick tips regarding your secondary application:
  • Don't take too long to submit your secondary. Some schools may give you a deadline, but do not wait until that point to submit materials. Otherwise, turnaround time should be within a month, but 2-3 weeks is ideal. Keep in mind that the sooner you return your secondary application, the sooner you may be invited to interview.
  • Read prompts carefully and answer what is asked. Again, the essay prompts are crafted to give you opportunities to touch on specific information. It's also important that you don't simply recycle or reiterate what was already established in your primary application. Go in depth and fill in any gaps. Allow the secondary to help paint a clearer picture of you without overlap. 
  • A last piece of advice is to make sure you review and proofread! While "copy and paste" is convenient, it may leave information (like, say, a school's name) that you wanted to change. It also goes without saying that spelling and grammatical errors won't help your application.

Rather than viewing the secondary as another tedious hurdle in the application process, applicants should view the secondary as a perfect opportunity to add more value to the file. Keep it interesting and ensure your application shows you are a person the school can't miss out on.

The deadline to submit secondary applications to CHM is typically around the end of November. Please see our Application Process page for more information and possible outcomes.