What NOT to Write in Your Medical School Secondary Application Essays

Getting stressed about application deadlines? Don't let the quality of your work suffer! [Click here for tips]Since the number of secondary applications that you receive can be overwhelming, you may be tempted to take a few shortcuts.  Some shortcuts are warranted while others are just too risky to consider using.  To ensure that you are one of the “lucky” few who receive a medical school interview, avoid the following egregious errors:

1. Cutting and Pasting material from other essays and submitting with the wrong school name.

Almost every secondary application will have a question about why you want to attend their medical school. It may be tempting to cut and paste this essay response over and over again. However, the best essays that respond to this type of question include specific details about the school that you have researched and therefore pertain only to that particular campus. Also, it may be obvious if you provide a generic response that you are recycling it—or worse, if you forget to change the school name before submitting it—you may forfeit an interview. It’s such an easy mistake to prevent by proofreading each application carefully before submission. Having another person review it may be the best way to prevent errors that you may have difficulty seeing yourself.

2. Writing about the same activity for each essay response.

Since most secondary essays have multiple questions, it’s important to be strategic in selecting the content for each response.  Make sure that you cover a wide variety of leadership, community service and clinical experiences in the essays so that you do not find yourself writing about one example or activity over and over again—especially within one secondary.  To avoid this kind of repetition, print a copy of your updated CV or resume and a copy of your AMCAS application activities and review the list.  You will have lots of options right in front of you!

3. Focusing on events or experiences in high school.

Unless an essay specifically requests that you include information about your early life, I don’t recommend focusing on that time period. If you are asked a general question about the most stressful event in your life or a meaningful clinical experience, often, it would be best to cover material from college and after. There are some exceptions—like the serious illness or death of a loved one—but very few. If you focus on high school as being a defining moment in your personal history, the application reviewers may question your maturity level. Ideally, you will have encountered many challenges that culminated in periods of significant personal development during college and after. Keep track of the areas you tend to focus on in the timeline of your life.

4. Going off topic or not answering the prompt.

This is one of the worst mistakes to make because it can be the most time intensive to correct.  Also, it would immediately disqualify you for an interview since you wouldn’t be providing the adcom with the information that they are requesting.  This type of error often occurs from either cutting and pasting material from other essays or completing essays at the last minute.  If you are rushing through your essays, it may be better to slow down and take more breaks to stay focused and on topic.  The best way to avoid this problem is to create outlines for each essay prompt.  A carefully planned and constructed essay will actually take less time to write and you will end up with a better final product.

While these approaches can have the most damaging results on the medical school application process, they are easy to avoid.  Using the simple strategies provided above, you can significantly increase your chances of receiving a medical school interview. Remember to take your time and do your best.

5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid

Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted.com advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs.

Related Resources:

Secondary Strategy: Why Do You Want To Go Here?
• Medical School Secondary Essay Handbook: School Specific Tips for Top Programs
7 Signs an Experience Belongs in Your Application Essay

Crowd Funding His Way to Med School: Interview with Charles Lanman

Click here for more med school applicant interviews!This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with medical school applicants and students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top medical schools and the med school application process. And now, introducing Charles Lanman.

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What’s your favorite flavor ice cream?

Charles: Thank you for taking the time to get to know me! My name is Charles Unger Lanman. I was born in Pensacola, FL and moved to Chattanooga, TN, where I was raised, when I was four years old. I attended Lookout Valley and Red Bank High School each for two years while living in Chattanooga. I then moved to Knoxville and attended the University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK) as a seventeen-year-old back in August 2006 (Go Vols!). I graduated summa cum laude May 2010 with a BS in Biochemistry. I am a brother and alumnus of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity and a former member of the Dance Marathon Executive Committee.

Though likely not the most popular opinion, I am an avid lover of Baskin Robbins’ bubblegum summertime flavor. It is delicious and makes for a fantastic milkshake – you should try it sometime!

Accepted: What have you been doing with your time since you graduated college?

Charles: Since graduation, I have been fortunate to be able to work and give back to both my family financially as a first-generation college graduate, as well as those who are impacted through volunteering efforts on the side. In four years since college, I have held positions at a couple of prominent biotech companies in Nashville and San Diego, and have volunteered with St. Jude, Habitat for Humanity, Nashville Rescue Mission, among others.

Most recently, I have been working full-time as a material science engineer (btechcorp.com) and have been selling re-purposed and re-furbished products on eBay (ebay.com/usr/lanman1422), giving back 25% of those proceeds to UNICEF.

On the volunteering front, I have recently been involved in a close friend’s fundraising campaign (MattRizor.org) as well as constantly trying to find new and innovative ways to give back to the community.

Accepted: What stage of the med school admissions process are you up to so far?

Charles: I have recently submitted secondary applications to multiple schools and now await the interview process!

Accepted: Do you have a dream school, your #1 choice? How did you go about choosing which schools to apply to?

Charles: That is an excellent question! In searching for schools that were aligned with both my credentials and personal mission, I utilized the AAMC’s MSAR e-book. I would highly recommend this investment for those who are deciding which schools best fit their credentials and goals in medicine.

As far as a favorite, I am looking forward to getting a more in-depth perspective on the schools that I am fortunate to receive an interview invitation and decide from there; as it stands right now, I am excited about multiple schools I have submitted applications to. It was very important to me that every school I planned on submitting an application to have a very strong alignment of both academic requirements and mission/vision/values. I wanted to ensure that I was not submitting applications to just any school, because I have been very blessed to receive a helping hand on some of the application fees through the crowd-funding campaign.

Accepted: Can you tell us about your Kickstarter/Rally campaign? How many of your donations have been from total strangers?

Charles: Absolutely. The Rally campaign was borne of an idea that followed shortly after I received my May 2014 MCAT score. I received a 29, and it was definitely not the 34 I worked so hard to achieve. Looking back, I now realize that this test score came as a blessing in disguise because it opened the door for me to move forward with this campaign. I felt strongly that I needed to apply early and broadly to have a chance with that MCAT score, but I also knew that after living paycheck-to-paycheck for nine months while studying, I had not saved the funds to do so.

So I began the Rally in early July, and posted a basic description of what the cost of applying to medical school is. I then went back to work not thinking much about it – initially.

By the end of day one, I remember three selfless supporters backing my cause and then thinking, “Wow, this may actually turn into something.” I am now at nearly 90 supporters, and 1/4 of the goal has been realized. It is truly phenomenal to think there are so many kind and selfless individuals who are willing to stand up and tell me “I believe in your skills as a future physician.” It is both humbling and motivating.

As for the proportion of strangers who have contributed, I would say it is about 10% right now, and I cannot be more thankful for everyone standing up for a kid from Chattanooga who has a dream to serve the less fortunate. I hope to make every supporter aware that their kindness will not be forgotten: I plan on providing updates of my progress throughout both the application/interview process as well as during the journey as a medical student and resident, so that every supporter may see just how much they have affected not just my life, but the lives of patients I will go on to serve.

Accepted: You’ve done the math — how much does it cost just to APPLY to med school?

Charles: The average applicant with, what I will call a “middle-of-the-road” GPA/MCAT of 3.6/30, is going to need to apply to upwards of 30 schools in order to receive a handful of interviews and hopefully that wonderful acceptance. I have run the numbers on this and with variable secondary application fees, it is hard to put an exact number on it, but $10,000 is a safe assumption.

In this calculation, I am assuming the AMCAS primary fees of $160 for the first school and $36 for every school thereafter, as well as the associated secondary fees for each school, ranging from $50-200 per school.

Also remember, for each interview, you are expected to cover your own travel expenses, so assuming just 5 interviews received out of 30 schools, we are looking at over $2,500 in travel costs alone. It is truly daunting when you are either a student without family support or a recent college graduate just trying to find their way in the real world!

I encourage all applicants to look for new and innovative ways to attempt to supplement these costs, and my line is always open if you need a helping hand in trying to find your own voice and message in a crowd-funding campaign. All of my contact information is provided on the Rally page (Rally.org/CharlesLanmanMD).

Accepted: I see you posted your AMCAS personal statement on your Rally page — nice job! Can you walk us through the writing process? Can you share a few tips with our readers? 

Charles: I appreciate your kind words about the essay. The most important factors, in telling your story through a personal statement, are to make it candid, conversational, and compelling. I did not mean for the alliteration, but now that I am explaining, I like the sound of it!

You want a story to be candid for the most obvious reasons, to be truthful and honest with the reader, but also writing candidly is very helpful in establishing your voice in the essay. A conversational essay reads better, it is generally more direct and to-the-point, and will not leave the reader with a migraine after reading through. Admissions teams must read through thousands of essays over the course of a single application cycle, so you cannot go wrong by writing a personal essay with nice flow and diction. Last but not least, make the essay compelling! I believe every applicant has a special set of abilities and everybody possesses a unique story or life experience that adds to the conversation. If this were not the case, they would not be seeking admission to probably the most competitive graduate program.

I encourage everyone to do some soul searching and find what lessons and moments in their lives stuck with them. Remember, our decision to pursue medical training is the result of an accumulation of choices, and each choice has an associated experience that we can draw from if we dig deep enough.

I hope those pointers helped those who may need it! Best of luck to everyone applying and let me know if I can be of assistance in any way.

For one-on-one guidance on your med school applications, please see our catalog of med school admissions services.

You can stay up-to-date with Charles’s journey to med school by checking out his updates on his Rally page. Thank you Charles for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

Do you want to be featured in Accepted.com’s blog, Accepted Admissions Blog? If you want to share your med school journey with the world (or at least with our readers), email us at bloggers@accepted.com.

Download a free Med School Secondary Essay Handbook for the tips you need to write successful secondariness!

Accepted.com: Helping You Write Your Best

Related Resources:

• Medical School Applicant Interviews
• Medical School Funding
Get Accepted to Medical School with Low Stats

How to Deal with Deadlines

Dealing with Deadlines

You don’t want to feel rushed and you don’t want to miss your deadline.

You don’t want to feel rushed (stress can lead to mistakes) and you don’t want to miss your deadline. So what can you do to stay on top of your game and submit your applications before the buzzer?

1. Set yourself a schedule and work backwards from your deadlines. Allow time for holidays, sleep, exercise, and of course work.

2. Focus first on the applications with the earliest deadlines. It wouldn’t make sense to work on the application with the further deadline first when you have a looming deadline for another application right around the corner!

3. Work on applications one at a time. Adapt essays from your first application, when possible, to later applications. However never merely paste in an essay because the question is similar. Customize it for this application and this program. Trying to write more than one application at once will only lead to confusion, not to mention unintentional overlapping of material – forgetting to change just one Harvard to Stanford shows a level of sloppiness that Stanford just won’t stand for!

4. If you fall behind, consider dropping/postponing an application to maintain quality overall. Pushing off an application to a subsequent round or the following year is better than submitting a subpar application.

Good luck!

Learn how to use sample essays to create an exemplary essay of your own! Click here to download our free report!

Accepted.com: Helping You Write Your Best

Related Resources:

• 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Application Essay & Personal Statements
Resourceful Essay Recycling
• The Biggest Application Essay Mistake [Video]

Advantages and Disadvantages of Combined BS/MD Programs

Click here to download your copy of Am I Cut Out for a Combined BS/MD Program?

Admissions to many BS/MD programs is more competitive than even the most selective colleges.

“Advantages and Disadvantages of Combined BS/MD Programs” is excerpted from the Accepted.com special report, Am I Cut Out for a Combined BS/MD Program? To download the entire free special report, click here

If you are fully committed to the idea of pursuing a medical career, a combined program may seem like the best of both worlds. In one application process, you can assure yourself of your future medical career, eliminate uncertainty and stress during your undergraduate years, and, without completing a full medical school application process, potentially save yourself thousands of dollars in application costs.

With so many benefits, it is easy to see why the several dozen combined programs are so highly sought after. Admission to many of them is more competitive than even the most selective colleges, easily in the low single digits with extremely talented applicant pools. These programs also do not obligate you to attend medical school, but with such competitive applicant pools, it is easy to understand why universities do not want to waste resources on students who are not committed to a career in medicine.

If you have top notch high school credentials, including GPA, test scores, challenging curriculum, and a demonstrated interest (through volunteer service, research, and clinical shadowing), some of these programs might be a good fit for you.

However, for many other applicants, following the traditional route of pursuing a bachelor’s degree and completing your pre-medical requirements before applying to medical school makes more sense than attending a combined BS/MD program. Consider the following:

The additional few years of undergraduate education and life perspective can truly help you to determine which educational environment is best for you. Is there an area of the country that you prefer? Are you interested in serving a specific population? Some medical schools emphasize family practice while others focus more on scientific research and academic career preparation.

If you choose to pursue a combined program, be certain that you are doing so in an environment that suits you for its undergraduate experience. There is a chance you will find that medicine is not your calling. In some cases, the undergraduate requirements to maintain your medical school space are extremely tough. You are most likely to thrive in an environment that makes you happy.

Am I Cut Out for a Combined BS/MD Program?



Related Resources:

College Admissions 101
• 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your College Application Essays
Interviews with Medical School Applicants

Medical School Funding

Learn how to navigate the med school maze! Click here to download your free guide!

It’s no secret that medical school is expensive!

It’s no secret that medical school is expensive! There are several types of funding to help you with the expense—for most people, loans are the primary source of support, but it’s also worth applying for grants and scholarships. If you demonstrate financial need, you can sometimes qualify for low-interest or no-interest loans from various sources, which can also be a help.

Here are some resources and advice for medical and pre-med students applying for scholarships and financial aid:

•  First, make sure you file your FAFSA every year, by your state’s deadline. (If you are not a US citizen or permanent resident, consult the financial aid office at your institution for the appropriate forms to demonstrate your financial need.)

• Carefully review the financial aid information for each school you’re interested in. The med school’s financial aid office website is an important resource. If you have questions, contact someone there, or ask a financial aid representative in person when you visit campus.

• Many medical schools offer scholarships. When you apply for admission, check to see whether your application will automatically be considered for any scholarships the school offers, or whether you need to submit any additional materials.

• Consult lists of scholarships, and search online. If you find awards that you are not eligible for yet, but will be in a year, bookmark them. Keep a file of funding opportunities.

• When looking for funding opportunities, think BROAD: you might find scholarships based on your hobbies, your community service, your religious involvement, minority status, work experience, etc. Some foundations fund scholarships for people with disabilities or illnesses, often covering the cost of equipment you may need for school. Local organizations often fund small scholarships for people from their hometowns. You get the idea– a little research can pay off!

Here are some helpful resources to guide you:

AAMC Grants & Awards

American Osteopathic Foundation Grants Awards

General Financial Aid Info for MD Programs

General Financial Aid Info for DO Programs

Medical Scholarships

DO Scholarships

Free searchable databases: scholarships.com; schoolsoup.com

Careful budgeting can also save you a lot. It can be very helpful to meet with a financial aid counselor at your school. Good luck!

Download your free special report: Navigate the Med School Maze!

Rebecca Blustein By , Accepted.com editor and former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Rebecca will be happy to assist you with your grad school applications.

Related Resources:

• How to Write the Statement of Disadvantage
• Financial Aid and Health Insurance for International Students
• Ask the Experts: Medical School Admissions Q&A [Transcript/Recording]