If you sent your AMCAS application off promptly in June, you’re now working your way through secondary application essays. When writing your secondaries, keep in mind that the purpose of the secondaries is to show your fit with the specific school, not to show why you want to go into the medical field – that was the topic for your primary application.
Here are 4 tips to help you hone in on the task at hand and create a successful secondary essay.
Successful Secondary Essay Tip #1: Recycle
You will find considerable repetition among the questions posed by your schools. Feel free to reuse parts of essays whenever it’s appropriate to do so. Be sure to customize at least part of the essay so that the school sees your fit with their program. And of course, make sure not to mention specific details of one school when writing an essay for another – some information will need to be changed, like the school’s name!
Successful Secondary Essay Tip #2: Read the question very carefully
Be sure that your answers, whether recycled or new, respond to the questions asked. Don’t try to push your own agenda. Don’t recycle essays that don’t fit the question. There may be points you want to make and experiences or aspects of your record you want to emphasize, but you must answer the questions as written. Be alert for questions which limit you to matters not covered elsewhere in the application and don’t go back over old ground. When the question relates to community service, for example, don’t include information about non-community service jobs or research projects. If you haven’t had much extracurricular involvement, “fudging” an answer is the least desirable way to improve that area of your application. Explaining that you had to work while you were in school so you didn’t have a lot of time for extracurriculars, would be a much more acceptable thing to write. Just be sure that you are explaining and not excusing.
Successful Secondary Essay Tip #3: Think long and hard before writing an optional essay
This is somewhat related to the second tip. Unless the question invites you to expand on one or more items you addressed in another part of the application, assume that the admissions committee is looking for new information. If the question is, “Is there anything else you think we should know about you?” understand that the emphasis is on “else.” This is your opportunity to make the points or describe experiences or aspects of your record that didn’t fit into the required essay. If you have information that will make you a stronger, more desirable candidate, then write away. If you don’t, then skip the optional essay.
Successful Secondary Essay Tip #4: Use your essay to make you a more attractive candidate
Don’t use an open-ended sort of question as an opportunity to discuss one or more grades that could have been better. However, you can explain how your grades improved from year to year, and what you did to make that happen. The adcoms are willing to forgive lower freshman grades if you show improvement in the successive years.
And don’t use an open-ended question as an opportunity to provide a 30,000-foot perspective on your entire life. Rather, use specifics not mentioned elsewhere, or write about an experience mentioned more briefly elsewhere and go into more detail here. Describe some of the challenges you faced, how you overcame them, the results, and the lessons you learned.
Remember that the goal of every essay you write should be to make you the most attractive candidate possible.
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• The Ultimate Guide to Secondary Essay Questions from Top Med Schools, a free guide
• School-Specific Secondary Essay Tips
• Prepare for Secondaries and Interviews