If you sent your AMCAS application off promptly in June, you’re now working your way through secondary application essays. Here are some suggestions to help you with a task that looks harder than it is.
First, recycle. You will find considerable repetition among the questions posed by your schools, so feel free to reuse essays in whole or in part whenever it’s appropriate to do so.
Second, read the questions 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 activities, don’t include information about 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.
Third (and somewhat related to the second point), think long and hard before writing an “optional” essay. 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.” Finally, don’t use this open-ended sort of question as an opportunity to discuss one or more grades which could have been better. The goal of every essay you write should be to make you a more attractive candidate.
By Joan Davis, who had 18 years of experience as a pre-medical adviser at the University of Rochester before joining Accepted in 2006.