Journeys with Joshua: Joshua Wienczkowski walks us through med school at East Tennessee’s College of Medicine with his monthly blog updates. Get an inside look into med school down South through the eyes of a former professional songwriter with a whole lot of clinical experience — thanks Joshua for sharing this journey with us!
First and foremost, congratulations on having pummeled through the past few years as a Pre- Med, beasting the MCAT, shadowing in hospitals, doing research, volunteering about a bagillion hours, and successfully submitting your primary application through AMCAS. You’ve come a long way, and I imagine you’ve hurried up just to wait for processing of your application, and are anxiously awaiting some ominous “secondary application.” Wait, I already applied to medical school and told them my ENTIRE life story – what more could they possibly want to know?
Fear not, for I successfully submitted a dozen secondary applications while studying for my MCAT. Let’s go through a few basics of what a secondary is, how to write them well, and how to manage the stress during your application cycle.
What exactly IS a medical school secondary application?
Ok, so your AMCAS application does an incredible job of painting a picture as to how you came to be the person you are today through your life experiences, but it also helps medical schools trim the fat through GPA and MCAT. Secondaries are for those applicants who made it to the next round and present the opportunity for you to expound on who you are today, and what you want to do in medicine. “You have two patients who experience the same critical injury, but one has insurance and the other doesn’t. How do you handle this emergent care situation?”
How do I write a successful secondary application that will land me an interview?
Receiving a secondary is a rewarding feeling, because it finally feels like you’re one step closer to wearing a white coat and rounding in the hospital as an actual medical student. Writing your secondary should reflect your passion and desire to see this process to a successful end. Put everything you’ve got into them; shed as much light as possible on your personal character development, and show medical schools you are mature and ready to become a medical student. Also, you had a thousand people edit your AMCAS application (hopefully), so why wouldn’t you have people edit your secondary application? Sitting down with close friends and family to choose what life experiences you’ll write about when answering the vast array of questions that come up will be crucial to best representing the able-minded applicant you are. It’s a good idea to expand more in-depth on experiences from your AMCAS application.
“There are a LOT of applications coming in at once and they’re all due in two weeks! HELP!”
1. Time Management – you budgeted specific hours each day to study for your MCAT, so do the same for secondaries. Some of these applications may take you several hours to complete, so budget accordingly. Whatever you do, make sure your writing time is uninterrupted, and you’ve informed your editors ahead of time. I recommend getting them done as soon as you can, so you can be on the top of the pile for being considered for an interview!
2. Copy & Paste – this beautiful little invention will save you tons of time, and be useful because you’ll see a lot of very similar questions from schools. WARNING: The quickest way to get your application thrown in the trash is to send a secondary app telling X College of Medicine how much you absolutely love their school, but it was was written for Z College of Medicine. MAKE SURE AND EDIT BEFORE SUBMITTING.
3. Make Executive Decisions – so maybe you went a little gung-ho/click-happy on your AMCAS application, applied to more schools than you intended, and are now facing the consequences of more secondaries than you know what to do with. *Guiltily raises hand* Yeah, I did it too. Well, points to consider when choosing which secondaries you may scratch are:
a. secondaries are not free
b. when push comes to shove, are you really willing to move across the country where you don’t know anyone?
c. state universities only accept 10% out-of-state students who have stellar applications and usually have ties to the area
d. have you visited or spoken with the school and are certain you would attend if given an offer?
Best of luck, and be sure to be reading medically related books that will keep you inspired during the process; Hot Lights, Cold Steel by Dr. Michael Collins is a great one to keep you motivated.