This post is the last in our series on applying to med school in the most efficient and timely manner. You’ve got six months to make this happen. Make sure you do it right by following the tips in Med School Action Plan: 6 Steps for the 6 Months Before You Apply.
It can be shocking how quickly you receive secondary applications after submitting your primary application. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, I recommend several strategies to clients in preparing for secondaries as well as interviews. Taking the time to get organized before you even apply can help you prepare for success.
I recommend the following strategies:
1. Create a spreadsheet to organize the dates you receive and return the secondaries you receive. In the first column, list the schools that you are applying to. In the second column, list the dates you submitted your primary application, if the dates vary. For the next column, list the dates you receive secondaries and then create another column to include the date you actually submitted the secondary. To enhance your chances of landing an interview invitation and to demonstrate a serious interest, try to submit all secondaries within TWO WEEKS of receiving them. The longer it takes—beyond two weeks—to send back secondaries, the more likely it becomes that the schools will assume you are not that interested in applying to their programs.
Getting organized can help you avoid missing secondary deadlines. If you are applying to lots of schools, you can also prioritize based on the schools that you like the most and where you have the greatest chance of acceptance. It’s helpful to have a spreadsheet like this so that you don’t lose sight of the bigger picture—especially as you may get bogged down under a pile of secondaries.
2. Get started early. Most medical schools do not make many if any changes to their secondary essays from year to year. You can reliably find the secondary essay questions on websites like Student Doctor Network or on the Accepted website with tips for how to answer each school’s questions.
Accepted only publishes the questions after verifying that they have been updated each application cycle. I have written most of these blog posts. If you would like individualized assistance with outlining and drafting secondaries, I would love to assist you. My colleagues and I have many years of experience in helping students thrive during the application process.
3. Do a little bit every day. If you procrastinate or try to write all of your secondaries in a day or two, it can get overwhelming very quickly. If you designate a certain time of day every day or a few times a week to writing your secondary essays, then you can train your brain when to focus. Warm up by journaling for 20 or 30 minutes. Then, get to work. Prioritize your secondaries using your deadlines—from your spreadsheet, as described above. Do one secondary at a time. If you get one or two essays written a day and you start early, then the process will flow smoothly. You can schedule days off and breaks. The quality of your writing will be better because you will not be in a rush.
Over the years, I have noticed that the most successful students use these three strategies to get their secondaries done quickly and efficiently. It is possible to enjoy the process! To do so, you will need to start early and plan for setbacks. You are always welcome to contact me or my colleagues at Accepted for individual assistance.
Alicia McNease Nimonkar worked for 5 years as the Student Advisor & Director at the UC Davis School of Medicine's postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and other health professional programs. She has served Accepted's clients since 2012 with roughly a 90% success rate. She has a Master of Arts in Composition and Rhetoric as well as Literature. Want Alicia to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• Secondary Application Strategies for Essays That Score Interviews, a free webinar
• School-Specific Secondary Essay Tips
• Admissions Straight Talk Podcast