You’ve taken the MCAT, completed all the pre-reqs, and maybe shadowed a physician, done some research, and volunteered. Now it’s time to make sure you’re all in for the last legs of this long journey. In this series, we’ll discuss how you can continue to navigate your way to a med school acceptance by analyzing your profile, creating a strong med school application, writing stellar AMCAS and secondary essays, and nailing your interview.
After you submit your AMCAS application, if everything goes well, you’ll be asked to submit secondary applications. Each medical school requires different information.
The following tips will help you write these challenging essays:
1. Timing is critical.
The general rule is to complete each secondary application within two weeks of receiving it.
2. Prioritize schools.
If faced with more secondaries than you can handle, prioritize. Complete the secondaries from the schools you are most interested in attending and/or have the greatest chance of being offered an interview first.
3. Be thorough and do not rush.
The essays in your secondary application are as important as your personal essay, and in some cases, more important. Do not rush through them.
4. Research each school.
Before starting to write any essays, spend some time reviewing the website, the mission statement, and the curriculum of the medical school. (This is something you want to repeat again before interviewing.) Try to incorporate in your essays some of the information you learn so that you stress why you are a good match and what you can offer your target school. In essence you want to personalize each essay. Try to reinforce how your past experiences match the school’s mission statement or how your interests match their specialty offerings. Each school has a special focus (such as a unique curriculum, strong research base, a focus on the underserved or primary care). Think about what you have to offer that aligns well with their focus or mission and reinforce that in your essay.
5. Answer accurately.
Seems obvious, I know, but many applicants need the reminder: Answer the questions as they are written and not as you wish they were written. You may write a lovely essay about your shadowing stint at your local ER during high school, but if the question was about extracurricular activities in college, then you still haven’t gotten the job done right. This also means that if you’re trying to reuse stories in multiple applications, you need to read the questions very carefully and make sure you’re on target.
6. Give state school essays enough attention.
When completing an essay for your state school, stress why you want to go there just as you would any other school. Financial reasons and proximity to home are important reasons, but you still want to reinforce why you are a good match for the school.
7. Share additional information.
Each secondary application provides a place for you to show a little more of yourself. Try to include information in your essays that you may not have been able to incorporate into your AMCAS application. The secondary essays should complement, not duplicate, the AMCAS essay.
8. Edit effectively.
You don’t just want to tell your story; you want to tell your story well – this includes choosing the right topic, writing about your experiences with interesting and relevant details, and – last but not least – editing the essay so that it gleams. A successful secondary essay isn’t messy with typos and poor grammar; it’s neat, organized, and error-free. If English is not your first language – and even if it is – you will most definitely benefit from having another set of eyes (or more) look over your essay to ensure that it’s top-notch and ready for send-off.
Again this is the final piece of information that will be considered by admission committees prior to interview offers, so put time into each and make sure you customize them for each school.