To stay on top of your secondary applications, use the following strategies to get organized and to help you write better essays. Taking the time to think about how you will approach your secondaries can give you the “big picture” perspective you need to do your best work. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, trying a new approach can make all the difference in your ability to produce higher quality writing.
The most successful students I’ve worked with focus on the following areas:
1. Time Management
Depending on how many medical schools you have applied to this cycle, you may have a large volume of secondary applications to return in a short period of time. To stay on top of all of your deadlines, create a table with the name of the medical school, date you submitted the primary application, date you received the secondary application and the deadline to submit it. You can also include space to list the date you submit the secondary. Creating a table to track your progress with each school will allow you to prioritize application tasks based on your deadlines—to maximize your time management skills. Given the anxiety inherent in the admissions process, any way that you can minimize unnecessary stress will help you to use your energy more constructively. Being on top of your deadlines will empower you to excel on the tasks that require your best efforts to help you reach the next level.
To demonstrate your interest in each medical school, it is critical to do your research as you complete each secondary—to demonstrate a personal knowledge of their institution. What is the school’s mission statement? Does the school have any special programs that you are interested in? What is the structure of their curriculum? Where is the school located and do you have personal ties to the area? It is essential that you draw connections between your interests and the school. After you have reviewed their web page, what information stands out in your mind? Create a list of reasons why you are interested in attending the school. List all of the reasons and then rank them based on their importance to you and your life goals. Use the ranked items as an outline to draft your response to any questions about why you have applied to their school or how their program will benefit you.
Create a timeline of your life to consult as a useful tool for completing secondary applications. Be sure to include all major life events—incorporate all your activities and interests. The more detailed your timeline is, the more useful it will be. To avoid repetition, highlight or mark those experiences that you have already included in your primary application. This demarcation will help you to avoid being repetitive in your secondary applications. As you review your timeline, ask yourself how each individual event or activity has influenced your life goals or has led you towards a career in medicine. This comprehensive life history will help you to be creative in your secondary essays and encourage you to draw upon your rich and diverse life experiences to convey your commitment to completing a medical education.
4. Writing Routine
Secondary applications provide an exciting opportunity for self-reflection. To fully benefit from this period of introspection, journal daily. The more frequently you practice expressing your ideas and feelings, the more easily you will be able to engage in the process of self-reflection. It can be helpful to look at pictures of yourself as you were growing up. Review your yearbooks and awards. Write about these experiences and what they meant to you. As you examine your motivations for wanting to become a doctor, it can be powerful to reconnect to your family history, childhood, adolescence, academic and clinical experiences. Schedule a time of day that you can work on your secondary applications uninterrupted. Journal for twenty minutes to warm up. Approach each question one paragraph at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Use outlines. During this time, it is also important to read regularly—especially those authors who inspire you. The time and effort you put into completing your secondary applications will be evident to your reviewers. Give them the opportunity to get to know you.
5. Proofreading and Editing
To submit your best work, be sure to proofread and edit all materials before you submit them. Complete each secondary a few days before the deadline to allow yourself time to engage in this essential final step. It can be especially beneficial to have friends, family or even professional editors, like me or my colleagues from Accepted, review your materials and provide feedback. This will help you gain valuable insight on how to improve the quality of your application materials—which will lead to an interview and eventually an offer of acceptance.
If you would like professional guidance with your secondary application materials, please consider using Accepted’s Medical School Admissions Consulting and Editing Services, which include advising, editing, and interview coaching for application materials.Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs. Want Alicia to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!