Secondary Essays

Posted on by Kirg

secondary essays, secondary application, medical school, secondary medical school essay tips, medical school secondary application tips, medical school secondary essays

How To Write The Perfect Secondary Medical School Essay

Medical school applications have always been a rigorous process, and rightfully so. Schools want to ensure that they're accepting the best. They want to ensure that they train and invest their time in qualified and innovative students. However, for you, that usually means more work. Yes, on top of the grades, MCAT scores, primary application personal statement and work/activity section, some schools want to know even more about you in the form of secondary essays! This might all seem overwhelming considering, the course juggling, internships, volunteering and extracurricular activities, BUT, you DON’T need to worry. Below, we will walk you through all the necessary essentials on rocking your secondary essays!

What is the Purpose of Secondary Essays?

Although you might anticipate the answer to be historical and complicated, it is actually quite short and simple. Secondary essays allow the admission's committee to learn more about you—the applicant. During a highly competitive time, medical school admissions utilize essays to give you the opportunity to tell your story, all while allowing them more of an insight into their applicant pool. At this point, the admissions dept. is more acquainted with your file. However, that does not mean it is time to relax. You are close, but not there yet. Secondary essays allow for clarification. 

Different Types of Secondary Essays

Before you can begin to learn about how to apply your experiences, and start writing out your secondary essays, you need to first understand the different styles of secondary essays. Medical schools differ in mission statements, programs, campus activities and research, so it's no surprise their admission processes differ as well. The format of the essays can vary from 1 lengthy question, to a series of questions, where you will be asked to answer 3-4 questions regarding qualities they value. Sometimes schools use 1 question that is broad, and left to interpretation (purposefully). Here, you typically have plenty of room to respond and will need to structure the essay yourself. Alternatively, the series of questions are more specific, and limited in words. If you're truly lucky, you might end up with both. Yes, we say lucky because the more you can write, the greater your chances of leaving the admissions with a lasting impression.

Main types of questions:

  • Diversity Experience: (A question about your experience with diversity). Most schools value diversity. However, for some specific schools, it is of utmost priority. 
  • "Why have you applied to our school?" The secondary essay will give you an opportunity to highlight and elaborate your response. Showcase your interest in the school's programs, courses, associations, research, etc.
  • An experience with collaboration (or teamwork): (A question that will highlight and showcase your ability to work in a group setting). Here is an opportunity to reflect on your experiences (internships, volunteering, sporting, clubs etc.)
  • Challenges: (A question of personal triumph, resilience over adversity). Here, you can get creative, and can either reflect on a personal or academic experience. A question like this will showcase your vulnerability. You can use this opportunity to address any "red flags" you might have in your application.  Ensure that you focus on 1-2 qualities or attributes that will navigate your description of the challenge. 
  • Goals: (A question that will examine your goals, near or far). Yes, often times an overrated question, but nonetheless one utilized to get an insight as to what you have planned, and specifically how might that match up with what they offer. Be strategic on specifics, and prioritization.

Top 4 Tips to Prepare for Secondary Essays

Tip #1. Brainstorm

First, you must schedule a good time-frame to prepare/write your secondary essay. Now, before you even begin to answer the question(s), you will need to start brainstorming! Yes, prior to even beginning your responses, it is best to write down your top qualities; ones you want the admissions to know about and the top points you want to discuss in your essays. 

Tip #2. Use Questions

Depending on the style of the question(s) posed in the secondary essay (be it specific or open), you will need to structure accordingly. It is always best to come up with proactive questions that you can use to navigate your essay (this is especially true of open/broad questions). The questions below can serve as guidelines throughout the essay. 

  • Tell me about a time you led a team of your peers? 
  • What did you learn? 
  • How can you apply what you learned in the future?

Tip #3. Structure Your Paragraph (Typically for lengthy questions) 

After you have brainstormed, and listed questions to help you write the perfect response, you will need to lay out the structure for each paragraph. Depending on how specific the question is, it is usually best to showcase personal qualities, highlighted using specific examples, rather than a mere mention of an acquired skill. 

Tip #4. Edit. Edit. Edit. And Then Edit Some More.

Make sure that you allocate enough time to review your secondary essays multiple times. It's best to ask a practicing professional such as someone that has formal creative writing/editing training, a published writer, a professor, or someone at an MD or PhD level to edit your work. Remember, every great author has an editor. Even noble prize winners in literature have editors. You will also need an editor to read your work and provide you with constructive feedback.  (Click here to review sample medical school essay questions).

>>Click here to find out how we can help make your secondary essays stand out and schedule your FREE initial consultation today!<<

About the author:

Ronza Nissan is a senior admissions expert at BeMo has several years of experience within the recruitment industry, giving her a unique real-life perspective as an interviewer and is one of our highly ranked interview coaches here at BeMo.

To your success,

BeMo Academic Consulting Inc.

Part 4: The “Why Us?” Secondary Essay

Example "Why Us?" Essay Prompts

Example 1: “What makes LLUSM particularly attractive to you?” (Loma Linda University School of Medicine)

Example 2: “How will becoming a Creighton educated physician enable you to achieve your lifetime goals and/or aspirations?” (Creighton University School of Medicine)

"Why Us?" Essay Background

These are everyone’s favorite prompts (I wish my sarcasm could jump through the screen).

The first step to writing an effective “Why us?” essay is to restrain yourself from writing about how great their medical school is or where it's located.

Glad that’s out of the way.

Consider why admissions committees want you to answer this question. After all, they know you’re applying to many other schools and that your GPA and MCAT scores are at least reasonably close to their admission averages (learn Where to Apply to Medical School to Maximize Admissions Odds).

Admissions committees read thousands of essays annually and want to know that you’ve considered them for reasons beyond the obvious (location, prestige, average GPA and MCAT, etc.).

By integrating your qualities, experiences, and aspirations with their specific mission, programs, and resources, you will have a unique opportunity to demonstrate "fit" in your application. Don’t take this for granted!

"Why Us?" Essay Misconception 1: “I should just read a school’s mission statement and research available resources on their website, and then rewrite the same information in essay form.”

The vast majority of students approach the “Why us?” essay this way, so it won’t make your response seem very special.

I basically see the expanded version of the following essay 90+% of the time:

“I want to go to [School Name] because of their wonderful [program name] and incredible [resources]. {Program] cultivates [attribute] that helps their students become great physicians. In addition, [resources] provide support to help students reach their potential.”

You should be able to see how this essay says nothing about why YOU want to go to their school.

Moreover, medical schools already know about all of the programs and resources they offer, so you wouldn’t be providing much value through your writing.

The better approach to this essay would be to look through schools’ websites to find programs and resources that actually interest you and to identify what each school keeps boasting about (e.g., perhaps they mention diversity or early clinical experience multiple times on their homepage). Then, consider:

  • How YOUR experiences fit with their offerings
  • What YOU could contribute
  • How YOU would uniquely benefit from their program

For example, if a school focuses a lot on community service and you have similar experiences, mention that. In addition, let the school know how you want to further focus your skills while there. On the other hand, if you have a more research heavy background and are applying to the same school, you could either focus on research or discuss how community service will make you a more well-rounded physician. The more specific you can be, the better.

"Why Us?" Essay Misconception 2: “There’s no other way to find out information about a medical school than by reading their site.”

Looking at a school’s website and demonstrating fit is certainly a tried-and-true approach to answering "Why us?" essay prompts, but it isn’t the only one.

To really impress admissions committees, you could integrate information from current students or recent alumni into your response. Ask these individuals whether they would be willing to share their experiences attending a particular school, and also whether you would be a good fit there given your background and goals.

How do you find these people? The easiest people to contact are those you know personally or through a mutual acquaintance. Otherwise, you could contact a school’s administrative staff and ask whether they could connect you to a current student. While this requires additional work, it will be well worth it for your top school preferences.

If you have to contact a stranger, use the following email template:

“Dear [Student Name],

I hope this email finds you well. My name is [Your Name}, and I am currently completing my med school applications. I’m especially interested in attending [School Name] and am therefore hoping to get some more information about the program. [School Name]'s admissions committee gave me your email address as someone who could help me out.

I'd really appreciate it if you would spare 15-20 minutes to answer 3-5 quick questions in the upcoming days. If so, please let me know some days and times that are most convenient for you, your time zone, and the best number to reach you. I’ll do my best to accommodate.

Thanks for your time and consideration. Looking forward to hearing from you soon!


[Your Name]

Sample "Why Us?" Essay

(Note: All identifying details have been changed.)

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Throughout my undergrad years, I’ve found that working hard to involve myself with others and their unique perspectives is one of the most productive ways in which I can learn. For example, I used to believe that illnesses were just a set of tangible symptoms that resulted solely from maladaptive genes. However, after working closely with families in Boston's inner city, I have come to realize how racial, physical, and social factors, such as a lack of access to fresh produce or primary health services, can influence the likelihood of disease. As I obtained a broader understanding of the many factors that contribute to health, I find myself asking new questions and wanting to learn more. How can we properly assess a community’s needs and design appropriate solutions? How can an understanding of sociocultural factors be used to heal current patients and prevent new ones? I believe that the answers to these questions and others will come from the Community Health Program at the University of Washington (UW). The year-round lecture series on topics, such as “Health Disparities: An Unequal World's Biggest Challenge,” will allow me to engage closely with faculty and students to work towards developing holistic community-based solutions. Furthermore, the UW PEERS clinic and Friends of UW provide an opportunity to work closely with urban Seattle neighborhoods similar to those I have worked with in Boston. Having connected with a range of Boston families, varying in age, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity, I have improved my sense of self-awareness and cultural sensitivity, attributes I hope to continue developing with the surrounding Seattle community. I am confident that UW and the Community Health Program can further prepare me to be a physician who not only improves the lives of individual patients, but also addresses the needs of entire communities.


Final Thoughts

Secondary applications will likely be one of the most time-consuming, stressful, and exhausting parts of your application process (the other is the medical school admission interview circuit if you’re fortunate to receive multiple invitations).

Nevertheless, you should give yourself some breaks to recharge so that you never rush submissions for the sake of rolling admissions and sacrifice quality.

Like every other piece of written material you submit, aim not only to answer the prompt, but also to give admissions committees deeper insights into what makes YOU so great for their school specifically.


Enjoyed this article? Get the FREE guide we use to help over 90% of our students get into med school—the first time.

Categories: 1

0 Replies to “Secondary Essays”

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *