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Received a Medical School Secondary Request? Here’s What you do

by Story2, on Jun 13, 2016 2:30:00 AM

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"Not tonsilitis...not tonsilitis...not tonsilitis."

That was my mantra that whole morning. I repeated it silently as I curled up in the back of mom's Ford Escort. Its desperation increased as we walked through the parking lot and as I fidgeted in Dr. Bluesteen's waiting room. Mom had made it clear: One more time, and the tonsils were coming out. The prospect terrified me.

"Not tonsilitis...not tonsilitis...not tonsilitis!" The mantra bellowed as Dr. B examined me. "Not tonsilitis...not tonsil.."

Dr. B interrupted. "It's tonsilitis."

Everything went silent. I tried to swallow (despite the inflamed throat) in an attempt to steel myself against the oncoming deluge of tears.  

It was then that I saw it: a framed piece of paper on the wall. I had stared at it for years - through strep swabs, reflex checks and vaccinations. It was always there. And Dr. B and my mom would be too. I felt a feeling of peace. The site made me feel comfortable and safe. It was a simple emblem emblazoned on a framed piece of paper: the University Hospital emblem. And that would not be the last time that emblem signified comfort and safety to me.


You will receive secondary requests from most of the medical schools that receive your primary application, as the majority of medical schools send secondary requests automatically, without reviewing the primary. You should try to return your secondaries as soon as possible, since applications are considered on a rolling basis. Doing this increases your chances of being offered an interview if you turn around your secondaries within two weeks.

For applicants who have submitted the primary in June to several schools, July tends to be a crunch time during which you are filling out secondaries in rapid succession. It’s best to plan for this ahead of time and make sure that time is free to devote to these essays. They are time consuming and time sensitive, and perhaps the more arduous part of the application process.

It is perfectly acceptable to recycle essays that happen to fit multiple schools, as there is a great deal of overlap in the essay prompts that appear. Just make sure that what you write is a direct response to the prompt. Your readers will be able to tell if your essay does not answer the question directly. It is easy to get fatigued toward the end of the process and be tempted to cut corners on the secondaries, but it’s important to be meticulous about these. Secondary essays are often a deciding factor for admissions committees who are looking for more information about you.

This medical school essay that asks “Why Medical School X” must be thoroughly researched and customized to each school. You want to present yourself as a good match for the school, to demonstrate how your particular goals and interests are aligned with what the school offers.

Common Secondary Prompts:

  • Please write a brief essay describing your reasons for applying to “School X”.
  • Describe a challenge you have encountered and how you addressed it.
  • Briefly describe a situation where you had to overcome adversity; include lessons learned and how you think it will affect your career as a future physician.
  • Have there been any gaps in your education and what have you done during that time?
  • If you have already received your bachelor’s degree, please describe what you have been doing since graduation and what you will be doing in the upcoming year?
  • Describe any academic honors or awards you have received since entering college?
  • Please tell us about a situation in which working with others has been challenging.
  • Did you work for compensation during college during the year or the summer?
  • In what collegiate extracurricular activities did you engage?
  • Is there anything else you would like us to know?
  • Describe involvement in the ONE non-academic activity that has been important in your life?
  • What has been the ONE most important volunteer work you have done and why was it meaningful?

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Topics:college admission

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