Filling out and submitting all of your primary medical school applications is quite the accomplishment, however don’t let out that giant sigh of relief too early because you will have even more essays to write!
Medical school secondary essays are usually required and are meant to provide the schools with more specific information about you and whether you’re a good fit for their program. The questions are generally geared towards the specific mission, requirements and goals of the program.
Each school will have their own secondary requirements– some asking for one or two essays and others asking for 5-10. Double check the requirements of each school to be sure you submit everything.
Although each school is different and will ask questions unique to their program, there are usually more similarities than differences in topics and what they are asking you to explain. They are all looking for information to identify whether you’re a good fit to be a physician in training at their university or institution.
So, not all of your answers will have to be completely unique. You’ll be able to re-use a lot of material and ideas while you tweak, shuffle and edit bits and pieces.
And if you want to get a head start, a quick Google Search will show you most of the prompts your school has used in the past. These don’t typically change a lot from year to year, so you’re likely safe to start with these prompts.
To help you get started, we’ve compiled what we think are 3 of the most common secondary essay questions and tips on how to answer them…
- Why our school? Around 53% of schools ask this question, which is why this is probably the #1 asked secondary essay question. Medical schools want you to want them and to be sure you’re not just copying and pasting this same answer from school to school. Because of this, this one is hard to reuse. However, you could use an experience from your past as an introduction and template, followed by specific school values, missions and goals that you’re interested in. Include things like extracurricular or research opportunities they offer, what type of patient population they serve, where the clinical sites are and what makes them different from other medical schools you’re applying to. Use your past and experiences to connect them to their program and explain why you’re a good fit. If you have family or a connection close by, include that because that’s a great reason to value a school. Having a good support system in place is always an advantage so pointing that out can’t hurt.
Other tips to consider when answering this question include:
- Focusing on yourself first, even though it asks “why their school.” Connect your examples or characteristics to the school’s mission and opportunities.
- Don’t just list things that are cool about the school or area. Make them relevant to you.
- How will you enhance our school’s diversity? 51% of schools ask this question, making it our #2 most common secondary essay question. When answering this prompt, think about how you add diversity… are you an engineer? A college athlete? Or do you have unique work experience that will add to your skill set that not every other applicant has? A diverse class is important because you can learn a lot from classmates. Working with people of different backgrounds, values, demographics and beliefs will help you advocate on behalf of patients or people outside of your norm.
Race and culture are typically what come to mind when you think about diversity, so explain how your experience engaging with people different than yourself has prepared you for your future career in medicine.
- Describe a significant challenge or failure. The road to becoming a doctor is not easy. It’s long, challenging and may even include failures along the way. So your schools want to know how resilient you are. How you cope with stress and how hard you work. How do you push through difficult times and how well do you think you can handle long work days, uneasy and challenging tasks, difficult situations, etc? Be honest with them and describe a situation or two that you have faced in your life that you feel has prepared you for this medical journey.
Some may ask you to focus particularly on a “failure” rather than a challenge, but remember that this can be something abstract like a missed opportunity, attitude or oversight.
At Code Blue Essays, it’s our job to prepare you for anything your applications may ask of you. Learn more about topics for secondary essays for the 2022-2023 season.
Once you’ve submitted your essays, it’s time to prepare for your interviews! Check out our tips and advice on that here.