If you read our blog on the Medical School application timeline, you’ll know that we are approaching peak Secondary Application season. At Code Blue Essays, we want to make sure that your Secondary Applications are in tip-top shape before you hit submit, so contact us! In addition to our editing services, we can offer you guidance as you work through the rest of the Secondary Application season and Interview process, too!  

Working on your Secondary essays now  

As noted in our blog, you should get to work on potential Secondary Application Essays before you even get the applications. The word limits can range anywhere from 100 words to 600 words, but most of them are on the shorter end of that spectrum. Some schools even apply a word limit to the essays in their entirety, like New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, which imposes a 2500 word limit. Though these essays are shorter than your personal statement, you will be writing multiple, and importantly, they are predictable. This means that getting an early start is not only important but entirely possible.   

Typical essay questions:  

Almost every medical school will ask the “diversity question” in its Secondary Application. This question asks a student to discuss what makes them a unique candidate for a particular school. A diversity question might also ask why a student thinks that diversity is important, like Ohio State University’s College of Medicine’s question: “The OSU COM Admissions vision statement states that the admissions committee will assemble a class that displays ‘diversity in background and thought’. Why is ‘diversity in background and thought’ a desirable characteristic for a medical school’s student body?” Queries like this one should be expected from almost every school’s Secondary Application. There will be a fair amount of overlap, but students should still be meticulous about ensuring that applications are geared toward the particular question each school is asking.  

Another safe bet when it comes to common Secondary essay questions is the “why us?” question. These prompts may simply ask you for your “reasons for applying” to that school in particular, or it may ask why you are a particularly good fit for their school. The Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine’s “why us?” question reads, “Given the distinctive educational philosophy and integrated curriculum at FSM, describe how your personal characteristics and learning style would fit the institution, and how Feinberg School of Medicine will help you achieve your professional goals.” This essay question seems to combine two medical school essay favorites – the diversity question and the “why us?” question. The application continues to ask, “Everyone has their own narrative. Please provide more detail about how your experiences would enrich the Northwestern community,” which asks the diversity question a little more directly. Essays for “why us?” prompts MUST be tailored to the specific school you’re applying for, so if you’re trying to use the same basic outline for different schools, having assistance editing and double-checking those essays is crucial.   

Many medical schools also ask prospective students to describe a particular challenge he or she has overcome. The “adversity question” is an opportunity to show some humility… but not too much. Striking that balance takes some mastery! UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine’s adversity question asks, “Describe a situation, or an experience, you’ve had when you were unsuccessful. Tell us what you learned from this experience.” The UCLA adversity question reads: “Describe a problem in your life. Include how you dealt with it and how it influenced your growth.” The adversity question is a perfect opportunity to create a one-size-fits-most essay and should be one that you are sure to tackle early.  

New for current applicants:   

One new topic that medical schools are exploring in their secondaries is the COVID-19 pandemic, with a large proportion of schools asking students to identify any lessons the pandemic taught them. Schools are interested in knowing how their prospective students see the roles of frontline healthcare workers and how they see themselves in those roles. NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine asks: “In light of the public health emergency that was the COVID-19 pandemic, how do you view your potential role as a frontline healthcare provider?”   

Even Smarter Preparation:   

While we know that there are specific questions that almost all medical schools want responses for in their Secondary Application process, you can actually do a little bit of digging to find previous exact essay questions your schools asked (and will likely ask again) in their Secondaries. Many medical schools actually give access to these questions eagerly, hoping that prospective students will take advantage and prepare answers in advance. Identifying these prompts can ensure that you are 100% prepared to submit your Secondary Application at the earliest opportunity. Remember – medical schools utilize rolling admissions, and the earliest attractive candidates get the earliest interviews along with the earliest acceptances. Aligning yourself to achieve the most success from the beginning can give you the advantage you need to get into your dream school. Code Blue Essays is here to help you on that path. Contact us today to give yourself the best odds for success!