Secondary Essays for the 2022-2023 Season: What To Expect


At Code Blue Essays, it’s our job to prepare you for everything the application season sends your way. Now that it’s July, we turn our focus squarely to the secondary essays you must complete for your medical school applications in the coming weeks. In terms of relative importance, secondaries are no more or less “important” than your primary applications, but getting a secondary application shows that a school wants to get to know you a little bit better and decide whether you are a good fit for their programs. 

Secondaries are unique because due dates vary – some are not due until January 2023 and others, like the Universities of Utah and New Mexico, are due within 14 days of your receipt. No matter how remote the due date for your secondary essays, you should strive to complete them as soon as you possibly can. After all, the earlier you can get through the application process, the better. Medical admissions are on a rolling basis – if you get accepted early, the benefit is twofold. There are more spots available to top schools earlier and you get to stop stressing about admissions sooner! 

The key to being prepared for your secondary essays is to have a good idea about what the questions will be. Specific schools’ secondary questions are widely shared online on premed forums and message boards as they are released, so be active in your research as the summer goes on. Earlier this month, we talked about getting organized! Create a master list of questions for each school you expect a secondary application from and compile a list of the questions you’ll need to answer if you’re invited to continue with the application process. If you see certain questions repeat multiple times, you can start by crafting answers to those first.  

For the 2022-2023 cycle, you can expect to see questions from these categories:

The Classics

There are some things that never change. Many secondary essay topics are classics that continue to be asked every year by multiple institutions.  

For example, West Virginia University School of Medicine has asked, “why did you choose the WVU School of Medicine?” on every application year for at least the past five years. WVU School of Medicine is not alone; the majority of schools will definitely ask you this question at some point during the application process. 

The Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine has given students the option to “describe a time or situation where you have been unsuccessful or failed.” This is another favorite question for med school applicants.  

The Ohio State University College of Medicine gives us an example of a school asking a question about how a student contributes to that particular school’s mission statement. Be familiar with the missions of your top schools. Many of them ask questions referencing their mission statements.  

Medical schools value diversity and most admissions committee members look for unique applicants for their incoming classes. Schools ask you questions about how your experiences contribute to their student body diversity. The Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine poses this for the 2022-2023 cycle: “Geisel School of Medicine values social justice and diversity in all its forms. Reflect on a situation where you were the “other”. 

Applicants can rely on seeing questions like these across the board. Early preparation for these is key! The questions are not exactly no-brainers – they take thoughtful reflection to answer earnestly.  

COVID-19 Questions

The entire world has been living through a pandemic for the past two years, and the healthcare profession has undergone major changes throughout. Many schools take advantage of this real-world experience and ask students to offer their thoughts. The Miami Miller School of Medicine asks students, “What have you done during the recent COVID-19 pandemic that will better prepare you to be a medical student and future physician?” this application cycle. Expect schools to address the pandemic and be prepared accordingly. 

Due to sensitivity to the struggles that students have endured during the COVID-19 pandemic, some institutions, like Harvard in the 2022-2023 cycle, allow (not require) students to share their own experiences with COVID-19. Harvard’s question appeared on the last two years’ applications, and it appears again this year. It reads as follows:  

(Optional) The Committee on Admissions understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted applicants in various ways. If you wish to inform the Committee as to how these events have affected you and have not already done so elsewhere in your application, please use this space to do so. (This is an optional essay; the Committee on Admissions will make no judgment based on your decision to provide a statement or not.) 

This question is not necessarily an opportunity for you to discuss the implications of the pandemic on society or what you learned from it. The question is an opportunity for you to discuss challenges you faced that may explain a particular grade you received or clinical experience you missed out on. Even if you have an impeccable application, you can still use a question like Harvard’s to discuss the challenges you faced and overcame during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Secondary applications are the next major hurdle in your journey to gaining admission to medical school. Contact us at Code Blue Essays for help with yours – whether it’s for editing or admissions counseling. We want to make sure your secondaries earn you admission to the next step in the application process: the interview.