How to Begin Planning for Secondaries Now

Posted by Martha C. on 6/13/18 5:10 PM

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So you submitted your primary application at the beginning of the month, and you’re now stuck waiting for June 30th to begin the task of answering secondary prompts.  Though you should give yourself a big round of applause for submitting your AMCAS on time (hooray!), the work on your MD applications is far from over.  You should be using this down time to begin prepping for your secondary applications and make sure you’re organized and strategic about the next step in your admissions journey.

At Cambridge Coaching, our applicants have a school list that averages around 20 schools.  That means most people have to tailor an individual secondary reply to 20 different prompts in an incredibly short amount of time!  It is normal to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of writing 20 essays in the span of about a week.  Luckily, there are ways to prepare now -- just follow these four steps:

  1. Rank your school list in terms of urgency

    In order to be able to understand which secondaries are at the top of your list, you should look at your bucketed school list and rank your schools in terms of urgency.  In each bucket (safety, target, and reach) you should have a #1 and #2 priority school.  It is essential that you don’t prioritize all of your reach schools, as evenly distributing your school list helps inflate your chances of being admitted to school.  Turning your back on the schools that may make more sense for you given your numbers could be detrimental in the long run.

  1. Group secondary topics and begin writing now

    Though you can’t know for sure what types of prompts you’ll receive, you can make a pretty educated guess about the types of topics you’ll be writing about.  You should begin by understanding the repeated themes of secondaries – such as career vision, diversity, adversity, leadership, or experience – and then looking at archives of secondary prompts based on schools.  We have found this to be an exceptional resource.

  1. Research your schools

    One of the most common essay prompts – “why x school” – is easy to answer if you’ve done your homework.  It is imperative that you be able to answer this question using specific evidence that you’ve gathered from your research.  This is your time to impress the admissions committee with your knowledge on the program.  Remember, the last thing the committee reader wants to feel is that the applicant has hastily copy-pasted an essay from a different school’s program without tailoring their response.

  1. Look back at your personal statement drafts

    Remember all of that brainstorming, prewriting, drafting and editing you did on your personal statement?  We encourage our applicants to look back at all of the writing work they’ve done thus far, as oftentimes there’s some secondary-relevant material that ended up on the cutting room floor.  If you don’t have your drafts saved, the exercise of thinking about the different versions of the personal statement you wanted to write can help you remember topics you wanted to cover, and can be good fodder for secondary material. 

Okay, so I said 4 steps, but I lied a little.  There’s a fifth step for those of you who want some support in this process.  If you would like a guide, a mentor, a reader, and an editor to keep you on the right track, contact Cambridge Coaching!  This is what we do, and we have been getting awesome students like you into the best medical schools since 2005.  

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Tags: MD