Many of the medical school (and some residency) secondary applications will have this prompt, usually towards the end of the application right before the “submit” button. This may be presented in different flavors, for example: “please share anything you feel like the admission committee should know about” or “is there anything that you would like to share with us?” Some might even indicate this prompt as being optional. Do you have a good strategy on how to tackle this question? If not, fear not – you’re in the right place!
Strategy #1: Show your interest in the program
Some secondary applications might include specific prompts that ask why the applicant is interested in their program. If not, this is the chance to utilize the space to show your love and passion for that very school. This is also the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that you have done your research, and have invested enough time and effort to get to know the school. For example, if you are interested in a specific research topic, you can even include the names of principal investigators you would be interested in working with. If you have a mentor or a colleague who has trained at the institution, you can also include those personal details. If you have specific geographic ties (i.e. the school is near your hometown and/or your family), some programs also like to see that, especially given the recent trend in virtual interviews where interviewees don’t have to travel for interviews. If you particularly resonate with the motto or the mantra of the program (i.e. focus on health justice, primary care, or bio-innovation), you can definitely emphasize these points.
Strategy #2: Highlight your strengths
Are you a researcher? Really passionate about something that is somewhat related to medicine? Have an interesting side gig or skill set? If you are applying to MD/PhD programs, the applications will usually have a slot to talk about significant research experiences, and future research interests, but non-MD/PhD programs may not, and this prompt is exactly where you can highlight your academic (and even non-academic) strengths and achievements.
And what exactly do I mean by non-academic? For instance, prior to applying to medical school, I was interested in pursuing a career as a musician, and possibly applying my passion for music through the lens of music therapy. I mentioned how I am still an active musician, and seek opportunities to connect with patients and family members in a clinical setting, for example through a local music therapy program. The possibilities are endless, but the most important thing is to highlight how these experiences and strengths will help you become a better physician.
Strategy #3: Chance for explanation
It is not uncommon for an applicant to have a red/yellow flag on their application. For example, your premed committee letter or transcript might include the fact that you had to remediate a course, or take a significant amount of time off. We all know that people go through extenuating circumstances, and this is exactly the opportunity to explain anything you haven't been able to explain yet. You might have had an extremely stressful time, perhaps due to illness, financial difficulty, and/or significant family events. The important thing here is not just to list reasons why things happened, but to highlight how you overcame - to emphasize your resilience and commitment to becoming a physician.
You might also have taken some time off between undergraduate education and medical school application, or so-called a “non-traditional” applicant. If medicine is a significant change in career path, this would be a reasonable place to include your motivation and dedication, if not already elaborated on your personal statement.
Strategy #4: Leave it Blank
If none of the above options are applicable, it is truly okay to leave these prompts empty. However, I would carefully examine how the prompt is worded and presented. If the prompt is specifically asking you to share something that has not been highlighted by the rest of the application (i.e. “please share something interesting about yourself”), I would be more inclined to fill the spot. Contrastingly, for prompts that begin with “is there anything…” or ones with “optional” signs, it is most likely not going to make a huge difference, especially if you feel like you have to squeeze the answer out.
So yes, even though this prompt may present itself as a daunting entity, it actually is one of the best opportunities to highlight your strengths, mitigate your weaknesses, truly show your commitment to joining the program, and present yourself as a unique applicant.