Medical school re-applicants: your secondary application

medical school admissions secondary applications
By Seth A.

Writing essays for secondary applications can take up a lot of time, especially if you’re writing each essay from scratch for each school. Still, an almost universal essay prompt for those who have applied before is: “Tell us how your application has changed since you last applied.” 

You’ve Done Something, so Tell Them What It Means to You

This is your opportunity to elaborate on your experiences since you last applied and to show the committee how you’ve grown. Unless you sat on your hands for the last year, you’ve likely done something to change your application. So, it’s time to explain your work! Whether you have been continuing to do research, traveling the world, or volunteering at home, you have had meaningful experiences that have almost certainly changed your perspective on any number of things. Share briefly about the wonderful things you saw, the tasks you accomplished, the people you met, and how it has made you better for it. 

Focus on Your Previously Weaker Areas

Think back to the last application cycle: what were the things you wish you could’ve had more of in your application or could have changed? What do you think (or what were you told) would have made you an even better applicant? That’s what this next part of the essay should be about. You’ve told them a few things you’ve done and some ways you’ve grown as a person; now it’s time to tell them how you’ve grown as an applicant

This is your chance to show the committee that you’ve used your time to ensure that you are prepared for medical school, or at least more so than before. If you lacked research experience the first time, did you spend the last six months working in a lab? Tell them that. Did you need more clinical experience, so you became an EMT or nurse aide? Tell them that. Brag on your accomplishments a bit here; you’ve earned it. 

Customize: Talk to the School

The third thing you should tackle in this prompt deals with the specific school at hand. The school asking you for a secondary application has a focus: research, primary care, educational innovation, etc. Use that to your advantage; talk briefly about how you've improved in that domain specifically. Take the “standard” essay you built above and mold it slightly to fit that mission. Sell yourself as an applicant for their specific program based on the work you've done since last applying.


This secondary essay is your opportunity to showcase how you’ve improved your application as a person and as an applicant. Use some of this space to focus on how you’ve used your time to enhance your application and, where you can, customize your essay to show how you’ve made yourself a better applicant for the specific program. 

Seth graduated UNC Chapel Hill Phi Beta Kappa, earning a BS in Biology. He next attended the UNC School of Medicine and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is currently a resident in a combined adult and pediatric residency program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.


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