Secondary applications arrive soon after the primary application is transmitted to the medical schools. It is important to return secondary applications quickly; an application is not considered complete until the secondary has been received. The suggested time window for returning a secondary application is within two weeks of receiving it.
Do the math—if an applicant applies to 20 schools, that’s 20 applications to complete within two weeks, all with several essays to write. Let’s say the average secondary application has three to four essays–that’s 60-80 essays. Writing that many essays in a short period of time obviously creates a tremendous amount of work. Medical school applicants rarely anticipate the amount of work that secondary applications entail.
To streamline the process, many applicants pre-write secondary essays, putting the finishing touches on them when the secondaries are actually released. Bear in mind, as well, that secondary application prompts can change from year to year—so sometimes prewriting a secondary can result in wasted time if an applicant writes an essay that is no longer relevant.
The secondary applications are as important as the primary application; they should be completed carefully and with great care.
There are several ways to approach pre-writing secondaries:
- Look for common themes amongst secondary applications and focus on fleshing out ideas for those topics and prewriting a paragraph or two on each. You can then focus those essays for particular schools, tailoring them to the exact prompt, when you receive secondaries. Common themes can be found in my blog post on common secondary prompts.
- Do a quick Google search for secondary application prompts and you will easily find them for particular schools. Start writing.
- Be mindful that some essays can be recycled from one school to another but only with great attention. Always read the prompt for each school carefully—and tailor your response specifically for that school, answering it precisely. Keep in mind each school’s mission and focus, and tailor your essay accordingly.
If you have questions about secondary applications feel free to reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting
Originally posted 2017 and updated in 2019 and 2021