How To: The Medical School Secondary Application

After your primary medical school application (AMCAS, TMDSAS or AACOMAS) is received by medical schools, the vast majority will automatically send a secondary application. The secondary application is the second phase of the medical school application process.

What Is The Secondary App?

Secondary applications are school-specific and serve as a “follow-up” application to your primary application. Therefore, secondary applications are focused on what is important to each individual medical school. The vast majority of AMCAS, TMDSAS and AACOMAS medical schools send secondary applications. While there are some medical schools that screen primary applications and selectively send secondaries to applicants who meet certain MCAT and GPA thresholds, the majority of medical schools send out secondary applications automatically to all applicants.

So, what are the components of a secondary application? It really varies from medical school to medical school. The one thing all medical school secondary applications require is an additional fee to apply (see below).

Most secondary applications also require students to compose additional essays. The prompts and lengths for these essays varies from medical school to medical school. For example, one medical school might require four shorter essays of 50 words each while another might ask for three 1000 word essays. Prompts reflect what is most important to each medical school when selecting applicants.

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Secondary Application Questions

Some medical school secondary applications will have shorter questions that typically involve listing medical school prerequisite courses or activities or simple “yes” or “no” responses to questions. These types of secondary applications require the least amount of time to complete.

Secondary Essays

Here are some common secondary essay prompt topics:

  1. Why our medical school?
  2. How will you contribute to the diversity of our medical school?
  3. Write about a difficult or challenging experience.
  4. Write about your most important clinical/research/volunteer activity/leadership role.
  5. What are your academic interests?
  6. What are your future goals?

It may seem obvious, but one of the biggest pieces of advice when writing secondary essays is to be sure to read the essay prompt carefully and answer what is being asked. Students often use secondary essays to “squeeze in” additional information they think is relevant and haven’t mentioned elsewhere in the application. However, this approach often results in an essay that is off-target.

Also use essay word and character limits as a general guide for how much detail the medical school wants you to offer. A medical school that requests an essay with a 1000 word limit is asking you to write in detail about whatever is being asked. In contrast, essays with shorter limits, such as 50 – 100 words, are asking for brevity.

Timeline & Deadlines

Secondary essays are sent out after a medical school receives your primary application. For AMCAS schools, the earliest you may receive a secondary application is the last week of June. For TMDSAS and AACOMAS schools, you may receive secondary applications in mid-May or early June.

We suggest sending in all secondary applications by late August/early September even though official medical school deadlines vary (most are November 15th – December 15th). We advise sending in secondary application within three weeks of receipt. Since medical schools will review applications on a rolling basis, the earlier your secondary application is sent in the earlier your application will be reviewed. Be sure to send in your secondary essays for your target medical schools first!

Secondary Application Fees

There is no question that secondary applicants are expensive! Medical school secondary application fees vary from $80-$120 per medical school.

Tips & Advice

What are some basic guidelines to follow when writing your secondary essays?

  1. Read the secondary essay prompt carefully and address what is being asked.
  2. Unless you are requested not to repeat any topics already covered in your application, don’t be afraid of writing about topics covered elsewhere. Assuming you have composed a comprehensive primary application, when writing secondary essays you will write about some topics you have already discussed. This is perfectly okay!
  3. Be careful about “recycling” a secondary essay from one medical school to use for another medical school. It is rare that secondary essay prompts for two school are identical and recycling essays can lead to submitting an essay that doesn’t answer a prompt well. We discourage using secondary essay templates for the same reason. Admissions committee members will be able to distinguish an essay that was written for his or her medical school versus one that was recycled!
  4. Answer “why our medical school” questions thoughtfully and be as specific as possible. These questions are assessing your fit for the medical school. Do your research carefully and know what it is that interests you most about that medical school. You can write about the curriculum, scholarly opportunities, clinical sites and rotations, location, or overall school mission.
  5. Use the secondary essay word limit as a general guide for how much information you should provide. The longer the allowed limit, the more information the medical school wants from you!
  6. Optional essays are truly optional! Don’t feel you must “fill the space” for the sake of doing so.

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