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Monday, August 31, 2009

Medical School Secondary Applications: Personal Challenge

Medicine is a challenging profession. Admission committees want to ensure you know how to meet challenges and handle ethical dilemmas.  For example:

  1. Please describe to the Admissions Committee a challenge you have overcome and what you learned about yourself from that experience.

  1. Please describe an experience or situation that you found personally challenging and discuss how it helped to shape you as a person. You may discuss a moral or ethical dilemma, situation of personal adversity, or other life-event you believe to have been important in your personal development.

  1. What has been the most humbling experience in your life?

Everyone has overcome a challenge.  It is not acceptable to state that your life has been peachy keen and nothing has ever gone wrong.  In others words, you can’t leave this one blank.  You can provide an answer from any area of your life – personal, professional, extracurricular, etc.  The key is to show how you came to a decision during a challenging situation and what you learned from it.

Don’t know where to start with secondaries? E-mail to put a Harvard/Stanford MD, published author, and expert editor to work for you!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Medical School Secondary Applications: Diversity

Diversity is one of the most popular secondary essay topics. The point of these types of questions is to prove how you will make a unique contribution to the medical school class.

Here are some examples from recent secondary applications:

1. At the XXX Medical School, we are committed to building a superb educational community with students of diverse talents, experiences, opinions, and backgrounds. What would you as an individual bring to our medical school community?

2. How will you add a unique dimension to our medical school community? In answering this question, please also describe your greatest strength? What is your most significant vulnerability? Please understand that the "strength/vulnerability" questions will in fact require two distinct/separate responses; they are two different questions.

3. If Applicable, describe a situation where you were not in the majority.

When the word “diversity” is used, many think of racial diversity. But this is a very limited view. Think outside the box. Do you speak a foreign language? Are you a non-traditional applicant with significant “real world” experience? Other possibilities include athletic achievements, musical/art/dance talent, and international experience. Everyone can add diversity to a class.

Looking for help on how to answer secondary essay questions? E-mail to put a Harvard/Stanford MD and medical school admissions expert to work for you!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Medical School Secondary Applications: General Strategy

Though schools change their secondary essays from year to year, most of the questions fall into eight broad categories:


Personal Challenge

Most Important Activity



After College Activities

Long Term Goals

“Other” Information

Instead of writing a new answer to each question for every school, I suggest that you compose general answers to each of these eight questions and change them as needed to a particular application. This will save you an incredible amount of time and energy. It also gives you a chance to write exceptional essays that, with minor tweaking, can be used multiple times. Most of the secondary essays range from 250 to 500 words. I suggest writing each essay listed below in 500 words than editing as needed to fit each particular word requirement. Each essay listed has been taken from real secondary applications. Get that literary mind going, you may have hundreds of secondary essays to write in the next few months!

Overwhelmed by secondary applications? E-mail to put a Harvard/Stanford MD, published author, and expert editor to work for you!

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Medical School Secondary Applications

“Secondaries,” or medical school secondary applications, are sent individually from each medical school once the AMCAS application has been received and reviewed. Many schools use the AMCAS as an initial screening then send secondaries to obtain more information from applicants in order to determine who receives an interview. Sometimes secondaries are sent to applicants who meet certain requirements (often based on GPA and MCAT scores). More and more these days, schools automatically generate a secondary upon receipt of your AMCAS application with no screening performed.

Secondaries vary greatly in substance. Some require nothing more than your name and a check (average secondary charge is $75). Others entail up to 10 essays and are very time consuming. The due date varies by school. It is best to turn in a secondary as soon as possible after receiving it in order to move the admissions process along.

Overwhelmed by secondary applications? E-mail to put a Harvard/Stanford MD, published author, and expert editor to work for you!

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

AMCAS Personal Statement: Get Help

After the sixth draft, it is time to send out the essay for an expert opinion – choose two or three people with experience in writing personal statements and gather their thoughts on three things: content, grammar, and flow (how easily the essay reads).

Afraid you don’t know anyone who can edit the essay for you? Don’t be – you are surrounded by them. Try your parents, spouse, friend who majored in English, cousin in medical school, career counselor, university writing service, writing instructor, family physician, coach, admissions consultant, etc. etc. If you think hard enough, I know you can find two or three people willing to give comments on your essay. Don’t be afraid to ask. Most people will think of it as an honor.

One word of caution – do not send the essay to too many people for opinions. Comments will undoubtedly disagree and it can be very frustrating trying to please everyone. The only two people you have to please are yourself and the admissions officer.

After you have had others look at your personal statement, respond to their comments with another draft. That’s draft seven if you are counting. Again, put aside the essay to gain some distance and return to it a day later for another draft. After eight drafts, you should be awfully close. For the final few drafts, send out the essay again to someone with excellent grammar and ask them to “copy edit” the statement for you. This means just correcting typos and simple grammar. You will have looked at this application so many times, it may be impossible to do a meticulous edit yourself. Ask family, friends, colleagues, an admissions consultant etc.

Looking for expert help with arguably the most important part of your medical school application as this stage?

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