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Secondary Essay Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Session 242.

Ever after you submit your primary application, the work isn’t over. Secondary essays are still a huge part of your medical school application.

On this podcast, I’ve covered a lot of different topics related to the application process, including personal statements, applications in general, and interview prep. But I’ve never actually talked specifically about writing your secondaries until now, so I want to touch on this topic today. Specifically, we’ll discuss the most common mistakes students make when it comes to secondary essays.

[01:22] First Biggest Mistake: Not Writing Them Sooner

One of the biggest mistakes students make is waiting for the request for secondary essays to come before they start working on them. If you’ve submitted your primary application and you’re not writing your secondary essays, then you’re behind.

Some schools will monitor how long it takes you to send a secondary back and they will use this as a gauge on your interest to get into their school. If it takes you three weeks to respond, while their average response time is a week and a half, chances are that you could be put lower down the list.

The implications of rolling admissions for medical school

Remember that the medical school admissions process is a rolling admissions process, which means that as soon as applications open, the clock is ticking. This is different than applying to college, which is a deadline-driven process. As long as your application is in by the deadline, you’re just as good as everybody else that applied. This is not the same with medical schools.

So the earlier you turn in your primary application and the sooner you’re done with your secondary essays, the sooner your MCAT score is in, the sooner your letters of recommendation are in, and the sooner your application is complete, you have a better chance that the schools will look at your application while they still have plenty of interview spots open.

I cover this in more depth in Session 281 of The Premed Years :

Applying to medical school is like a game of musical chairs . Your chances of getting a seat becomes slimmer as the application cycle goes on… A s you get later in the cycle, there’s a decreasing number of seats available and an increasing number of applicants in the pool. This is why you need to apply early and understand how putting off the MCAT can affect you.

Pre-write your secondary essays

If you’re asking how to pre-write your essays when the schools haven’t sent them to you yet, the good news is most schools don’t change their essays from year to year. There are a few exceptions, but most schools don’t.

We have compiled a  Medical School Secondary Essay Database , with prompts from all the medical schools. Look up the schools you’re applying to, and if your primary application is submitted, get started on your secondaries.

You will find that writing secondary essays gets easier and easier over time because a lot of them are around the same theme.

[05:22] Second Biggest Mistake: Letting Them Sit Unopened

The second biggest mistake students make with secondaries is letting them sit on your desk or unopened in the mailbox. Let’s say you scheduled a vacation in the middle of application season for some reason, and your secondaries are just sitting there for a couple of weeks while you’re traveling. You can’t do this.

[Related episode: Does It Matter How Fast I Turn Around My Secondary Essays? ]

[06:18] A Deep Dive into Secondary Essays

You will find out that a lot of the questions are very similar from school to school. A lot of them are going to ask about diversity or why you’re applying to a DO school, so you need to be prepared to answer these.

Some students will try to write answers for broad types of questions, like write a generic answer for “diversity questions” or “what will I bring to the class” type questions. Don’t try to answer question batches like that. Just answer the secondary prompts from one school, then move on to the next school. Don’t try to work outside of a school framework.

[07:25] Third Biggest Mistake: Not Answering the Question

One common feedback I give to students I work with is that they’re not answering the question. They told a beautiful narrative about this patient they saved, but they didn’t answer the question the school was looking for. You have to answer the questions.

Most of the questions are asking you something very specific, so keep that in mind and make sure you’re answering the question. I recommend you get feedback from somebody. Ask them to review whether or not you’re answering the question asked.

[08:49] Fourth Biggest Mistake: Being Too Generic

A common question for secondary essays is, “What about our school makes you want to go here?” A lot of students can get so generic here that I can just copy and paste it from secondary to secondary for every school that asks the same question.

You need to say something specific about the school. You need to do some research and come up with a list of programs at each of the medical schools, or student organizations at each of the medical schools.

Identify what is unique about that school

If you want to join a specific program at that school because of the impact you see it having, talk about that. Mention the program by name. Mention very specific types of things or types of research. Mention the mission statement of the school or the program.

Do your research. A lot of medical schools may look alike after a while, but do your research and see if there’s anything specific that you can draw out to help you write your secondaries.

[11:02] Fifth Biggest Mistake: Repeating the Same Story

Students tend to repeat the same stories from their primary application on their secondary. Don’t tell the same story. Even if they’re asking for your most meaningful clinical experience, you can talk about the same experience, but don’t tell the same story.

Some essays will specifically tell you not to repeat anything that’s in your primary application. If that is the case, then you can’t even talk about the same experience. You have to figure something else out. It can be frustrating when schools do that, especially when they ask about your most meaningful clinical experience and you already put that in your personal statement.

Listing extracurriculars for your secondary application

Some schools will ask for a list of extracurricular activities. In that case, it is okay to just copy and paste from the list you created for your primary application. You don’t need to re-work everything and re-frame things and tell new stories. Just copy and paste it. Some schools just want it in their secondary and not in the primary application.

[Related episode: 5 Common Mistakes Premeds Make With Extracurriculars ]

[13:03] Sixth Biggest Mistake: Copying and Pasting Without Editing

Do not get caught copying and pasting without editing. You don’t want to be that student who sends a secondary essay to NYU that says “I would love to be part of Columbia Medical School next year.”

Be sure to edit it and have somebody look over your stuff. Copy and paste all you want, but then put it aside for the day, and go back and check the next day. Make sure all of the names have been changed and everything is up to date before you send it off.

Links and Other Resources

  • Check out our Medical School Secondary Application Essay Database .
  • Check out our Secondary Essay Editing service .
  • Related episode: Does It Matter How Fast I Turn Around My Secondary Essays?
  • Related episode: What Does the Med School Application Timeline Look Like?
  • Need MCAT Prep?  Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” for 10% off Next Step full-length practice tests or “MSHQTOC” for $50 off MCAT tutoring or the Next Step MCAT Course at  Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) !


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how to write good secondary essays


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Using Secondary Sources in an English Essay

  • The English essay as research essay
  • Finding good secondary sources for English essays
  • Tips on using secondary sources
  • Effective summarizing and paraphrasing
  • Documenting sources in MLA style (Modern Languages Association)

The English Essay as Research Essay

While much of what you will write in an English essay is based on your own analysis of a text, there is certainly a place for research and the use of secondary sources in an English essay. Research helps you to define or explain

  • word meanings
  • literary allusions
  • cultural, political, religious and historical background
  • authors’ biographies
  • literary critics’ interpretations

These explanations can all be helpful in relating a literary work to broader contexts, in explaining who mythical characters are, in understanding the influence and effect of a work on readers and other writers, and so on.

As soon as you use your first secondary source, you are venturing into research. Research essays are based on information and opinion that you find and read; however, this information and opinion  need to be synthesized and assimilated by  you , so you can express, in turn, what you know and think about the subject.

Using Secondary Sources

Some literary secondary sources provide background information on literary texts, such as a text’s reception by critics on its publication, or events in the author’s life that may have influenced the text, and so on. However, you may find that you turn to secondary sources more for critics’ interpretations of the texts you are writing about than for background information.

Finding Good Secondary Sources for English Essays

  • Many instructors provide lists, sometimes in their course outlines, of good secondary sources. Your texts, as well, may have forewords, afterwords, introductions, glossaries, background information, and further reading lists. Get to know your texts well.
  • Critical, edited editions of a literary work usually provide a wealth of references to secondary sources in the form of "further reading" lists.
  • Use the library online catalogue to find a particular author’s works; the catalogue may provide a link for "nearby items on shelf" which you can explore for additional works by the author or books by critics on the author's works. You can also browse the stacks where the author's works are located to find relevant articles and books.
  • Online Indexes – Indexes are like search engines, but they search only for articles that have been published in academic journals/periodicals and other academic sources. You can search an index for relevant articles. Many indexes make full-text articles available online, some don’t and you have to find the print periodical to read the article in full. They are the best way to search for articles.
  • Related Websites – The subject guide also lists websites related to the study of English literature. Take some time to browse through the sites listed. Note how they differ from essay selling sites in their emphasis on the free dissemination of knowledge and on the people and institutions behind the knowledge.
  • Reference Books - The subject guide also lists all the reference books pertinent to English and where they are in the reference section of the library.
  • Google Scholar can get you started finding scholarly sources online.

Many undergraduate English essays do not require extensive use of secondary sources. Critical editions of literary works, the library stacks, online indexes and subject guides should yield plenty with which to work. Finding good secondary sources is, of course, only a first step. The second step is to use them properly.

Tips on Using Secondary Sources

  • Use what the critics have to say to support your own thesis. That is why it is so important to follow good essay writing procedures and think things through as much as possible on your own first.
  • Sometimes the well runs dry, and you just can’t come up with much on your own. Use a critic sparingly to spark an idea, but then try to run with it yourself. You will have to cite the critic for the idea, but how you go on to apply it will be yours.
  • Sometimes you come up with something yourself and then find a critic saying the same thing. It’s still your idea, and you can present it as your own and use the critic to add support and authority. Sometimes you may disagree with a critic’s interpretation. Feel free to use the critic’s argument as a starting point and then present your own ideas in opposition.
  • The main source of support and evidence for your points is the primary text. Try to draw your conclusive evidence from the primary text, the work in question.
  • Keep the idea of synthesis in mind. A synthesis is a whole that was created by mixing together separate parts. Some of the ideas in your essay may be yours backed up by evidence from the primary text, and some belong to various critics, but the whole is created by mixing the parts together. You, as synthesizer and essay-writer, properly subordinate the critics, and you use them so they can best help support your thesis.

Remember, yours is the intelligence that mixes together what you think and what others think (by always telling the reader when it is you speaking and when it is someone else and who that someone else is). Yours is the voice that should most strongly come through.

Read more about effective summarizing and paraphrasing to avoid plagiarism.

  • Understanding The English Essay
  • Developing a Topic and Thesis for an English Essay
  • Drafting the English Essay
  • Glossary of Common Formal Elements of Literature
  • Documenting Sources in MLA Style (Modern Languages Association)
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It’s Life, by Maggie

blogging my journey from premed to md & all the little life things in between

Applying to Medical School: Secondary Essays

July 1, 2020 · In: Application Advice , Pre-Med

Secondary Essays are sadly a necessary evil for applying to medical school. In the 2020 – 2021 application cycle, I was able to submit 28 secondary applications! That’s compared to being overwhelmed by just 4 of them in 2017.

If you didn’t already know about these tips & resources for completing your secondary applications, reading this post will help you through this process tremendously!

how to write good secondary essays

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What are secondary essays.

Secondary essays the the essays you have to complete in order to submit your secondary application. Unlike the essays you write for your primary application, these essays are specific to each school.

When Do You Get Them?

After your primary application has been submitted and verified you will receive secondary applications from schools you applied to. Some schools send them automatically and some screen the primary application first to check that you meet their minimum GPA and MCAT requirements.

how to write good secondary essays

When Should You Submit Secondary Applications?

A good rule of thumb is to aim for submitting your secondaries within two weeks of receiving them . This obviously takes some planning, otherwise you will get all your secondaries at once and probably fall far behind that goal.

Best Tips for More Success & Less Headache

Tip #1: pre-write you secondaries.

If you only remember one thing from this post, I hope it is this tip! Secondary essays are going to be a headache regardless… but imagine how much worse it would be if you got all of them at once! If you apply to 20 medical schools, then you could have 60 essays waiting to be written withing two weeks. Not fun. Instead, go to this website here . You can look up all the prompts to the schools you plan to apply to. Set a certain amount of essays to write each week and stick to it. That way, when you start getting secondary applications you are half way or completely done and can submit them early!

Tip #2: Don’t Repeat Anything From Your Primary Application

This is easily the hardest and most frustrating thing to try and avoid. The secondary application that I submitted earlier in the week was for ATSU, a DO school in Arizona. They ask you to list your three most meaningful clinical experiences and explain why. So I had to figure out how to write why being an EMT is meaningful to me without saying the same thing from my primary application. Being told not to repeat yourself, then being asked almost the same question twice… so incredibly frustrating. But if you want to get an acceptance, the best thing to do is suck it up & nix the complaining now because you will have to do it a lot!

Tip #3: Look up The School’s Mission Statement

The same website that has all the secondary prompts for each school, also includes their mission statements. I find this also frustrating because some mission statements a quite vague. Either way, know the school’s mission statement when you are completing their secondary application. Your essays should convey that accepting you as a student for their medical school would be in line with their mission statement and values. Not an easy task, but use the resources later in this post to help you get a feel for what that means!

Tip #4: Use Your Personal Stories to Show Who You Are

AKA don’t say “You should accept me into your medical school because my best attribute is collaborating with others”. Tell a story about that time when you actually collaborated with others . For example, one of the essay prompts for ATSU’s secondary application was to tell them what would be my strongest attribute as a SOMA student. In one quick sentence to answer the question directly, told them what I believed to be my strongest attribute (promoting a collaborative environment with my classmates). Then the rest of the essay was a story from college where I actually did just that. I explained a problem my equestrian team was having, how I recruited other teammates to work together to find a solution, then explained the outcome and how I hope to use that attribute as a future medical student.

Unlike other aspects of applying to medical school, writing stories like these are actually pretty enjoyable for me personally. After all the stories I wrote to explain my activities in my primary application, I really feel like whoever ends up reading it will feel like they are getting to know who I am. That is exactly what you want to feel like after writing a story in your essay. So do some reminiscing and come up with good personal experiences that show who you are!

Tip #5: Copy, Copy, Copy!

What do I mean by this? Well, when you get a secondary application it is basically a link to a website where you will fill out the application. If you use said website to do the actual writing (instead of Word or Notes) you should definitely copy it to a Word document, or whatever you prefer to use, before you hit submit or save.

Why, you ask? Because if you spend 10 minutes writing out an essay (or worse, way longer!) the system will most definitely log you out. AKA, when you go to submit or save that particular essay you will be logged out and it will NOT be saved!

So please, avoid the tears and just copy it over to Word before you hit save. Then log back in, copy your essay, and hit save right away.

To avoid this problem completely, you could just use Word to do your essay. Just take not of what word count you have to stay within and copy it over when you are done! No tears needed!

Tip #6: Ctrl+Z is Your Best Friend

So despite already knowing about the above tip, my brain failed me and I forgot my own advice. It sucks, but it happens. Earlier this week when I finished up one of my essays, I hit save and… it was gone. There may have been a tear or two. Then I refused to even look at my laptop for the next five minutes. Then I went into desperation mode and to my happiest surprise there is actually a way to fix it! Granted, this definitely doesn’t work in all cases. If you go to a went to a new page or anything like that, your essay is sadly gone for good. But in this case, I learned that if you right click and hit “Undo” or do Ctrl+Z, it comes back!

I consider myself a somewhat tech savvy person, at least for the basics. But I never knew you could do this! I’m honestly surprised I even looked for a way to undo it because I had no idea it was possible.

Anyway, hopefully you don’t need to use it and go through that added stress. But just in case, now you can have some hope there is a way to fix your blunder!

Tip #7: Ask a Friend to Proofread or Pay a Professional

So far, I personally plan to stick with the former suggestion. Paying a professional company that edits your essays is expensive AF . If you want to go the free route, just ask someone to look over your essays for grammar essays. Especially if you are like me and you are submitting essays you started and finished in the same day. After you work on something for over an hour, it is very easy to miss silly mistakes. Applying to medical school is a rough process, don’t risk going through it a second time because you had too many silly mistakes in your applications!

Despite knowing this I was still so over it I just wanted to hit submit and be done. Knowing that’s just plain dumb though, I asked George to look for any errors. He found like three… for example, I wrote “the patient’s at the hospital” and didn’t notice I had a completely unnecessary apostrophe. The person reading your essay doesn’t have to be a grammar genius to catch silly mistakes like that so definitely have someone proofread for you!

Also, if you are still in college, schedule a few appointments with your writing center! They are a great free resource and will probably have a better eye for grammar mistakes than your chemistry major friend. Just note that I would be skeptical if they give you advice on what to write about unless they have experience specifically helping premeds. Students at the writing center probably don’t know much how the process, so I personally would just use them as a resource for grammar help.

Intermediate $

If you want to go the intermediate route as far as money goes, you could offer to pay someone you trust to edit your essays. I asked one of my friends from college to edit my essays and paid her $150. That is a small price to pay for increasing the quality of your essays and way cheaper than the professionals. Just don’t ask any ol’ Joe Schmo you walk by, make sure you are asking someone who is good with grammar and editing for other people. My friend was an English minor and worked at our writing center in college (she also had applied to medical school before, bonus !). Try to ask someone with similar credentials!

Expensive AF $

If you have the money to pay the professionals that work specifically to help premeds with their applications, then I believe it is so worth it . I am NOT saying it is necessary to do, simply because there are so many free resources to help you. I just personally believe that something like that is an investment into your future. Those guys know their stuff and writing better essays helps (but obviously doesn’t guarantee) your chances of getting an acceptance letter.

As someone who is applying to medical school for a second time around, I think it’s not a bad idea IF you have the money. I personally don’t feel like it’s worth spending my last penny to do so and feel confident enough using mostly free resources.

Best Resources on What & How to Write Secondary Essays

Dr. ryan gray’s youtube channel.

If you are a premed student and you don’t already know about Dr. Ryan Gray and Medical School Headquarters , you need to look him up! He is especially helpful for non-traditional premeds (like me) applying to medical school. This is because, if you are no longer in school then you most likely don’t have an advisor to help you anymore. As long and complicated as applying to medical school is, you really need someone to help you through it. Dr. Gray has been that person for me and I think my primary applications turned out 10x better because of it.

Getting Started

I watched this video a couple days before I planned to start my first secondary application.

The Dos and Don’ts of Med School Secondary Essays

Amazing Advice for Common Questions

Once again, Dr. Gray is killin’ it with the most helpful advice around. He made a playlist that answers how to go about answer many of the most common secondary essay prompts. If you are like me, listening to advice like this makes it so much easier to get the wheels turning before I sit down and write an essay. If you haven’t already been convinced Dr. Gray is an amazing premed resource for applying to medical school, this playlist might do the trick!

Intro to the Secondary Essay Playlist

AAMC’s Website

As far as trusted resources go for applying to medical school, it doesn’t get more trustworthy than information straight from AAMC. I think other resources are more helpful because AAMC’s articles can be vague and detail lacking IMO. Still, everything to do with applying to MD schools is through the AAMC, so it is obviously worth reading whatever info they give us. I read the article linked below for some extra ideas on how to write good secondary essays. Advisor Corner: Preparing for Secondary Applications

You Are Ready to Get Writing!

The only thing left to do is to stop putting off those essays! Rip off the band-aid and start on your first one today! Whether that means doing one essay for a secondary application you have already received OR pre-writing one you know you will have later, there is no better time to start than now !

If you are also taking the MCAT soon, head on over to this post to learn 9 ways you can prepare for test day (besides studying). Or my other blog post that explains 5 incredibly helpful things I learned after taking the shortened MCAT exam on June 19th HERE .

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The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay | Steps & Examples

An academic essay is a focused piece of writing that develops an idea or argument using evidence, analysis, and interpretation.

There are many types of essays you might write as a student. The content and length of an essay depends on your level, subject of study, and course requirements. However, most essays at university level are argumentative — they aim to persuade the reader of a particular position or perspective on a topic.

The essay writing process consists of three main stages:

  • Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline.
  • Writing : Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion.
  • Revision:  Check your essay on the content, organization, grammar, spelling, and formatting of your essay.

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Table of contents

Essay writing process, preparation for writing an essay, writing the introduction, writing the main body, writing the conclusion, essay checklist, lecture slides, frequently asked questions about writing an essay.

The writing process of preparation, writing, and revisions applies to every essay or paper, but the time and effort spent on each stage depends on the type of essay .

For example, if you’ve been assigned a five-paragraph expository essay for a high school class, you’ll probably spend the most time on the writing stage; for a college-level argumentative essay , on the other hand, you’ll need to spend more time researching your topic and developing an original argument before you start writing.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Before you start writing, you should make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. There are a few key steps you can follow to make sure you’re prepared:

  • Understand your assignment: What is the goal of this essay? What is the length and deadline of the assignment? Is there anything you need to clarify with your teacher or professor?
  • Define a topic: If you’re allowed to choose your own topic , try to pick something that you already know a bit about and that will hold your interest.
  • Do your research: Read  primary and secondary sources and take notes to help you work out your position and angle on the topic. You’ll use these as evidence for your points.
  • Come up with a thesis:  The thesis is the central point or argument that you want to make. A clear thesis is essential for a focused essay—you should keep referring back to it as you write.
  • Create an outline: Map out the rough structure of your essay in an outline . This makes it easier to start writing and keeps you on track as you go.

Once you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to discuss, in what order, and what evidence you’ll use, you’re ready to start writing.

The introduction sets the tone for your essay. It should grab the reader’s interest and inform them of what to expect. The introduction generally comprises 10–20% of the text.

1. Hook your reader

The first sentence of the introduction should pique your reader’s interest and curiosity. This sentence is sometimes called the hook. It might be an intriguing question, a surprising fact, or a bold statement emphasizing the relevance of the topic.

Let’s say we’re writing an essay about the development of Braille (the raised-dot reading and writing system used by visually impaired people). Our hook can make a strong statement about the topic:

The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.

2. Provide background on your topic

Next, it’s important to give context that will help your reader understand your argument. This might involve providing background information, giving an overview of important academic work or debates on the topic, and explaining difficult terms. Don’t provide too much detail in the introduction—you can elaborate in the body of your essay.

3. Present the thesis statement

Next, you should formulate your thesis statement— the central argument you’re going to make. The thesis statement provides focus and signals your position on the topic. It is usually one or two sentences long. The thesis statement for our essay on Braille could look like this:

As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness.

4. Map the structure

In longer essays, you can end the introduction by briefly describing what will be covered in each part of the essay. This guides the reader through your structure and gives a preview of how your argument will develop.

The invention of Braille marked a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by blind and visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

Write your essay introduction

The body of your essay is where you make arguments supporting your thesis, provide evidence, and develop your ideas. Its purpose is to present, interpret, and analyze the information and sources you have gathered to support your argument.

Length of the body text

The length of the body depends on the type of essay. On average, the body comprises 60–80% of your essay. For a high school essay, this could be just three paragraphs, but for a graduate school essay of 6,000 words, the body could take up 8–10 pages.

Paragraph structure

To give your essay a clear structure , it is important to organize it into paragraphs . Each paragraph should be centered around one main point or idea.

That idea is introduced in a  topic sentence . The topic sentence should generally lead on from the previous paragraph and introduce the point to be made in this paragraph. Transition words can be used to create clear connections between sentences.

After the topic sentence, present evidence such as data, examples, or quotes from relevant sources. Be sure to interpret and explain the evidence, and show how it helps develop your overall argument.

Lack of access to reading and writing put blind people at a serious disadvantage in nineteenth-century society. Text was one of the primary methods through which people engaged with culture, communicated with others, and accessed information; without a well-developed reading system that did not rely on sight, blind people were excluded from social participation (Weygand, 2009). While disabled people in general suffered from discrimination, blindness was widely viewed as the worst disability, and it was commonly believed that blind people were incapable of pursuing a profession or improving themselves through culture (Weygand, 2009). This demonstrates the importance of reading and writing to social status at the time: without access to text, it was considered impossible to fully participate in society. Blind people were excluded from the sighted world, but also entirely dependent on sighted people for information and education.

See the full essay example

The conclusion is the final paragraph of an essay. It should generally take up no more than 10–15% of the text . A strong essay conclusion :

  • Returns to your thesis
  • Ties together your main points
  • Shows why your argument matters

A great conclusion should finish with a memorable or impactful sentence that leaves the reader with a strong final impression.

What not to include in a conclusion

To make your essay’s conclusion as strong as possible, there are a few things you should avoid. The most common mistakes are:

  • Including new arguments or evidence
  • Undermining your arguments (e.g. “This is just one approach of many”)
  • Using concluding phrases like “To sum up…” or “In conclusion…”

Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.

Write your essay conclusion

Checklist: Essay

My essay follows the requirements of the assignment (topic and length ).

My introduction sparks the reader’s interest and provides any necessary background information on the topic.

My introduction contains a thesis statement that states the focus and position of the essay.

I use paragraphs to structure the essay.

I use topic sentences to introduce each paragraph.

Each paragraph has a single focus and a clear connection to the thesis statement.

I make clear transitions between paragraphs and ideas.

My conclusion doesn’t just repeat my points, but draws connections between arguments.

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In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.

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how to write good secondary essays

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, & Admissions Officer, Columbia University

Reviewed: 10/10/23

‍ Are you ready to tackle your med school secondary essays? Read on to learn how to format them, common essay types, and more! 

How to create impressive medical school secondary essays graphic

At this stage in your application to medical school, you've gone through the AMCAS primary application process and are now receiving your secondary applications. Your secondaries are a series of specific questions that each school you've applied to sends to you.

That being the case, you are probably wondering how to create impressive medical school secondary essays. If you've applied to many schools, you’ll be writing many essays. But you need not worry because this article will dive into the different kinds of essay prompts you will receive and how to answer them effectively.

Get The Ultimate Guide on Writing an Unforgettable Personal Statement

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What Are Medical School Secondary Essays?

Medical school secondary essays are the second component of the application process. Each school has a unique secondary application, whereas the primary application was a single application sent to several schools using either AMCAS, TMDSAS, or AACOMAS.

Secondary applications will usually consist of a series of short questions or essay questions. Questions will be unique to each school; however, there is significant overlap among them. If you submitted your primary application in June, you could expect to receive secondary applications beginning in July and continuing throughout the summer.

However, it’s important to note that not all schools send secondary applications to all applicants. Some use the primary application as a screening tool and only send secondaries to students they’d like to see continue on in the admissions process.

A school like Stanford will ask seven essay questions while Loma Linda will ask eight.

Purpose of Medical School Secondary Essays

Medical school secondary essays give you an opportunity to show the school you want to attend how your goals and values align with theirs and how you would contribute to their program as a student.

Schools want to make sure that you are a good fit for their program and find out more about you than you could address in your AMCAS work and activities section. 

volunteer for med school

They want to see your uniqueness and what sets you apart from the other candidates.

Best Format to Follow When Writing Your Medical School Secondary Essays

When writing your secondaries, here is a suggested guideline: 

  • Answer the prompt
  • Outline your response
  • Use concrete examples
  • Relate examples to your theme
  • Adhere to word or character counts
  • Reflect on your experiences

Med school essay writing tips

Answer the Prompt 

Whatever the prompt is, have a definitive response to start the essay to make your answer as straightforward as possible. 

Outline the Response 

As you're given a character count limit, it is best to outline your response to use your space effectively. Create a list of all the points you want to make and tailor them to incorporate the school's central values and goals. 

Use Concrete Examples

Stories are more effective in making a point than general statements. Use examples in your essay to build on your main points. 

Relate Examples to Your Theme

When you provide examples, make sure to answer the question, "how is this relevant?" Your examples should demonstrate how you will benefit medicine and make a good physician.

Adhere to Word and Character Counts

When you have preset responses to prompts, you address all critical points within the character count limits. 

Reflect on Your Experiences 

Describe what you learned and gained from your experiences. Don’t just talk about it; explain why it was significant. 

Re-read your essay the next day to make sure it is free of errors and conveys the message you are trying to make. Consulting a med school advisor can be an effective way to make sure your response is strong and stands out among other applicants.

Sometimes, students re-read and miss their own mistakes, so having an unbiased editor with experience in medical school admissions can be beneficial.

Common Types of Medical School Secondary Essays and Tips for Answering Each Type

Although secondary essay themes can vary, these are the most common essay types.

Diversity Essay

In medicine and other healthcare fields, diversity is essential. A clinician needs to be able to connect with patients from different backgrounds and experiences. Having a diverse student body creates an atmosphere of inclusivity, and as a worker in the social sector, especially front-line work, connecting with your patients is critical.

When writing a diversity essay , you may think the only topics you can cover are multiculturalism, race, and religion. You might think that because you're not a minority, you don’t have anything new to add. 

Diversity at med school

You might think you are already represented well and have no experience with diversity, so you do not have anything important to say. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A variety of factors determine what level of diversity you can bring to the table:

  • Your qualities and what you want to learn, or what you still wish to learn
  • Your immigration experience if you were a newcomer or how your values differ from your social circle; how has the difference of values shaped your way of connecting with patients
  • What do you understand about cultural competency? Are you aware of different medical approaches in the field? Do you apply that to your practice? And why is it important to know about how other cultures view medicine/treatment?
  • Your language
  • Where you grew up (rural vs. urban, in-country vs. abroad)

Diversity can also come from your experiences: a sibling with Down Syndrome, service in the military, an illness that you’ve struggled with, or the loss of a loved one. All of these experiences count as diversity and are what medical schools are looking for.

Where you came from and how your skills, experiences, and interests differentiate you from your peers. These unique backgrounds allow different ideas and perspectives to be brought to the classroom.

Additionally, using terms loosely in your essay, like "diversity, "multicultural," or "cultural competency," does not mean you have an understanding of them. Instead, it may make you seem insincere, so the better way to go is to be honest. Speak about what you actually know and what you have really experienced with diversity.

Adversity Essay

The purpose of an adversity essay is for admissions committees to understand your level of resiliency and room for growth in the medical field.

This essay isn’t about competing with people's stories of adversity but showcasing your own challenges and experiences and depicting what those experiences have taught you for professional development. It is more of a reflection piece about managing stress or barriers in your life and illustrating how you overcome them.

The admissions committees want to see this because they want to know if you can overcome hurdles that come your way. Medical school is a massive undertaking full of hurdles –tests and courses will push you to your limit.

track and field activity

The admissions committees want to see your ability to adapt and problem-solve; so that you can pick yourself up after falling down.

Topics you can include:

  • How you handled disappointing a loved one/or disappointment in general
  • Managing criticism or feedback
  • External situations that were out of your hands
  • Talk about a challenge you’ve faced. What was your response? What was the result? What did you learn?

"Why Our School?" Essay

This prompt is aimed at determining why you want to attend a particular medical school. Medical schools read through hundreds of secondary essays each year. Instead of highlighting their program facts, which they already know about, show them that you connect to their mission, vision, and values.

WHY letters on board

The key is to mention your qualities, life experiences, and skills concerning the school's mission, vision, values, and programs. This way, you are not just repeating what the school offers but also mentioning how these programs fit you as an individual.

One approach to answering this prompt is by researching the school's website and finding topics of interest to you or seeing the school's values mentioned consistently throughout the website.

From there, you can pinpoint specific programs you like and write about how you can learn from them and what skills you can offer. Essentially, it is about seeing what the school stands for or what work they encourage and incorporating your own experiences with their beliefs.

For example, If a school places importance on community service and you have relevant volunteer experiences, make sure to mention this and how you want to continue improving those skills. If your experience is more research-based, talk about that experience and how more community service will make you a better physician.

If you want to stand out, you can survey students or graduates of the school and inquire about their experiences to see if the school is right for you. How do you reach others? Connecting via social media or reaching out to your peers may be a good start.

This essay's not about writing what the school already knows about themselves but more about what you can learn and benefit from and why this is the right fit for you. 

Gap Year Essay

These days, it's common for students to take a year or two off after completing their undergrad degree before they go to medical school. There are multiple reasons for this, and the medical school you are applying to wants to know what those reasons are.

Med student travelling

It is a reasonably straightforward prompt: talk about how you have spent your gap year and how it will contribute to your medical school success and beyond.

Questions to discuss in this essay include:

  • What did you achieve during your gap year?
  • Why did you want to take a gap year?
  • What experiences did you have? How did this year shape your role as a worker, and how will you deliver the skills you've built through the healthcare field?
  • What did you learn about yourself during this period?

It is always an excellent tactic to connect your gap year to the program of study you are applying for, and even if it doesn't connect, you can still mention how it makes you a more suitable candidate for the program. 

Even if you did an unrelated job while studying or preparing for medical school, the attributes you learned along the way and your continuous efforts to grow and learn are what admissions committees will notice.

“Anything Else You'd Like Us to Know?” Essay

Out of all the prompts, this is likely the most open-ended, and confusion on how to best answer it is understandable. It can be challenging to address such a vague question. How do you know what to talk about? Is there even anything else that I want to discuss?

Use this as an opportunity to highlight anything about yourself and your experiences that aren't well discussed or explained elsewhere on the application. 

If you have any pre-written material that you have not used in your essays, this is the time to use them. If this is not an option, you can write a completely new essay discussing topics like volunteering or research experience .

med school research

You can also talk about other achievements or skills that aren't directly related to medicine but find a way to relate it back to how it makes you a better candidate. This section is also a good place to explain any shortcomings in your application, such as a failed course, a low test score, etc.

Some students believe it is mandatory to answer this question, which is simply not true unless the question states otherwise. If you feel that your application addresses all your key points and conveys your candidacy in the best possible way, there is no need to force it. It's always better to prioritize quality over quantity.

Sample Med School Essay Prompts

From UW School of Medicine

Essay Prompts (250-word limit)

  • “How have societal inequities in the U.S. affected you or people you have worked with?
  • The UWSOM aims to build a diverse class of students to enrich the field of medicine. What perspectives, identities, and/or qualities would you bring?
  • What obstacles have you experienced and how have you overcome them?
  • Describe your competency by explaining how you have explored and come to understand issues in the social sciences and humanities as they relate to the practice of medicine.”

From Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago  

Essay Question 1 (450-word limit suggestion)

“Students at the Pritzker School of Medicine complete the majority of their clinical training at UChicago Medicine (UCM). UCM is one of the top ten most racially inclusive hospitals in the United States with a primary service area of 12 South Side zip codes where poverty is over double the state level. Additionally, our students lead six free clinics in diverse neighborhoods throughout the city of Chicago.
Please share with us the personal and professional experiences that have best prepared you to work in this diverse clinical environment.”

Essay Question 2 (450-word limit suggestion)

“All MD students participate in our longitudinal Scholarship & Discovery research program, which offers protected curricular time, mentoring, and funding for students to pursue their scholarly interests. Please describe your research interests and share how our research opportunities will help you advance your career goals.”

Essay Question 3 (450-word limit suggestion)

“Share with us a difficult or challenging situation you have encountered and how you dealt with it. In your response, identify both the coping skills you called upon to resolve the dilemma, and the support person(s) from whom you sought advice.”

Optional Additional Information

“Please feel free to use this space to convey any additional information that you might wish the Committee to know. For example, if you are not currently completing a degree, please share your planned or current activities for this application cycle. We suggest that you limit your text to about 300 words.”

Explore our Med School Secondary Essay Database to find the 2023-2024 prompts for your dream med schools!

Common Mistakes to Avoid

These are some common mistakes to avoid as you navigate your secondary application essays. 

Failing to Pre-Write Your Essays 

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is waiting to receive your secondary application before working on it. It would be best if you started working on your secondaries after you submit your primary applications. 

You have a limited time (many secondaries are due two weeks to a month after receipt) to submit, so the sooner you can get them done, the better. You should always send secondaries back within two weeks to show your continual interest in that medical school.

Focusing Only on the Situation and Not What You Learned

When sharing anecdotes, demonstrate their value by discussing what you took away from them. Don't just go from one statement to another, talking about the events as they occurred. 

Not Following Word Limits

If the word count is 800 words and your piece is 700 words, that is perfectly acceptable. Try and write the best quality piece without going over the word count. 

Being Generic

Some prompts will lead you into discussing why you want to attend a particular school. In these cases, to avoid being generic in your responses, say something specific about the school. You should do some research and come up with a list of programs at each of the medical schools or student organizations at each of the medical schools. Identify what is unique about that school: specific values, programs, or opportunities they have.

Have more questions about secondary essays? Read on for more answers! 

1. When Can I Expect to Receive Secondary Applications? 

Once you submit your primary application and AMCAS receives your transcripts, they begin the verification process. You will receive your secondary applications after AMCAS completes verification and releases your primary applications to the medical schools to which you applied. 

2. Will I Receive a Secondary Application From Every School?

While the majority of schools will send you a secondary without screening your primary application, some will screen your primary. Therefore, you may not receive a secondary from every medical school. 

3. How Long Do I Have to Submit My Essay?

It would be best if you aimed to submit your secondaries as soon as possible – generally within two weeks of receiving your secondary application. Remember, schools correlate your reply time with your level of interest. It’s best to submit within two weeks.

4. What If a School Changes Its Secondary Essay Prompts?

Schools usually change their prompts every few years, and if they do, the themes often remain the same. Instead of asking why you want to attend our school, it may change to asking how you feel your passions align with their goals as an institution. So it's still a good idea to pre-write. 

Even if they change it, you could always reword and repurpose one of your essays for other schools.

5. How Optional Are Optional Essays?

They are somewhere between optional and required. It would help if you only answered an optional prompt when you have relevant information to address. A forced response will not go over well with admissions committees and can hurt your application.

6. Which Secondary Essay Should I Work On First?

You should prioritize the ones from your top-choice schools and the ones that require in-depth answers so that you will have material to re-use if necessary.

Final Thoughts

Completing your secondary applications is a time-consuming and stressful process. Now that you know what to and what not to do, you can begin working on your essays with some confidence. You are now armed with the knowledge of how to create impressive medical school secondary essays.

Don't underestimate the importance of pre-writing your secondaries; always convey your individuality. Answer the prompt as clearly as you can and expand on your key points. Remember that the ultimate goal is to impress the admissions committee enough to be called in for an interview.

how to write good secondary essays

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By submitting my email address. i certify that i am 13 years of age or older, agree to recieve marketing email messages from the princeton review, and agree to terms of use., 5 tips for medical school secondary applications.

There is no rest for the medical school applicant! A few weeks after you submit your AMCAS application , med schools will start mailing secondary applications, composed primarily of a short list of essay questions. Here's how to tackle them.

Writing secondary essays

Who receives Secondary Applications?

Most schools indiscriminately send secondary applications, meaning that every living, breathing candidate who submitted a primary application will likely get a secondary one, regardless of their chances for admission. There are, however, a few student-friendly schools that will review GPA and MCAT scores  to be sure you meet their minimum admissions standards before they send a secondary application. In many cases, schools betray what type of student they are looking for in the type of secondary question they ask. If you have strong answers for their questions, it is possible you have the characteristics they are most looking for in an applicant.

Writing the Secondary Essay

Check out our top strategies for writing your secondary essays and relieve some med school application stress.

1. Answer the Question Being Asked

Unlike primary applications, secondary applications ask specific questions about your goals, experiences, and your personal views on a range of topics, including your decision to go to medical school. Your secondaries will be read to see how they complement what you have said in your primary application. At the most basic level, your secondary application is another test to see whether you can adequately understand directions (this time, the school’s specific directions), and focus yourself to answer the question that was asked.

2. Focus on New Material

If you are willing to put in a little effort, secondaries are a great time to elaborate on elements that received less attention in your primary application. For example, if you write in your personal statement about a primary care experience, you may want to point out some research experience in your secondary applications. A discussion of how research broadened or deepened your interest would show that you are an even broader applicant than your initial application suggested.  

Read More: How To Make Your Med School Application Stand Out

3. Every Word Counts

If you are given enough room on certain questions, you may want to follow the thesis, body, and conclusion structure that you would use for a longer essay. Don’t, however, try to squeeze in extra words by using a font more than a point smaller than your AMCAS application. That approach always appears forced, and you come across as a rule bender—not an ideal image to portray to med schools.

4. Know What To Expect

Secondary questions run the gamut from personal to political to pointless. If you want to see what a school’s secondary application entails ahead of time, many premed advisors keep a file with the previous year’s secondary applications. To give you an idea of what to expect, here are a few questions from recent applications.

  • "What do you consider to be the role of the physician in the community?" (Emory University)
  • " What personal accomplishment are you most proud of and why? " (University of California, Irvine)
  • " What has been your most humbling experience and how will that experience affect your interactions with your peers and patients? " (Duke University)
  • " Tell us about a difficult or challenging situation you have encountered and how you dealt with it ." (University of Chicago)
  • "W here do you see your future medical career (academic medicine, research, public health, primary care, business/law, etc.) and why? " (New York University)

5. Make a Game Plan

As you begin to receive secondary applications, you will have a few potential approaches.

Strategy 1:

Focus your energy first on the schools that you would most like to attend.

Strategy 2:

Hold off sending secondaries to the more competitive schools until you’ve sent out a few to the less competitive ones. For many students, their last secondaries will be better written than their first.

Strategy 3:

Reply first to schools whose secondaries ask questions to which you can easily give solid answers. This allows you to work your way up to the more difficult applications.

Strategy 4:

Practice writing secondary statements even before you get your first ones, so that you can send out well-written, personalized responses to your top choices first.

Only you can know which approach will work best for you! Check out more tips about writing the personal statement for medical school .

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How to Create Sizzling Secondary Applications

Download your free, comprehensive guide to creating a successful AMCAS essay!

You’ve taken the MCAT, completed all the pre-reqs, and maybe shadowed a physician, done some research, and volunteered. Now it’s time to make sure you’re all in for the last legs of this long journey. In this series , we’ll discuss how you can continue to navigate your way to a med school acceptance by analyzing your profile, creating a strong med school application, writing stellar AMCAS and secondary essays, and nailing your interview.

After you submit your AMCAS application, if everything goes well, you’ll be asked to submit secondary applications. Each medical school requires different information.

The following tips will help you write these challenging essays :

1. Timing is critical.

The general rule is to complete each secondary application within two weeks of receiving it.

2. Prioritize schools.

If faced with more secondaries than you can handle , prioritize. Complete the secondaries from the schools you are most interested in attending and/or have the greatest chance of being offered an interview first.

3. Be thorough and do not rush.

The essays in your secondary application are as important as your personal essay, and in some cases, more important. Do not rush through them.

4. Research each school.

Before starting to write any essays, spend some time reviewing the website, the mission statement, and the curriculum of the medical school. (This is something you want to repeat again before interviewing.) Try to incorporate in your essays some of the information you learn so that you stress why you are a good match and what you can offer your target school . In essence you want to personalize each essay. Try to reinforce how your past experiences match the school’s mission statement or how your interests match their specialty offerings. Each school has a special focus (such as a unique curriculum, strong research base, a focus on the underserved or primary care). Think about what you have to offer that aligns well with their focus or mission and reinforce that in your essay.

5. Answer accurately.

Seems obvious, I know, but many applicants need the reminder: Answer the questions as they are written and not as you wish they were written. You may write a lovely essay about your shadowing stint at your local ER during high school, but if the question was about extracurricular activities in college, then you still haven’t gotten the job done right. This also means that if you’re trying to reuse stories in multiple applications, you need to read the questions very carefully and make sure you’re on target.

6. Give state school essays enough attention.

When completing an essay for your state school, stress why you want to go there just as you would any other school. Financial reasons and proximity to home are important reasons, but you still want to reinforce why you are a good match for the school.

7. Share additional information.

Each secondary application provides a place for you to show a little more of yourself. Try to include information in your essays that you may not have been able to incorporate into your AMCAS application. The secondary essays should complement, not duplicate, the AMCAS essay.

8. Edit effectively.

You don’t just want to tell your story; you want to tell your story well – this includes choosing the right topic, writing about your experiences with interesting and relevant details, and – last but not least – editing the essay so that it gleams . A successful secondary essay isn’t messy with typos and poor grammar; it’s neat, organized, and error-free. If English is not your first language – and even if it is – you will most definitely benefit from having another set of eyes (or more) look over your essay to ensure that it’s top-notch and ready for send-off.

Again this is the final piece of information that will be considered by admission committees prior to interview offers, so put time into each and make sure you customize them for each school.

Register for our upcoming webinar: Writing Secondary Essays That Get You Accepted!

Related Resources:

•  Secondary Strategy: Why Do You Want To Go Here? •  Applying to Med School: How to Juggle Secondaries •  How to Write Succinct Secondary Essays

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Everything You Need to Know About a Secondary Application for Medical School

Many students have trouble with medical school secondary applications. They are usually confused about what medical school secondary application is and how they should prepare for it. Before getting into details about a secondary application for medical school, it’s a good idea to clarify the purpose of secondary applications.

What Is A Secondary Application For Medical School?

The primary purpose of the secondary medical school application is to determine whether or not you are the right person who is in line with the mission, vision, and values of the institution you are applying to. In other words, will you be a good fit for that institution?

Secondary applications usually focus on evaluating your qualifications and characteristics as an individual. Secondary applications can vary depending on the school. Some medical schools will require you to write up to four additional essays, others require short answer responses, and some include simple yes or no questions. 

The quality of your secondary essays can significantly increase your chances of getting invitations for an interview. In addition, writing essays with given prompts can help you answer interview questions much more efficiently because you have already practiced. 

This article will review some of the most important keys to sending out killer secondary applications, including tips on successfully writing about the most common essay prompts for secondary applications that will catch the admission committee’s attention.

Who Receives a Secondary Application Package?

Schools usually do either one of two options. They either send secondary application offers to ALL of the students who have applied, or they will send a selected number of offers only to those students who have passed the initial screening process. 

The time you receive essay prompts for secondary application generally depends on how long it will take for AMCAS to process your application (which can take up to six weeks) and how long each school will take to consider your primary application. You can check the medical school application timeline to make sure about the general deadline for each stage of your application.

Writing secondary essays can be time-consuming and tedious, but here are two small pieces of good news: 

  • Secondary essays are usually shorter than your personal statement.
  • Some of the topics you have to work on have come up repeatedly during the previous rounds of invites, so there are numerous free sources to help you write your essays successfully.

Five Most Common Secondary Essay Prompts and How to Write Them

In your journey to medical school, time is precious. You need to work according to a plan so that you don’t lose opportunities due to a lack of time management. So it’s a good idea to do as much preparation as possible in the spare time you get after the primary applications are sent out, and you are waiting to hear back from schools. You can use a part of this time to prepare your secondary essays. These essays are your key to getting an interview invite. We suggest you take them seriously.

There is some preparatory work you can do to have enough time to polish your essays to perfection.

You can start by checking out the list of medical school secondary essay prompts and pulling out the common themes for the schools you want to apply to. 

Next, you should create an outline or rough draft for each theme. Although some schools change their prompts every year, planning ahead can reduce your anxiety about time pressure and allow you to focus on your writing. 

If you can re-write some parts of your secondary application essays, you can invest your time in crafting a well-thought piece of writing that meets all the requirements for each institution.

Now we will go over some of the most common prompts and how to write about them: 

Prompt #1: Why Our School?

The key to answering this question is conducting thorough research about your school. You should familiarize yourself with the school’s core values, mission statement, and vision. Information about the student body, curriculum, extra-curricular activities offered to students, their programs, and the requirements can help you develop a great understanding of the school and measure the information against your own personal set values, goals, and learning opportunities you are looking for. 

Doing your homework and being well-informed will show the admissions committee how interested you are in the program and give you enough material to show that you are a good fit for that school.

Prompt #2: Cultural Competency

Generally speaking, the questions about cultural competency want to see your ability to interact with people of different cultures and belief systems. They want to know if you can help people in a way aligned with their values and beliefs. It is also important to realize the vital role of effective communication in bridging cultural differences. In these essays, you should focus on how you have employed a strategy to help someone and overcame the communication barriers to be able to help someone despite all the differences finally. These prompts usually want your essay to focus on how you use your skills to help someone from a different socio-cultural background, or for example, how you can overcome the language barrier if need be, and communication strategies you can employ to help people.

Prompt #3: Overcoming Challenges

This prompt is a closer look at your resilience. In one way or another, you will face many difficulties and challenges in your training to become a doctor. Medical schools want to make sure that their candidates are up to it. They want candidates who can handle challenges and are mature enough to take the right approach in times of need. Using real-life examples can give you a good idea about how you should write your essay. Examples include a time when you had to overcome a setback, illness, injury, and death of a loved one. 

Make sure you keep your essay on the positive side of things. The committee wants to know how you handle a dire situation or a difficult challenge. They want to see how you dealt with the problem and not how it took over your life. End on a positive note and how you overcame the challenges in life and became a better person. 

Prompt #4: Future Goals

For many students, it might not be easy to talk about their future goals in detail. For example, you might not have decided what kind of a doctor you want to be yet. And that is okay. For this prompt, it’s best you focus on the part of your life experience that led to your decision to become a doctor. Go into the specifics about the experiences that made you want to become a doctor.

If you haven’t decided on what kind of doctor you want to be, you should focus on the general and broader direction you expect your career to take. You might change your mind after a while in medical school. So don’t forget to mention that you are always looking for new opportunities to explore.

Prompt #5: Academic Lapses or Breaks

If there are any lapses in your academic resume or you have taken any breaks, you might be asked to further explain this issue to the admissions committee. This is one of the prompts that you can pre-write in advance. You need to first explain clearly and briefly what led to the decision to take a break, how you overcame the situation, and what you learned from the experience.

DO’s and DON’Ts of Medical School Secondary Application

  • DO be specific to the prompt.
  • DO have as many people as possible proofread your essays.
  • DON’T cut and paste different parts from different essays. Read it a couple of times to make sure you sound coherent.
  • DON’T just repeat the information you have already shared on your primary application. The purpose of the medical school secondary application is for the admissions committee to get to know you more in-depth.

Five Tips for Managing Medical School Secondary Application Successfully

#1. be organized.

Various credible sources suggest you create a spreadsheet where you can keep all the necessary data and links in one place. We suggest the same. This way, you can easily access the information and track your progress with each application. You don’t want to miss out on a deadline after all the hard work you have done because you forgot. 

#2. Submit Early

Here we talk in detail about the golden rule of a medical school application; the sooner, the better . The same rule applied to secondary applications. A prompt application usually indicates how interested you are in a particular program. Two weeks is enough time to go by before you send your application. There is one exception to this rule, and that is when submitting early means sacrificing the quality.

#3. Stay Ahead of the Game

Some medical schools provide essay prompts on their website. If they are available, that means you can get a head start on your essay writing process. Keep in mind that saving time can help you a great deal during the application process.

#4. Set Your Priorities Straight

Writing medical school secondary application essays can be arduous, but they should be your top priority if becoming a doctor is your priority. When writing secondary essays, prioritize completing each essay based on the priority you have in mind for potential programs. Write the essay for the particular school you are interested in first. You should also complete your application for your safe option – a school or institution where you have higher chances of acceptance. 

#5. Read Sample Essays

In order to have a better understanding of what is asked of you to write about, you should put some time into reading essay samples. Reading sample essays can be beneficial in two aspects: first, to get a clear understanding of what you are supposed to write about, and second, to see how you employ different approaches to write about one topic. You will also learn not to use some of the overused clichés in these essays.

Final Words 

Medical school secondary applications will probably be one of the most time-consuming, stressful, and tedious parts of your journey toward becoming a doctor, but you’re almost at the finish line. 

Each of these stages is designed to test you differently. Your knowledge, patience, perseverance and resilience, and much more are all being tested. Staying focused, on schedule, and relaxed will help you immensely. 

When writing medical school secondary essays, keep in mind that you should not aim only to answer the question you are being asked but also you are providing an opportunity for your reader to get a more in-depth understanding of your character and qualities. Just keep your eyes on the final price, and don’t forget why you are doing this.

When in Doubt, Get Help

If you doubt your application and struggle with the process, the Jack Westin Admissions team is here to help. Whether you need assistance writing your Personal Statement Essay or you want professional editors taking a look at your secondary essays, we’re here to help. To get started with the Jack Westin team, Click here . 

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How to Answer Common Essay Prompts on Medical School Secondary Applications

Coherently emphasize your unique persona, life journey, motivations and alignment with the medical profession.

Writing Med School Secondary Essays

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Secondary applications offer a unique canvas to paint a more intricate portrait of your character, experiences and aspirations.

As you begin your medical school application journey, the secondary application phase emerges as a pivotal bridge connecting your premedical background with entrance into graduate medical training. These secondary applications, adorned with an often repetitive tapestry of essays, offer a unique canvas to paint a more intricate portrait of your character, experiences and aspirations.

Here's some advice on the art of answering common essay prompts on med school secondary applications, emphasizing the importance of compelling storytelling throughout your application. 

The Purpose of the Secondary Application  

The secondary application is more than a formality – it's an essential step that adds depth to the on-page persona that admissions committees will assess. It is the last chance you have to make a good impression before an interview is offered, so a subpar performance at this stage may be the last chance you have at admission during this cycle.

This phase allows admissions committees to perceive you in a richer light, beyond mere test scores and accolades. Secondary applications typically comprise a cluster of essays, each allowing you to showcase your unique persona. If written well, they can unveil your motivations, life journey and alignment with the medical profession. 

How to Craft a Compelling Secondary Essay Narrative  

Effective essay crafting relies on authentic storytelling. Your goal is not just to convey information, but to resonate emotionally with the reader.

Begin by dedicating some time to introspection. Reflect on your journey, including its highs, lows and turning points. Weave a narrative tapestry that threads together your experiences, values and aspirations. Focus on using vivid imagery and metaphors to engage the reader, making your essays stand out among the many they will read.

Don’t forget to ensure a coherent flow by structuring your essays logically. Again, introspection and planning – using an outline if helpful – are essential. 

How to Approach Common Secondary Essay Prompts  

The essay prompts you'll encounter may frequently be similar, and the temptation to copy and paste similar responses to many programs is extremely high, particularly when many secondary application requests come back at once.

However, be very wary of canned responses that work for many essay types and many different programs. This can sometimes work well, but can also result in essays that feel forced, with content that doesn’t quite answer the question. These types of essay flaws are remarkably easy to spot by experienced admissions committee reviewers. 

Below are three common secondary application essay prompts and advice on how to approach them.

Common Prompt 1: Why Our Medical School? 

It can be challenging to develop a response to this prompt that feels truly unique. In some way, your response will be similar to other applicants’, but how you weave your background, persona and experiences with the school’s mission and goals is how you can stand out.

To master this, delve into meticulous research about the institution. Go beyond the mission statement and goals. What sorts of programs do they offer? What do they choose to highlight multiple times, in prominent places on their website or on their campus? Understand why they are emphasizing various programs, classes, attributes or resources. 

A school is typically less proud of a simulation lab itself and prouder of what that simulation lab allows them to do. Perhaps they train a large number of procedural specialists or match many graduates into careers in trauma.

Work to comprehend a school’s values, unique offerings and cultural fabric . Then work to articulate how your background and experiences align with these facets, without sounding too repetitive of your primary application materials.

The key is to go beyond the surface – pinpoint specific programs, faculty members or initiatives that resonate with your aspirations and to which you are excited to contribute if accepted. 

Common Prompt 2: Diversity  

The "How will you contribute to diversity on campus?" question is a testament to the evolving medical landscape. Embrace your distinct background and be proud to describe how it will allow you to bring a fresh, unique perspective to the campus and the community.

Recognize also that you don’t have to limit yourself to a traditional definition of diversity . You can also share experiences or interests that make you a diverse applicant.

If you have played harp your entire life and feel it speaks to your personality, including attributes that will be beneficial in medicine, write about it with pride. You can be quite sure that your essay is one the reader has not already read 30 times, and that can at times be an advantage in and of itself.

Of course, no matter your topic, look to emphasize how your perspective enriches the educational mosaic, promoting cross-cultural understanding and empathy within the realm of health care. 

Common Prompt 3:  Overcoming Adversity and Demonstrating Resilience  

The "How have you overcome adversity or a challenge?" prompt invites you to display your mental strength and ability to persevere when things get difficult – a sure bet in the medical field. Again, introspection is crucial.

This is not likely to be the place to describe the one time in high school you got a B+, or an argument you’ve had with a roommate. Highlight a significant challenge, narrate its impact on you and expound on your growth journey. 

Do not be shy to include letdowns. A refreshingly honest essay describing rejection from medical school during your first application cycle, and your continued commitment to the long road ahead – including how you have worked to improve as a person and as an aspiring doctor – can be a phenomenal essay if done well.

Make sure to transition to a positive note; don’t seek pity from the reader.

Whatever adversity you choose, remember not to spend too much space describing the actual event. You want to focus most of your energy on discussing the strategies you employed to surmount the obstacle and how the experience honed your resolve and enhanced your ability to excel in the medical sphere. 

Emphasize Your Fit With the Medical School

With all of your secondary essays, be sure to weave a cohesive story together without directly repeating any content in your primary application materials.

Emphasize your fit with each school, and do significant research to discover what type of student they are genuinely interested in attracting to their unique program. Discuss experiences that have shaped you, highlight times when you have demonstrated resilience and remember to take each individual essay seriously.

With strategic introspection and eloquent articulation, these essays will pave the path toward achieving the goals and earning the experiences you have – to this point – only written about.

Medical School Application Mistakes

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About Medical School Admissions Doctor

Need a guide through the murky medical school admissions process? Medical School Admissions Doctor offers a roundup of expert and student voices in the field to guide prospective students in their pursuit of a medical education. The blog is currently authored by Dr. Ali Loftizadeh, Dr. Azadeh Salek and Zach Grimmett at Admissions Helpers , a provider of medical school application services; Dr. Renee Marinelli at MedSchoolCoach , a premed and med school admissions consultancy; Dr. Rachel Rizal, co-founder and CEO of the Cracking Med School Admissions consultancy; Dr. Cassie Kosarec at Varsity Tutors , an advertiser with U.S. News & World Report; Dr. Kathleen Franco, a med school emeritus professor and psychiatrist; and Liana Meffert, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine and a writer for Admissions Helpers. Got a question? Email [email protected] .

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  • Medical School Secondary Essays

Harvard Medical School Secondary Essay Examples

Harvard Medical School Secondary Essay Examples

Learning by observation is one of the most effective ways to study, so reading Harvard Medical School secondary essay examples in 2024 will sharpen your application, and let you write your own essays with confidence.

Essay writing is a difficult skill to master, so start by reading up on how to write a college essay . Understanding acquired knowledge is easier, however, if you can see what the application of that knowledge looks like. To that end, reading secondary essays will help you glean how to go from a prompt, through good essay writing methods, to the best practices in what a final essay will look like. By thinking about writing in those terms, you will strengthen your own work immensely.

Most medical schools in the US ask for you to write medical school secondary essays , and Harvard Medical School is no exception. They have both required and optional prompts, and this article will take a look at all of them, giving you sample essays for each.

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

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Article Contents 13 min read

Harvard medical school secondary essay example for prompt #1.

On average, how many hours per week did you devote to employment during the academic year

I dedicated as many hours as I could afford while keeping to a vigorous academic schedule. At the same time, I took off only as few hours as I could in order to make rent.

Life is a demanding experience, and mine is no exception. I have found that careful planning and time budgeting helps to keep me on track, working hard, but with enough downtime to prevent burnout.

I held down a part-time job at a hardware store that offered me between 20 and 30 hours per week. I was more often working 30 hours than 20. I respected the store owner very much, and wanted to show my appreciation for being given the job.

Spare time was often spent back at the lab – my true passion this last semester – so even when I wasn’t officially there, I was still there.

My typical week, by hours:

Working at Jim’s Hardware               30 hours/week

Class hours                                         20 hours/week

Studying hours                                   15 hours/week

Lab hours                                           20 hours/week

Exercise                                              5 or 6 hours/week

Learn everything you need to know about med school secondary essays in our video:

If you have already graduated, briefly summarize your activities since graduation.

This essay has a limit of 4,000 characters

It felt like I was opening up forever, as the summer often does, but somewhere down inside, I knew that I had no time to waste. The time between my last semester and my next semester would be a crucial, tightly-timed period in which I had to study hard, gain experiences, and save money for the next phase of my life.

I had a job lined up, lucky enough to have had at a paid internship in a laboratory. Over the months between my graduation and now we have been looking at vitamin capsules, tablets, and chewable gels. We were essentially trying to find out a better way to make these things so that people can derive more benefit from them by ensuring more of the vital ingredients get absorbed properly into whomever is using them.

Although I was mostly there to assist and follow orders, I nevertheless got to observe the meticulous processes of a professional lab environment. I shared in the frustrations of early experiments’ results, the process of advancing ideas and making progress, and the thrill of actually arriving at some useful – or, potentially-useful – results.

When I wasn’t at the laboratory working, I was looking to my volunteer hours.

My uncle is a hospital administrator, and set me up with a couple of doctors to shadow. One of these doctors, Dr. Stevens, is a psychiatrist – an area of specialization which I enjoy very much. Although confidentiality prevented me from following him on certain aspects of his job, I nevertheless got to learn a lot from him. He was very patient, friendly, and answered my myriad questions – even giving me his personal email address so I could learn more. I wasn’t shy about taking advantage of this, and have been back-and-forth with him, asking questions and getting to know my preferred area of medicine.

I said, “Hi,” a lot, too, as I found myself back at the hospital a lot of other times. I enjoyed my time there immensely, and sought other ways of volunteering to assist. Most of my volunteer hours weren’t as clinical as shadowing, but I still got to spend time helping patients and staff. My primary area where I volunteered was helping with older patients, and I was often an arm to lean on for exercise, or an eye to read a book, or sometimes just an ear to hear a patient who needed company.

Home time was spent studying, pouring over MCAT preparation materials and working hard to get my numbers up. I was eager to get ahead last year, and actually arranged to take the MCAT. I was under-prepared, and did not receive a score that I thought reflected my potential. So, for the past months, I have been studying to hold myself to a higher standard. The next time I take the test, I know I won’t disappoint myself again.

Of course, there was down-time as well. I couldn’t work all the time, and my particular favorite pastime is music. Study breaks often consisted of grabbing my guitar from beside my bed, running scales, singing along a bit, and just enjoying the feeling of playing. I have no illusions about becoming some rock star someday. I’m not the best guitar player in the world, but I’m not really trying to be. I love the instrument, and I love getting better at it; I’ve always enjoyed challenging myself. It’s a wonderful way to relax.

I believe that relaxation is very important. We can’t work all the time – it isn’t healthy – and there are many ways to enjoy life. My great fortune, is that I got to spend my time since graduation in many different ways that I enjoy life: not just with music, but with helping, healing people, and diving into the medical arts.

If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity, not addressed elsewhere in the application, that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Many applicants will not need to answer this question. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Briefly explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine.

One day, I will become a cliché: an old man lecturing his grandchildren on how, when he was a boy, he used to have to really work just to get to school. My family live well off the beaten path, and my round trip just to get to school was three and a half hours. Some of it was uphill, and some of it was by foot, and I had to get up very early to walk to the bus stop on time.

We moved when I was very little, refugees from overseas, my parents barely speaking English, and me speaking nothing at all – I was only just one year old. We moved from a country we were told does not exist, but which we call Tibet.

My father is a farmer and my mother is a school teacher, which came in handy while we tried to figure out education, since she could handle some of the load. We moved in with my uncle, who had immigrated before us, and he had a small farm out in the bush in Pennsylvania.

The life I knew was one of isolated calm, which kind of works when you’re growing up Buddhist. I never felt particularly isolated, because I had a loving family around me, but my first several years as a child were spent in a forest-farm sanctuary. Every now and then we’d drive the almost two hours to town to pick up something we couldn’t grow, make, forage, or build for ourselves.

When I hit school age, my parents decided I couldn’t just be taught at home. Despite my mother’s background in education, they knew that I would lose out on social interaction and linguistic ability. They were right. In fact, I already was behind my classmates.

I don’t remember much of kindergarten, or grade one, but I do know that I was in the middle of more people than I had seen in my life, yet I still felt isolated. We spoke little English at home, and so I had a difficult time communicating with my classmates at first. My progress was slow; at home, my mother made an effort to continue to speak English with me, to give me practice, but my father had poor English skills, and my uncle had just enough English to buy a few things in town on those rare trips out.

Perhaps this is what prompted the second move. When I was around ten or eleven years old, my parents finally took us from our isolated spot and moved into a rural village – just a little town, but it felt to me like a metropolis. Mom’s English had improved with mine; she really did put in a lot of effort. She had acquired a job as a teacher, and so she and I would drive to school together. My father dropped us off in a car my uncle gave them – so old and used that I think it ran on prayer as much as gasoline.

Even at the time, I know my father was uncomfortable with my mother being the primary breadwinner in the family. Or perhaps it was that he was feeling more isolated than ever, living away from his country and now his brother.

My family’s circumstances have given me some unique perspectives. I have spent so much of my life feeling alone or cut off that it doesn’t really bother me. I can sit in solitude. I have become quiet patient as a result. That solitude has made me deeply appreciate what it means to have friends, however, and though I do not have many friends, I love them all dearly.

It would be easy to become cynical and think of myself as an outsider – a refugee is always a little in transit – with language barriers, physical distance between myself and large groups of people, and a cultural heritage that doesn’t match anybody around me; there are very few Buddhists in rural Pennsylvania. But I do not think of myself as an outsider at all. Rather, my perspective is that we are all, in our own ways, outsiders. We all have inner thoughts, and the isolation of our minds keeps us all to ourselves, in one way or another. The joy here, however, is the realization that that makes none of us outsiders. If we all understand isolation, we all need connection. I feel I am connected to my roots, my heritage, my family, my friends, and my people – who are, of course, everyone.

Check out this video for more secondary essay examples:

The Committee on Admissions understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted applicants in various ways. If you wish to inform the Committee as to how these events have affected you and have not already done so elsewhere in your application, please use this space to do so. (This is an optional essay; the Committee on Admissions will make no judgment based on your decision to provide a statement or not.)

My mom has asthma, so when the COVID-19 virus hit my family, working its way from one family member to another, what would happen to mom became an all-consuming thought in my mind. The sight of mom’s asthma medication used to seem totally innocuous. Now, that little “puffer” is changed to a harbinger of doom.

More than that, though, the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to change everything about the world. It changed trips to the grocery store, how we say hello to friends, how we think of jobs, and how politics permeates everything.

I never thought of myself as a political person prior to the pandemic. I thought of myself as a fairly neutral person, right down to my professional aspirations. Being a doctor isn’t a political thing; they heal and they help all people, so how could being a physician be political?

Despite my full vaccination, despite the booster shots, my family still contracted the virus. I still believe in vaccination, but a lot of people don’t. A lot of people found themselves doubting the medical professionals who were risking their lives trying to keep people healthy and cure the ones who weren’t.

My perception of healthcare and healthcare professionals changed – radically – and I have absolutely begun to see these professions as political. COVID changed that, too, and for me it struck home with such intensity, lying in my bed, coming down with symptoms, developing a mild anxiety about whether I’d be able to smell flowers or taste food in a month’s time, and hearing my mom wheeze downstairs.

Do you know how silencing a wheeze can be, in those quiet moments?

I recovered from the coronavirus fairly quickly – zonked out for about twenty-four hours before bouncing back – but by the time I was over it, my mom was developing symptoms, and hers were bad. They were very bad, as a matter of fact, and I knew that the asthma was always going to be there to make this a tough fight.

My dad, my sister, and I all got lucky; we were out of harm’s way by the time mom hit the nadir. We were isolating and scared.

What can you do with all of that going on and nowhere to escape to? I had school – doing virtual classes – but I couldn’t go to work and I found it hard to concentrate. I became a caretaker. I had the experience, after all, and although I am not a doctor yet, I knew that I had a certain knowledge base that I had been developing for exactly this purpose: to help heal.

So, I did what I could – we all did, my dad, my sister, and me – and mom pulled through. It took her almost a full week, but she came back from the edge.

So much for asthma, but what about politics?

When I got back to in-person classes, I was talking to some friends about the experience. We had been in touch, of course, but I was sharing it with them again, getting it out, like I was releasing the last week, and in the middle of it, another classmate – a boy by the name of Stuart – injected himself into the conversation, running his mouth about how COVID vaccines were a useless conspiracy and that the virus itself was practically mythological.

I am proud to say that I have only punched Stuart’s lights out in my mind. I have done it a dozen times, but I am proud to say that I never let it leak out into real life. In fact, I did the opposite of my angry, reactionary impulses, and asked Stuart why he thought the way he did, and what I should read to be better informed.

This opened up a dialogue between myself and Stuart, one which I continued for the rest of the semester at school. I challenged him, and he challenged me sometimes. I don’t think I have fully convinced my new friend about the truth of the pandemic, but he’s a lot closer.

COVID-19 taught me about patience, about doing what I can, about perseverance, and about how to pull through with my family and friends – the importance of a good support network. It gave me an aspirational goal for my work in the medical field: to save and heal people, like my mom, but also to keep open dialogues with people like Stuart.

Harvard Medical School Secondary Essay Example for Prompt #5

The interview season for the 20XX-20XX cycle will be held virtually and is anticipated to run from mid-September through January 20XX. Please indicate any significant (three or more weeks) restriction on your availability for interviews during this period. If none, please leave this section blank.

During the second week of September, and until the first week of October, I have decided to undertake a tremendous opportunity. My family, on my father’s side, comes from Portugal. He is Azorean, and this summer he is returning to the Azores for a time to help as a doctor.

My father is an MD, and immigrating years ago with the dream of becoming a doctor in America. He fulfilled that dream, and along the way, he met my mother. She was studying English Literature at Yale at the same time he was studying medicine.

Our family have made frequent trips to the Azores over the years; my father wanted me to be in touch with where we come from. I have grown to love them as a second home, these islands of tranquility, with tomato-growing soil, and the Holy Ghost Festival.

The last few years, however, we have not found the time. Life has been busy, complicated, and not terribly conducive to travel. But my father recently accepted a call from a friend to come over for a few months and help as a physician.

I am going for a short time to shadow my father. So, from September 12 th until October 3 rd , I will be saying hello again to old friends, learning by watching my father, and getting back in touch with the tomato-growing soil of the Azores.

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Technically, yes. If no limit is imposed, you can write as you please. However, you should consider some factors in how long to make your essay.

First, as a general rule, the limit for your essays should be about 1,000 words. You could go a little more, but that’s a reasonable length for an application essay. You want to give yourself enough room to say what you need to say, but not so long that you will bore your reader and make your application tedious.

Second, consider the topic asked for. If the topic is very specific and covers a small subject, it’s okay to let your essay be a little shorter.

Third, check out the other essays’ lengths. Two of the Harvard Secondary essay prompts have a limit of 4,000 characters. The others have no stated limit. You probably shouldn’t exceed 4,000 characters on the essays without official limits, since that seems to be a length that Harvard has deemed reasonable.

Lastly, a little advice from Shakespeare: “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Better to say what you mean, say it well, and say it quickly than to add nothing to your ideas but ink and air.

Best practice is to write all optional essays to take every opportunity you have. You have a chance to shine out and rise to the top of the pile with every action you take, so you should take those actions.

Speaking specifically to the Harvard Secondary prompts above, prompt no.5 is certainly truly optional. It is based on the empirical fact of whether or not you have a schedule conflict. If you have no conflict, you have no essay, and don’t need to write it.

Prompt no.4 provides you an opportunity to speak to your interaction with a world-enveloping health issue. There is room here to stand out, so take it. Even though the committee are not grading these essays, your response here can still cause them to think favorably of you, or give you a subconscious “edge”.

Prompt no.3 applies to specific personal experiences, but such a wide range is given that most students will be able to speak to one category, or something like those categories. Again, another opportunity to add to your personal story and relatability is a good opportunity to take. If you can, write this essay.

Ten to fifteen percent short will put you close to the limit and allow you the room to say what you need to say.

Your first goal should be to answer each essay in a way that shows your best attributes to the admissions board. Effectively show your skills, experiences, qualities like perseverance or leadership, personal growth, and passion for the medical field.

Your essay should have an introduction paragraph, a body, and a conclusion. So, that format and structure will necessarily use up most of the word count, if you are following it properly.

Not really. You don’t require things like references, but you should still follow standard essay writing format, with an introductory paragraph, a supporting and expanding body, and a conclusion.

Give your essay an attention-grabbing opening sentence, and close it off by wrapping up what you talked about throughout the essay.

Following each prompt is paramount. Essay number three is explicitly about your personal background and challenges you’ve faced, so that is your subject matter.

But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t highlight certain elements, or choose more advantageous stories.

Whichever school you’re writing for – in this case, Harvard – go find their mission statement. What qualities is in that? Harvard says that they are looking to educate “students and student-leaders". If they value students and student-leaders, they value leadership. They value a search for knowledge, just as two examples.

Every school will be looking for perseverance, leadership skills, teamwork skills, personal growth, ethical responsibility, and any experiences you have had with healthcare, even in peripheral ways, whether professional or volunteer.

Take a couple weeks to get them write. The key to writing – any kind of writing – isn't the first draft, it’s the edits you make.

Read your essay over and make changes. Ask yourself if the paragraph order is perfect, if the sentences are well-written – not overly verbose, not too simple – and if you have used every opportunity to highlight your best qualities.

Take a few passes at it before coming to the final draft, at which point you can triple-check the spelling and grammar, and make sure you are within the character or word limits.

If they are applicable, yes. You might need to do some edits, of course, but if two – or more – schools have essays addressing your experiences with diversity, you will probably find that you can use material in both essays.

A note on editing, however: check and check again that there is nothing in the essay that applies to one school while writing to the other. Don’t reference a mission statement that belongs to another academic institution, for instance. It’s easy to miss those things, so read your essay carefully to avoid a dreadful, embarrassing misstep.

They are neither the be-all and end-all of the matter, nor are they inconsequential.

All you have to do is put yourself in the shoes of an essay reader – a member of the admissions committee – and imagine that you read one application with good essays and impeccable grammar and another application with good essays and bad grammar. Who do you choose?

Poor spelling might affect a subconscious perception of you, as an applicant, as well.

Of course, if one or two small errors get left in, it’s not the end of the world. It’s unlikely that a strong application will be rejected on that basis alone. Still, don’t risk it; edit carefully, and get somebody else to proofread, if possible.

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Everything You Need to Know About Medical School Secondary Essays

Padya Paramita

June 21, 2021

how to write good secondary essays

You’ve uploaded your transcript, MCAT score, extracurricular information, personal statement, and finally clicked the submit button on the AMCAS . You might want to use the next couple of weeks off to relax. But, you’ll have to wait a few more months for that nap, because the medical school application grind is far from over. After hitting the submit button on the AMCAS, your secondaries will slowly start rolling in. So, before you decide to start checking things off your bucket list, it’s time to prepare for your medical school secondary essays .

Although medical schools don’t typically begin sending out secondary applications until early July, you shouldn’t just sit around doing nothing. Rather, prepare yourself to have common essay topics ready for the minute the prompts are sent out. To help your preparation for medical school secondary essays , I’ve outlined the basics of the secondary timeline, the most common prompts alongside a few dos and don’ts to help gear you for the process.

Medical School Secondary Essays: The Timeline

Turnaround from primary to secondaries.

The timeline for medical school secondary essays is just as important as actually sitting down to answer the essay prompts themselves. If you submit the AMCAS immediately after it opens (as you should), you can expect secondaries around early July. Most medical schools don’t set deadlines for secondary essays. The ones who do usually set them for November. Some, however, give you a deadline based on when you receive the secondaries, for example within two weeks or a month upon receipt.  

Depending on the medical school, your secondary essays will start rolling in either a few weeks after you’ve submitted the primary application or once the school checks to ensure that you’ve met their cutoff scores (typically set low at a 3.0 GPA and 500 MCAT score). To be clear: most schools do not read your application until your secondaries have been submitted. The faster you submit the AMCAS, the quicker your verification will be completed, followed by the arrival of your secondaries. The sequence continues: the faster you finish your secondaries, the quicker and more likely you are to receive interview invitations. It is no exaggeration to say that the timing of your medical school secondary essays will shape your chances of being accepted into any medical school.

Obviously, you want to increase your chances of getting admitted and should apply to around 25-30 schools. But what this also means is that you could have four or five secondary essays coming in from each program—some schools have no secondaries, while others have up to nine. When the secondaries from the schools on your list pour into your inbox one by one, it can naturally feel overwhelming. Finding the perfect balance between timeliness and high quality is not easy. But we’re here to help.

How Long Should You Take?

It’s important to remember that your every move counts. Medical school admissions committee members will indeed be paying attention to the time you’ve taken to turn in your secondaries, so approach them very carefully. If you take a month to turn in your responses, they will think they’re low priority and will hesitate to extend an interview invite to a student who is unlikely to attend the school if offered acceptance.

Remember that med schools admit students on a rolling basis. If you take your sweet time, adcoms will already have started reading applications and making decisions about which applicants they want to call for interviews. The longer you wait to turn in your secondaries, the further back you fall in the pile. And the less likely your chances.   

A helpful rule-of-thumb to follow for medical school secondary essays is to return your responses within two weeks of the date you received them. The two-week turnaround time is long enough to carefully write and edit your essay, but short enough to show your enthusiasm for the school.

While two weeks is ideal, if you’re drowning under a lot of secondary essays, you may have to pick and choose which schools you want to take more time with. So, how do you know which of your schools and secondary essays to prioritize?

The Impact of Secondaries on Your Medical School Timeline

Since the medical school application process is rolling, spots at schools get filled up on a first-come first-serve basis. As time passes in the application cycle, your chances of acceptance grow even slimmer because more and more students are given precious interview slots on top of more students submitting their primary applications before the AMCAS closes. As overbearing as the burden of completing almost 70 essays can get, you must try hard not to lose focus and prioritize making each day count in the application process. One misstep or slowing down at any stage could leave you behind the rest of the applicant pool. The secondary turn-in timeline is no different. The longer you take to submit your secondary essays, the further you push back your own timeline, and other students’ chances will climb over yours. 

Instead, keep yourself strictly on track. As soon as you submit the primary application, start writing responses to the common prompts such as “why this program?” or “what will you contribute to our school?” That way, by the time a school sends you their prompts, you’ll be ready, and will only need to adjust or edit your responses slightly, according to the different ways the questions are phrased.

If you stick to the two-week submission schedule and write strong essays that tell unique stories and are edited with finesse, medical schools are more likely to appreciate your hard work. 

Examples of Common Medical School Secondary Essay Prompts

You should put approximately 25-30 medical schools on your list to stay on the safer side of the intensely competitive medical school admissions process. Schools often have a range of 2-9 secondary questions for you to answer. Take a moment to do the math. This means that you could end up writing over seventy medical school secondary essays . You only had to write one personal statement in the primary, so the number of essays you have to write for the secondary stage can seem like a massive mountain to climb. 

The good news is, there will be some overlap in the kinds of prompts among the schools. That said, you should expect each school’s essays to need quite a bit of tweaking to adjust to specific prompts. And don’t expect to be able to reuse every essay you write! But preparing for typical prompts is a strategic starting point. Listed below are a number of secondary essay prompts that are common among many medical schools:

  • Explain why you wish to attend this particular medical school.
  • What diverse or unique element will you bring to this medical school community?
  • If you graduated before you applied, summarize your activities since you graduated
  • Describe a challenge you overcame or a time when you faced an ethical dilemma and how you learned and grew from that experience.
  • Who is the most influential person in your life and why?
  • Describe a meaningful leadership position.
  • What are your goals as a physician?
  • What research or independent academic work have you completed, and what did you accomplish or learn?
  • What do you think is the role of a physician in a community?
  • Describe a humbling experience and what you learned from it.
  • Elaborate on an area of interest outside of medicine (e.g., hobbies)
  • Describe the characteristics that make you who you are. How will they impact your success as a medical student and physician?
  • From the list of activities and experiences listed in your AMCAS application, please select one that has most impacted your decision to enter medicine.
  • Is there any other information you would like to share with the admissions committee?

Medical schools often send some combination of these prompts, or similar questions relating to your identity, meaningful experiences, or goals. So even if you don’t know exactly which medical school secondary essays to expect, the list above should give you a clearer picture of what to prepare for. 

Dos and Don’ts of Medical School Secondary Essays

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with what you can expect out of your medical school secondary essays , it’s time to go over some dos and don’ts to make sure you avoid common mistakes and stay on track to write standout secondaries.

  • Think about your primary application - When writing medical school secondary essays , it’s important that what you wrote in your primary application stays in the front of your mind. You definitely should not repeat experiences that you already outlined in your personal statement or activities list. But, if there’s something you didn’t get to talk about in-depth—such as an important part of your cultural background or an impressive research internship, this is the place to write about it!
  • Answer what the question is asking - Too many people get caught up in what they want to say and completely fail to answer the question. A lot of medical school secondary essays will have similar prompts, with very slight differences. For example, one school might ask “What makes you diverse,” while another asks “What makes you diverse? How has this influenced your life?” Although they are basically asking the same thing, double-check that you are answering all questions. This is why it’s important that you first read the question and highlight all keywords and phrases. Understand what the school wants to know when writing your medical school secondary essays , and outline your essay accordingly. Make sure your answer directly responds to the question and doesn’t take any significant detours.
  • Ensure that you’ve followed all directions - A good place to start the secondary process is to read the prompts very carefully. Identify the task at hand and ask yourself: what is the question really asking? You can treat the task as a to-do list, and elaborate on each point on the list to form an outline of your essay. Look through the prompt guideline—word limit, page limit, formatting requirement—and ensure you stick to them. You might be reusing bits and pieces from one school’s essay for another. That’s okay. But make sure you’ve edited it to fully answer the latter school’s question and formatting requirements. If admissions committees see that you haven’t completed all parts of the prompt, or that you’ve crossed the limit or format guidelines, it’s an automatic red flag. You will not receive an interview if you fail to meet schools’ instructions. It might seem like a minor thing, but such mistakes definitely happen, especially when you’re writing so many applications.
  • Leave yourself plenty of time to edit - You must appear professional on your medical school application, and secondaries are an important part of that. Once you’ve finished writing your essays, edit them as much as possible. There will be a lot of essays to go through and you’ll be under a time crunch, but you need to read and reread them to ensure quality. Make sure you avoid run-on sentences and that you’ve made each word count. Careless errors such as grammatical or spelling mistakes will not reflect well on you
  • Think strategically - The medical school application process is notoriously cutthroat. You have to pick and choose your battles. When writing medical school secondary essays , you should not answer all your reach schools first. You should focus on the schools you’re most likely to attend in order to demonstrate interest, but don’t be too ambitious. Check to see which of the schools on your list—especially schools you’re more likely to get into—have secondary prompts that can be easily answered with solid responses that you have already prepared. You definitely want to be smart in the balance of submitting secondaries both promptly and strategically. 
  • DON’T Provide mixed messages - Remember, you need to keep your primary application in mind when filling out your secondaries. If some bit of information in your secondary application doesn’t match what you’ve already said in your primary application, admissions committees will notice. Don’t write something in your essays that contradicts what you’ve stated as a value or credential previously.
  • DON’T Exaggerate - Writing about something you can’t speak in depth about might lead to trouble on multiple fronts. If you do so in your essay and you’re asked about it in an interview, you will be in trouble. In a similar vein, you shouldn’t highlight something that was a minimal experience. You will be competing against brilliant students who have versatile stories to tell. Talking about a minor burn you got three years ago might not be a great way to fill up the space allotted for your secondaries.
  • DON’T Write about a high school experience - You’re an adult now. You’ve gone through years of life experiences that have greatly impacted your motivation to become a doctor. Unless it was something extremely formative and absolutely integral for your medical school application, don’t waste your secondaries reliving your high school glory days.
  • DON’T Use flowery language - This is not a poetry competition and neither are you studying for the SAT. There’s no need to be pretentious and show off your vocabulary in your medical school secondary essays . While it’s good to mix up your word usage and not repeat, don’t go all out with the metaphors or thesaurus.com. Admissions committees want to know more about you and what you’ll bring to their program. Don’t take the attention away from the story by adding too many long words that ultimately don’t make sense.
  • DON’T Repeat yourself - The admissions committee already has your AMCAS application. Repetition will not help you at all! If you basically reiterate what you said in the personal statement during your medical school secondary essays, admissions officers will be bored and unimpressed. Instead, you need to provide new information. That doesn’t mean that you cannot talk about the same activities or experiences—you certainly can. It means that you need to discuss another angle of each particular experience. For example, if you previously talked about the ways shadowing at a hospital changed your engagement with patients, maybe you could now discuss how your shadowing experience influenced which type of medicine you would like to pursue, such as pediatrics or epidemiology. Your admissions officers should constantly learn new things about you.

Writing all of the medical school secondary essays can initially feel like an impossible task. But if you follow all the instructions, convey a story that you haven’t told in your AMCAS application, and turn in a well-polished essay, you can hope to impress admissions committees and take one step closer to that dream of becoming a doctor. 

Tags : medical school secondaries , secondary application , medical school secondary essay prompts , medical school secondary essays , Writing Secondary Essays for Medical School

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How to Ace Medical School Secondary Essays

Benjamin Mittman

A medical school applicant working on her secondary essays in a library.

After completing the AMCAS primary application, you may understandably feel exhausted! However, despite your accomplishments thus far, there is one last step in the application process before you can start interviewing. You will now start receiving secondary applications and medical school secondary essays.

Unlike the AMCAS, secondary applications are tailored to each school you applied to. You’ve already written and submitted your personal statement. You have experience writing more creatively and describing yourself in a more personal and individualized manner. In your secondaries, you will be further expanding on:

  • Who you are
  • Why you’re applying to a specific school
  • Why you’re a good fit for that school
  • What makes you a unique candidate

Keep in mind that in your personal statement, you’ve already explained why you want to go to medical school. The purpose of your AMCAS was to demonstrate that you’re qualified to attend. Now is your chance to go beyond these points and explain how you’ve determined that you are a suitable candidate for each school on your list, and the attributes that set you apart from all the other applicants.

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You will receive many essays, fully dependent on the number of schools you applied to, but there will be substantial overlap among essays from different programs. If you start early, do your due diligence, and follow our guidance, you will set yourself up for success and convince schools that you are worth interviewing for a coveted spot in their matriculating class. Read on to learn 10 tips and tricks on how to ace your medical school secondary essays .

Answer the Prompt!

Chief among all the advice we can offer is to answer the prompt. This may seem obvious to you as you read this, but this needs constant reminding. It is very easy to lose the forest for the trees when you are in the middle of writing and focusing on the minute details of sentence structure and grammar. There are a multitude of strategies to address this problem, including reviewing your essay at multiple stages of completion and sending it to trusted friends and mentors for additional pairs of eyes (more on the value of these below). However, you can prevent this from happening in the first place by creating an outline centered around a single short answer to the prompt, as described next.

Start With a Medical School Secondary Essay Outline

An outline serves several purposes.

  • As mentioned, it ensures that you are answering the prompt and developing a narrative around your simplified answer.
  • It helps organize your thoughts. It is easy to lose track of specific points and concrete examples when you are trying to juggle overarching structure with small details at the same time.
  • It encourages you to write concisely. Assuming you are outlining in bullet points, you will initially express all main points with as few words as possible. Writing in prose requires adding in “unnecessary” words and embellishments, especially when creativity is valued. Always remember to maintain a healthy balance between expression and conciseness.
  • It helps during the review process to make sure that you’ve actually written what you intended to write. I have often found myself veering off topic in my own writing. At this point referencing my outline (either while writing or after completing a draft) can help me find my way back to my original thoughts.

Show, Don’t Tell

You’ve probably heard this ad nauseam starting way back in elementary school. But as with many cliches, its frequency of repetition highlights its importance. Admissions committee members truly do want to get to know you. That’s why they send you a secondary application and are dedicating time to reading what you have to say.

Most essay prompts ask about very personal topics, including who you are and what experiences have led you to where you are now. It is very difficult to capture an individual with a few short essays. But the best writers and most successful applicants leverage their ability to tell personal stories and convey genuine emotions to provide a small glimpse at who they really are. Take plenty of time to reflect on each prompt and try to think of specific experiences in your life that you can turn into vignettes or examples. The more vividly you can imagine the experiences or events you come up with, the more clearly you will be able to “show” them to your readers.

Pick a Theme and See it Through

Besides simply answering the prompt, you want to add your own unique flavor to your answer. For example, if an essay requires you to explain adversity that you’ve faced and how you overcame it, it is not enough to simply come up with an example of adversity and explain, step-by-step, how you moved past the situation. 

Try to consider how your personality traits or background led you to approach the situation. Consider how your strengths and weaknesses influenced your ultimate solution. Did you ignore wrongdoing by others and utilize your calm demeanor to continue on your path unhindered? Or did you take advantage of your diplomacy skills to approach someone and solve the problem head-on? Always remember that there is no wrong answer to these types of questions unless you are describing unethical or inappropriate behavior.

Adhere to Character/Word Count Limits

Similar to following the prompt, this piece of advice may seem obvious but can also get lost in the fray of secondary essay writing. Each school and/or essay will have its own count limit, and some are expressed in words while other may be expressed in characters (either with or without spaces). Pay attention to each of these options; you might consider writing the limit in bold at the top of each essay next to the title so that you keep it in mind from the start. This will help avoid the tricky situation of having to cut down an essay that is too long but flows nicely as is. It is almost always easier to add content than it is to cut down, and the closer you are to a final draft the more apparent this discrepancy becomes.

Review Your Secondary Essay, Then Review Some More

The key to writing an excellent, polished essay is to review what you’ve written several times. There are two main types of reviewing you want to do: content and grammar.

When reviewing content, you should ignore spelling, grammar, and sentence structure, unless a glaring error stands out at you and can be easily fixed. Don’t detract from the content though by agonizing over the structure of one sentence. Instead, you should focus on a few different angles:

  •  Adherence to the prompt, impact of your theme
  •  Overall flow
  •  The connection between specific examples and takeaway points

You can review your most important essays multiple times. Focus on just one of these each time so that you hone in on what you want to say and decide whether you’ve communicated it well.

Once you’ve fine-tuned your content, it is now a good idea to read exclusively for formatting and grammar. Take advantage of spellchecking tools, or AI chatbots , but don’t rely exclusively on them. They frequently make mistakes or poor suggestions. Trust your intuition and check every word manually. Sometimes it is easier to catch small errors when reading on paper rather than on your computer. Consider printing out final drafts of your longest or most important essays for one last pass.

Additionally, seek help from whoever is willing to read your essays. Friends, family members, and advisors or mentors are all good people to reach out to. The more eyes you have on your essays, the more perspectives you will get on your ideas. And if you have a particularly detail-oriented friend, be sure to ask them for a second pair of proofreading eyes. Admissions committee members are extremely detail-oriented themselves, so they will catch errors.

Pre-Write as Much as Possible

As soon as you hit submit on your AMCAS , you should first celebrate! Congratulate yourself and take a well-earned break. Then, you should pivot to secondary application mode and get ready for the deluge of essay prompts. To prepare for secondary season, all students should pre-write medical school secondary essays. Regardless of how many schools you applied to. This practice is widespread, and there are numerous resources available to help you pre-write as efficiently as possible.

Look at a variety of databases of prior years’ essay prompts for medical schools across the US. Find those that are relevant to you. Medical School Headquarters and Prospective Doctor are two examples of excellent secondary essay prompt databases. Keep in mind that these are not official resources provided by medical schools themselves. These are not guaranteed to be 100% accurate, but they are crowdsourced from a large community of active medical school applicants and students, so the information is generally excellent.

One important tip is to look back at the last 2-3 years of prompts, not just the prior year. This is because you want to identify the prompts that have remained the same or very similar over the years; some prompts change year-to-year, whereas many others are kept the same because of their importance. Thus, you don’t want to waste time pre-writing a response to a prompt that is likely to change this year.

Prioritize the Medical School Secondary Essay Prompts That Are Consistent Across the Years

Prioritize the prompts that are consistent across the years. Better yet, if the prompt has remained exactly the same across multiple years, you can go beyond an outline or rough draft and feel confident in writing a final draft before you even receive the secondary application. However, for prompts that have changed but appear to ask related questions, consider limiting your pre-writing to an outline or general ideas to maintain efficiency without risking wasted time and effort.

Finally, consider the range of prompts you will receive from different schools. You want to think about creating outlines that can branch off into a variety of different topics. The classic “why our school?” question is a great example of this. Most schools will ask some variation of this question. Of course, your answer needs to be tailored to each individual program. However, there should be some fundamental commonalities because you probably evaluated each school using a common set of criteria. Class size, atmosphere, educational style, clinical opportunities, etc. You can start by outlining the criteria you used to assess each school. Then for each school highlight the criteria they excel in and leave out or rephrase those that they are weaker in. Using a common outline of a single essay type for multiple schools will also help you write multiple essays all with different character/word counts, due to the relative ease of adding content compared to cutting down.

Create a Medical School Secondary Essays Writing Schedule

Pre-writing is a necessary and highly effective strategy, but it is not sufficient on its own. Once the secondaries start pouring in, you may begin to feel increasingly pressured by the recommended two-week turnaround time (soft deadline). To combat this pressure, we recommend creating a writing schedule. Set aside dedicated writing time each day. Planning writing time is tricky because it can feel less necessary and harder to stick to than, say, setting aside two hours to complete a problem set. But the best way to complete writing assignments is to just sit down and write!

Based on the number of schools you applied to and information about how long schools typically take to send out their secondaries, create a rough estimate of how many applications you expect to receive each week. Overestimate this number so that you are over- rather than under-prepared. Then insert at least one writing block into your schedule every day. Even if you can only spare 30 minutes. You’ll be surprised at how much writing you can accomplish in a short time if you eliminate all other distractions and responsibilities.

At the same time, take full advantage of breaks between writing sessions. Writing can be very tiring. Downtime is beneficial for inspiration and creativity, both of which are essential for the style of writing you will be using in many of your secondaries. This will require a readjustment. Most of the writing for your AMCAS was rather dry, apart from your personal statement. A majority of your secondary essays will be more like your personal statement than your work and activities section.

You Are Not Obligated to Submit Every Secondary Application You Receive

If you submitted your AMCAS to 40 schools and realized that you won’t be able to handle that many secondary applications, remember that you can decide not to submit a secondary for any school. When submitting your AMCAS you should think carefully about what you can handle based on your writing style and efficiency, upcoming responsibilities, and available writing time. If you are concerned about the cost of applying to medical school, you should not submit your AMCAS to any school that you don’t fully expect to submit a secondary application to. However, it is also important not to give in to the sunken cost fallacy. Just because you submitted your AMCAS to 40 schools, it doesn’t mean you absolutely must submit all 40 secondaries otherwise you wasted your money. If you are genuinely worried that trying to write too many essays will lead to lower quality across the board, then pare down your list. Make sure that you are prioritizing quality over quantity. Think about the cost before you submit your AMCAS. But once you are into secondary season, focus on essay quality and turnaround time above all else.

Avoid These Common Medical School Secondary Essays Mistakes

Not answering the medical school secondary essay prompt.

This one is self-explanatory!

Answering the Prompt but Losing Focus or Meandering Throughout the Essay

Some people have the habit of writing in a stream-of-consciousness style. This can be a great way of genuinely expressing yourself but can create confusion or poor focus if not reviewed or edited properly. Similarly, some like to build up to their main point to enhance its impact. Secondary essays are not the place for this. You should make your point clear from the start and use the allotted space to expand on your answer and provide specific supporting examples or arguments.

Not Adhering to Character/Word Limits

You should not exceed hard limits under any circumstances. Many readers will not even pick up an essay that doesn’t follow the rules. Soft limits, however, are more flexible by design. The point is to express yourself as clearly as possible and using more room to do so is encouraged if the space is used valuably. Finally, trust that no limit means just that. As long as you are directly answering the prompt and providing accurate and interesting information, you can use as much space as you’d like. Just keep in mind that in these cases readers are assessing not only your answer but also your ability to write with precision, limit excess, and show respect and consideration for their time and attention.

Forgetting to Change the Structure or Specific Details of Pre-Written Essays

Pre-writing is a must-use strategy for secondaries, but it runs the risk of this important type of mistake. Whenever you are adapting an outline or draft for a new school, you should start by reading it from start to finish to identify themes, details, and program names that need to be changed. Admissions committee members know that students pre-write essays, but if they see a glaring mistake that indicates forgetfulness or lack of attention to detail, such as writing the wrong school’s name or referencing a different mission statement, they will ding you for it!

There you have it, 10 pieces of advice that will help you ace your medical school secondary essays and show your favorite schools just how unique and competitive you are. The AMCAS was the place to prove to programs that you are qualified to be a medical student. Now, the secondary application is the venue to reveal who you are as an individual, set yourself apart from the crowd, and explain why you are a good fit for each school on your list. Do your research on your schools and follow these writing tips to ensure success in this penultimate stage of the medical school application cycle. For help with essay editing , MCAT tutoring , and more, schedule your complimentary consultation with Elite Medical Prep today! Good luck and write well!

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So much is at stake in writing a conclusion. This is, after all, your last chance to persuade your readers to your point of view, to impress yourself upon them as a writer and thinker. And the impression you create in your conclusion will shape the impression that stays with your readers after they've finished the essay.

The end of an essay should therefore convey a sense of completeness and closure as well as a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications: the final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off.

To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:

  • Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning.
  • Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an effect of understated drama.
  • Conclude with a sentence that's compound or parallel in structure; such sentences can establish a sense of balance or order that may feel just right at the end of a complex discussion.

To close the discussion without closing it off, you might do one or more of the following:

  • Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective. A quotation from, say, the novel or poem you're writing about can add texture and specificity to your discussion; a critic or scholar can help confirm or complicate your final point. For example, you might conclude an essay on the idea of home in James Joyce's short story collection,  Dubliners , with information about Joyce's own complex feelings towards Dublin, his home. Or you might end with a biographer's statement about Joyce's attitude toward Dublin, which could illuminate his characters' responses to the city. Just be cautious, especially about using secondary material: make sure that you get the last word.
  • Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end an essay on nineteenth-century muckraking journalism by linking it to a current news magazine program like  60 Minutes .
  • Conclude by redefining one of the key terms of your argument. For example, an essay on Marx's treatment of the conflict between wage labor and capital might begin with Marx's claim that the "capitalist economy is . . . a gigantic enterprise of dehumanization "; the essay might end by suggesting that Marxist analysis is itself dehumanizing because it construes everything in economic -- rather than moral or ethical-- terms.
  • Conclude by considering the implications of your argument (or analysis or discussion). What does your argument imply, or involve, or suggest? For example, an essay on the novel  Ambiguous Adventure , by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane, might open with the idea that the protagonist's development suggests Kane's belief in the need to integrate Western materialism and Sufi spirituality in modern Senegal. The conclusion might make the new but related point that the novel on the whole suggests that such an integration is (or isn't) possible.

Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay:

  • Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas.
  • Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up." These phrases can be useful--even welcome--in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious.
  • Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay. As a result, by the time you've finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you've produced. (And if you haven't immersed yourself in your subject, you may be feeling even more doubtful about your essay as you approach the conclusion.) Repress those doubts. Don't undercut your authority by saying things like, "this is just one approach to the subject; there may be other, better approaches. . ."

Copyright 1998, Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

February 21, 2024

Why Writing by Hand Is Better for Memory and Learning

Engaging the fine motor system to produce letters by hand has positive effects on learning and memory

By Charlotte Hu

Student handwriting notes in class

FG Trade/Getty Images

Handwriting notes in class might seem like an anachronism as smartphones and other digital technology subsume every aspect of learning across schools and universities. But a steady stream of research continues to suggest that taking notes the traditional way—with pen and paper or even stylus and tablet—is still the best way to learn, especially for young children. And now scientists are finally zeroing in on why.

A recent study in Frontiers in Psychology monitored brain activity in students taking notes and found that those writing by hand had higher levels of electrical activity across a wide range of interconnected brain regions responsible for movement, vision, sensory processing and memory. The findings add to a growing body of evidence that has many experts speaking up about the importance of teaching children to handwrite words and draw pictures.

Differences in Brain Activity

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The new research, by Audrey van der Meer and Ruud van der Weel at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), builds on a foundational 2014 study . That work suggested that people taking notes by computer were typing without thinking, says van der Meer , a professor of neuropsychology at NTNU. “It’s very tempting to type down everything that the lecturer is saying,” she says. “It kind of goes in through your ears and comes out through your fingertips, but you don’t process the incoming information.” But when taking notes by hand, it’s often impossible to write everything down; students have to actively pay attention to the incoming information and process it—prioritize it, consolidate it and try to relate it to things they’ve learned before. This conscious action of building onto existing knowledge can make it easier to stay engaged and grasp new concepts .

To understand specific brain activity differences during the two note-taking approaches, the NTNU researchers tweaked the 2014 study’s basic setup. They sewed electrodes into a hairnet with 256 sensors that recorded the brain activity of 36 students as they wrote or typed 15 words from the game Pictionary that were displayed on a screen.

When students wrote the words by hand, the sensors picked up widespread connectivity across many brain regions. Typing, however, led to minimal activity, if any, in the same areas. Handwriting activated connection patterns spanning visual regions, regions that receive and process sensory information and the motor cortex. The latter handles body movement and sensorimotor integration, which helps the brain use environmental inputs to inform a person’s next action.

“When you are typing, the same simple movement of your fingers is involved in producing every letter, whereas when you’re writing by hand, you immediately feel that the bodily feeling of producing A is entirely different from producing a B,” van der Meer says. She notes that children who have learned to read and write by tapping on a digital tablet “often have difficulty distinguishing letters that look a lot like each other or that are mirror images of each other, like the b and the d.”

Reinforcing Memory and Learning Pathways

Sophia Vinci-Booher , an assistant professor of educational neuroscience at Vanderbilt University who was not involved in the new study, says its findings are exciting and consistent with past research. “You can see that in tasks that really lock the motor and sensory systems together, such as in handwriting, there’s this really clear tie between this motor action being accomplished and the visual and conceptual recognition being created,” she says. “As you’re drawing a letter or writing a word, you’re taking this perceptual understanding of something and using your motor system to create it.” That creation is then fed back into the visual system, where it’s processed again—strengthening the connection between an action and the images or words associated with it. It’s similar to imagining something and then creating it: when you materialize something from your imagination (by writing it, drawing it or building it), this reinforces the imagined concept and helps it stick in your memory.

The phenomenon of boosting memory by producing something tangible has been well studied. Previous research has found that when people are asked to write, draw or act out a word that they’re reading, they have to focus more on what they’re doing with the received information. Transferring verbal information to a different form, such as a written format, also involves activating motor programs in the brain to create a specific sequence of hand motions, explains Yadurshana Sivashankar , a cognitive neuroscience graduate student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario who studies movement and memory. But handwriting requires more of the brain’s motor programs than typing. “When you’re writing the word ‘the,’ the actual movements of the hand relate to the structures of the word to some extent,” says Sivashankar, who was not involved in the new study.

For example, participants in a 2021 study by Sivashankar memorized a list of action verbs more accurately if they performed the corresponding action than if they performed an unrelated action or none at all. “Drawing information and enacting information is helpful because you have to think about information and you have to produce something that’s meaningful,” she says. And by transforming the information, you pave and deepen these interconnections across the brain’s vast neural networks, making it “much easier to access that information.”

The Importance of Handwriting Lessons for Kids

Across many contexts, studies have shown that kids appear to learn better when they’re asked to produce letters or other visual items using their fingers and hands in a coordinated way—one that can’t be replicated by clicking a mouse or tapping buttons on a screen or keyboard. Vinci-Booher’s research has also found that the action of handwriting appears to engage different brain regions at different levels than other standard learning experiences, such as reading or observing. Her work has also shown that handwriting improves letter recognition in preschool children, and the effects of learning through writing “last longer than other learning experiences that might engage attention at a similar level,” Vinci-Booher says. Additionally, she thinks it’s possible that engaging the motor system is how children learn how to break “ mirror invariance ” (registering mirror images as identical) and begin to decipher things such as the difference between the lowercase b and p.

Vinci-Booher says the new study opens up bigger questions about the way we learn, such as how brain region connections change over time and when these connections are most important in learning. She and other experts say, however, that the new findings don’t mean technology is a disadvantage in the classroom. Laptops, smartphones and other such devices can be more efficient for writing essays or conducting research and can offer more equitable access to educational resources. Problems occur when people rely on technology too much , Sivashankar says. People are increasingly delegating thought processes to digital devices, an act called “ cognitive offloading ”—using smartphones to remember tasks, taking a photo instead of memorizing information or depending on a GPS to navigate. “It’s helpful, but we think the constant offloading means it’s less work for the brain,” Sivashankar says. “If we’re not actively using these areas, then they are going to deteriorate over time, whether it’s memory or motor skills.”

Van der Meer says some officials in Norway are inching toward implementing completely digital schools . She claims first grade teachers there have told her their incoming students barely know how to hold a pencil now—which suggests they weren’t coloring pictures or assembling puzzles in nursery school. Van der Meer says they’re missing out on opportunities that can help stimulate their growing brains.

“I think there’s a very strong case for engaging children in drawing and handwriting activities, especially in preschool and kindergarten when they’re first learning about letters,” Vinci-Booher says. “There’s something about engaging the fine motor system and production activities that really impacts learning.”

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Guest Essay

The Most Important Writing Exercise I’ve Ever Assigned

An illustration of several houses. One person walks away from a house with a second person isolated in a window.

By Rachel Kadish

Ms. Kadish is the author of the novel “The Weight of Ink.”

“Write down a phrase you find abhorrent — something you yourself would never say.”

My students looked startled, but they cooperated. They knew I wouldn’t collect this exercise; what they wrote would be private unless they chose to share it. All that was required of them was participation.

In silence they jotted down a few words. So far, so good. We hadn’t yet reached the hard request: Spend 10 minutes writing a monologue in the first person that’s spoken by a fictitious character who makes the upsetting statement. This portion typically elicits nervous glances. When that happens, I remind students that their statement doesn’t represent them and that speaking as if they’re someone else is a basic skill of fiction writers. The troubling statement, I explain, must appear in the monologue, and it shouldn’t be minimized, nor should students feel the need to forgive or account for it. What’s required is simply that somewhere in the monologue there be an instant — even a fleeting phrase — in which we can feel empathy for the speaker. Perhaps she’s sick with worry over an ill grandchild. Perhaps he’s haunted by a love he let slip away. Perhaps she’s sleepless over how to keep her business afloat and her employees paid. Done right, the exercise delivers a one-two punch: repugnance for a behavior or worldview coupled with recognition of shared humanity.

For more than two decades, I’ve taught versions of this fiction-writing exercise. I’ve used it in universities, middle schools and private workshops, with 7-year-olds and 70-year-olds. But in recent years openness to this exercise and to the imaginative leap it’s designed to teach has shrunk to a pinprick. As our country’s public conversation has gotten angrier, I’ve noticed that students’ approach to the exercise has become more brittle, regardless of whether students lean right or left.

Each semester, I wonder whether the aperture through which we allow empathy has so drastically narrowed as to foreclose a full view of our fellow human beings. Maybe there are times so contentious or so painful that people simply withdraw to their own silos. I’ve certainly felt that inward pull myself. There are times when a leap into someone else’s perspective feels impossible.

But leaping is the job of the writer, and there’s no point it doing it halfway. Good fiction pulls off a magic trick of absurd power: It makes us care. Responding to the travails of invented characters — Ahab or Amaranta, Sethe or Stevens, Zooey or Zorba — we might tear up or laugh, or our hearts might pound. As readers, we become invested in these people, which is very different from agreeing with or even liking them. In the best literature, characters are so vivid, complicated, contradictory and even maddening that we’ll follow them far from our preconceptions; sometimes we don’t return.

Unflinching empathy, which is the muscle the lesson is designed to exercise, is a prerequisite for literature strong enough to wrestle with the real world. On the page it allows us to spot signs of humanity; off the page it can teach us to start a conversation with the strangest of strangers, to thrive alongside difference. It can even affect those life-or-death choices we make instinctively in a crisis. This kind of empathy has nothing to do with being nice, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

Even within the safety of the page, it’s tempting to dodge empathy’s challenge, instead demonizing villains and idealizing heroes, but that’s when the needle on art’s moral compass goes inert. Then we’re navigating blind: confident that we know what the bad people look like and that they’re not us — and therefore we’re at no risk of error.

Our best writers, in contrast, portray humans in their full complexity. This is what Gish Jen is doing in the short story “Who’s Irish?” and Rohinton Mistry in the novel “A Fine Balance.” Line by line, these writers illuminate the inner worlds of characters who cause harm — which is not the same as forgiving them. No one would ever say that Toni Morrison forgives the character Cholly Breedlove, who rapes his daughter in “The Bluest Eye.” What Ms. Morrison accomplishes instead is the boldest act of moral and emotional understanding I’ve ever seen on the page.

In the classroom exercise, the upsetting phrases my students scribble might be personal (“You’ll never be a writer,” “You’re ugly”) or religious or political. Once a student wrote a phrase condemning abortion as another student across the table wrote a phrase defending it. Sometimes there are stereotypes, slurs — whatever the students choose to grapple with. Of course, it’s disturbing to step into the shoes of someone whose words or deeds repel us. Writing these monologues, my graduate students, who know what “first person” means, will dodge and write in third, with the distanced “he said” instead of “I said.”

But if they can withstand the challenges of first person, sometimes something happens. They emerge shaken and eager to expand on what they’ve written. I look up from tidying my notes to discover students lingering after dismissal with that alert expression that says the exercise made them feel something they needed to feel.

Over the years, as my students’ statements became more political and as jargon (“deplorables,” “snowflakes”) supplanted the language of personal experience, I adapted the exercise. Worrying that I’d been too sanguine about possible pitfalls, I made it entirely silent, so no student would have to hear another’s troubling statement or fear being judged for their own. Any students who wanted to share their monologues with me could stay after class rather than read to the group. Later, I added another caveat: If your troubling statement is so offensive, you can’t imagine the person who says it as a full human being, choose something less troubling. Next, I narrowed the parameters: No politics. The pandemic’s virtual classes made risk taking harder; I moved the exercise deeper into the semester so students would feel more at ease.

After one session, a student stayed behind in the virtual meeting room. She’d failed to include empathy in her monologue about a character whose politics she abhorred. Her omission bothered her. I was impressed by her honesty. She’d constructed a caricature and recognized it. Most of us don’t.

For years, I’ve quietly completed the exercise alongside my students. Some days nothing sparks. When it goes well, though, the experience is disquieting. The hard part, it turns out, isn’t the empathy itself but what follows: the annihilating notion that people whose fears or joys or humor I appreciate may themselves be indifferent to all my cherished conceptions of the world.

Then the 10-minute timer sounds, and I haul myself back to the business of the classroom — shaken by the vastness of the world but more curious about the people in it. I put my trust in that curiosity. What better choice does any of us have? And in the sanctuary of my classroom I keep trying, handing along what literature handed me: the small, sturdy magic trick any of us can work, as long as we’re willing to risk it.

Rachel Kadish is the author of the novel “The Weight of Ink.”

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Why elementary school teachers should consider doing report cards a little bit differently..

It’s time to change the way we write report cards to young students, as early as kindergarten. Instead of writing about them, we educators should write to them.

Businesses have learned that performance reviews are most effective when  written in the second person rather than the third person—to you rather than about you. This is a seemingly small linguistic shift. Ozlum Ayduk and Ethan Kross, professors of psychology, found that in the context of self-talk, it’s powerful to use someone’s name. But this understanding has not yet trickled down to report cards, our earliest forms of assessment and feedback.

Let’s imagine a second grader who just completed their first term at a new school. The teacher writes in the report card, “Bonnie is distracted and drawn to talking with friends frequently during math class.” Another section reads, “Bonnie calls out frequently during read-alouds, and while I appreciate her ideas, raising a quiet hand is the expectation in class.”

Perhaps these excerpts remind you of your own childhood report cards? They reminded me of my own. This language, which I modeled after countless elementary report card narratives, is ineffective and unconstructive.

Here is what second-grade Bonnie’s feedback could sound like: “Bonnie, I notice that you are eager to talk with friends during math class, and I am worried that you miss a lot of our lessons. I am wondering how we can assure you focus. We tried a new seating arrangement, but I’d like you to work with me on additional solutions.”

In this example, the teacher has respectfully addressed the student directly. The teacher empathizes and acknowledges efforts already made, and includes the student in finding solutions. While certainly not foolproof, this strategy, which honors the child’s perspective and role in their own learning, is sure to land differently with both student and guardian.

Researchers in the field argue that feedback to students from teachers is crucial to motivation and learning. But that feedback, when written exclusively in the third person, soars past students to guardians.

As a former elementary school teacher, I turned to my community for their perspective on the matter. Most shared that they had never heard of reports being written to students, rather than about them. Those who have seen a second-person model of feedback teach secondary grades (sixth grade and higher), and two of those teachers said they ask students to self-assess and collaborate on their scores.

All but one of the elementary (K–5) teachers I surveyed said their reports were written in the third person.

A teacher-authored article titled “Why I Don’t Let My Kids Read Their Report Cards” from the website Today’s Parent shares the opposing point of view: “I spend a lot of time writing report cards to give families a clear picture of how their child is progressing. But those comments are written for parents. Younger kids won’t fully understand what the comments mean and will often stop at the letter grades—which means they miss out on the important context of how that grade was achieved.”

While it’s true that for many teachers, the report card comments are written for guardians—that’s what schools mandate—it baffles me that we don’t interrogate this process. If it’s context that’s lacking, let’s give students the context. Let’s construct our feedback for them, in addition to their guardians. With sufficient professional development and feedback on language, this shift could improve student motivation and concepts of self-growth.

Asked about the idea of second-person report card narratives, Dr. Rebecca Silverman, an associate professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and a mother of three, said, “Even young children appreciate when teachers acknowledge their growth, especially when they put in a lot of effort to learn something new or be able to do something that was initially hard for them.”

It’s true that families still need to hear from teachers about their children’s progress via report cards. But their young age shouldn’t exclude children from hearing directly from their teachers as well. Dr. Meryl Lipton, a behavioral pediatric neurologist, commented, “Students as young as kindergartners would benefit from refocusing the audience of report cards. This creates important opportunities for self-growth and furthers communication between student and teacher.” If report cards are our earliest performance reviews, then let’s shift our perspective to include students in their own feedback.

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HIst 301: Historian's Craft (Petty, Spring 2024)

  • What IS a History Librarian?
  • In This Session (2/22/24)
  • The Problem with Primary Sources
  • Quick Refresher on Library Services & Resources
  • Finding Reviews
  • Finding Encyclopedias
  • Historical Statistics
  • What is peer review?
  • Types of Sources
  • What is a "Good" secondary source?
  • Boolean: AND OR NOT
  • Worldcat: Accessing books we don't own
  • Finding Books via Reviews
  • How to order articles we don't own?
  • Secondary Source: Writing out your topics
  • Analyzing, Summarizing, and Critiquing an Article
  • Analyzing, Summarizing, and Critiquing a Book
  • Periodical Articles
  • Published Diaries
  • Unpublished Diaries
  • Published letters
  • Unpublished Letters
  • Legislation
  • Artwork or photography
  • Published Books as Primary Sources
  • Why So Many Databases?
  • Using the Catalog to find Primary Sources
  • Using WorldCat to find Primary Sources
  • Microfilm and You
  • Using Indexes to find Primary Sources
  • Primary Sources: Where to start?
  • Stuck or need help? No problem!

Steps when looking for peer reviewed sources

1) Write out your topic

2) Identify key words

3) Identify synonyms

4) write out the search using Boolean

5) After your first search, revise terms

  • Colonial WIlliamsburg
  • AHL  or EBSCO  or main catalog
  • medieval 
  • early modern
  • Historical Abs . or ebsco or catalog
  • triangle shirtwaist fire
  • protections
  • ahl  ; ebsco ; catalog
  • ahl  ; AHL search for (gender AND education AND women) AND teachers; ERIC  ; 
  • Catalog for subject  Women educators -- United States
  • "country music" 
  • AHL  ; ebsco ; catalog
  • AHL  ; search for just Barnum in AHL  ; all ebsco  ; catalog  ; catalog
  • organized labor
  • "organized labor" AND baltimore AND ("rail yard" OR "railway yard" OR "railroad yard")
  • "organized labor" AND baltimore AND (longshoremen OR "longshore workers" OR "Dockworkers")
  • ("organized labor" OR  unions) AND (longshoremen OR "longshore workers" OR "Dockworkers"
  • Episcopal church
  • AHL  ; catalog  ; WORLDCAT
  • there are materials in googlescholar BUT almost none are peer reviewed
  • bootlegging
  • ahl ; Catalog
  • small dairy farms
  • corporate farms
  • AHL  ; catalog  (Scroll down) ; worldcat
  • "logging camps"
  • midwest 
  • ahl  ; catalog ; worldcat
  • pit orchestra musicians
  • see  su:Orchestral musicians Employment
  • public works projects
  • great depression
  • AHL ; all ebsco ; worldcat
  • ahl  ; ebsco ; catalog  , worldcat
  • labor disputes
  • National basketball association
  • players union
  • ebsco  ; catalog 
  • "National basketball association" in AHL
  • Histories of the NBA in worldcat  (use Good worldcat to narrow to university press books)
  • wobblies or  Industrial Workers of the World
  • Syndicalism
  • use time period filter in AHL 1900-1920
  • west coast (will need to focus on a state or city)
  • railways or railroads
  • catalog  and worldcat
  • playstation
  • playstation in AHL
  • "Video games" OR "Video game consoles"
  • EBSCO  playstation and (success* OR sales)
  • worldcat  for playstation AND history
  • "industrial revolution"
  • "Industrial revolution" AND women AND (work OR labor OR employment OR jobs) in AHL  and Catalog
  • ghost towns
  • "ghost towns" in ahl 
  • "ghost towns" AND (labor* OR industry) in ahl
  • "ghost towns" AND "united states" in catalog  and worldcat (Scroll for univ press books)
  • depopulation AND (labor OR industry) and "united states" in catalog
  • child labor
  • "child labor" AND (factor* OR industr*) AND ("labor laws" OR "legal protections") AND "united states" in catalog
  • "child labor" AND ("labor laws" OR "legal protections") AND "united states" AND history in catalog
  • Child labor -- Law and legislation -- United States -- History in catalog
  • "Child labor" AND "United States" AND "History" AND "19th" in worldcat
  • Delano Grape Strike
  • manongs or  Filipino
  • ( " Delano Grape Strike" OR " Delano Strike") in AHL  and catalog
  • ("Delano Grape Strike" OR "Delano Strike") AND (manong* OR Filipino*) in ebsco  and catalog  and worldcat
  • << Previous: How to order articles we don't own?
  • Next: Annotated Bibliographies >>
  • Last Updated: Feb 22, 2024 2:10 AM
  • URL: https://guides.libraries.wm.edu/HIST301spring2024


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  1. Medical School Secondary Essays: The Complete Guide 2024 (Examples

    While secondary essay prompts vary in length and topic, there are two pieces of good news: Secondary essays are typically shorter than your personal statement. Some topics come up over and over and over again. You can use this second fact to your advantage by recycling certain "core essays" with a few modifications for multiple schools.

  2. Secondary Essay Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

    Pre-write your secondary essays so when schools send requests to you, you are prepared to send them right back. Click To Tweet If you're asking how to pre-write your essays when the schools haven't sent them to you yet, the good news is most schools don't change their essays from year to year.

  3. 10 Tips for Writing Secondaries : r/premed

    7) Make a spreadsheet. Chances are, you'll be receiving many secondaries around the same time period. To ensure you don't overlook deadlines, create a spreadsheet to keep track of which schools you're still waiting to hear back from, the date you received your secondaries, and any hard deadlines for secondaries.

  4. 4 Tips for Writing Successful Secondary Essays

    Successful Secondary Essay Tip #2: Read the question very carefully. Be sure that your answers, whether recycled or new, respond to the questions asked. Don't try to push your own agenda. Don't recycle essays that don't fit the question. There may be points you want to make and experiences or aspects of your record you want to emphasize ...

  5. How to Write Succinct Secondary Essays

    2. Do some pre-writing. Organizing your thoughts can help you stay on target, and also help you think of experiences you want to share in other essays. Don't worry about the character count in this step. You'll be able to work on that later on. 3. Once you have a first draft, revise, revise, revise.

  6. Medical School Secondary Essay Examples

    prompt: TIP #1. Focus on using your narrative to illustrate personal experiences or character traits that demonstrate how you will be a good fit for the culture of the school. TIP #2. Highlight any common values and passions. TIP #3. Highlight any personal connections to the school.

  7. Using Secondary Sources in an English Essay

    Finding good secondary sources is, of course, only a first step. The second step is to use them properly. Tips on Using Secondary Sources. Use what the critics have to say to support your own thesis. That is why it is so important to follow good essay writing procedures and think things through as much as possible on your own first.

  8. Applying to Medical School: Secondary Essays

    July 1, 2020 · In: Application Advice, Pre-Med. Secondary Essays are sadly a necessary evil for applying to medical school. In the 2020 - 2021 application cycle, I was able to submit 28 secondary applications! That's compared to being overwhelmed by just 4 of them in 2017.

  9. Secondary Essays: How to Stand Out from the Crowd

    Applying for medical school comes in stages, and secondary essays are an important part of the application process. If you are beginning your essays, take a look at this advice from Clara, a first-year medical student at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, on what to expect and how to write engaging, interesting essays that will make you stand out from the crowd . . .

  10. The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay

    The essay writing process consists of three main stages: Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline. Writing: Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion. Revision: Check your essay on the content, organization, grammar, spelling ...

  11. How To Create Impressive Medical School Secondary Essays

    Best Format to Follow When Writing Your Medical School Secondary Essays. When writing your secondaries, here is a suggested guideline: Answer the prompt. Outline your response. Use concrete examples. Relate examples to your theme. Adhere to word or character counts. Reflect on your experiences.

  12. A Successful Low-Stat Applicant's Guide to Writing Killer Secondary

    If a particular phrase/sentence feels really great to you, you can use that for all of them -just make sure you're thoroughly researching your schools and using secondary essays as a way to 1) answer the question and 2) show that you know what the school is about and you'd be a good fit. I found that rewriting each from scratch and using the ...

  13. 5 Tips for Medical School Secondary Applications

    Check out our top strategies for writing your secondary essays and relieve some med school application stress. 1. Answer the Question Being Asked. Unlike primary applications, secondary applications ask specific questions about your goals, experiences, and your personal views on a range of topics, including your decision to go to medical school ...

  14. Tips for Writing Successful Medical School Secondary Essay

    Complete the secondaries from the schools you are most interested in attending and/or have the greatest chance of being offered an interview first. 3. Be thorough and do not rush. The essays in your secondary application are as important as your personal essay, and in some cases, more important. Do not rush through them. 4. Research each school.

  15. The Art of Writing Medical School Secondaries

    Most schools change their secondary essay prompts from year to year. However, there is some good news: despite these ever-changing topics, secondary essays tend to fall into about 12 general categories. Thus, it is possible, with some creative editing, to recycle certain "core essays" by making effective modifications.

  16. Everything You Need to Know About a Secondary Application for Medical

    Writing secondary essays can be time-consuming and tedious, but here are two small pieces of good news: Secondary essays are usually shorter than your personal statement. Some of the topics you have to work on have come up repeatedly during the previous rounds of invites, so there are numerous free sources to help you write your essays ...

  17. 4 Tips for Getting Started on Your Secondary Essays for Med School

    In the last few videos, we've talked about med school secondary essays and the secondary application to med school. Today, we're going to dive into how to st...

  18. How to Answer Common Essay Prompts on Medical School Secondary

    Secondary applications typically comprise a cluster of essays, each allowing you to showcase your unique persona. If written well, they can unveil your motivations, life journey and alignment with ...

  19. How to Ace "Why This Medical School?" Secondary Essay

    In general, most secondary essays require anywhere from 250-1000 words. This is a broad range, and that is why it's crucial to follow the instructions set out by each institution carefully! Your essay should have a clear introduction, a few body paragraphs explaining why you're interested in attending this particular school, and a ...

  20. Harvard Medical School Secondary Essay Examples

    Learning by observation is one of the most effective ways to study, so reading Harvard Medical School secondary essay examples in 2024 will sharpen your application, and let you write your own essays with confidence. Essay writing is a difficult skill to master, so start by reading up on how to write a college essay. Understanding acquired ...

  21. Everything You Need to Know About Medical School Secondary Essays

    A helpful rule-of-thumb to follow for medical school secondary essays is to return your responses within two weeks of the date you received them. The two-week turnaround time is long enough to carefully write and edit your essay, but short enough to show your enthusiasm for the school. While two weeks is ideal, if you're drowning under a lot ...

  22. How to Ace Medical School Secondary Essays

    Create a Medical School Secondary Essays Writing Schedule. Pre-writing is a necessary and highly effective strategy, but it is not sufficient on its own. Once the secondaries start pouring in, you may begin to feel increasingly pressured by the recommended two-week turnaround time (soft deadline).

  23. Good Examples of Secondary Essays for Medical School

    Secondary essay prompts are different in terms of topic and length, but here is good news: they are normally shorter than standard personal statements. Some of the topics are being repeated. It means that you can pre-write essays on recurring topics. With the examples of secondary essays for medical school, this task will become much easier.

  24. Ending the Essay: Conclusions

    But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious. Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay.

  25. Why Writing by Hand Is Better for Memory and Learning

    "When you're writing the word 'the,' the actual movements of the hand relate to the structures of the word to some extent," says Sivashankar, who was not involved in the new study.

  26. Opinion

    So far, so good. We hadn't yet reached the hard request: Spend 10 minutes writing a monologue in the first person that's spoken by a fictitious character who makes the upsetting statement ...

  27. Teacher feedback in elementary school: Why some business-world

    All but one of the elementary (K-5) teachers I surveyed said their reports were written in the third person. A teacher-authored article titled "Why I Don't Let My Kids Read Their Report ...

  28. Secondary Source: Writing out your topics

    Histories of the NBA in worldcat (use Good worldcat to narrow to university press books) The wobblies and the syndicalist movement in America, centered around the early 1910s. wobblies or Industrial Workers of the World; Syndicalism; 1910s ("Industrial Workers of the World" OR wobblies) AND (syndicalis*) use time period filter in AHL 1900-1920 ...