Admissions to medical school requires both a primary and secondary application. The secondary application is an essay in in which you share more information about yourself and your professional motivations. The essay plays an important role in the admissions process and is the basis for whether you get an interview. Although a secondary application is a personal statement and should reflect your character, some general guidelines help to best structure the essay.
Identify the audience. A secondary essay is read by an admissions team generally consisting of staff, faculty, students and doctors. The Student Doctor Network, a nonprofit organization, advises that admissions teams typically spend only three to 10 minutes reading an essay. Therefore, succinct and compelling writing is important. Additionally, take note of the particular strengths and focus of the medical school, and tailor the content accordingly.
Craft an introduction. The opening of the secondary essay serves as an invitation to draw the reader into the material. Your opening statement can use a variety of literary mechanisms, such as a question or description of an action, to grab the readers' interest. Irrespective of the approach, an ideal introduction conveys a personal anecdote that effectively captures an aspect of your personality or experience as it relates to professional ambitions in medicine.
Describe motivations for wanting become a doctor. Using clear and focused language, explain the reasons for wanting to enter medical school. Remember that it is more effective to show rather than tell. For example, instead of writing, "I've always wanted to practice medicine," describe personal instances that reinforced ambitions to pursue work in the field. This component of the essay is also an ideal place to mention goals for future work in medicine, as well as interests in areas of specialization.
Call attention to unique qualities. Because a secondary essay functions as a personal advertisement, it should highlight characteristics, talents and experiences that set you apart. Draw attention to particular skills, such as language ability, or activities, such as volunteer work or substantial international experience. Emphasize a balance between personal strengths of character, such as sympathy and generosity, and professional attributes like sound judgment and respect for diversity.
Detail qualifications and formal training. The secondary essay should reference your educational background and academic experiences, such as significant research, lab assistant positions and courses of study related to health and medicine. If applicable, you should also discuss work experience and relevant skills gained from professional opportunities.
Edit the essay. The last, but arguably most important step in writing a secondary application, is to review the material for grammatical accuracy and stylistic clarity. Make sure that the prose is focused and compelling, and that the essay conveys the central points of motivations, personal strengths and qualifications. Also, edit the essay to remove any redundancies, as these weigh down the pace of the statement and can distract readers.
- Take your time. A secondary application essay requires careful thought and consideration. Leave yourself enough time when preparing your application materials.
Helen Anderson has been writing and editing professionally since 2007. Her work has appeared in scholarly and popular publications, such as "Foreign Affairs" and "The New York Times." Anderson holds a master's degree in public health from Columbia University, where she is currently completing a Ph.D.