Every year medical schools send out predictable secondary application essay prompts like, “Why this school?” and “Describe a difficult ethical situation you encountered.” Those are the age-old essays prompts that premeds have been responding to for years, and a quick search online will turn up lots of different writing tips and essays samples that will make those essays fairly easy to write.
But medical schools like to send you some tricky secondaries too, essays you don’t expect. They can catch you off guard and delay your application if you don’t know a good way to answer the question.
The 3 Medical School Secondary Application Essays You Don’t Expect
The “Autobiographical” Essay
“Tell us about your life up to this point.” This one is unexpected because not many people think medical schools want to hear their life story — without guidelines or suggestions.
Do medical schools really want to read your entire life story from birth until now? Do they want to hear that you were the 5th grade class president and a standout middle school student? And should you tell your life story through a medical lens?
Here’s how to go at this one: This isn’t a trick question. All you have to do is tell a simple story about your family history. Where did you grow up? Who did you live with? Did you have a religious upbringing? Were you involved with a cultural community? Who was a major influence on you?
This is one essay that doesn’t need a medical angle. Simply talk about the people and experiences that were important to you.
The “Biggest personal hardship as a physician” Essay
This essay asks you to reflect on a future that hasn’t yet happened: “What will be your biggest personal hardship as a physician?”
You’re not a doctor yet, so how can you know what your hardships will be? You have to use your imagination but don’t create an unrealistic or contrived situation.
A good answer: “My biggest hardship will be balancing work and family.” This is a universal problem among doctors that will very realistically be a hardship for you in the future.
Another good answer: “Grappling with insurance companies will be my biggest hardship.” All doctors experience the hardship of dealing with stubborn insurance companies and hospital bureaucracies, so this is a good topic to touch on.
The “Is there anything else we should know?” Essay
This prompt is usually followed by “Leave blank if not applicable.” The problem here is that you’ve already said everything you want to say, but now you feel obligated to write an answer simply because they’re asking.
This is your one opportunity to discuss a low GPA or low MCAT score. Other than that, there aren’t any other good responses to this prompt that haven’t already been covered in other essays.
Pre-Writing Your Secondaries is the Best Way to Finish Secondaries Quickly
Some secondary essay prompts will come way out of left field, but the majority of them predictably follow along with 10 secondary “master prompts” that medical schools have been using for years.
Once you know the 10 “master prompts” you can pre-write your essays before you ever even receive secondaries, then tweak each essay for individual schools. The pre-write approach saves you so much time that you can submit your secondaries within 24-48 hours of receiving them.
Learn about the 10 secondary “master prompts” in my online secondary course. The course teaches you the prompts and gives you the best way to respond to each one.