The medical school application process covers a lot of ground. You spend time perfecting your MCAT performance, selecting your top schools, gathering letters of recommendation, and then completing your primary applications.
Primary medical application materials are typically submitted using the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). This is the centralized medical application processing service that allows you to apply to a range of different Doctor of Medicine (MD) programs in one place.
The hard work isn’t finished once you hit ‘submit’ on the AMCAS platform, however. Often, there is a secondary application medical schools will send students directly on an individual basis — commonly referred to as “secondaries.”
So what are medical school secondaries? Learn more about this supplementary phase of your med school applications.
Secondary applications for medical school: What to expect
The goal of med school secondaries is to assess whether a candidate will be a good fit for a particular school’s vision and goals. For most MD programs, all applicants will receive secondary applications. The length and format of these will vary—some consist of a handful of yes/no questions while others ask for multiple full-length essays.
Regardless of format, admissions teams use medical school secondaries to get a more holistic feel for the applicants. Many schools look for candidates who demonstrate skills and knowledge that align with important physician competencies, including things like strong teamwork and social skills, ethical responsibility, adaptability, service orientation, and quantitative reasoning abilities.
In addition to demonstrating your capabilities, this is also your opportunity to explain why you’re interested in that particular MD program. Admissions teams are looking to learn how your goals and experiences align with their mission and vision. How might you be able to contribute to the medical community within that institution?
The specific criteria being evaluated will vary based on each medical school’s priorities. The School of Medicine at St. George’s University (SGU), for example, looks for candidates who demonstrate strong academic achievement or potential. But the institution also seeks the following strengths and attributes in qualified applicants:
- Empathy and compassion
- Demonstrated interest in the profession of medicine
- Ability to learn from mistakes or failures
- Critical thinking and problem-solving abilities
- Strong communication skills and the ability to work in a team
- Resilience and adaptability
- Sense of community responsibility
- Curiosity and dedication to lifelong learning
- Sensitivity and openness to diversity
Finally, it’s worth noting that secondary applications for medical school will come with their own deadlines and, in most cases, additional fees. The fees can vary widely—anywhere between $30 and $250.
Conquer your med school secondaries
There’s a lot riding on your acceptance to med school. And with so many different elements included in the application process, it can be difficult to keep everything straight.
Now that you know a bit more about what you can expect from medical school secondaries, it’s time to make a detailed plan for your applications at large. Learn more about what you should expect each step of the way by visiting our article “Planning Your Medical School Application Timeline: The Pre-Med Student’s Guide.”