Secondary Applications: What To Expect


March 16, 2020

After you have successfully submitted your Primary Application, you have to complete your secondary applications which are then followed by an in person Interview. While primary applications are standard across all medical colleges, secondary applications are school-specific, meaning that the school’s specific admission board is directly involved in designing these questions. Some schools don’t even screen or read primary application in entirety and immediately request a secondary application.

Secondary Applications

Thus, secondary applications are as important and crucial as primary applications in deciding your fate as a pre-med student. Patience, organization and planning ahead are important for handling secondary applications without panicking.

Secondary Applications are one of the hardest parts of your admission process to a medical school. They are comprehensive, demand detailed introspective answers, and can be quite exhausting, so much so that you might think about giving up altogether. There is no room for procrastination when it comes to secondary applications.

While secondary application questions tend to be different for each school, some basics remain more and less the same. Here is a list of things you need to keep in mind:


  1. Be Clear: You will be sending secondary applications to a lot of schools but not necessarily to all the schools you applied to. It is also possible that you will not receive a secondary application from some of the schools you applied to. It is very important to know which schools are your favourites and proceed with those first, while submitting your least favorite ones last. To help you out, we recommend keeping an Excel spreadsheet with all of your schools ready and organized.
  2. Application Fees and Expenditures: Secondary applications are expensive. They range anywhere between $60-120 per school. Therefore, you have to choose wisely and ponder whether you would truly attend the school you are applying to. If you want fee assistance, make sure that you check out fee assistance and fees waiver options available on the AMCAS portal. Application Fees and Expenditures
    1. Keep a tab on your inbox: Unlike primary applications, secondary applications have to be filled separately for each medical school. Some medical schools tend to send over requests for secondary applications as soon as you fill your primary application. All communication between the medical school and the candidate happens over emails, so check it frequently. Here, there are no fixed dates. Your pre-med buddy may get a request before or after you. Therefore, don’t rely on others and check your emails thoroughly including spam folder. We also recommend to create a separate folder in your inbox for all medical school communication, so that it’s easier to access different links and portals.
  3. Time is a luxury you cannot afford: Utilize TimeAs said above, secondary applications have to be filled separately. It is not easy to manage multiple applications at the same time, especially when they have very little in common. If you are not organized or procrastinate you will likely submit them late. When the time for filling and sending secondary applications kicks in, you better leave everything and devote your energy and waking hours solely to completing your applications and sending them over as soon as possible. Most medical schools review applications and send interview invites in the order the applications were received. This means that the first ones to submit their secondary application will be reviewed first and have a higher chance of being called for the interview before all spots are filled up. Also, you will receive your secondary application sooner if you fill your primary application sooner. So make sure that you don’t delay your primary application.
    1. Get a Proof-reader: While secondary application formats may vary, they often consist of one to four essays about different topics. All of them are judged separately and together make up your application. Needless to say, you cannot write, read, edit and correct everything on your own. You need a helping hand. Call upon your siblings, friends and parents to help you proof-read you essays or find a mentor on Paived. This will save a lot of time and make your efforts worthwhile.
    2. Keep a tab on due-dates: Since you will be managing numerous secondary applications, it is highly advisable to make your own chart or calendar of due-dates. After all the hard-work and running around, you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity of admission just because you forgot or miscalculated the due date.
      1. Consistency with Primary Application: Secondary application formAs part of your secondary application, you are required to answer multiple questions in essay form or three-liner form. These questions relate to various experiences and lessons you learnt as a pre-med, and also during your work activities such as volunteering or shadowing. Your secondary application answers are more detailed and specific than your primary application. However, both your primary and secondary application are cross-referenced and cross-checked with each other. Any discrepancy reflects badly on the accuracy of your facts and information. If you are dishonest, it can be easily caught by the admission committee. Therefore, make sure that the facts on your secondary application match with your primary application.

Your Guide plays a crucial role: Primary Application V/s Secondary Application: Contents and Requirements

  1. Purpose: While the primary applications is about you, your experiences and interest in medicine, secondary applications are generally about what you can offer to that medical school in particular that fits their mission, vision and goals. Each medical school has a different focus, values, and offers different opportunities. Secondary applications also separate chaff from wheat in the sense that all non-serious candidates are terminated at the primary application stage and therefore the competition gets tougher at the secondary application level.
  2. Essays: student essaysWhile the primary application asks students to simply write an essay about themselves, leaving a lot of freedom to the writer, secondary applications require precise and more detailed answers. Here, you have less autonomy and instead of  choosing to talk about your favourite experiences you will have to pick the most fitting. We have compiled a list of secondary application questions that covers more or less all the possible scenarios and will help you to start thinking about your answers. The best idea is to start drafting these in advance so that they are ready to submit once you receive your secondary application.
  3. Video and  CASPer Test submissions: Some medical schools require you to send in video submissions instead or in addition to essays. Video submissions are similar to essay submissions but you give answers live, instead of writing them beforehand. Some schools give you a week to prepare your answers and some require you to answer spontaneously. Either way, make sure that you are decently dressed or standing in a quiet place when you answer. Keep a tab on the timing, which is usually only 30 seconds to 2 minutes per answer. Practice with your mentor, or with your parents to improve your impromptu skills.
  4. It is also possible that your school will require CASPer scores. The CASPer test is a simple common sense based test that requires you to choose the best-case scenario answers. These are done online with live monitoring so that chances of cheating are eliminated. Make sure that you read the instructions carefully before attempting such a test. Take it as soon as possible and sign-up for a test date in advance.
    1. Pre-requisites and general Information: This is somewhat similar to what you fill in your primary application but it is mandatory to be filled again if asked in the secondary applications.
    2. What lessons did you learn from your experiences? Believe it or not secondary applications are a way of determining if you are a genuine applicant or not. Thus, most of the secondary application questions are actually the same in the sense that they help the admission committee determine if you are the right fit for a career in medicine and healthcare. Thus, it is highly recommended that you talk to your pre-med counsellor or Mentor before filling your secondary applications to determine which of your experiences as a pre-med are stronger and more applicable than others.

Remember, don’t wait to submit your secondary applications! Try to have the quickest turnaround time possible without sacrificing the quality of your answers.

Spread the words

Subscribe Us

Get all the updates from MCAT and realted topics.

Subscribe Now

Ready to get started?

Join thousands of students and become a part of the Paived community