Secondary Tips Part 2

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“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

― Mark Twain

I’m sure Mark Twain would of been great at Twitter. If you’ve used the social network platform Twitter, then you’re probably already grown accustomed to distilling your several page treatise on why “Slovenian desserts are the best” into a succinct 140 character tweet. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “These youngsters are hacking up the beautiful English language with their Tweets, texts, memes, and…and stay off my lawn!”, but we have to get past that. It’s a lot easier to ramble, I’m sure if you gave a blindfolded drunkard both enough darts and time they’d hit the bulls-eye eventually; though, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere in the vicinity. And really, that’s what makes tweets and secondary essays similar: you need to take a voluminous shallow argument, shed the irrelevant husk, and distill a succinct/petite and cogent statement.

  • 1# Don’t write secondary essays without a plan.

I have some ground rules that I set for myself, these helped me successfully get past the secondary process with a lot less stress. Fortunately, a lot of these skills are taught in grade school, “put your thinking caps on!”:

Plan your premises out before writing (this will often mean doing your homework).


noun \ˈpre-məs\

premises :  a statement or idea that is accepted as being true and that is used as the basis of an argument.


If you don’t spend time developing your premises before hand you’ll soon find you’ve exceeded your character limits or alternatively, you can’t anything to say. I know it’s feels “easier” to just get cracking on the writing, but vomiting out a page is an old trick you should bury with college. In the temporal sense, it will also take you longer to “fix” a meandering essay than to make a game-plan for them. It’s a lot easier to fix a problem of ingredients before you’ve baked the cake. For each essay distill cogent premises into reasonable argument for acceptance. Once you start writing to fill in the logic between each premise you may notice gaps, or you may notice weaknesses in your argument. But, really the lesson here is, if you don’t know where you’re argument is going don’t expect your reader to know either.

Since most secondary questions are somewhat similar, there’s a big pay off to perfecting the premises and figuring out how to string them together before you start writing because some portions of your essay will be “recyclable”. For example, once you’ve hammered down a great way to explain your “Why medicine?” question, there’s no reason to revamp it exempt for individualizing the essay.

  • #2 Every single secondary should be individualized. 

If you’re not willing to take the time to individualize your essay for 20 schools, why should admissions out perform you by taking the time to read through 10K applications to finally find yours? Individualizing a letter goes further than making sure you drop the programs name in the essay, it means getting to know the program. The more you know about the program, the easier it is towards their needs. To do this, spend sometime investigating each program you applied to. This will have a huge pay off when it come time to interview, because you can just re-use and continue from where you left off on your notes. For example, in the “Where do you see yourself in 10 years”, like essays it’s important to know what areas your school is serving, so that you can project yourself in that area.

For each school, start by doing your home work, and chart your progress, so you can easily compare and contrast programs. If you receive interviews or multiple acceptances this will be valuable. It will also make writing secondary essays easier, if you already know what information you can individualize. Keeping track of the schools blogs, tweets, and news in their local paper helps a lot with this.

Take a look at my example below, and start doing your homework.

Institution Mission Statement Location Cost (CoA) Student Body Teaching Style Pros (opinion) Cons (opinion) Links/notes
University of A Something something we love research. rural 93,000/yr ~200 Problem Based Learning Heavy research, and I have resarch exp. Resident match was mostly local only; costs. youtube links, their blog page etc.
University of B Something something we are a community driven program. inner city 62,000/yr ~100 Traditional Lecture, mandatory Costs; takes advantage of my past CC involvement Little institutional research; and mandatory lectures. Their underserved community is X city per their blog.


See part 1 of this article:



3 thoughts on “Secondary Tips Part 2

    medstu2123 said:
    June 18, 2014 at 6:43 am

    These are some great tips about secondary applications! I was struggling with this as well and then found a Student Mentor Network website on Facebook after a friend referred me and I was able to talk with a Hopkins Med student about applying, and he was great. It helped me out a lot and I think others would find it helpful as well.

      doctororbust responded:
      June 18, 2014 at 7:54 am

      Great to hear from you!

      I’m happy you were able to find help, the secondary apps can be a big hurdle. I’ll also look into that group sounds helpful for my readers.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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