AMCAS II Ex. 6 — When Have you Faced Criticism?

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Eventually along the way you’ll find a secondary question asking you about how you deal with criticism. It’s an  important question for innumerable reasons. The question for this essay is pretty much asking you, “Have you learned how to accept criticism and then do something constructive without having tantrum?” Medical students receive critiques to hone their skills prior to being flung into residency.  Once there in their internship, they’ll be a lot more of it, most will be legit some unwarranted. Other physicians may criticize new interns, these new doctors find themselves bombarded by critiques that are no longer didactic exercises, but are now instead life and death lessons. Patients will berate you for being late, how could they know you were doing chest compression upstairs in room 215 for 20-minutes?  But, without getting too far ahead of ourselves, let’s just remember that the medical school wants to see how you will handle criticism when they dish it out to you — there is also an undertone of show your maturity here please.

If you’re not used to handling criticism, you should get used to it. I finally learned what criticism meant when I was just accepted as the co-principal investigator for a project. I turned in my research thesis for my senior project to my principal investigator. He gave it back a few weeks later, but for some reason he had changed all of the font to red. I was wrong, he meant the whole thing had to be scrapped. I faced more criticism during lab meetings where we had to present new or class electrophysiology research articles and our interpretation. After some time, you just learn how to take criticism and become better from it. If there’s room to criticize then there’s room for improvement.

During this essay you’ll try to do several things:

1. Show that you know how to take criticism, i.e. you don’t bite off people’s jugulars when they give you an honest critique.

2. Show that you understand that accepting criticism can be a learning experience — this can be true regardless of who’s “right or wrong”.

3. You can show that you have some real world experience, i.e. will the school also need to teach you “life skills” or do you already have some.

Tell us about a time where you’ve received unexpected feedback or critique. And, how did you react to the situation?

As an Institutional Review Board (IRB) [title redacted] my first and foremost goal is to ensure that research projects meet ethical and regulatory standards. However, principal investigators (PI) often have disparate concerns, namely the timely completion of their investigative study. In one particular protocol conducted by a well-established (PI) I found the protocol didn’t meet my interpretation of ethical compliance. In response, I received a deluge of emails noting my incompetence; it became apparent to me that my review didn’t sit well with my (PI) colleague. I’m not infallible, and there’s a lot of “grey areas” in law interpretations, so I launched an investigation into my own decision. I poured through ethical reference texts and case studies to establish an ethical precedent for my decision, after I proved my case I reported my findings to the IRB and PI. After the protocol was modified, the study was approved and I have a good working relationship with that same PI.

The hardest part of this entry was actually writing it in such a way that I could still be professional, and be certain to represent both sides of the argument. Also note that I decided to not defend some of the criticisms against me, and instead accept it and show how I grew from it.

Good luck!


AMCAS II Ex. 5 — What’s Your Weakness?

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We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies – it is the first law of nature — Voltaire

During the secondary applications, there is a good likely hood that you’ll eventually hit a question that asks for your to explain your weaknesses — some questions may even have you elaborate more, some less. As premeds we’re hyper vigilant when it comes to addressing our weaknesses. The worst thing you can do on this essay is to wall yourself up, become defensive, and start playing “cat and mouse” on this question. When interviewed, this is a question interviews like to toss in, so the better you know this question the better you’ll be during it. In fact, there’s seldom a job interview that I’ve had that also didn’t ask this question (at least a job that preferred a degree).

On the other hand you may indeed be perfect, good luck explaining that to your interviews who likely can easily give you a running list of their “weaknesses”.

Here was my strategy in answering the question:

1. Present weakness (feint)

The first step to many problems is to first acknowledge you have one. (see step 3). In my example it’s my “self doubt” about past decisions.

2. Rationalize/humanize, but don’t minimize weakness (parry into step 3)

Use an explanation to explain what your weakness is in context, then project how this could be a ‘problem’ later. Pretty much, in this phase I was beating my reviewer to the punch by acknowledging my issues, then being realistic about how that is a weakness in their context as well. After that, I used that to transition into the next step, step 3. In my case I tried to reason with physicians who probably were just as neurotic as I was about things, so it wasn’t a hard argument to bridge rumination and self destruction.

3. Propose solution/plan of action for your weakness (Parry into a gentle counter attack ‘riposte’)

Up until this point, I was on the defensive as a writer, but at the conclusion I moved towards the offensive, I decided to address how I’d overcome my problem: becoming more systematic, learning how to trust and delegate better (more trust in the process less restless nights in theory). This helped turn my weakness into more of an, “Aha!”, moment then a guilty admission. The key here is to really give the “how will you solve” this problem prompt real consideration.

And the golden rule — don’t BS ( unless you believe the BS too, but that’s some type of Inception type concept that we don’t have time to cover).


What is your weakness?

I feel one of my largest flaws is my tendency to ruminate on my past decisions. As a future doctor I could imagine myself always wondering if I could have provided a better outcome for a patient: if I just had noticed a symptom sooner, prescribed medicines more or less aggressively, if I made the correct ethical choice, and wondering constantly if there was a better way to perform my duty. This year I have strove to empirically record my observations using an online journal; it has allowed for me reduce circular worries. Later, I could assuage my concerns with meticulous chart recording and recording case studies. I should also learn how to better develop trust and delegate to others, this would help reduce a lot of stress. These skills would transfer into medicine as I better learn to foster team work with other allied professionals. While I believe self-criticism is necessary, and should be invited, nonconstructive self-doubt helps no one.


As you may have imagined, to reflect on things is healthy but to ruefully regret is not a good thing. You may have also imagined that this trait would have made me more anxious during application season, at the beginning this was indeed true. However, during that time I grew to appreciate a new philosophy about my time and how much I would worry about things.

AMCAS II Ex. 4 — How’d You Help Your Community?

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As premeds (and medical students) we are expected to have performed community service. Most premeds will express the only relevant experience is something like physician shadowing or something medical. It’s a logical position, you want to do medicine so you want to see medicine; and every premed should get a taste of medicine before applying.  But, serving your community in other ways would probably benefit your community than the benefit you perform for the medical team with random gopher tasks. Of course, if  believe you’re doing substantial work with medical community service, then power to you — as long as you can jabber on about how you made a change you’re good. Like everything else, everything you mention is fair game for the interviews; i.e. padding your entries will back fire during an extensive interview.

I was one of those despicable premeds that enjoyed doing community service. You see as a former welfare child, long term (elementary – HS) poorly insured inpatient, and my education was funded by grants and scholarships for research I actually I already felt I owed my community more than I could ever repay. Thus I never had the “checking boxes” feeling, I was just happy to be able to check anything at all. So, for myself I suppose there wasn’t much altruism in my actions, but instead I wanted to validate my own existence and rationalize why doctors and the community kept “saving me” by adding value to myself. For my own service I decided to highlight three things and how I inclusion in the activity made a change. If you stroll to your applicant programs’ website you’ll likely see their community service, other than medical, you want to let schools know that you can contribute to anything, and you don’t find non medicine things to be “beneath you”.

My format is straight forward, I was going for a holistic application so I didn’t focus on just my medical community service:

1) Prisoner Education Program – non medical. Several medical schools I applied to have  specific programs targeting inmate health. I found this out by searching their websites. It wasn’t very hard to conjure up why reducing recidivism is good for the community. It was also a great lesson in the human condition. In case you’re curious, I still did participate in the program even after I was accepted for medical school, some of my former students were released by this time, attending college and working.

2) Patient experience, medical volunteering. I had a few options, so I didn’t bother addressing my positions where I was designated pillow fluff-er (though fluffy pillows are important) or warrior filer. I instead only decided to talk about programs where I was essential (small staff) and/or that my inclusion helped their organization substantially.

So, without further adieu, my entry is below.

How’d you help the community?

I try to have an impact to all my commitments, including: civic duties, medical volunteering. My work with the Prisoner Education Program allowed me to help mentor nearly 80 adult convicts for a multistage education and job skills training program. These 80 males graduated the phase of the program with new skills vital to their later independence: job interview skills, educational advice, GED training, and math tutoring. This program was designed to reduce the statically likely prisoner recidivism by empowering them through education and mentoring. My most important medical impact was during my time helping children perform physical rehabilitation at my university’s Motor Development Clinic. I worked with two adolescents: one with attention deficit disorder and motor movement problems, and another child with extreme mental deficits who had almost no motor coordination. I worked with them over the summer, charting their progress and reporting their outcomes to the supervising physical therapist. I worked with low income parents and adolescents to improve grades and attitudes about academics, now their parents report and teachers praise the students for their improvements and their positive demeanor towards learning. Currently, I serve my community at Donuts Hospital in the Oncology department. I help children cope by providing tutoring and providing a compassionate ear to their concerns in the interim between their treatments. At Donuts Hospital I have also helped staff or organize a number of fundraisers related directly to the oncology department and children’s hospital wing.


Interestingly, my hospital work wasn’t discussed much during interviews, a lot of it instead came from my non medical volunteering. I suppose it’s not that surprising, we can assume that it’s hard to impress seasoned physicians with medical. So, although people in premed sometimes seem to hate to hear it, it’s often a strength to be different if you can justify it.

As a future physician you’re proving in this entry that you have not only done community service, but you understand why — admittedly the last part is harder to verify.

AMCAS II Ex.3 — Project 10 Years Essay

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Along the way through your secondary applications you’ll hit a “Project to the Future” question in some incantation. This was one of my favorite prompts to reply to, it hopefully it will be for you as well. I know it sounds like I speak blasphemy to even imply applying to medical school can be fun, but honestly there is are some satisfying parts to the process. This prompt happens to be one of them. If you put this prompt into context, up until now you were just a premed scrabbling across the prerequisite and MCAT mind field. For a lot of applicants, this is the first time you’ll have a moment to realize that you’re actually applying to medical school (bravo you!). Now, this question should get you thinking, “Just what am I going to be up to in 10 years?”. It’s a fun question, imagine yourself with your white coat freshly pressed to get the vomit out, but it’s okay because you’re a doctor!

Also, don’t worry too much about i you’ll change your mind about your specialty; most people change their mind anyways. Though, you do want to have a tone of keeping and open mind or being flexible while driven. Make sure to check the school’s website for more specific information like how their institution can fit into your projection.

For the things I tried to catch in this entry were:

1) Involve the school and their abilities into my projection. There’s a cat and mouse game of BS between some applicants and admissions. My advice: don’t play the game, find legitimate reasons why going to that specific program is a plus. Don’t go into detail about the school, you’ll have another essay prompt to do that; instead just remember the school and you are intertwined after acceptance.

2) Show what you know about medicine here. I decided to project the imagery of me becoming a doctor. I suppose the only thing you have to worry about is that your 10 year or future projection makes temporal sense.

3) Remember that you’re selling yourself here as well, so remember that you need to sound like you’ll be an asset to medicine later. This doesn’t mean you need to cure Amyloid Lateral Sclerosis or cancer (though I hope you do), you should acknowledge the little victories in a physicians life — and I do mean little victories.

4) Remember that you will be asked this again during the interview, and maybe even expected to elaborate on several points. Interviewers who have access to your entries and their notes to them tend to ask really good follow up questions, at least that was my experience. During the interview, if your secondary was genuine then that can be pretty out-right fun; if you pulled it out of the ether then it’s down-right miserable.

As a future alumnus of Cookie Monster Medical University I see my medical career being devoted to serving the local and national community. As a Awesome-ologist attending I would help promote positive patient health outcomes by collaborating with a team of medical professional. Although I loathe the disease, I would enjoy the long term relationships I could develop with patients, allowing me to holistically treat the individual. My undergraduate research experienced combined with new experiences during medical school would prepare me for interpreting new research to be used with my patients. I would stay involved in the local community, working with other physicians and health professionals to encourage preventative screening of cooties for the under-served population of Honeybunville, empowering individuals through knowledge. At the same time I’d support and mentor residents and medical students, passing on the lessons given to by my predecessors. I have a strong belief in the link between research and medicine so I would like to get involved in clinical trials, as drugs studied at the bench are later medicines to be dispensed by a physician.


Note, in case you’re curious I did notice, “promote positive patient”, that is “P.P.P”. I sort of had contempt for the fact that I had to use those words in lieu of saying “I like to help people”, so I decided to make it almost acronym like to make both I and the reader feel better about the cliche term — I live on the edge. =D

AMCAS II Question Ex.1: Why This Area? — My Example

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If you’re currently applying to medical school, you’ll likely soon start to receive secondary applications, congratulations on making it this far. Please pay particularly close attention to your first couple of secondary applications, you’ll be able to use the husk but not the heart of essays you’ve already written from other institutions. Also, during the beginning of this period, it’s easy to rush things out the door and wish you hadn’t afterwards. So, before we start I’ll remind you to proof read for typos and word transpositions (this will happen if your word processor auto corrects). Also, most importantly, make sure to never make the mistake of confusing one school’s content for another on an essay. To help avoid these mistakes use your friend Control + F to find your mistakes quicker, then print out the real secondary. Take a high lighter and lots of coffee, and make sure you don’t misidentify a school and caught most grammar and typos issues. On your computer I suggest that you make a folder called AMCAS Secondary Entries, make sub folders for each school and place their secondary essays there. Inside the main folder, AMCAS Secondary Entries, keep an Excel sheet to keep track of what types of essays you’ve written already and the character length — this will help you to make a strategy later when you’re exhausted and can’t imagine writing yet another secondary.

How to handle the “Why this area?” question

There is probably a plethora of reasons you want to go there, most of them are hopefully genuine. From your genuine reasons, pluck from them the reasons that best align with the mission and strengths of the program and their surrounding area. Also, you can tailor this entry by doing background information on the school and who they intend to serve — if you’re admitted, these are the people you will be serving. When you see similarities between those you will serve it’s a good thing. Note, this cuts across class, race and gender. What you’re trying to do in this entry is convince them that if you’re admitted you’ll be happy about your choice, and you gave it some thought. While it’s true that from the applicants’ perspective any medical school is good as long as they are accepted, The reciprocal: all accepted are good for the medical school, that is not necessarily true. In other words, a school will not invite you for an interview if they feel you haven’t really given it thought of why you want to be there — and that’ll either be obvious in this entry or during the interview if invited. Here’s one of mine:

A mentor once taught me that insensitivity makes arrogance ugly; and empathy is what makes humility beautiful. If accepted, my new mentors will forever craft my philosophy as a future humble physician. For this reason, I chose Meow-Mix Medicine School (MMMS) because the school’s core values of excellence, collegiality, and integrity. I believe becoming a medical scholar, in a new community, will prepare me for a successful career as a physician and advocate for the underserved.

MMMS integrates science theory and medical practice early; this is reflective in the school choosing to concurrently teach the basic sciences and the principles of medicine. MMMS hones medical student’s clinical problem solving skills by integrating the basic sciences patient care through small groups. My own experience in electrophysiology lab, and leading small lab discussions on preeminent research and physiology, taught me that often the best way to learn was to correlate theory with application via experience and in-depth discussion with mentors and peers. MMMS learning style encourages collaborations between training physicians; I believe this learning environment will foster excellence in the student body, as delivering stellar health care is a team effort.

MMMS keeps its medical scholars connected with the local community by providing comprehensive healthcare to vulnerable subjects by providing free health screenings to the local Kitten community at the Meow-Mix Area Health Education Center. A family shouldn’t have to choose between food and proper medical treatment. Additionally, I find it encouraging that MMMS has strong patient advocacy for underserved populations through organizations such as the Meow-Mix Meow for Health Program.I believe MMMS has a strong emphasis on patient beneficence without discrimination. MMMS commitment to the community, research, and education will prepare me for a life of service as a physician.

This the longer version (recall that you’ll different schools have different character count requirements), and experience with writing a bunch of these will allow for your to better tailor your entries. I found all of the information by data-mining (stalking) the medical school: checking their Tweets, blogs, Facebook entries, Youtube. Even if a school is huge, the department medical school PR “concept team” is usually rather small and intimate, so sometimes being the only person who watched that “wonky” video with 200 views puts you ahead of the pack. Of course I looked at their website and MSAR, but that’s sort of a basic requirement nowadays. By the time I wrote the “Why Here” essay I knew so much information about each school and area that it actually made the decision of where to matriculate to an arduous one because I taught myself to love each program I interviewed. 

Note: there’s a good chance that I changed the name of the university for mutual privacy, or the proper nouns I used really exist — equally likely =D

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:


Preparing for Secondary Applications Part 1

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Hello Everyone!

If you’re applying to medical school this year, then mid June is your time to start working on your secondary applications. This may come as a shock, because the primary application just opened and you’re probably exhausted. However, this is a marathon more than a sprint. Once the secondary period starts (after the AMCAS releases all completed/verified applications at once in late June or early July) you will *hopefully* be inundated with secondary applications. Now, you should bear in mind that the schools you apply to fall into two broad categories for secondary applications, those are schools that pre-screen and those that don’t.


Schools that pre-screen will only send secondary applications to applicants they consider competitive for their program. For example, one university I applied to has a rather long pre-screening process where it may take several weeks for them to give you their decision of if they’ll even send you the secondary or not. Most schools those are pretty good at letting you know early on, this is important because this allows for you to add more schools early on. What are schools looking for? Good question, I doubt any school will give up it’s true screening criteria and it’s really hard to make a large brush stroke assertion about what is considered important. But, for the most part we are probably safe assuming that schools with high competitiveness in categories of research and/or grades and/or community service and/or stats will probably prefer to cherry pick from the lot.

No Pre-Screen

The school just receive all the applications from the primary, and an automatic secondary letter is generated. So, if you applied to 20 schools that don’t pre-screen then you’ll get 20 secondary applications. However, receiving the application isn’t indicative of the program’s interest in you as an applicant.

I applied to both schools types of programs. Most of my applications were with schools that pre-screened, so I knew I was “headed in the right direction” with the admissions committee and I wasn’t just receiving applications ‘randomly’. However, it’s also important to apply to schools that don’t pre-screen, I feel, is that you probably gives you a shot at someone reading your application whereas it might of been “put to the side” because of the pre-screen. For example, BUSM doesn’t pre-screen I believe, and it’s a hyper competitive program (the school receives about (+10K for about 180 seats) and I still got in — I’m really happy I took a shot with their secondary. The pre-screen acts like the canary in the mine (no birds were hurt in the writing of this blog post), the dipstick, so don’t be afraid to apply to a few of them. For example, a school that pre-screened me send me my invitation for an invite several hours after I sent my secondary — I knew I probably was going to be okay.

How do the secondary applications roll in?

Let’s say that you’ve applied to 20 schools that pre-screen, then there’s a statistical possibility that you will receive no applications, this should make sense to you now from our conversation above regarding pre-screening. Whereas, if you applied to 20 schools that don’t screen then you’ll surely receive those 20 secondary applications. So, let’s assume you both applied in early June and have a fruitful secondary response, then you should then expect applications to roll in every few days (sometimes more than one a day) until possibly September of October (some schools do have later windows). Here’s a brief list of how my secondary season and interview season started:

Submitted Primary Application to AMCAS June 11th 2013
July 2nd, 1st Secondary
July 8th, 2nd Secondary
July 11th, 3rd & 4th Secondary
July 15, 5th Secondary
July 17th, 6th & 7th Secondary
July 18th, 8th Secondary
July 19th, 9th Secondary
. even more secondary applications
. even more secondary applications
July 24th, 1st interview invite

As you can see, they really do just roll in.

What are secondary’s notification look like and how will I receive it?

Every single secondary that I received came in my email. The secondary will usually have the following information:

1. How to log into your programs’s specific secondary application account. This is always different, each school has a disparate process. You’ll likely be given a user name and password, or will use your AAMC ID as a user name. This can get confusing after a while, so I strongly suggest making an Excel sheet to keep track of all of the: log in hyper links, passwords, and user names. 

2. Links such as technical standards, return deadlines (sometimes unstated, awesome 2 weeks as ideal), contact information, and other information such as statistics.

Here’s how one of mine looked with the university information stripped for their privacy. I did keep the statistics the same, though I changed the numbers while keeping the ratios correct to further protect the school’s privacy:

“We are in receipt of your 2014 AMCAS application.  Thank you for your interest in Awesome-O University School of Medicine.  We invite you to complete the Supplementary Application which is on the web at the following address:


You will be able to log in by selecting “School of Medicine regular admission.”

1. ID number – Use your AMCAS ID number.

2. PIN – your initial pin is 3545653.  The first time you log in, you will be directed to change your PIN to another number between 6 and 15 digits in length.  Please use a number that is easy for you to remember because you will use it throughout your experience with AU.

3. Supplementary Application – as you click into each section it will populate with information from your AMCAS application.  Please update as needed, fill in any additional information, and submit any supplementary documents.

4. Application Materials – AU will receive the application materials that you provided to AMCAS.

5. Deadline – Please note that the deadline for submitting your supplementary application is November 15, 2013, 11:59 pm Pacific Time.

6. To Submit Application – click the [APPLICATION IS COMPLETE] button.  Once submitted, you will be able to download a copy of the application for your records.

7. $75 Application Fee (FEES VARY from $75-150) – is a non-refundable processing fee, to be paid when your supplementary application is submitted.

8. Official transcripts – If accepted, you will need to request official transcripts from each post-secondary school you have attended be sent to AU before you may register for classes.

9. Last year Awesome-O University received over 6326 applications for 165 seats.  The average entering GPA was 3.75 and the average Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) score was 9-10 on each section.

10. A current MCAT score is required.  MCATs taken prior to 2011 will not be considered for a 2014 application.

11. If you have indicated on the AMCAS application that you are applying to the Combined MD/PhD program, please be aware that an additional application is required for the PhD component of the program.  Application to the Basic Sciences PhD component is available at http://awesomelink”


How long are secondary essays, and what do they tend to be about?

Secondary applications have a very large range of requirements.

1. Some schools just require a check and you hit a few check boxes such as their technical standards and understanding that there are no refunds.

2. Schools that require several short to medium (around 5 – 8 entries).

3. Schools that require a few, but very long entries/essays. For example, I had one secondary that had only 3-essays, but all of them were several thousand characters each (one was up to 10K characters). This doesn’t mean that you’re forced to reach the character max, that’s a sophomoric way to write, instead it means you have the time to write a cogent argument.

The interesting part though, is that almost no matter what secondary you receive, most of them really do dig at the same general topics although there’s a hundred ways to ask the same general question:

1. Why medicine?

2. How would your admittance add to the university’s diversity?

3. Explain any gaps in your application (leave of absence, post bacc etc.)

4. What makes you interested in X university?

5. Any other special circumstances (excellence or adversity, better yet finding your excellence in adversity!) you’d like to committee to know about?

6. Hypothetical question (how would you deal with X and describe a time where you had to)

7. Project to the future question.

8. Your last plea (the optional essay)

9. An ultra random question to get to know you (for example, what is your nickname and why — yes, I got one of those questions).

10. What support do you have/ties to the area? / What do you know about the area that makes you want to attend this program?

I will write more articles on this and how to address each question; but, as stated above, the entries will range from a few hundred words to a full on mini essay (in length). The key to finishing your secondary applications is to be aware of what they may ask you, and already have your premises outlined on what you’ll be addressing to answer their question sufficiently. Stay tuned for more entries this week, where we’ll learn how to tackle these questions. For now, draw together your premises for each question (have an outline) and be ready to re-hash the question in separate forms (short and long). The trick is, writing different lengths while still maintaining quality, we’ll talk about this later.

Till next time, do your homework on your school!

Part 2: