Applying to Medical School

Mastering the Secondary Application: Why Our School?

How to express genuine interest in a particular school

Secondaries. They’re frustrating, tedious, expensive, and chances are, there’s a pile of about 10 of them waiting for you to finish. Secondary applications come in all shapes and sizes, but there are certain prompts that come up time and time again. In this article, we’ll look at how to tackle one of the most common questions. It goes something like this:

“Please discuss the reasons you wish to pursue your medical education at our medical school.”

I like to say that this is one of the most important questions on any secondary. The goal here is to see if you’ve taken the time to really look into the school. Having served on a medical school selection board, I can tell you that when all things are equal (or close), the applicant who is actually interested in the school will win every time.

Don’t copy and paste

I know its great to recycle secondaries, but this is not the place. A generic statement about student run clinics, research programs, and your passion for serving the underserved just won’t cut it.

Be concise and be direct

I have a saying – Ask a pre-med what they ate for breakfast and they’ll quickly start telling you about their passion for medicine. I know that you’ve got a lot you want to tell the admission’s committee, but staying on task is critical with secondaries. By the time the reader makes it to this point in your application, they’ve read your demographics, transcripts, work and activities, personal statement, and a whole bunch of letters of recommendation. Get to the point and skip any storytelling.

Read More: Acing your medical school interviews

Take a personalized approach

Step number 1 is to always go to the school’s website. Don’t just browse around on the homepage, follow a couple of links into the site and find something that connects with you. Maybe it’s an elective, or maybe it’s a specific lab doing some cool research. Find something that resonates with you, state your interest, and then briefly remind the reader how this connects back to you:

“I am particularly interested in some of the longitudinal curricular themes, including the piece on ethics and professionalism. Having worked as a teacher for the past year, I understand the importance of ethical behavior and adopting professionalism as a lifestyle.”

Secondaries are time consuming and doing research to answer just one question can seem daunting, but trust me, it will pay off. Identifying specific interests will help the admissions committee pair you with an interviewer for a more meaningful conversation, and you’re sure to encounter this question again during the interview, so you’ll be prepared. Once you’ve mastered the approach, you’ll find it easier to hunt through each school’s website as well, and that means that pile of secondaries will start thinning out much quicker.

David Flick

David graduated Magna Cum Laude from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California with a BS in biology where he was heavily involved in high school and university level tutoring. He then moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand where he worked as a high school mathematics teacher at an international baccalaureate school. In the two years prior to starting medical school, he volunteered in seven different countries throughout Asia with international medical aid programs. David attended medical school at UC Irvine after receiving the Army health professions scholarship. He served on the admissions committee for four years including working on the selection committee board. He completed a family medicine residency program in Oahu, HI and served on the residency admissions committee. He is board certified in family medicine and now works as a flight surgeon for the Army.

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