Why Our School? How to Knock Out 12 Medical School Secondaries with One Essay

By: Ryan Kelly

Many students apply to 30+ schools in order to play the numbers game, and this is no secret to the schools themselves.

They’re not stupid; they know they’re not your only choice. But it’s your job to convince them that they’re the best choice for you in, which hopefully has a reciprocal effect.

But writing 30 completely original secondaries is a scary thought. To save yourself time, focus on writing great essays for top-priority medical schools, and then use these as templates for all the other secondaries.

Before diving into your prioritized schools, you should definitely check out How to Answer “Why Our School” Essays.

Then use your best answers as formulas for quickly completing the less desired medical schools on your list. The goal will be to create a template that doesn’t look like a template. Try to reuse the material you share about yourself, so that all you have to do is swap in new information about the individual programs.

 

Creating the Secondaries Template:

 

Let’s say you have 1000 characters. Here’s how you might handle the initial challenge:

 

Due to my passion for oncology research, I appreciate BLANK MEDICAL SCHOOL’s (BMS) Exploratory Program, which allows new students to incorporate personal benchside pursuits into their curriculum. Under the guidance of Dr. Dream in the Wonderful Lab, I can build off my previous cancer studies while also volunteering in my future specialty of pediatric oncology at BMS Children’s Hospital. After witnessing the dire needs of the poor and homeless at free clinics in college, I would feel honored to work at BMS’s Saturday Clinic for the Uninsured. Many of my experiences have been with terminal patients or in end-of-life care, so I am thrilled at the chance to have more direct impact through acute, immediate treatments. As an eager, hands-on learner, I value BMS’s early clinical exposure and Specialist Mentoring in the first two years. BMS will allow me to apply my growing expertise toward a new community in need, while also giving me novel opportunities that can hone my future practice. (995 characters)

 

Reusing the Secondaries Template:

 

In a longer essay, 2-3 sentences can be added to show your personal ties to the location, your relation to alumni, or your interest in continuing an important non-medical activity they offer that matches your background, personality, or prior experiences.

Let’s say you’re writing for a school with a longer limit, maybe 1500 characters. Here’s how you could use your previous answer as a secondaries template:

 

Due to my passion for oncology research, I appreciate TOKEN MEDICAL SCHOOL’s (TMS) Cancer Center, which houses breakthrough studies in T-cell isolation and customized vaccines. Under the guidance of Dr. Smart in the Brainiac Lab, I can build off my previous cancer studies while also volunteering in my future specialty of pediatric oncology at TMS Youth Hospital. After witnessing the dire needs of the poor and homeless at free clinics in college, I would feel honored to work at TMS’s Student-Run Clinic for the Underserved. Many of my experiences have been with terminal patients or in end-of-life care, so I am thrilled at the chance to have more direct impact through acute, immediate treatments.


As an eager, hands-on learner, I value TMS’s early clinical exposure and Equal Partner Teaching during the first two years. TMS is located in Tokenville, a community near my hometown, and I would be honored to return there and serve the populations who helped raise me. Being near extended family will provide a great support system for me while adjusting to the rigors of medical school. Since I have always used my athletic hobbies to destress and stay sharp, I am excited to partake in the TMS Fitness Club during my rare free time. TMS will allow me to apply my growing expertise toward a familiar community in need, while also giving me novel opportunities that can hone my future practice. (1398 characters)

 

Always think about what you can reuse across schools to make the overall application process easier. If you utilize a secondaries template, then the only real burden is doing research for each school and making a list of what to include about them in your essays.

For more guidance, check out our 5 Time-Saving Strategies for Writing Medical School Secondary Essays.

We hope this guide has been helpful. Which medical schools are you applying to? Comment to share your top schools, which will also be your template essay schools.