By: Ryan Kelly
“What are they looking for?”
Pre-meds find themselves asking this question a lot as they complete their secondaries.
For Tufts, there doesn’t seem to be one straightforward answer. Based on its offerings, it seems to have a little bit for everyone. So, it appears that the school is keeping its secondary prompts rather broad, so that applicants can play to their own strengths.
Since schools rarely change their prompts from year to year, let’s examine each of Tufts’s prompts from last cycle, discuss some tips, and frame each in the larger picture of secondaries:
This is what most “Optional” prompts look like. Just a blank canvas with seemingly limitless possibilities. We will do our best to provide you with an “order of operations” in how to approach these “additional info” prompts:
If a school has several other prompts, then there is less pressure to answer the “additional info” question, since you’ve already given them a pretty comprehensive view of your candidacy. However, if the “additional info” prompt is one of the only questions for a school, there’s much more justification for including some content.
In the case of Tufts, choice #3 seems to be wisest unless you qualify for choice #1.
Gotta love the way this one is phrased. Who would answer “no?” No doubt there are many pre-meds who don’t feel particularly diverse, but this is one of Tufts’s only significant prompts and needs to be given extra oomph.
If you’re underrepresented in medicine (mainly Hispanic and African American candidates), then it’s advantageous to incorporate that aspect of your candidacy here. Otherwise, it might not be that convincing or unique to focus on your family’s ethnicity or your medical trips overseas. These topics can be done well, but most essays in those genres don’t stand out.
The solution? Focus on your “intellectual diversity.”
Are you a dancer? An athlete? Had an unusual job? Did you major in something unique? What makes you different from other pre-meds?
If all else fails, focus on your talents. Are you particularly creative? Good at talking to other people? A good friend? What are your personal strengths that will make you a good physician and contribute to the lives of your classmates?
This one is pretty straightforward. Medical schools want to give you the chance to explain any extenuating circumstances for a period of poor/unusual performance.
Most applicants should leave this question blank. In case it’s not clear, only answer if you’ve withdrawn or retaken classes.
How do you account for these blips in your academic record?
Don’t apologize; do explain. Try to focus on ‘compounding factors’ in your life that led to the anomalous performance. Were you caring for a sick family member? Did you take on new, unfamiliar responsibilities as part of a job or student organization? Were you taking 18 or 20 credits so that you could graduate on time? Did all of these things happen at once? Your academic issues will seem more forgivable if you show yourself being pulled in multiple directions.
Just to be clear - summers and holidays don’t count.
For the vast majority of candidates, this question won’t apply and they can leave it blank. If you’re one of the few who took significant time off during college (a quarter/semester or more), take a few sentences (or a paragraph at the most) to explain your reasons.
Most of the time, these candidates have a valid reason, like financial or family struggles, or some rare opportunity extended to them.
If you don’t have any “legitimate” justification, then you’re not left with much choice here; you’ll just have to attribute the time off to a lack of goals, perspective, maturity, or a clear vision, and then discuss your transformation over time. If your excuse is less “legitimate,” keep things brief and try not to overcompensate, which could run the risk of sounding neurotic about a relatively small issue.
NEVER feel obligated to fill up all the available space in a secondary prompt, since many don’t merit the extra fluff you would tack on.
Thankfully, this question isn’t asked too frequently, so you won’t have to continuously revisit it.
Potential “Value Connections” with the school:
School’s mission focuses on four core values: Excellence (read: innovation), Humanism, Social Responsibility, and Professionalism.
They tout their commitment to the diverse, underserved population in the nearby Chinatown district of downtown Boston.
Potential “Concrete Connections” with the school:
We don’t always recommend this, but take a look at the Dean’s Message. Similar links might just lead to generic values and mission statements, but what’s key here is the focus on Tufts as an innovative and pioneering medical school. They have a state-of-the-art clinical skills and simulation center. They are a leader in cutting-edge initiatives, having pioneered problem-based learning and an online multimedia curricular management system known as TUSK.
Although we advise you to reuse your secondary essays as much as possible, it’s still wise to understand your audience and cater to specific schools.
Hopefully these aspects of Tufts’s mission and offerings will help guide you, but make sure to do your own research to see how else you might mesh with Tufts’s culture.
Stay tuned for more secondary essay guides in the near future! Happy writing!
Click here to see The Savvy Pre-med's past posts on secondary essays.