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Secondary Applications: Basics and Cheat Codes for Success

Tino Mkorombindo is a third year MD/MBA candidate at the University of Louisville School of Medicine/College of Business. You can follow him on instagram, twitter, or linkedin.

In another article, we discussed what secondary applications are. Here we will discuss some helpful tips. 

Research every school:

It is in your best interest to put a good amount of effort into this process. Therefore, you need to know who you are applying to. For example, some institutions are heavily focused on research. Consequently, it’s essential to know this and emphasize research experience in that article. Another institution might be focused on service, so you can focus more on highlighting your mission trips and other service trips. 

We recommend that you look through each school’s website. They sometimes offer statistics as to what specialties students match into. You can even read through their student handbook or contact medical students that you know at these institutions. Also, utilize social media to ask questions! No matter what, do what you must to figure out specific reasons why you and that school would be a great fit. 

Get help!

As with any other aspect of your application, ask someone who is ahead of you to look through your responses. They can give you valuable insight and guidance. As you complete more secondaries, you will get better at answering questions, but until then, ask for help!

Answer each question with intentionality 

Phrase every question to answer the following: Why should I be a doctor? Why would I be a good doctor? Why should you select me? Each item you answer is an opportunity to make yourself look good, so take it! Avoid generic, bland responses, and do your best to respond in a manner that will make a person want to know more about you. Do this by tailoring your responses to incorporate your specific experiences, beliefs, or qualities while still correctly answering the question. I generally tell my mentees that they should answer each question as though that question is the only thing that an admissions officer will see about them. 

Answer your secondaries on Google Docs or a separate document

When you get a secondary, copy, and paste all the essay prompts and questions onto a different text-editing program. Doing so will allow you to make multiple edits, regardless of your internet connection. It will also allow you to have a database for answers if you want to re-use responses. You can also share these documents with the people who will be revising your essays.

Be timely!

Ideally, you should be submitting your secondary applications around 3-5 days after receiving an invitation to complete. At the latest, you should submit within two weeks

Avoid the temptation of quickly finishing your secondary just for the sake of being complete. You want to make sure that you are producing a high-quality application but don’t compromise quality for the sake of speed. Also, if it’s for a school you really want to attend, make sure you edit multiple times and ask mentors and advisors for their input. 


Do not waste your hard work and effort on silly errors. Make sure you spell change every secondary. Make sure that the sentences make sense and transition smoothly. If you are re-using essays, make sure you address the institution appropriately (do not address the University of Louisville in an application for why the University of Kentucky is a good fit for you). When admissions officers are reading thousands of applications, they may not look favorably on an applicant who was unwilling to spend a few extra minutes to make sure their essays make sense. 

If you have other questions, comment below, or reach out to us via email ( or through our social media accounts. 

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