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The Secondary Application



by Michael Davies

Graduated from Stanford; currently medical student at UCSF 

Just when you think you'll be able to catch your breath after submitting your primary application, the secondary applications will begin to roll in...This section will provide some general tips about filling out secondary applications, although secondaries vary widely from school to school in terms of length, cost, and whether or not your primary application is screened prior to you being offered a secondary.


Secondary applications generally range from $80 to $120 depending on the school that you are applying to.

Getting a head start:

If you are someone who is turning your primary application in later, one major tip is to check student doctor network website (studentdoctor.net) and get an idea for what the secondary prompts will be from students who have already turned in their primary applications. This can allow you to start thinking of writing content early, and see what questions others are asking about the prompts.

Common content/essay topics/general tips:

  • Most secondary applications will require that you re-enter some of the personal information that you already entered on your primary application, including your full name, mailing address, parental information, letters of recommendation information, etc.
  • Most secondaries will ask if you have any relatives with an association to the institution to which you are applying.
  • Many secondaries will ask you to briefly list/summarize some of the activities that you already listed on your primary application, including information on previous employment, volunteer work/community service, extracurricular activities, awards/honors etc.
  • Of the secondary applications that require longer essays, many will simply ask you to describe your interest in the particular program to which you are applying—now is the time to really research each school if you haven't already.
  • If the school has a particularly strong emphasis on research, the application may have questions regarding your undergraduate/post-baccalaureate research, if applicable.
  • If you are applying to a duel degree program (such as MSTP or MD/MPH, etc.), the application will often have additional essays that pertain strictly to these programs.
  • Other miscellaneous essay/short answer topics that one might find on secondary applications include but are certainly not limited to:
  • Describe your most rewarding experience or greatest achievement.
  • Describe your background.
  • Describe a time that you were in the minority.
  • Describe a challenge that you overcame and what you learned.
  • Give three words that your friends/family might use to describe you.
  • Describe how the curriculum of will help you further your career goals.
  • Describe the greatest moral dilemma you've ever faced and how you resolved it.
  • What was the last book that you read for leisure?
  • Are you interested in any particular areas of medicine?
  • If you had to choose a different profession, what would it be?
  • Explain how you will contribute to the diversity of program.
  • It is recommended that you submit secondary applications as soon as possible, as your application is not complete until schools have received your secondary application as well as your letters of recommendation.
  • Generally you should try to submit all secondary applications within 2-3 weeks of receiving them.

Contact PCPR

General Contact:
Vy Tran

Mailing Address:

Premedical Career Pathway Research 
PO Box 19456
Stanford, CA 94309 

Phone/Fax: 626-487-6797

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