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How to Approach Secondary Medical School Applications

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Lauren DiProspero

Written by Lauren DiProsperoon August 25th, 2022

I began my undergraduate admissions career at Stanford University where I helped coordinate diversity events and outreach. This ignited a passion for higher education which led me to Columbia University where, after earning my masters, I began recruiting and reviewing the applications of students applying to Columbia College from all around the country including the northeast, mid-west, Texas and California. I also reviewed the applications of international students from countries across Asia as well as Canada and Mexico. During my time at Columbia, I was Director of Admissions at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons where I oversaw the entire medical school admissions process, including recruitment, application review, interview days, and admitted student events. From there I became the Director of Enrollment Management at the University of San Francisco where I oversaw a team that supported both undergraduate and graduate admissions. In that role I recruited in Southern California and reviewed applications from multiple domestic territories for the undergraduate admissions team. Most recently, I was the senior director at Stanford Medicine, where I again oversaw the entire medical school admissions process.
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by Lauren DiProspero, former admissions officer at Columbia University At this point, you have made it through the AMCAS application and hit submit. You are done with your personal statement and experiences section—congratulations! While you may have had a bit of a breather, you are now in the thick of secondary essays. You may be thinking, “I just want to go to medical school!” The bright side is that you have reached the last bit of writing in the medical school admissions process. The challenge is that this last step entails a lot of writing and reflection. Through your personal statement and experiences, you shared why you want to be a doctor and what you have done to prepare. Now you are being asked to write about your fit with the medical school requesting your secondary application. This is where the research you conducted to create your medical school list comes into play. Your reflection on the mission of their school and how you will contribute to their class, community, and healthcare at large are a crucial part of their review process.
  • Start with the medical school mission statement. It may sound like they all say something about creating a physician workforce to help society. Spend time closely reading multiple mission statements focusing on the nuance within the similarities and differences. Some will be focused on innovation, some on research, some on patient care, some on developing a rural workforce, and so on.
  • Learn about the patient population the medical school serves. Even when there are multiple medical schools located in the same area, they often serve different populations. In New York City, where I worked, the medical schools are located in very different neighborhoods. They serve the wider New York area, as well as patients from around the country and world, but they are deeply influenced by the communities within which they are located.
  • Dive into the curriculum and/or student experiences. It is easy for curriculum or opportunities to sound the same. Again, a deep dive will reveal differences. All medical schools have student-run clinics but are their services focused on areas you have experience in or want to impact based your future goals? All medical schools have research but are there specific opportunities like a capstone or a funded year of research that interest you?
Alongside research on the school’s website and AMCAS’s Medical School Admission Requirements, I recommend listening to All Access: Med School Admissions podcast by Christian Essman, Senior Director of Admissions & Financial Aid at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He interviews deans and directors of admissions at medical schools across the country. It is great way to learn more and see if the school is a fit for your goals. Now that you’ve submitted your secondary applications, I encourage you to start thinking about the next step in this process: interviews.

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