Tackling secondary applications

Thanks to Axl Rose for the comment on my last entry and a couple of others who emailed me asking about secondary applications that inspired the content of this entry!


I thought I’d make this entry full of general tips first and then provide a quick word on the OUWB secondary [keep in mind, I am not affiliated with the admissions committee whatsoever and do not claim that my advice will help you gain or guarantee admission].

1. Timelines are important, but contents are more important — find the right balance between the two.

While many schools will suggest that the applicant submits a secondary essay/application within a couple of weeks to a month, keep in mind that it would not be called a “suggestion” if they expected everyone to return the essay within the frame provided. But if you are going to be a couple of days late, make sure what you submit is quality. My concrete example for this tip is my Wayne State secondary application — I believe the suggested submission deadline was one month from the date of receipt, but I ended up having printer troubles and gave the admissions office a call to let them know that I was still interested in the school. They were extremely accommodating and my “late” secondary did not prevent me from gaining admission to the school.

2. This is your opportunity to prove that a particular school is a good “fit” for you and vice versa.

You have probably heard the word “fit” a few too many times by this time in the admissions process, but don’t forget that ultimately you want to be happy with where you spend the next four years of your life — plus, your essays are likely going to reflect your excitement [or lack thereof] about characteristics of that particular school. I realized early on that I did not want to attend a school that focused primarily or too-heavily on bench-top research, thus I really struggled when I was trying to write essays for schools that fit this criterion [and was not particularly successful].

After combing through a school’s website thoroughly [I even took notes!], I would also suggest making sure to also do a relatively thorough Google search. Was there a new partnership forged that would provide additional opportunities for students? Are there plans to improve facilities? Will there be curriculum changes in the near future? While a school’s website provides a reliable foundation [use it for your essays!], sometimes there’s more out there [but be careful about what you include — if something hasn’t been made public yet and is only a rumor from the students then take it with a grain of salt or call to confirm].

When you feel like you know the school well enough to tell a friend why you’re interested in it, then you’re ready to show them through your words.

3. Show. Don’t. Tell.

Another well-regurgitated tip, but it’s an important one. Telling someone you’re compassionate and that a volunteer experience really rocked your world isn’t very convincing. Just like in a resume, concrete examples are a must. In my OUWB secondary essay [keep in mind that our prompts were different!], I discussed my experience running the Ypsilanti Middle School Engineering Club — it was an important experience to me because I was never able to wrap my mind around the education gap in high-need schools. Within the essay, I actually included the graduation rate from the high school I attended and compared it with the one from Ypsilanti High School. While I don’t know for a fact that this really helped, I think it really helped show the magnitude of the situation.

Make sure to combine tips #2 and #3 — how has one of your experiences led you to being interested in something specific to the school? For example, I used my Engineering Club experience and discussed how I would want to work on a medically-related club or program in a high-need school for my Capstone Project. Try to focus your attention on a unique trait [or traits] of that particular school and tie it with your background/experiences.

4. Don’t waste anymore of your money if you don’t ever see yourself at that school. No, really.

I didn’t complete 7 secondary applications because I realized as I was trying to come up with semi-convincing reasons for why I wanted to go to the school, that I just couldn’t. One example is Albany Medical College — not to bash it in any way, but I personally could never picture myself living or having to spend a significant portion of my life in the city of Albany and the school itself did not give me a compelling reason to overlook this fact. So, I withdrew my application.

If you’re on the fence, don’t throw away an opportunity for an interview — this is your best opportunity to ask questions and discover how you feel about the faculty/staff and facilities available.

5. If you haven’t already, make a spreadsheet with all of your secondary application login information, dates of submission and dates of contact.

Pretty self-explanatory. And ridiculously helpful as you get later in the process.

6. Save any notes you take.

If you take notes [which, you should] then save them in a safe place [that you can find later…] so that when you score an interview you can refer back to them.

My interpretation of the OUWB secondary essay prompt is that it is a good example of a “fit” essay. I could very well be wrong, but if I had to answer this prompt I would refer to the mission and make sure to inject some other promising characteristics of the school. Consider mentioning the Capstone Project, systems-based curriculum, TBL sessions, small class size, Beaumont partnership, etc [don’t mention them all… just choose something that sticks out to you that maybe OUWB does better than other schools].

If you have particular interests and want to know how OUWB could help you maintain or build upon them, definitely call the admissions office. The staff is friendly and will either give you a thorough answer or they’ll refer you to someone who can. While I wish I could provide more insight into the great things to come, admittedly, there have only been a couple of update emails since my acceptance and the most exciting parts of them were the schedule and the overview of orientation week.

A non-medical-school-admissions-themed-entry to come soon!