By: Jessica Ngo, UCSF School of Pharmacy
Secondary season is upon us! This is different from the primary application in that each school will have their own specific secondary. The secondary application is another opportunity for you to help the admissions committee learn about you, so you should not to underestimate its impact on your application as a whole.
For some schools, they might only require you to answer a few non-essay questions and pay an application fee. On the other hand, the majority of schools will require you to answer additional essay questions and pay an application fee. The availability of the supplemental application will vary by school. Some schools will allow you to access the supplemental application as soon as it’s open by creating an account on their website. Others will contact you via e-mail to complete the secondary application shortly after submitting the primary app.
Most of the time, schools will use the same prompts from the previous year, but there is a chance that they can change. It really depends on the school, so be careful! To get a head start, look up old prompts and draft ideas for answers ahead of time. Here are some tips to follow when preparing to write your secondary applications:
1. The Last Chance
Take advantage of this opportunity especially if you think other areas in your application are weak such as your GPA, pharmacy experience or primary application essay. This is another opportunity to make yourself stand out. It might be the last chance to make an impression before they send out interview invitations, so take the necessary time and make it a good one!
2. Complete Rolling Admission Secondaries First
Pay attention to rolling admission deadlines. The earlier you submit all parts of the application (including the secondary!), the earlier that school will be able to review your application. As a result, you might receive an interview earlier as well. With that being said, try to finish as early as possible without compromising a quality essay!
3. Create a Schedule
Give yourself deadlines to complete each supplemental application. Even if you’re only applying to five schools and each have two essay questions, that’s already 10 more essays you need to complete! As previously mentioned, try to create earlier deadlines for schools that have rolling admission deadlines. Do your best to stick to the deadlines, but when creating your schedule, always give yourself a few days as a cushion since life happens and you will need that safety net.
4. Reuse, but with Caution
Save some time and reuse ideas (and even excerpts) from other secondary applications that you have already completed. Make sure that you still answer the prompt thoroughly. Most of the time, directly copying and pasting from one essay to another will not fully answer another prompt. This is why it is crucial to make sure that though you’re reusing ideas, you should frame your essay to answer the respective prompt.
5. It’s Not a Second Personal Statement
Try not to be redundant and repeat your personal statement. Yes, it’s okay to bring up some of the same topics, but admissions committees do not want to reread the same thing from your personal statement. If the same events/stories are brought up, try to expand on it, take a different angle, and relate it back to the supplemental prompt so that it’s clear why you are bringing it up again.
6. Optional Supplemental Questions
Don't feel compelled to answer the "optional" questions. Sometimes, we feel so pressured to answer these optional questions, because we’re afraid that not doing so will put us at a disadvantage. However, answering a question poorly is far worse than not answering it at all. If you feel don’t feel like answering the optional prompt will work in your favor, it’s best to just leave it blank. This will not decrease your chances or cast you in a negative light. With that being said, these questions are often pretty open-ended, so if you have something important to say that hasn’t been mentioned yet, it can greatly strengthen your application.