More Writing????? Secondaries And CASPer

Hey everyone, I hope you are doing well and staying safe during these times. Today, I wanted to talk about something that I feel like a lot of people do not touch as much as other parts of the medical school application…secondaries and CASPer!

I thought after I submitted my primary application, I was going to be stress free. Writing the personal statement and all of my activities for my primary application was already so hard, but the difficult part was behind me, right? Boy, I was wrong. There were more things to write about for secondaries. The secondary part of the application is when individual medical schools send out or email additional questions (about certain courses, SES etc) and essay questions to get more of a feel of an applicant. For some schools, you even have to take CASPer. For those of you who do not know what that is, it is a 1-2 hour exam that tests “who you are” as a person by having you watch certain scenarios and writing a response in 5 minutes of what you would do if you in that situation. It was not too bad, but I was pretty tired when I got to that exam.

Here are some tips on how you can overcome secondaries and CASPer so that you can finally breathe some digital-free air!

1.Organization is key

When I submitted my primary application, I made a list of all the schools I had applied to and which ones required the secondary application. I also wrote down which schools needed CASPer as well. I did this so that I would not be surprised by the sheer volume of writing I had to face. Here is a link of all the schools and their secondary applications and a link of which schools required CASPer as well.

2. Budget Wisely

Some schools require that you pay for secondary application fees (~$70/school) in addition to the CASPer exam fee (~$10/school). If you qualified for the Fee Assistance Program from AAMC, then you are in luck as most of these schools waive the secondary app fee. If not, however, definitely prioritize schools where you truly want to go to as opposed to schools that you were applying to just to apply.

3. Pre-write and Pretest

I cannot emphasize this enough. After I submitted my primary, I was trying to chill and then secondaries hit me like bricks from the sky. I truly wish that I have sat down and prewrote for some of them. The prompts are not too bad, and I think the best thing to do is to write bullet points of experiences and stories that relate to them so later on, you are motivated to actually write.

A lot of secondary prompts are pretty similar. If you used an answer for one school that has one question, then by all means use it for another one that has a similar one. It’s all about being efficient out here! For example, the diversity question is heavily used in some many schools, so it was easy for me to change it up a little bit and send it to another.

Here’s an example of three schools who used pretty much the same prompt:

They all had similar word count, so I just used this answer:

For CASPer, I recommend taking practice tests once you have registered for a test date. Try to type out coherent answers as quickly as you can so during the pretest, so you do not feel too overwhelmed during test day. With CASPer, you do not know your score, but your medical school does. I generally do not know how scoring works, but the best advice is to try answering the prompts in a way that is reflective of who you are. There is no right or wrong answer, so be yourself. I have linked a practice scenario below and if you want an actual practice test, I think would have to register for an exam.

4. Submit them ASAP

Hana, I struggled with this a lot. When I got my secondaries, I submitted some of them really late. I would not recommend anyone do what I did. Most applicants try to submit them after 2 weeks of receiving them. I, however, did some of them two months later (smh).  For some schools, it did not impact me too much; I even got an interview invite the day after I submitted one. For others, I am sure that it caused them to look towards other applicants. The early bird gets the worm so please try getting your secondaries in. You necessarily do not have to get anyone to read them (I did not for a lot of them) but if you have a friend who likes editing or a medical student mentor, I would recommend that they help you out.

For CASPer, I did the exam in late September, which was alright, but like I said before, the earlier the better. Try to schedule it in August so that you can get it over with. Make sure that after you complete the exam, it is submitted to all of the schools that require it, so that you do not run into any difficulties later.

5. Stick it Through!

All of this may seem draining and feels like it’s never going to end, but trust me, it will. You have to suck it up and get through it. There’s going to be negative thoughts going through your mind that make you want to give up and focus on other career options. But you have already gotten this far, so wait and see how the journey ends. Doing all those secondaries and ultimately taking CASPer gave me a lot of anxiety, but I am really glad I stuck it through. Granted, I got rejected by a lot of schools but once I got that acceptance, all of the struggling and pain I went through was worth it. And it will also be worth it for you as well, trust me 🙂

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