Questions About Secondary Applications & SJTs

Secondary Applications

What are secondary applications and why are they important?


Your primary application (e.g., AMCAS, AACOMAS, TMDSAS) was broad and covered general information about your preparation and motivation for becoming a doctor, dentist, vet, etc. The information in the primary application will be received by all schools and they will determine how to use it. A supplemental or secondary application is specific and designed by each individual school to capture information that they, specifically, deem important in determining whether you’re a good fit for their school.

When will I start receiving secondary applications?

The bulk of your secondaries will likely arrive within two weeks of the first application release to schools (date varies by year, but typically late June), or two weeks after verification if you aren't verified by that release date.

AMCAS transmits some basic information to your schools before your application is verified. Since many schools don’t screen applicants and send secondaries to everyone, as soon as they see that you’ve applied, they’ll send a secondary. Some schools will wait until your application is verified, and others will do further screening of your verified application and then determine whether or not to send you a secondary. 

Some schools have an optional free response, where we can share anything else that we want to about ourselves. I feel like I've said everything I needed to say. What should I do with this space?

 If you haven't done so yet, this is a great place to spend some time talking about why you think you're a good fit for the school, based on its mission, curriculum, or other aspects of it. If you've already done that, reflect on how you've presented yourself and the school's mission, and think of something that you can expand on that speaks to the mission of the school. 

Should I answer every optional question on a secondary?

If we had to generalize we'd say that medical schools might wonder why you didn't take the time to complete these 'optional' essays, and ultimately you might pass over an opportunity to present yourself in an even fuller light than you have already. 

How much time can I spend on a secondary? How quickly should I send it back?

The rule of thumb is to send back within two weeks of receipt of a secondary. Schools date stamp everything in your file, and if you take longer than that, we have heard that it can cause concern that you’re either not that interested in the school, or that you’re managing your time poorly in the application cycle. Of course, better to take a little bit longer and feel satisfied in your answer, so do your best to balance timing and quality of responses.

Situational Judgment Tests

What are situational judgment tests and why are they important?

Situational Judgment Tests (SJTs) are used by schools to better understand inter- and intrapersonal competencies and your approach to ethical decision making. Over the years, different SJTs have been piloted to complement the written secondary applications. Currently, the CASPer and AAMC PREview are the prevailing SJTs that you will be asked to take when applying to medical school. 

When should I take CASPer / SJTs?

Try to take CASPer and PREview in the summer (June/July) around the time that you’re completing secondary applications so that your score will arrive at your schools around the same time that your file will be complete.