How to Ace Your UCSF Secondaries

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Areal view of University of California

How to Ace Your UCSF Secondaries

Welcome to a deeper dive into UCSF secondaries, a key step in your journey to becoming a healthcare professional. The University of California, San Francisco, a world-renowned hub for health sciences, secondary applications play an instrumental role in showcasing your commitment, motivation, and suitability for a career in medicine.

The UCSF Secondaries, a unique aspect of the UCSF application process, are not merely supplemental forms to fill out. Rather, they are a gateway to conveying your personal and professional goals, sharing experiences that have shaped you, and demonstrating your potential to contribute to the diverse UCSF community.

We’ll cover everything from what secondaries are and why they’re important, to preparing for them and writing effective essays that highlight your unique strengths and experiences.

Understanding UCSF Medical School Secondaries

Let me give you an overview of the UCSF secondaries.

What are Secondary Applications?

A secondary application is an additional application that some medical schools require in addition to the primary application submitted through AMCAS. It often includes additional essays or prompts for applicants to address, allowing the admissions committee to gain a more holistic understanding of each candidate.

Importance of Secondaries in the Admissions Process

Secondary applications can be a critical component of the admissions process, as they allow you to showcase your unique qualities, experiences, and passions. Admissions committees may use these essays to evaluate your fit with the school’s mission and values, which can heavily influence their decision-making process.

medical students studying in the top medical schools in the US

Preparing for UCSF Medical School Secondaries

Now let’s talk about how you can prepare for your UCSF secondaries.

Researching UCSF’s Mission and Values

Before you begin writing your secondary responses, it’s important to research UCSF’s mission and values. By gaining a deeper understanding of what the school values, you can tailor your responses accordingly and highlight your strengths and experiences that align with their goals.

Reflecting on Your Experiences and Goals

When preparing for secondaries, it’s essential to reflect on your experiences and goals to identify what sets you apart from other applicants. Consider your unique qualities, life experiences, and passions, and think about how they relate to your desire to become a physician. By doing so, you can craft compelling responses that showcase your unique strengths.

Organizing Your Thoughts and Ideas

Before beginning your essays, it’s helpful to organize your thoughts and ideas to ensure that your responses are clear, concise, and effective. This may involve creating an outline, brainstorming ideas, or creating a mind map. By taking the time to organize your thoughts, you’ll be well-prepared to write strong, effective essays that impress the admissions committee.

Common UCSF Secondary Essay Prompts

Let’s discuss the common prompts you’ll be answering in your UCSF secondaries.

Diversity and Inclusion

As a medical institution committed to promoting diversity and inclusion, UCSF recognizes the importance of having a diverse student body. One of the most common UCSF secondary prompts asks applicants to discuss how their background or experiences have contributed to diversity and inclusion in their communities. This prompt is an opportunity for you to showcase your unique experiences and how they have helped you develop a greater understanding and appreciation for diverse perspectives.

Perhaps you grew up in a multilingual household, which allowed you to communicate with people from different cultural backgrounds. Or maybe you volunteered at a community center that served a diverse population, where you learned about the challenges faced by people from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Whatever your experience may be, it is important to reflect on how it has shaped your perspective and how you plan to use this perspective as a physician to promote equity and inclusion in the medical community.

group of medical students sitting and communing at a stair outside of a medical college

As a physician, you will encounter patients from all walks of life. Your ability to understand and appreciate their unique experiences and perspectives will be critical in providing compassionate and effective care. By sharing your experiences and commitment to diversity and inclusion, you can demonstrate to the admissions committee that you are not only a qualified applicant, but also a valuable addition to the UCSF community.

Overcoming Challenges

Medical school is a challenging and demanding experience, and admissions committees want to know that you have the resilience and determination to succeed. One of the prompts in UCSF secondaries asks applicants to discuss a significant challenge they have faced and how they overcame it.

Perhaps you struggled with a learning disability or a chronic illness that made it difficult for you to keep up with your coursework. Or maybe you faced a personal crisis, such as the loss of a loved one, that made it difficult for you to stay focused on your goals. Whatever your challenge may be, it is important to reflect on how you overcame it and what you learned from the experience.

Did you develop new study habits or coping mechanisms that helped you succeed? Did you seek out support from friends, family, or mentors? Whatever skills and qualities helped you persevere through this challenge, it is important to discuss how they will help you succeed in medical school and beyond.

Medical school is a rigorous and demanding experience, and it is important to have the resilience and determination to overcome obstacles and succeed. By sharing your experience and demonstrating your ability to overcome challenges, you can show the admissions committee that you have what it takes to succeed as a medical student and as a physician.

Research and Clinical Interests

UCSF is known for its world-class research programs, and they are interested in hearing about your research and clinical interests. One of the common UCSF secondary prompts asks applicants to discuss their passions and accomplishments in the field of medicine and how they have contributed to their desire to become a physician.

Perhaps you conducted research on a novel treatment for a rare disease, or you worked with a patient population that inspired you to pursue a career in medicine. Whatever your experience may be, it is important to reflect on how it has shaped your interests and goals as a physician.

As a medical student and future physician, you will have the opportunity to contribute to the field of medicine through research and clinical practice. By sharing your interests and experiences, you can demonstrate to the admissions committee that you are passionate about making a meaningful impact in the field of medicine.

It is also important to highlight any relevant research experience or clinical exposure you may have had. This can include internships, volunteer work, or shadowing experiences. By demonstrating your knowledge and experience in the field, you can show the admissions committee that you are a qualified and motivated applicant.

medical students wearing scrubs looking at the camera

Overall, the UCSF secondaries provide an opportunity for you to showcase your unique experiences, skills, and qualities that make you a qualified and valuable addition to the medical community. By reflecting on your experiences and goals as a physician, you can demonstrate your commitment to the field and your potential to make a meaningful impact in the lives of your patients.

Tips for Writing Effective Secondary Essays

As a prospective medical student, you’ve likely spent countless hours perfecting your primary application, crafting the perfect personal statement and obtaining stellar letters of recommendation. However, the admissions process doesn’t end there. Secondary essays are an essential part of the application process, allowing admissions committees to gain a deeper understanding of who you are as a person and as a potential medical student. Here are some tips to help you write effective secondary essays:

Be Concise and Clear

Admissions committees review thousands of applications each year, and they don’t have the time or energy to read lengthy, unfocused essays. It’s important to be clear and concise in your responses, making every word count. Use concrete examples to illustrate your points, and avoid any unnecessary or extraneous information. Remember, quality over quantity is key.

One way to ensure clarity in your writing is to have someone else read your essays and provide feedback. A fresh set of eyes can help identify areas that may be unclear or need further explanation.

Show, Don’t Tell

One of the most effective ways to make your essays stand out is by showing rather than telling. Rather than simply stating that you are passionate about diversity and inclusion, for example, provide specific examples that illustrate this passion. Use concrete descriptions and language to help the admissions committee visualize your experiences and understand your perspective.

Additionally, sharing personal anecdotes can help humanize your application and make you more memorable to the admissions committee. However, be sure to keep the focus on your experiences and how they have shaped you as a person and a potential medical student.

Tailor Your Responses to UCSF’s Values

As mentioned earlier, it’s essential to research UCSF’s mission and values before writing your essays. By doing so, you can tailor your responses to showcase your alignment with these values and highlight your unique qualities that align with their goals. Be sure to use language and examples that showcase your fit with the school’s mission and vision.

For example, if UCSF places a strong emphasis on community service and outreach, you could highlight your experiences volunteering at a local clinic or participating in a medical mission trip. This demonstrates your commitment to service and aligns with the school’s values.

Remember, the UCSF secondaries are an opportunity to showcase your unique qualities and experiences that make you a strong candidate for medical school. By following these tips and taking the time to craft thoughtful, well-written essays, you can make a lasting impression on the admissions committee and increase your chances of acceptance to UCSF.


As you prepare to answer your UCSF secondaries, keep in mind the importance of researching the school’s mission and values, reflecting on your unique strengths and experiences, and crafting clear and effective responses that showcase your fit with the school’s vision. By following these tips and strategies, you’ll be well-positioned to succeed in the admissions process and take the first steps towards a rewarding career in medicine.

medical students wearing scrubs, talking and laughing

How AdmissionSight can help you with college admissions

AdmissionSight is a college consulting firm that provides personalized assistance to students throughout the college admissions process. Here are some ways that AdmissionSight can help you:

Admissions strategy: AdmissionSight can help you develop a strategic plan for your college application process. Our professional consultants can assist with identifying schools that are a good fit for your academic, extracurricular, and personal goals and help you plan and prioritize your application strategy.

Application review: AdmissionSight can review your application and provide feedback on how to improve it. We can offer suggestions on how to make your application stand out and highlight your strengths and unique qualities.

Essay coaching: AdmissionSight can help you craft compelling essays that showcase your personality, goals, and achievements. We can guide you through the essay writing process and provide feedback on your drafts to help you refine your writing.

Interview preparation: AdmissionSight can provide interview coaching to help you feel confident and prepared for your college interviews. Our experts can offer tips on how to present yourself professionally and how to answer common interview questions.

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Overall, AdmissionSight can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the college admissions process to help you maximize your chances of getting accepted into the college of your choice.

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