How to Ace Your Vanderbilt Secondaries

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

The Vanderbilt University school seal

How to Ace Your Vanderbilt Secondaries

Welcome to a comprehensive exploration of the Vanderbilt secondaries, a crucial aspect of your medical school application that can potentially unlock the doors to your future medical career.

For many, the application process to Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM), one of the premier medical institutions in the United States, might seem daunting at first glance. The Vanderbilt secondaries are particularly renowned for their comprehensive nature and the deep level of self-reflection they necessitate from applicants.

But with the right strategy, a profound understanding of what’s asked, and a genuine showcase of your qualities and aspirations, these secondaries can become a rewarding journey that substantiates your commitment to the healthcare field. Dive in with us, as we unravel the nuances of these secondaries, provide insightful advice, and guide you on your journey to success.

Understanding Vanderbilt Medical School’s Mission and Values

Before diving into your secondary essays, it’s important to understand what Vanderbilt Medical School values. In a nutshell, Vanderbilt is committed to training leaders in healthcare who will make a positive impact on the world. Interdisciplinary collaboration, diversity and inclusion, and personalized medicine are just a few of the core values that Vanderbilt holds dear.

Smiling doctor in white coat and nurse with tablet pc computer at hospital

When it comes to healthcare, Vanderbilt Medical School believes that it’s not just about treating the illness, but also about treating the person. They understand that each patient is unique and has different needs, and that’s why they are dedicated to providing personalized care.

One of the ways that Vanderbilt achieves this is through their emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration. They believe that by working across different fields, they can gain a better understanding of complex medical issues and provide more effective treatments. This collaboration extends beyond just healthcare professionals and includes researchers, engineers, and other experts.

The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion

Vanderbilt Medical School is committed to embracing diversity and creating an inclusive environment for all students. They understand that diversity brings different perspectives and experiences, which ultimately leads to better patient care.

When it comes to diversity, Vanderbilt is looking for applicants from all walks of life. They want students who come from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, different socioeconomic backgrounds, and different geographic locations. They also want students who have had different life experiences, such as overcoming adversity or volunteering in underserved communities.

When writing your essays in Vanderbilt secondaries, be sure to highlight how your unique perspective and background will contribute to the community. Also, use specific examples to demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion. This could include discussing any organizations you’ve been involved with that promote diversity or discussing any experiences you’ve had that have taught you the importance of inclusion.

Emphasis on Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Collaboration is the cornerstone of Vanderbilt’s medical education. They believe that by working across disciplines, they can better understand and treat complex medical issues. This collaboration extends beyond just healthcare professionals and includes researchers, engineers, and other experts.

When writing your essays, showcase how your past experiences have prepared you to work in a team environment and collaborate with others in different fields. This could include discussing any group projects you’ve worked on or any extracurricular activities you’ve been involved with that required collaboration.

Commitment to Personalized Medicine

Vanderbilt Medical School is dedicated to tailoring medical treatments to individual patients. They believe that by understanding the unique needs of each patient, they can provide better care and ultimately improve patient outcomes.

In your essays, highlight how your passion for medicine aligns with this commitment to personalized care. This could include discussing any experiences you’ve had working with patients or discussing any research you’ve done that focuses on personalized medicine.

four doctors looking at the camera

Overall, Vanderbilt Medical School is looking for students who are not only passionate about healthcare but also committed to their core values of interdisciplinary collaboration, diversity and inclusion, and personalized medicine. By understanding these values and showcasing how you align with them in your essays, you can increase your chances of being accepted into this prestigious medical school.

Tips for Writing Effective Secondary Essays

Now that you have a better understanding of Vanderbilt’s mission and values, it’s time to start working on your essays. Here are a few tips to help ensure that your essays stand out:

Reflect on Your Experiences and Growth

One of the most common essay prompts in Vanderbilt secondaries is to write about a challenging experience and how you overcame it. This is a great opportunity to showcase your resilience, problem-solving skills, and ability to learn from your experiences. When reflecting on your experience, be sure to use specific examples and provide details that help the reader understand the situation and your thought process.

Additionally, reflect on how this experience helped you grow and develop as a person and future physician. Did it change your perspective on healthcare or reinforce your desire to pursue medicine? Did it teach you valuable lessons about communication, empathy, or teamwork?

For example, maybe you had a patient who was non-compliant with their medication regimen. Through careful communication and collaboration with the patient and their family, you were able to identify and address the underlying issues that were causing the non-compliance. This experience taught you the importance of patient-centered care and the value of building strong relationships with patients and their families.

Show Your Passion for Medicine

Admissions committees want to see that you are passionate about medicine and motivated to pursue a career in healthcare. This doesn’t just mean listing off your achievements or experiences in healthcare. Instead, you should explain why you are drawn to medicine and what qualities you possess that will make you a successful physician.

For example, maybe you were drawn to medicine because of a personal experience with a family member who had a chronic illness. This experience taught you the importance of compassionate care and sparked your interest in pursuing a career in healthcare. Additionally, you possess strong communication skills, empathy, and a desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others.

Demonstrate Your Fit with Vanderbilt’s Culture

Vanderbilt is looking for students who will thrive in their community. Be sure to research the school and its programs and explain why you are a good fit for Vanderbilt’s culture. You should also explain what you are hoping to gain from your time at Vanderbilt and what you can contribute to the school.

For example, maybe you were drawn to Vanderbilt because of its emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration and its commitment to serving underserved communities. You have experience working with diverse populations and are passionate about addressing healthcare disparities. You believe that Vanderbilt’s culture of collaboration and innovation will allow you to make a meaningful impact on the healthcare landscape.

A female med student looking into her laptop while 2 more med students are studying at the desks behind her

Remember, the Vanderbilt secondaries are your opportunity to showcase your personality, experiences, and fit with Vanderbilt’s mission and values. Take the time to reflect on your experiences and goals, and craft thoughtful and engaging essays that will make you stand out to the admissions committee.

Tackling Common Secondary Essay Prompts

Now let’s talk about the best way you can tackle common prompts in Vanderbilt secondaries.

The “Why Vanderbilt” Essay

When it comes to choosing a medical school, there are many factors to consider. However, Vanderbilt Medical School stands out from the rest. As a prospective student, it is important to do your research and understand what makes Vanderbilt unique.

One of the reasons I am drawn to Vanderbilt is its commitment to innovation and research. Vanderbilt Medical School has a long history of groundbreaking research that has led to significant advancements in the medical field. I am excited about the opportunity to learn from and work alongside faculty members who are at the forefront of medical research.

Additionally, Vanderbilt offers a wide range of programs and resources that align with my goals and interests. For example, the school’s Global Health program provides students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in international health settings. As someone who is passionate about global health, this program would allow me to make a meaningful impact in underserved communities around the world.

Overall, Vanderbilt’s commitment to excellence in research and its diverse range of programs and resources make it an ideal fit for me as I pursue my medical education.

The Diversity Essay

Diversity is an essential aspect of any community, and Vanderbilt Medical School is no exception. As a future physician, it is crucial that I have a deep understanding of and appreciation for diversity in all its forms.

As a person of color, I have experienced firsthand the challenges and opportunities that come with being part of a diverse community. I believe that my unique experiences and perspectives will make me an asset to the Vanderbilt community. I am committed to fostering an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

Furthermore, I understand that diversity goes beyond race and ethnicity. It includes differences in socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, and more. I am committed to learning about and embracing all forms of diversity in order to become a more culturally competent physician.

I look forward to contributing to Vanderbilt’s diverse community and learning from my fellow students and faculty members.

The Challenge and Growth Essay in Vanderbilt Secondaries

Life is full of challenges, and as a future physician, I know that I will face many difficult situations throughout my career. However, I am confident in my ability to overcome challenges and grow as a person and physician.

One particularly challenging experience I faced was during my undergraduate studies. I was struggling to balance my coursework with extracurricular activities and a part-time job. I felt overwhelmed and on the verge of burnout. However, I knew that giving up was not an option.

With the help of my academic advisor and a supportive network of friends and family, I was able to develop effective time management strategies and prioritize my responsibilities. Through this experience, I learned the importance of self-care and the value of seeking help when needed.

medical student hanging out outside a hospital, looking happy while staring straight to the camera

This experience has shaped me as a person and future physician. I now understand the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance and the value of seeking support from colleagues and mentors. I am confident that I will be able to overcome any challenges that come my way and continue to grow both personally and professionally.

Strategies for Answering Short-Answer Questions

When it comes to applying for medical school, there are a variety of components that you need to consider. In addition to essays, Vanderbilt Medical School also requires applicants to answer short-answer questions. These questions can be just as important as essays, as they give admissions committees a quick glimpse into who you are and what you can offer.

Be Concise and Direct

Short-answer questions require you to be brief and to the point. This is not the time to go off on tangents or add unnecessary information. Instead, focus on answering the question directly and succinctly. Remember, admissions committees are reading through a lot of applications, so being concise can help you stand out.

One way to ensure that your response is direct is to re-read the question before you start writing. This will help you stay on track and avoid straying from the topic at hand.

Use Specific Examples

Whenever possible, use specific examples in your Vanderbilt secondaries to illustrate your point. This will help make your response more engaging and memorable. For example, if the question asks you to describe a time when you demonstrated leadership skills, don’t just say “I’m a great leader.” Instead, provide a specific example of a time when you took charge and led a group to success.

Using specific examples can also help you highlight your unique qualities, which is another important aspect of short-answer questions.

Highlight Your Unique Qualities

Vanderbilt Medical School is looking for students who stand out from the crowd. Use your short-answer responses to highlight your unique qualities and experiences that make you a strong candidate for medical school. This is your chance to showcase what makes you different from other applicants.

For example, if you have a unique background or life experience, share it in your response. This can help you stand out and show admissions committees that you have a diverse perspective to bring to the table.

Overall, short-answer questions are an important part of the medical school application process. By being concise, using specific examples, and highlighting your unique qualities, you can create effective responses that will help you stand out to admissions committees.


By understanding Vanderbilt’s mission and values and putting effort into crafting your essays and short-answer responses in Vanderbilt secondaries, you will be well on your way to acing the application process. Remember to be authentic and true to yourself, and showcase what makes you a unique and qualified candidate for Vanderbilt Medical School.

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:

a medicine student wearing a blue scrub suit and looking at the camera

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.

Extracurricular planning: AdmissionSight can help you plan and develop your extracurricular activities to make them more impactful and meaningful. We can suggest activities that align with your interests and goals and provide guidance on how to demonstrate your leadership and initiative.

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.

With a high success rate of over 75%, we have built a strong network in the past decade. Book an initial consultation today, free of charge!


College Admissions

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.