AbstractWe study the singularities of secant varieties of smooth projective varieties using methods from birational geometry when the embedding line bundle is sufficiently positive. More precisely, we study the Du Bois complex of secant varieties and its relationship with the sheaves of differential forms. Through this analysis, we give a necessary and sufficient condition for these varieties to have ‐Du Bois singularities (in a sense that was proposed in Shen, Venkatesh, and Vo [On k‐Du Bois and k‐rational singularities, arXiv e‐prints (June 2023), arXiv:2306.03977]). In addition, we show that the singularities of these varieties are never higher rational, by giving a classification of the cases when they are pre‐1‐rational. From these results, we deduce several consequences, including a Kodaira–Akizuki–Nakano type vanishing result for the reflexive differential forms of the secant varieties.