Applying to medical school can be a long and exhausting process. My goal is to share with you resources and advice that will allow you to be more efficient and make you a competitive applicant so that you can make all of your dreams come true!
First things first, taking on the application can be somewhat confusing because there are many websites and systems that you must use. So I will break them down here.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is the core for all things medicine, including information for students, data, news, advocacy and so on. There, you will find resources for pre-medical students about health professions, the MCAT, applying, financial aid, etc. You will make an account to register for the MCAT, and you will later use this account to apply to medical school.
Once you are ready to apply, you will use the American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®), which is the AAMC’s system for applying to medical school. You will still the same account that you previously created, but it will direct you to a different portal. Note: Most U.S. medical schools use AMCAS except medical schools in Texas and CUNY School of Medicine. Therefore, if you are interested in applying to a Texas medical school, you will have to use their system, called the Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service.
The application has many parts and will take you more than one sitting to complete. I suggest you print out or save the 2019 AMCAS Application Guide to serve as a reference while applying. Here, I will highlight a few parts of the application that are highly important.
This is the section for you to highlight experiences, work, research, etc. that you have done that will demonstrate your passion and dedication to medicine. This is the place to elaborate on any work experience in the field, club involvement or volunteer work that you have done and explain its impact on you. Don’t be shy to talk about how much you have done! You are allowed a maximum of 15 entries so select the experiences that were most meaningful, relevant and/or valuable to you as an applicant. If you do not have as many experiences, do not worry! Add those that you have – do NOT fill in all 15 with insignificant experiences. There is absolutely no harm in not completing all 15 entries. Also, not every experience has to be related to medicine.
Out of the 15 entries, you are able to designate up to 3 as the most meaningful experiences. You will have the opportunity to further elaborate on these experiences. This is the place that you may want to designate experiences related to medicine or experiences that you can tie to medicine by explaining its impact on you or how it will contribute to you as a future doctor. These 3 experiences are very likely to come up in interviews so choose ones that you are comfortable talking about!
2. Letters of Evaluation
Letters of evaluation are by far one of the most important but difficult components of the application. Tips of advice: ask faculty members/letter writers EARLY! They will take their time, and you do not want your application to be missing components because schools may not process your application until complete. Be sure to pick letter writers that will be able to speak to your commitment and abilities. Also, be sure to read the letter guidelines because they can be very specific (require signatures, headers, etc.) and may also delay processing if not formatted correctly.
IMPORTANT: Refer to the Medical School Letters of Evaluation Policies because some schools require a committee letter if your undergraduate institution offers it. A committee letter is a letter authored by a pre-health committee or pre-health advisor intended to represent your institution’s evaluation of you. It usually requires an interview with the committee and approximately 3 individual faculty letters. Therefore, be sure to check the medical school’s requirements and your undergraduate institution’s science/pre-med department to see if it is offered.
3. Personal Statement
Many people are intimidated by the personal statement, and it is understandable, as it is also a huge component of the application. This is your chance to tell your story. DO NOT repeat everything that is on your resume or in your activities section. This is the time to talk about things that may not have been highlighted in other parts of the application but are significant, such as: your reason for wanting to pursue medicine, your goals, and meaningful experiences (do not just repeat the activities).
The personal statement should be exactly what its name implies… personal. However, be sure to relate everything back to medicine. The readers should be able to gain insight into who you are, why you will fit at their medical school and the impact that you plan to make. Have many people read your statement and offer feedback. Take your time, and do not rush it!
4. Medical Schools
Selecting which medical schools to apply to can be overwhelming, but you have made it this far! NOTE: This can be the costly step. Submitting the AMCAS application costs $170 (and includes one school designation). Each additional medical school that you add is $39. You can always add more schools later after you submit the application.
Important considerations when deciding to apply to a medical school include: location, cost of tuition, ranking, and/or requirements. Be sure to apply to schools that you would actually consider attending – otherwise you are wasting money.
After you submit your AMCAS application, your application is sent to every medical school that you designated. You may then receive a secondary (school-specific) application from each school, which costs on average about $60-$120 per school application. Be sure to consider secondaries in your budget. You must be invited to submit a secondary in order to receive an interview and acceptance.
Once a secondary application is submitted and processed, schools will determine whether or not an interview invitation will be extended to an applicant. If an interview is granted, you will pick a date or one will be given to you, and you will be required to travel to the institution to interview. This is the fun part of medical school admissions! If you are invited for an interview, you already meet the qualifications, and the school is evaluating whether you will be a good fit. Be prepared but relaxed!
Check out my blog for posts about my medical school application process, how I selected schools, and the interview trail!