The Medical School Application Process
Application Overview and Tips to Submit Your Best Application
During the 2019–2020 medical school application period, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) determined that 53,371 people applied to an average of 17 schools. Of that total, 21,869 students were matriculated. In the face of such steep competition, receiving an acceptance letter from any medical school is a significant achievement.
Applying to medical school is multifaceted process that requires several years of planning. Luckily, there are several tips we’ll share that can enhance your overall application; however, it is essential to understand the fundamentals of the medical school application before you can incorporate these insights for your personal use.
The Primary Application
Typically open during the first week of May each year for the following year’s medical school class, the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS®) is the Association of American Medical Colleges' central medical school application process.
The AMCAS is the primary application method for most U.S.-based medical schools. Whether you apply to 10 or 17 medical schools, you will submit only one primary application through the AMCAS.
The Secondary Application
Congratulations! Your primary application caught the attention of a desired school and they’ve requested that you complete a secondary application. Since secondary applications are specific to each institution, this is your opportunity to reflect and highlight the following:
- Why are you interested in this specific school?
- How do your long-term plans align with the school’s mission?
- What recent research or long-term studies done by the school are of interest to you?
Medical School Application Tips:
Completing your medical school application is no easy feat, and it’s normal to feel confident about certain parts of your application and concerned about others. Below are our top-five tips to help you submit your best medical school application:
- Start Early
Building a solid foundation for your medical school application can take years. Consider the time you’ll need to nurture relationships with the professors you’ll use as references later or to determine which medical field you’d like to study, based on your coursework and research projects.
As daunting as this seems, you don’t need to do it alone! Meeting with a pre-health advisor early in your undergraduate studies can help you plan your pre-med classes and introduce you to on-campus resources designed specifically for pre-med students. The AAMC recommends that you meet with a pre-health advisor as early as your first undergraduate year. Many colleges have designated health-profession advisors who are members of the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP), making it easier for you to find an advisor dedicated to your academic and extracurricular success.
- Build Your Profile
There’s more to your application than transcripts and test scores! Participating in volunteer activities and developing work experience are great ways to showcase your passions and personality in your application.
There are a multitude of volunteer opportunities for pre-med students. Whether you assist on a research project, participate in a university-based club or donate your time to a medical humanitarian organization off campus, volunteering is an effective way to round out your application while making a positive impact in your community.
Working in a hospital, doctor’s office or medical research setting is a great way to demonstrate your passion for the medical field. You’ll obtain real-world experience in different medical specialties, providing you with concrete examples to draw from during your admissions interview.
Whether you spend your time volunteering, working or both, it can often prove beneficial to remain part of a team for an extended period of time. Investing time with the same organizations can give rise to leadership opportunities, providing you with a training ground for managing a team and leading a project from conception to completion. You’ll also demonstrate your long-term commitment to the medical school admissions committee.
- Prepare and Study
Like many aspiring medical school students, you’re preparing for the MCAT. If taking standardized tests is not your strength, that’s ok! There are several methods that can help you enhance your MCAT score, including:
Enrolling in an Online Graduate Program Gain dual benefits with this option! You’ll reinforce concepts found on the MCAT exam while showcasing your aptitude for handling the rigors of a graduate education. If you enroll in an online program, you’ll have the ability to complete coursework anywhere, at any time.
- Taking Practice Exams
Simulate the test-day environment! The Princeton Review and the AAMC are two of the many places that sell online practice versions of the MCAT. Taking a practice test will provide an opportunity to assess your test-taking stamina and learn which areas you need to focus on the most.
- Retaking the MCAT
A second attempt at almost anything is easier than the first, as you’re more familiar with the process, and the MCAT is no exception. Fortunately, you can take the MCAT multiple times; however, the scores from each time you complete the test appear on your application.
- Show Authenticity and Enthusiasm
It can be nerve-racking to be evaluated by someone you’ve never met. That’s why it’s important to incorporate your personality into your application. Just as employing a good bedside manner is essential to maintaining patients, adding personal touches will humanize your application and heighten your appeal to medical school admissions representatives.
You can accomplish this by incorporating personal experiences into your essays and secondary application: discuss why you want to study medicine, your favorite research projects or notable insights from your volunteer or work experience.
- Practice Your Interviews
You did it! Your hard work in submitting a top-notch application paid off, and you’ve been selected for an interview! This is your first opportunity to make a face-to-face impression in front of the admissions department.
At this stage, it can be tempting to feel overly confident; however, it is important that you treat this like a job interview. If you find that you get nervous meeting people or stumble answering questions, then you’ll want to practice your interview in advance.
The good news is that getting practice is easy! Grab a friend or schedule an appointment with your pre-health advisor and let them ask you some common interview questions. This is a great way to get honest feedback and to improve your answers.
Applying to medical school is a long-term process and earning an acceptance letter is a rewarding accomplishment. By following the advice above, we hope that you can enhance your medical school application to help accomplish your goals of becoming a doctor.