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Medical School Admissions: Guide to the AMCAS Application

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

If you’re considering applying to medical school, you’ll likely be using the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) to apply to your best-fit medical school programs. This can be a challenging process, but knowing what to expect ahead of time and formulating a strategy to complete the AMCAS will help the process go more smoothly.   

What is the AMCAS Application?

The AMCAS is a centralized application process used by most medical schools in the U.S. Like the Common App, AMCAS delivers your application information and MCAT exam scores to the medical schools to which you’re applying. 

What Does the AMCAS Application Consist of?

The AMCAS application consists of nine sections.

  1. Identifying Information
  2. Schools Attended
  3. Biographic Information
  4. Coursework
  5. Work and Activities
  6. Letters of Evaluation
  7. Medical Schools
  8. Essays
  9. Standardized Tests

Read on to learn more about each component of the AMCAS in greater detail.

Top 6 Things to Keep In Mind When Tackling Your Medical School Application Strategy

Before you start formulating your medical school application strategy, it’s important to understand what to expect. Most aspiring medical school students know that the admissions process is more of a marathon than a sprint, and now is the time to create a plan of action for your medical school applications. For many applicants, artfully completing the AMCAS is one of the most grueling parts of the process. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts or cheat codes to streamline the processbut there are some strategies that will help students complete the comprehensive application to the best of their ability.

Here’s your guide to creating a stellar AMCAS application with tips and advice from McGreggor, our Medical School Admissions Counselor.

#1 Understand Your School’s Advising Process

First, understand your medical school admissions timeline. Be proactive and stay on top of your work to avoid any unpleasant, last-minute surprises. Keep track of document submission deadlines and the steps required to complete them so that you remain in good standing at your undergraduate institution. When in doubt, reach out to an academic advisor for clarification.

#2 Start the Personal Statement Early

Ideally, start drafting your personal statement over winter break so that you will have plenty of time to write, edit, and seek feedback. Avoid starting last minute and scrambling to meet the deadline.

#3 Ask for Letters of Recommendation Early

Professors and advisors are busy people, and in all likelihood, you will be one of many to request a letter of recommendation from them in a given year. In order to obtain the best letters of recommendation possible, give your professors and advisors ample time to draft their notes, and send over your CV and personal statement for them to use as a reference. A hastily-written letter is easy to spot and will not be favorably received by the admissions office.

#4 Don’t Slack on Your Secondaries

Secondaries are pretty unique to the medical school admissions process; most undergraduate institutions don’t send an additional round of questions once you submit your application. While it might feel like this follow-up is redundant or unimportant, this isn’t the case!

Secondaries are school-specific and allow students to articulate their interest in a specific institution. Consequently, the best secondary applications are tailored to the academic program to which you are applying. Be as specific as possible by mentioning certain research labs that interest you, courses you wish to take, and professors whose work you greatly admire and with whom you may want to study/research. Medical schools are eager to admit students who will hit the ground running, so don’t be afraid to craft responses that are actionable and creative.

#5 Be Careful About Recycling Responses

Using an essay as a jumping off point for a similar response for another school is often tempting. While this technique can save some time on the application process, it is important to be extremely careful if you choose to repurpose content. Be sure to revise and edit each essay so the response is customized to a unique school and the specific programs they offer. Reread these recycled responses an additional time to be sure all of the information is relevant to the school to which you’re applying. One of the most frequent mistakes we see students make is forgetting to change the name of the institution in their essays.

#6 Submit Your AMCAS ASAP

Try to submit your AMCAS as early as possible. As soon as the gates open, you should click “submit” so you can have a productive summer and focus on the next steps within the application process. Submitting early will provide you with plenty of time to work on secondary applications.

Don’t wait until the last minute to start thinking about your medical school application strategy. Starting early and utilizing these tips about medical admissions can help you complete medical school applications that will set you apart from the rest of the applicant pool.

The Medical Application Process: How to Complete Each Section of the AMCAS Application

Below is a brief overview of the information you will be asked to provide in each section of the AMCAS application. 

Section 1: Identifying Information

This section asks you to list the basic details of your identity, including name, date of birth, and gender. You will also be asked to list any ID numbers from the school transcripts you send to AMCAS. 

Section 2: Schools Attended

This section prompts you to enter information about your high school and any postsecondary institutions you enrolled in, even if you withdrew or didn’t earn any credits. You must also indicate in this section if any institutional action was taken against you for academic misconduct or poor academic performance.

Section 3: Biographic Information

This section expands on Section 1, asking you to provide contact information as well as details about your citizenship, ethnicity and race, languages spoken, military service, family members, and so on. You are also expected to disclose any felonies and misdemeanors.   

Section 4: Coursework

This section asks you to provide information about your coursework for every US, UK, territorial, or Canadian postsecondary school you have enrolled in. You will also need to request transcripts from all these institutions. 

Section 5: Work and Activities

Do you have any work experience, awards, honors, published work, or extracurriculars you’d like to highlight on your application? This section is where you can do that. You can enter up to 15 work and activity experiences, so choose the ones that are most significant.  

Section 6: Letters of Evaluation

Letters of evaluation are a critical part of your application, and AMCAS accepts three types.

  • The Committee Letter is authored by a pre-health committee or pre-health advisor as an evaluation of you by your institution.
  • A Letter Packet is a set of letters distributed by your institution from other faculty members.
  • An Individual Letter is authored by and represents a single letter writer. You can request up to 10 letters to be included with your application. 

Section 7: Medical Schools

In this section, you will list all the medical schools to which you wish to apply. This includes medical schools that participate in an Early Decision Program.

Section 8: Essays

The AMCAS application requires a Personal Comments essay, which is approximately one page 5,300 characters max, including spaces. You can use text-only word processing software, such as Microsoft Notepad, to avoid formatting errors, or type your essay directly into the AMCAS application. However, there is no spell check, so proofread carefully before you submit! 

Applying to an MD-PhD program? Be prepared to write two additional essays: the Significant Research Experience essay and the MD-PhD essay.

Section 9: Standardized Tests

This is where you provide your standardized test scores, including the MCAT and AAMC PREview. You may need to submit additional test results, such as the GRE, LSAT, GMAT, or MAT, if you are applying to a dual degree program such as an MBA-MD or MD-PhD.

Biggest Medical School Application Mistakes

It’s possible to make a mistake on your med school application before you even apply. How? By not considering your pathway to medical school at the start of your undergraduate program so you can choose the best courses to satisfy both your major and your pre-med prerequisites. McGreggor explains how students can avoid or resolve medical school application mistakes. 

IvyWise Answers FAQs About the AMCAS

What Are Medical School Admissions Committees Looking For?

Medical school admissions committees are typically looking for applicants who have a passion for the medical profession, have excellent academic records, and have impressive test scores. They are also interested in potential students with strong people skills, good critical thinking abilities, emotional maturity, and compassion.

Medical schools look at all aspects of an applicant’s background to determine who can make the most positive impact on the practice of medicine. Admissions committees tend to favor applicants who actively participate in extracurricular activities related to healthcare, possess leadership skills, and demonstrate research capabilities. Those with clinical experience or a commitment to public service will stand out among other medical school applicants.

Dive into more details about what medical school admissions committees are looking for.

Can I Get Into Medical School With a Misdemeanor?

Most criminal convictions do not prevent medical school applicants from becoming a doctor, though they necessitate that you openly disclose the information and explain what occurred without making any excuses. It’s beneficial to offer a straightforward apology and acknowledgement of how others might have been injured or adversely affected.

Can I Apply to AMCAS Without the MCAT?

Yes! AMCAS is able to and will process your application if the MCAT scores are unavailable when you submit it.

Should I List Hobbies on AMCAS?

Yes! As referred to above, you are able to incorporate up to 15 activities, which include medical involvement, volunteerism, study, medical observation, and hobbies. Bear in mind that a broad and diversified assortment of involvements will help you stand out.

What Is a Good AMCAS GPA?

It is important to research carefully before submitting an application for medical school, as the average applicant GPA can differ significantly between institutions. The average GPA across all applicants was 3.60 for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle.

See your questions answered about medical admissions and GPA.

Are 12 Activities Enough for AMCAS?

Ideally, you should have no less than 15 activities on your application. The diversity of activities you incorporate, your continued participation in them, and what you depict about the events matter notably in how admissions faculty view your allegiance to this career trajectory.

The medical school admissions process can be complex and daunting, but we’re here to help! At IvyWise, our expert team of medical school admissions counselors have all held senior admissions positions at top medical schools in the U.S. like Stanford, MIT, and UCLA. Contact us today for more information on our medical school admissions counseling services.


Related Topics

Medical School Admissions
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