By Juhn, IvyWise Medical School Admissions Counselor
The medical school admissions process can seem complex and, oftentimes, daunting. Much like the undergraduate application process, the med school admissions process requires considerable planning. However, medical school hopefuls should be aware that applying to med school has its own unique requirements, expectations, and challenges.
Students who plan to pursue a career in the medical field need to be well-prepared if they want to stand out to medical school admissions committees and gain a spot at an institution that aligns with their future goals.
Whether you are just now starting to think about applying to medical school or are absolutely sure it is the next step in your educational journey, be sure to consider these tips as you lay out your strategy for navigating the application process.
Participate in Impactful Activities Prior to Applying
As you prepare to apply to medical school, start by evaluating the strength of your application. Have you pursued research opportunities? Participated in clinical volunteering? Would any community service or job experiences enhance your application? If you believe that participating in such activities would benefit you, consider delaying your application until the next admissions cycle in order to allow yourself time to build on your application.
It is important to note that many medical schools do not accept updates to applications. Some medical schools might accept updates to your application only if you are invited to interview. Even if your top-choice institutions do accept updates, the updates might not be impactful if you were involved in an activity for only a short period of time.
Considering these factors, it is crucial that you apply only when you feel your application is at its strongest. Should there be areas where you can improve, specifically in extracurricular or professional activities, pursue those opportunities and then continue with the application process.
Make Sure You Are Prepared to Apply Early
It is highly recommended that, if your application is strong enough, you apply early to medical school. In most instances, the early application process starts during the month of June. The AMCAS application will be available to submit beginning in May or June, and the closing deadline to submit is typically at the start of November.
That is approximately a six-month window to submit your AMCAS application. Keep in mind that each medical school will have a different deadline date to submit the AMCAS application, which might be earlier than the November deadline.
So, why submit the AMCAS application (or, as some people call it, the primary application) early? One reason is that you will have more time to resolve any issues that arise while verifying your AMCAS application. This might include your official transcripts not matching the grades you have listed in your AMCAS application or your university being unable to forward your official transcripts to AMCAS in time.
Keep in mind, if you are planning to apply to medical school this summer, requesting official transcripts from your school might be delayed because there will be many other students also submitting requests for graduate and professional programs.
Additionally, many medical schools begin the interview season in late summer or early fall. It can take 4 to 6 weeks before you are notified if you will be invited to interview at a medical school. Applying earlier will help make your interview process smoother.
Thoroughly Research Each School on Your College List
Take time to thoroughly research the medical schools you plan to apply to. Be sure to read through each school’s website and familiarize yourself with any specific pre-requirements (e.g., undergraduate coursework).
During your research, review the MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirement) online to familiarize yourself with not only the school’s deadlines, but also its mission and philosophies, as well as how many non-state applicants have been admitted, the average GPA, MCAT score, the minimum and maximum number of letters of recommendation, the type of interview (traditional, MMIs or Multiple Mini Interviews, virtual), and more.
Create a Plan When Asking for Recommendation Letters
Speak with your potential recommendation letter writers ahead of the application process. Since medical schools vary in terms of the minimum and maximum number of letters that will be accepted, consider collecting different types of letters, such as one from a supervisor where you work or volunteer, in addition to faculty and/or Principal Investigator letters if you have research experience.
It is important to obtain a letter from a supervisor where you have a longer commitment, since this person can provide insight into your leadership abilities, problem-solving capabilities, multi-tasking, mentorship, etc. Contact these potential letter writers and confirm an in-person or virtual meeting date rather than simply sending an email asking if they would write you a letter.
As you prepare to meet with this individual, provide a copy of your unofficial transcript(s), your resume, and a draft of your personal statement. These items are helpful because if they know you only as a student, they can use your resume and personal statement as additional context. Additionally, they can include some of these activities in their letter to provide additional context to your story of why you want to pursue medical school.
Don’t forget to provide your letter writer with a deadline for their letter. Set the deadline about one or two weeks before you need it in case the letter writer is delayed in writing or uploading your letter either directly to the AMCAS website or another letter collection website that you have chosen.
Stay Organized Throughout the Process
It is important that you stay organized throughout the admissions process. One way to do this is by creating a separate email address meant only for communications related to applying to medical school. When creating the email address, be sure that it is professional.
If available, simply use your first or full name followed by @gmail.com, for example. By doing this, you know that all messages going to this address or in the junk mail should be from a medical school or AMCAS, and it will be easier for you to follow up rather than sifting through your emails to determine which are personal and which are from a medical school.
As you proceed through the application process, your mantra should be, “No news is good news.” Until you receive a decision notification from a medical school, a decision has not yet been made, so you are still in contention! Good luck on your journey to med school!
At IvyWise, our admissions counselors have first-hand experience in working with prospective medical school applicants and know how to help such candidates prepare accordingly in order to present their best selves throughout their applications. Contact us today for more information about our medical school admissions services.