Medical School Application Process

The application process, like being pre-med at Truman, is a journey. Care should be taken to plan your itinerary and identify the critical checkpoints and timelines.  Many medical schools offer acceptance on a first-come, first-serve basis. Therefore, the sooner you complete and submit the application, the better your chances of being accepted. High-quality applicants are often wait-listed because they did not complete the application process early enough in the application cycle.

It is absolutely essential that you identify and get to know your pre-med advisor, and that you keep up to date on deadlines and other information vital to completing the medical school application. Advisors often have insider information about specific medical schools and usually maintain helpful connections with area schools.

Both MD and DO programs have application services, and they typically open in May of each year for matriculation the following year.  Helpful instructional and guide books are available, and you should definitely read through these before you begin the process:

AMCAS site (Application Site, Application Guide and  MD School Guide – MSAR)

AACOMAS site (Application Site, Application Guide and DO School Guide)

For applications for American dental schools, use the ADEA AADSAS site.

You may wish to becomes ‘friends’ with AMCAS, Association of American Medical Colleges, and AACOM- The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine on Facebook.

A sample of medical schools to which Truman students frequently apply or matriculate are shown below (however, Truman students are accepted overall to a wide variety of medical and osteopathic schools):

The Very First Thing to Do Is…
Read the directions! Regardless which type of medical education you seek, the application services (and schools which do not participate in the application services) have DIRECTIONS which must be followed to the letter.  For example:

When?
The earliest applicants often begin the application process after taking the MCAT during the spring semester of their junior year.  Ideally, one should aim to have the online application(s) complete and ready to submit before June 1 of the year prior to desired matriculation into medical school. The most final drop-dead deadlines for most medical schools range from October 1 to December 15.  However, given the rolling nature of most admissions programs, the sooner you submit the application, the sooner your application can be processed and decided.  Some basic pre-med and application information from AAMC can be found here.

Also, one must have completed all stated course requirements before applying to medical school.  In general, you should complete all of the following before hitting the submit button on your AMCAS or AACOMAS application (some schools may have more course requirements, refer to the most recent MSAR):

  • 2 semesters of English Composition
  • 2 semesters of General Biology with labs
  • 2 semesters of College Physics with labs
  • 2 semesters of General (Inorganic) Chemistry with labs
  • 2 semesters of Organic Chemistry with labs

How?
Most schools require applicants to fill out an online application through either the AAMC website for allopathic schools or the AACOM website for osteopathic schools. For allopathic (MD) schools, the AMCAS application is used, while for osteopathic schools use the AACOMAS application.  Other schools have their own application forms and websites.

Both AMCAS and AACOMAS serve to disseminate your information to schools that you specify.  Schools interested in learning more about you will send out a secondary application after you complete either the AMCAS or AACOMAS.  Thus, the sooner you complete the AMCAS or AACOMAS, the sooner you will be invited to complete the secondary applications and be accepted.

What should I include in my application?
The online portion of the application includes:

  • Personal and contact information
  • Education Background (High School and College)
  • Completed college courses (name, course number, type, grade) – be sure to obtain copies of ALL college transcripts from which to enter ALL your college credits
  • Completed tests (MCAT, SAT, ACT etc.)
  • Work, extracurricular activities, honors, etc.
  • Personal statement
  • Schools you wish to apply to (You can find a complete list of schools here)

Note:  MCAT scores are automatically released to AMCAS, but not to AACOMAS. You can release your scores to AACOMAS through the MCAT Testing History System.  Most medical schools require that the MCAT  be taken within the last 3 years.

How much does it cost?
Both application services charge on a per-school basis. There is a base charge for the first school plus an additional charge for each additional school. A discussion of fees can be found here for AMCAS. The fees for AACOMAS are similar, though slightly lower.  In addition, there will be travel costs.  Applicants should have access to a major credit card in order to make travel plans.  Truman students have spent anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 during the application process (about $1,400 for 7 AMCAS schools).

How many schools should I consider?
With access to the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR®) at the AAMC website, students may research admission criteria and mission statements among many different medical schools.  The range of academic credentials for entering students posted by each medical school should help direct you to apply to the most appropriate schools, given your academic history and professional interests.  Many Truman students apply to 6-12 schools.

Personal Statement
The personal statement is a great opportunity to distinguish yourself from the rest of the applicant pool. It is your chance to describe some of the events in your life that have shaped you and have given you the qualities that you possess.  Although there are many ways to do this, many students relate their information through stories that illustrate their qualities and experiences.  In other words, provide anecdotal evidence to paint a picture that allows the reader to draw conclusions about the type of person you are.  Certainly tie in your motivations for becoming a physician and provide the evidence for why you think you are qualified.  Most important, the personal statement should explain very clearly, succinctly, and uniquely, how you came to the conclusion that medical practice is the most logical and appropriate career path for you.

Secondary Application
The secondary application is sent out by schools after they have received your online AMCAS or AACOMAS application. One of the biggest pieces of advice that many students echo is to complete these secondary applications as quickly as possible. Your chances of getting an interview are much better if the ‘turn around time’ for returning the secondary application is minimal (within one week).  Often, many of the questions are similar to what you might see on the initial application, with the addition of some specific questions about the school (e.g. what do you like about the school?  Why do you want to attend that school?).  A quick response will serve to emphasize your interest.  Try to get them back in a few days or a week at the most.

Interview
This is the capstone of the application process.  After receiving your secondary application, interested schools will notify you and usually allow you to choose from several interview dates.  If possible, you should try to reserve the earliest spot when the school has not yet admitted many students (your chances of acceptance are better at this point).  The purpose of the interview is for the admission panel to evaluate your character, personality, communication skills, and other attributes that may contribute to your success as a physician.  Be yourself.  Additional tips for success include:

  • Dress business professional (suit or one-piece dress; stockings (?) for women; no sandals)
  • Be on time; give yourself plenty of time to make it to the interview; arrive early
  • Arrive in town the night before to allow for relaxation before the big day; eat well the day before (avoid alcohol)
  • Be familiar with the school and the city/town itself (be prepared to talk about why you think that school is a good fit for you)
  • Be familiar with current medical issues (stem cells, healthcare insurance and costs, antibiotic resistance, life support, etc).
  • Mock interviews (great interview feedback resource at Student Doctor Network)
  • Advice from websites such as www.mededits.com

Format of Interview Day

  • Can last from 8 a.m. to possibly 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.
  • Usually consists of one to three interviews; either panel or one-to-one
  • Panel made up of faculty and sometimes upper level medical students
  • Tour of school and facilities.  This gives you the opportunity to assess the facilities, students, feel and culture of the school.  Remember, you may have a choice in medical schools and you should take time to assess which school would fit best into your professional plans and philosophy.
  • Avoid eating too much at meal time during the interview day to allow time to share your story; drink plenty of fluids (avoid alcohol)

Much of this information can be credited to MedSchoolReady LLC, along with the AAMC and AACOM websites.

-J Lefler and C Cooper