When the time comes, you will have to work on your application. The sooner you get that application submitted, the higher your chances are of getting into medical school. I worked on my application while I was waiting for my MCAT scores to come back. The application does take some time, and you cannot get it back once you submit it, so do your best to make it fantastic. I spent the most time filling in and categorizing all my classes and on my personal statement, a very important part of your application. Click here for the official AMCAS instruction booklet. Click here for AACOMAS’ official application instruction booklet. In these are step-by-step directions on how to fill out your application, including directions on how to categorize your classes.
In summary, here is a list of things you need to complete your application to medical school:
- Your official transcripts from each and every college you’ve ever attended
- A list of accomplishments you’ve been honored with or awards you’ve received
- At least 3 letters of recommendation from professors or a pre-health committee letter of recommendation
- A record of all activities and jobs you’ve been involved with and what your responsibilities were with each
Your transcripts must be sent directly to the application service(s), AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) and AACOMAS (American Association of College of Osteopathic Medicine), depending on whether you’re applying for an MD or DO, respectively. The rest of the information must be typed into your application once you’ve created a user name and password.
Because of the chronological necessity of things, the first thing you will want to do is ask those professors or mentors whom you’ve carefully chosen to write letters of recommendation (LORs) for you. AMCAS and AACOMAS have two different ways of dealing with LORs. The application service will explain it to you once you have registered and logged in. AACOMAS doesn’t directly handle LORs. You will need to give your writers addresses for each osteopathic medical school you are applying to. Those addresses are on the schools’ websites. Your writers will need some time to think about what to write, so you should ask them in advance. Your pre-health committee might even have a deadline for your writers to hand in their LORs for you, so double check with the committee if applicable.) When asking a professor to write you a LOR, you could offer to sit with them over an on-campus lunch to talk about why you want to go to medical school.
If you are applying to an osteopathic medical school, it is very highly recommended that you have a LOR from an osteopathic physician you’ve shadowed. This LOR should address why you would make a good osteopathic physician, so only ask for this LOR to be sent to AACOMAS, not AMCAS.
Your Personal Statement
After you have gone through the essential biographical, personal, and classes taken information, you will want to spend a good amount of time on your personal statement. Some medical schools only give their interviewers your personal statement and secondary applications to interview with and draw conclusions from, so do not underestimate this section. Your personal statement should catch the reader’s attention right away. It should also be unique to you. It could include a turning point experience that made you decide to become a physician (e.g. your parent who died from cancer), but it does not have to if you do not have one.
Do your best to tie the introduction to the ending and make it flow. This must be written very well. A personal statement should address the following questions:
- Why medicine (vs. helping people through psychology or social work)?
- Why work with human medicine/why is caring for humans important to you?
- What have you done that shows you are compassionate?
- What makes you stand out from every other applicant?
If you can answer those questions in a well-written, unique way, demonstrating what kind of experience you have and how that has helped motivate you to become a physician, then you are good to go. Get your personal statement honestly critiqued by students and professors both in and outside of your major. I had mine critiqued by a couple professors, my parents, a few science students, one psychology graduate, and one English major. I also had about 15 different versions. It was a lengthy process, but my statement helped make my application competitive.
Be honest with everything you enter into your application. Any acceptance or professional license can be revoked if false information is entered on your application to medical school.
After Submitting Your Primary Application
Once you’ve submitted your primary application to be processed, it will take a variable few weeks until it is sent to the medical schools you have selected. When these schools receive the application, they will determine whether or not to invite you to complete a secondary application. Often times the request to complete a secondary application is simply based on minimum requirements; if you have the appropriate prerequisites and the minimum allowed GPA and MCAT score, you will likely get a secondary. Take care in filling out the secondary, especially if essays are involved, but do get them back to the schools as soon as you can. Time is of the essence!
After submitting your secondary applications, the suspenseful waiting process begins. Your next step will be either an interview or, and hopefully not the latter, rejection. Some schools will call to schedule an interview, others send emails, and others yet inform you via a banner system you need to log into and check daily. Sometimes a time and date will be given to you; other schools allow you to choose when to interview. This will be a thrilling experience. See the Interview tab to find out how to succeed at your medical school interview.