AAMC’s Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students 


AAMCA'S Core Competencies

AAMC’s Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students

Are you wondering if you have what it takes to “make it” in medical school? Great news! AAMC has outlined the fifteen core competencies for students entering medical school, and we’ll describe them below. Knowledge and appreciation for these competencies can give you valuable perspective for completing your medical school applications! If you know what a model medical school student looks like, you can shine in your application as that model medical student! 

These competencies are officially endorsed by the AAMC Group on Student Affairs (GSA) Committee on Admissions (COA).  

AAMC divides the skills into four main categories: 

  • Interpersonal 
  • Intrapersonal 
  • Thinking and Reasoning 
  • Science 

It’s easy for students hoping to go to medical school to assume that only their academic and science skills matter. After all, they have been working for years to build a strong transcript highlighting science courses, and they spent months preparing for the MCAT and building their science knowledge base accordingly. Interestingly, only two of the fifteen competencies fall in the Science category (Living Systems and Human Behavior), followed by four more in the Thinking and Reasoning category (Critical Thinking, Quantitative Reasoning, Scientific Inquiry, and Written Communication). These competencies are transparent within an application. An admissions officer need only look at MCAT scores and GPA to get a clear picture.

With nearly two-thirds of the competencies categorized as Interpersonal and Intrapersonal, medical school hopefuls need to think about more than academic achievement and scientific knowledge when they apply. As such, our main focus will be how to display these competencies during the admissions process. 

Category 1: Interpersonal Competencies 

Interpersonal means “between people.” AAMC notes interpersonal skills first among its competencies, and that’s not a coincidence. Medical careers have a heavy focus on others, and entering medical students are expected to be able to focus on others in the following areas: 

  • Service Orientation:  

AAMC’s definition of service orientation focuses on a student’s desire to help others by meeting their need and easing their distress. They stress that students should feel a responsibility to their surroundings, even globally. This competency should speak for itself in your Curriculum Vitae, but you should also convey it in your personal statement and other essays. 

  • Social Skills: 

Social skills require medical students to respect others and be aware of others’ needs using effective verbal and nonverbal communication. You’ll show off your social skills during the interview process, but that doesn’t mean you can’t discuss your social prowess in your personal statement and essays.  

  • Cultural Competence: 

Cultural competence is a skill that medical school applicants must display throughout their application, but they are specially tasked with describing their cultural competence in secondary essays or their personal statement. Students must understand and appreciate diversity on all levels. They must also share a willingness to grow and learn in search of higher cultural consciousness. 

  • Teamwork:  

While medical school admission is hyper-competitive, medical schools want team players in their classrooms. After all, physicians work on teams throughout their careers. If you can highlight your ability to collaborate with others toward a common goal ahead of your own individual goals, you can stand out from the competition. 

  • Oral Communication: 

An entering medical student must be able to speak and listen effectively to others and be flexible with communication approaches depending on the situation’s requirements. Admissions officers will get to see your oral communication skills during the interview process.  

Category 2: Intrapersonal Competencies 

Intrapersonal means “within the individual mind or self.” For admissions committees to see within your mind or self, you need to show them. It can be a challenge figuring out what to show in your personal statement or the rest of your application, but there’s no need to worry! Here are the areas you should address because these are the competencies AAMC identifies in this category. 

  • Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others: 

Moral integrity is ingrained in the medical profession. Physicians hold life in their hands, and that responsibility requires them to uphold the utmost level of ethics. You should faithfully follow rules and procedures, even when your peers don’t. AAMC even states that medical students should “encourage others to behave in honest and ethical ways.” Embrace these standards and live by them! Authenticity cannot be faked, so live ethically so you can convey those morals during the admission process. 

  • Reliability and Dependability: 

The reliability and dependability competency comes from a place of maturity. Students must fulfill obligations, but also be willing to take personal responsibility for their actions. Your personal statement is a perfect place to highlight maturity and personal growth in this respect. 

  • Resilience and Adaptability:  

A favorite secondary essay topic (and popular interview question) asks students to recall a time of struggle and discuss how they managed it. Medical students must show admissions committees this mental toughness.  

  • Capacity for Improvement: 

Admissions committees want to see humility in potential students’ applications. Having the desire to improve allows you to be a sponge for all the knowledge you’ll absorb in medical school. That knowledge may come from the classroom or in the clinic, or even through life experiences. Everyone can grow, and medical students are no exception.  

If you are mindful of the AAMC Core Competencies for entering medical students, you’ll be much more likely to show those sides of yourself throughout the admissions process. At Code Blue Essays, we know what gives applicants an advantage in the admissions process, especially now when it’s more competitive than ever. We can help you incorporate core competencies into your application process seamlessly with our personal statement writing course, secondary essay review, interview coaching, and more. Contact us today to find out how we can help you show admissions committees your core competencies.


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