Tips for a Good Med School Application: Understanding AMCAS
If you are going to apply to an allopathic medical school in the United States, you will most likely be utilizing AMCAS. The American Medical College Application Service, or AMCAS, is a centralized application system that verifies then distributes applicant information, MCAT scores, and letters of recommendation to participating medical schools. AMCAS does not make any admissions decisions. However, it is important to understand how AMCAS works in order to submit a good med school application.
In order to use AMCAS, you must register with AAMC. You will likely already have a username and password from your MCAT registration. Do not register for a new account or you may trigger a fraud investigation which could delay your application. The AMCAS program typically opens the first week of May for those applying to enter medical school in the fall of the following year. Beginning in May, you will be able to begin inputting your information into the AMCAS system. However, the program will not allow you to submit your application until the beginning of June.
Although you will be unable to actively apply until May, it is a good idea to begin working now in order to ensure that you have a good med school application. In addition to learning about AMCAS, you can begin writing portions of your application before the program opens.
The AMCAS application consists of eight sections. Take care to complete each section thoroughly and accurately in order to have a good med school application.
Section 1: Identifying Information
The first section of the medical school application asks the student to enter their basic information. You will enter your name, date of birth, gender, and preferred names in this section. Section one is a simple section to complete. The only potential pitfall is the name section. Make sure to use your full, legal name. Do not use a nickname or it may delay the processing of your application. AMCAS gives you the opportunity to enter any nicknames or alternative spellings in the preferred name section.
Section 2: Schools Attended
Section two asks about your education background. The program asks you to document every school you attended beginning with your high school graduation. For the purposes of AMCAS, you attended a school if you took at least one course there. You must list a school even if you transferred the credits, withdrew from the program, or failed to earn any credit. In this section, you will also enter the degree(s) that you have earned (or expect to earn), and your major(s) and minor(s).
Section two of the AMCAS program also allows you to generate transcript requests. This is also the section where you will be able to generate and send transcript request forms to your schools. It is very important to follow the correct protocol to request transcripts. Late or missing transcripts are one of the most common reasons that medical school applications are delayed.
Section 3: Biographic Information
The third section asks you to enter more basic information about yourself. This includes contact information, alternate contact person, legal residence, citizenship, race/ethnicity, primary language, legal history, and family information. Although AMCAS does not require that all questions of this section be answered, you risk raising a red flag if you decline to answer every question. Furthermore, some medical schools will not consider applicants who fail to answer certain questions. Therefore, in order to have a good med school application, answer every question in this section.
Section 4: Course Work
Section four is the most common place where applicants make errors. This is the section where you will enter your college courses and grades. In order to have a good med school application, request a personal copy of your transcript and enter the information directly from it. This reduces the likelihood of making mistakes. If you make too many errors in reporting your classes and grades, AMCAS will return your application. This will result in a significant delay in the processing of your medical school application. Therefore, it is important to be cautious in this section.
Section 5: Work and Activities
Applicants are given space to discuss their work and activities in section five. This section is very important because you will have the opportunity to discuss meaningful experiences. You should write clearly and concisely in this section. Your goal should be to describe the activity and show how it will help you in your future education/career. You should have a knowledgeable and impartial person review this section to make sure it will withstand your competition.
Section 6: Letters of Evaluation
Students seeking medical school acceptance must submit letters of evaluation to AMCAS. The program will then forward the letters to the medical schools. It is very important for students to choose the correct people to write their letters of evaluation. A strong letter of recommendation can make a good med school application great. Therefore, make sure to carefully consider who would be able to write you a glowing letter of support. Once you have requested your letters, check AMCAS frequently to make sure that the application service has received them.
Section 7: Medical Schools
You will choose your medical schools in section seven. Make sure to have a plan about which schools to apply to. You should always take into consideration geography, your personal academic statistics, and your career interests. The average medical school applicant applies to about fifteen schools. However, you may want to apply to more or fewer depending on your situation. No matter how many schools you choose, you should always include a few lower tier options. If schools respond well to you, you will not need to consider the lesser schools, however, if things do not go well you can depend on these schools giving you a good chance of medical school acceptance. Do not feel that you must attend a prestigious institution. Although attending a fancy school can certainly boost your ego, it may not be the best option for you. Ultimately, you can become a high quality physician at any school if you are willing to work hard.
Section 8: Essay(s)
Medical school applicants must write their personal comments essay or personal statement in this section. This is perhaps the most important part of the application. Therefore, prospective students should plan to devote plenty of time to this section. The personal statement should be brief, interesting, and persuasive. Prospective students should plan to have a knowledgeable professional review their work before they submit it.
Section 9: Standardized Tests
The AAMC asks for information about your MCAT score(s) in section nine. AMCAS will transmit a student’s application without reported MCAT scores. However, not many schools will seriously consider an applicant without test scores. For this reason, you should make sure that you take the MCAT well in advance of your application submission. This will give plenty of time for your scores to be ready.
Applying to medical school is an exciting and stressful time. If you follow these tips, you should be in good shape for the upcoming application season.
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