Medical School Acceptance Tips
It is extremely difficult to gain medical school acceptance. The vast majority of people who apply will not be accepted. Only one out of every 50 applicants to medical school are accepted. According to data compiled by the AAMC, approximately 830,000 people applied to medical school in 2016. Of these students, only 21,000 matriculated in medical school the following year. If you consider that nearly everybody applies to multiple schools, the average medical school applicant is likely to face quite a bit of rejection. The good news is that you only need one school to say ‘yes’ in order to become a doctor.
Although the odds are not in your favor, it is definitely possible to get accepted to medical school. The key to getting that elusive acceptance letter is having a good application strategy. This article will discuss the techniques necessary to create an application that is irresistible to medical schools.
Although a well prepared application can vastly improve your chances of medical school acceptance, there are some basic requirements that must be met. First, you must have taken the prerequisite courses. Although schools vary in their exact requirements, generally medical schools will expect their applicants to have taken at least one year of biology, English, and Physics. In addition, medical schools generally require two years of Chemistry, including Organic Chemistry. The AAMC has compiled a database of specific program requirements for medical schools. Prospective students should make sure they have met the course requirements prior to beginning the application process.
In addition to meeting course requirements, prospective medical students need to ensure that they have solid grades. Although it is certainly possible to get into medical school with a less than superior gpa, if you have been a generally sub-par student your chances of medical school acceptance are not good. In the event that your grades are prohibitive for medical school acceptance, you should strongly consider enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program to strengthen your academic record before applying to medical school.
Prior to beginning the medical school application process, you should also have engaged in some volunteer activities and research. Although not a strict requirement, most schools will expect to at least see some volunteer activities. Good volunteer experiences include working at a local shelter, assisting with a hospital’s child life program, or working with your local free clinic. Research experience is sometimes difficult for premedical students to obtain; do not pass up an opportunity to assist in a professor’s laboratory. Even if the project is of little academic interest to you, the experience you will gain will make it very worthwhile.
You will also need to to take the Medical College Admissions Test, a standardized test which measures critical thinking, problem solving, and scientific knowledge. The AAMC offers the MCAT throughout the year at various locations. It is a good idea to take the MCAT well in advance of your medical school application, so that your scores will be reported at the time of your application. In addition, taking the test early will give you the opportunity to take it again if you do not score well the first time.
Medical School Application Overview
The majority of medical schools in the United States participate in the AAMC’s centralized online application service called the American College Medical application Service, or AMCAS. The purpose of AMCAS is to collect your application information, verify it, and deliver it to the schools you are applying to. AMCAS does not make any admissions choices and does not influence schools’ decisions one way or another. The AMCAS application contains nine sections which must be completed by applicants wishing to gain medical school acceptance.
The AMCAS program typically opens the first week of May for those applying to enter medical school the following fall. During this time, you will be able to begin inputting your information into the AMCAS system but you will not be able to submit your application until the beginning of June. However, it is a good idea to begin working on your application early. You should begin working on requesting your letters of recommendation in February. You should also begin thinking about your personal statement in February and begin writing it no later than March. During the month of April, you should begin writing and revising your curriculum vitae. If you follow this timeline, you will have plenty of time to prepare your application and present yourself in the best way possible.
AMCAS charges a fee for their service which includes transmission of your information to one school. You will be able to add more schools for an additional charge. Last year, the basic fee was $160 and additional schools were $38 each. Therefore, although it may be tempting to apply to every single medical school, this is not a cost-effective strategy. Instead, be sure to research medical schools carefully. You should only apply to schools that you would like to attend, and that you have a reasonable chance of being admitted to. It is ok to add a few so-called reach schools to your list. That is, schools where you may be somewhat under-qualified, but where you would love to attend. Also, you need to add a few “safety” schools. These are places where you are fairly confident that you will be granted an interview.
Once an applicant submits their AMCAS application, individual schools may contact them with a secondary application. Most schools use secondary applications. However, medical schools vary widely on who they send secondary applications to. Some send them to everybody; whereas others perform a screening process and only send them to students that they are interested in. Most secondary applications contain questions or essay prompts for applicants to respond to. Although it can get tedious filling out secondary applications, especially if you have applied to a lot of schools- It is extremely important that you put as much care and effort into your secondary application essays as you do your personal statement. The secondary application essays allow a school to learn a lot about you and you want to make the most of this opportunity.
Typically, the final step of the application process is the interview. When a school invites you for an interview, your chances of admission rise to approximately 50%. The interview can secure your spot in the following year’s medical school class if you perform well.
Most medical school hopefuls will submit their initial application through AMCAS. This application contains nine sections. The applicant must successfully complete each section in order to have the best chance of medical school acceptance.
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. You may enter any nicknames or alternative spellings in the preferred name section. This will prevent any confusion when processing your application.
Section 2: Schools Attended
Next, the medical school applicant will list the schools that they have attended. AMCAS will ask you to document the high school from which you graduated. In addition, you will need to list every college or university you attended for any period of time. For the purposes of AMCAS, you attended a school if you took at least one course there. You will still need to list the 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). This is also the section where you will be able to generate and send transcript request forms to your school.
Section 3: Biographic Information
The third section of the AMCAS application requests more basic information about the applicant. 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, some medical schools will not consider applicants who fail to answer certain questions. Therefore, in order to give yourself the best chance of medical school acceptance, answer every question in this section.
Section 4: Course Work
You will enter your college courses and grades in section four. A common reason for AMCAS to delay processing of an application is due to errors in this section. Therefore, make sure that your information is accurate when you work on this section. Wise students will request a personal copy of their transcript from their school prior to completing the AMCAS application so that they can be sure that their information is correct.
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.
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. In addition, students should approach potential letter writers well in advance of the deadline. Applicants should also check AMCAS frequently to make sure that the program has received the letters.
Section 7: Medical Schools
You will choose your medical schools in section seven. You should have a plan about which schools to apply to. 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. 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.
A few weeks after a prospective medical student submits their AMCAS application, they will likely begin to receive secondary applications from individual schools. Most secondary applications contain a series of essay prompts for applicants to answer. You should give secondary applications the same time and attention as your personal statement. Once again, you should plan on having your secondary applications professionally edited for your top choice schools, at minimum.
The final step of the medical school admissions process is the interview. If you are invited for an interview, your chances of medical school acceptance are very good- approximately 50%. Essentially, you can secure your spot in medical school with a strong showing during the interview. Take time to prepare for your medical school interview in advance.
The medical school application process can be long and difficult. However, if you are well-prepared, you will have a strong chance at medical school acceptance.