Medical school application season has begun. If you are hoping to enroll as a medical student next fall, you will need to ensure that you submit an excellent medical school admissions application this year. Every year medical schools around the country reject thousands of people. Schools overlook many of these people not because of lack of aptitude; but because they made errors in the application process. Conversely, it is possible for a less talented but tenacious student to achieve admission to medical school if they are smart about how they apply. This article will discuss some of the most common pitfalls prospective medical students encounter when completing the medical school admissions application. In addition, we will present strategies to improve your chances of success.
Common Medical School Admissions Application Errors
Most medical schools have rolling admissions. This means that schools review and offer acceptance on a first come, first served basis. For this reason, it becomes increasingly difficult to obtain medical school admission as the application season progresses. Even stellar applicants have found themselves with rejection letters when they applied just before the application deadline. For this reason, it is a very good idea to apply as early as possible. AMCAS begins accepting submissions at the beginning of June. Once an application is submitted to AMCAS it enters the processing queue. During this time the application service will review the application and transcripts.
During the review and verification process, AMCAS employees manually review each medical school application that is submitted. They compare the information contained in the ‘Course Work’ section oft the online application to the students’ official transcripts to ensure that all the information is accurate. The application service will also calculate a standardized GPA so that all applicants will be evaluated on the same scale. During the peak season (July-September), application processing by AMCAS can take up to six weeks. Ideally, a prospective medical student should aim to submit their application during the month of June. However, if you are unable to submit your application shortly after the application service opens, do not despair. There is still value in turning in a late application- you will be competing for fewer seats, but medical school acceptance is still possible.
Delayed AMCAS Verification
The Association of American Medical Colleges reviews each medical school application before it is sent to the schools. If errors are present in the application, it will delay processing and result in medical schools receiving your application late. In order to avoid this unfortunate situation, take care that your application is submitted correctly and without errors. In addition, it is very important to request your official transcripts from every college or university that you attended well in advance of your application submission. The most common reason for delayed verification of a medical school admissions application is because AMCAS did not receive the official transcript on time. Once you have requested your transcripts from your school(s), it is a good idea to follow up a few weeks later to ensure that the documents were sent.
Other than delayed transcripts, there are several other errors that can result in delayed verification of your medical school application. Another common error is not entering grades and credit hours for courses that were repeated. AMCAS requires students to list the grades and credit hours of your first attempt at a course as well as the results of any subsequent attempts. It is also necessary to include every course on your online application that appears on your official transcript. If you neglect to list a course, you risk having your application returned. This will result in medical schools receiving your application late. In addition, it is necessary to list your grades in chronological order, and as they appear on your official transcript.
Taking the MCAT Late
AMCAS will send your electronic application to medical schools without reported MCAT scores. However, it is very unlikely that medical schools will begin to consider your application until they have the opportunity to review your score. MCAT releases scores approximately 30 days after the test date. However, it is a good idea to take your test no later than January. This will give you the opportunity to retake the test (and have the scores available) if you are disappointed with your score.
Problems with Letters of Evaluation
Letters of evaluation are an important portion of the medical school application. Admissions officers read letters of evaluation and personal statements to get a more personalized glimpse of the applicant . However, in order to be most effective, letters of evaluation must be written by the correct person. Ideally, you should chose well-established, life science professors who know you well and view you favorably. If a professor does not know you they will write a very superficial letter that will do little to help you on your quest for medical school acceptance. Even worse, if a professor does not like you they may write a less than flattering letter that may be harmful to your medical school admissions application. For these reasons, carefully consider your options before you approach a potential letter writer.
In addition to who you choose to write your letters, you will need to consider the timing of your request. Keep in mind that your professors will likely receive multiple requests for letters from other students. Be considerate of their schedule and give them plenty of time to complete the task. Many letter writers appreciate a copy of your curriculum vitae. It is also helpful to provide them with a list of your skills and accomplishments. These documents will be very helpful as they write your letter. letter. Once you have identified the people who will write your letters, make sure to check in with them periodically to ensure that they have completed the letters and sent them in. Although AMCAS will transmit an application to medical schools without letters of evaluation, their absence may delay a school considering your application.
Underestimating the Value of the Personal Statement
Applicants often neglect the personal statement when they are applying for medical school. Many people falsely believe that it is a formality and is unimportant. This is a dangerous idea that can have disastrous effects on the outcome of a medical school application. Medical schools try to determine who each applicant is as a person by looking at their letters of recommendation and personal statement.
Medical schools choose applicants who prove that they will be excellent physicians. Although an applicant will likely have very little input about what goes into their letter of recommendation, they have complete control over their personal statement. You should not squander this valuable opportunity.
By writing a strong personal statement, you will give yourself a distinct advantage in the admissions process. Although a strong personal statement will not excuse failing grades, neither will good grades negate a badly written personal statement. If it is executed properly, a personal statement can be the deciding factor in getting an applicant an interview. Once a school grants an interview, a medical school applicant’s chances of admission increase drastically to about 50%. Therefore, your primary goal in the initial part of the medical school admissions application should be to secure as many interviews as possible. Writing a strong personal statement will certainly help you attain that goal.
Poor Use of ‘Activities’ Section
The ‘Work and Activities’ section of the medical school admissions application is a very useful tool to tell schools about yourself. Applicants use this section correctly by highlighting their extracurricular activities, awards, work experience, or publications. For each activity, the application will prompt you to enter basic information. This includes the dates, location, and name of the activity. However, the most important area of this section is the ‘description’ space in which the applicant is able to discuss the activity in 700 characters. The key to this section is to not just describe the activity, but for you to explain what skills you used, and discuss what you learned from the experience. In addition, AMCAS allows you to designate three of your activities which were most important. Choose these activities carefully and explain why you made your choices.
Neglecting Secondary Applications
Individual medical schools send secondary applications to prospective students once they receive the initial AMCAS application. Secondary applications typically consist of two to five essays on selected topics. Medical schools vary greatly in their protocols for sending out secondary applications. Some schools give them to every applicant, while others have a preliminary screening process. If a medical school sends you a secondary application, regardless of the method used, you are one step closer to medical school acceptance.
The average medical school applicant applies to 14 schools. For this reason, it is very common for applicants to feel overwhelmed by the volume of secondary essays that medical schools require. Although you may want to put little effort into these essays, you should not do this. Medical schools assess if candidates belong in their program by reviewing secondary applications. The good news is that most schools tend to ask variations of the same questions. If you prepare essays for these questions in advance, you will be able to submit essentially the same essay for multiple schools. Below are some of the most common prompts for secondary medical school essays. We recommend that you begin pre-writing your answers early. That way, you will only need to change minor details when you receive your secondary application packet. Once you have completed your secondary essays, it is very important to have a knowledgeable editor review your work.
Common Secondary Application Topics
- What do you see as the most likely practice scenario for your future medical career? Why do you feel you are particularly suited for this practice scenario? What knowledge, skills and attitudes have you developed that have prepared you for this career path?
- Why do you want to enroll in _______ School of Medicine?
- Describe a significant personal challenge you have faced, one which you feel has helped to shape you as a person.
- Where do you see yourself in your medical career fifteen to twenty years from now?
- Describe the personal characteristics you possess. Also discuss the life experiences you have had that would contribute to your success at becoming an outstanding physician.
- Indicate how you would add diversity to our medical school class.
Poor Interview Skills
The final portion of the medical school admissions application is the interview. If you have made it to the interview portion of the selection process that is great! This means that the medical school regards you as a serious candidate for admission. At this point in the application process, your chance of admission is 50%. Your performance in the interview will largely determine your fate. For this reason, it is never to early to practice your interview skills.
There is no way to know exactly what your medical school interviewer will ask. However, it is possible to prepare answers to some of the more popular questions. Most interviews begin with some variation of the question ‘tell me about yourself?’. Your interviewer will likely ask you to talk about your interests, goals, and reasons for wanting to attend medical school. In addition, your interviewers will give you multiple opportunities to ask questions. You should have several questions prepared that demonstrate your interest in the medical school and what makes them unique. You should also plan to be on your best behavior when you go for an interview. Be polite to everybody that you meet. You do not know who has input on admissions decisions.
The medical school admissions application can be a daunting process. Unfortunately, there are many potential areas for errors which can jeopardize an applicant’s chances of admission. In order to give yourself the best chance of success, complete your application carefully and proofread it several times before you submit. Medical school is an attainable goal if you approach it correctly.