by Lauren DiProspero, former admissions officer at Columbia University
May marks the beginning of the summer for many but, for medical school hopefuls, it also marks the start of the admissions process.
If you are applying to medical school this year, there are a few things that have changed and many that have stayed the same. Even though several MCAT exam sittings have been cancelled, most medical schools are still encouraging applicants to submit their applications as early as possible—they will accept those applications pending MCAT scores. The first day to submit the AMCAS application remains May 28 but AMCAS has pushed back the first date of data transmissions to medical schools to July 10 to give applicants more time to finish their applications.
With the opening of the AMCAS application come four steps every applicant needs to take:
Fill Out the Application
It may seem like a simple step but it can take substantial time to fill out this application! In addition to the standard application information, you will be self-reporting your coursework. Make sure you have your transcript(s) next to you because any errors can cause delays in application processing. By starting early, you will be able to identify and find any information you are missing.
Request Supporting Documents
There are two types of supporting documents. The first is letters of recommendation. If your pre-health advising office offers a committee letter, hopefully you have already been working with them. If your pre-health advising office does not, make sure you have requested recommendations from professors, supervisors, etc. These individuals will need time to write a thoughtful and supportive letter.
Your second duty in regard to supporting documentation is to request transcripts be sent to AMCAS from every U.S. or Canadian college you have attended regardless of earned credits. I highly recommend visiting AMCAS’s Entering Your Coursework on the AMCAS website along with AMCAS Applicant Guide for more information
Take Your Time on the Experience Section
One of the biggest mistakes I see applicants make is that they quickly fill out this section. Every written part of an application is an opportunity to share something about yourself. In this section, you are offered a significant amount of space to share the details of your experiences, including additional written space for up to three of your most meaningful experiences. Spend time considering what you want to convey to the reader.
Write the Personal Statement
This is where applicants spend most of their time – and rightly so. It is one of the most important parts of the application. The personal statement is where you share who you are and why you are prepared for a career in medicine. This is your opportunity to thoughtfully highlight specific moments that brought you to this point. It is important to showcase your maturity, leadership, and compassion, among other attributes. It is equally important to avoid delusions of grandeur, excuses, and clichés. It can take many, many drafts, so start writing early and get feedback from trusted sources!