Will you be applying to medical school this cycle? Even though it’s only April, and the AMCAS application (medical school’s primary application) does not open until May, there are many actions you can take right now to ensure timely submission of an outstanding application.
1. Download the AMCAS Worksheet
Though the AAMC does not open the AMCAS website until about May, it does publish a very helpful AMCAS worksheet that explains exactly how to fill out the AMCAS application. This a must-read. Download the PDF, grab a cup of joe, and read away to ensure you know exactly what is expected of you on the application.
2. Make a Schedule
It is often daunting to think about how you will ace your courses/work schedule, take the MCAT, continue extracurriculars, and complete the AMCAS application with its time consuming personal statement and work/activities sections. Instead of procrastinating because you are overwhelmed, make a schedule that breaks up all the tasks into small, achievable parts and allows you to submit the application in June. Be sure to give yourself enough time write the personal statement – it often takes weeks to compose an excellent essay!
3. Find Out If Your school Offers a Pre-Med Committee Letter
Many universities have a pre-med committee that writes each eligible pre-med either a composite or individual recommendation. Medical school admissions committees want to see this letter if it is offered by your undergraduate or post-baccalaureate institution. If your school does offer a pre-med letter, determine how to obtain one. This usually involves filling out a questionnaire and meeting with the pre-med committee.
4. Ask Recommenders to Write Their Letters Now
Recommendations are a crucial part of the medical school application process. Most medical school admissions committees want to see three-five letters that, when taken together, show your well roundedness. It takes time to make contact and ask for recommendations. Further, you should allow each recommender at least a month the write the letter. Get on this now!
5. Obtain Transcripts
You will need all post-secondary school transcripts in order to fill out the AMCAS application. In addition, official transcripts will have to be sent from each post-secondary school directly to AMCAS. Research how to obtain unofficial transcripts now and official transcripts for when the AMCAS opens. This will save you time later in the application process.
6. Update your Résumé
Take a few hours and update your resume using the following categories:
- Volunteer/Community Service
- Clinical Experience
- Leadership Activities (not included elsewhere)
For each activity: write a brief description, calculate total number of hours and average number of hours per week spent on the activity, and include a supervisor name and contact information. This process will make filling out the AMCAS Work/Activities section a breeze and will be very helpful to your recommenders, who will all want to see an updated resume.
7. Brainstorm your Admissions Story
Getting into medical school requires telling a compelling story. And this story needs to be woven through the entire application through recommendations, work/activity entries, the personal statement, secondary essays, and interview answers. Start work-shopping your story.
If you had a one-minute elevator ride to tell an admissions committee member your story, what would you say? What anecdotes would you use to describe why you want to be a physician and why you will be a great one? What themes do you want to run through your entire application? You likely won’t come up with a great narrative immediately. Think hard on it.
Carry a notebook and jot down ideas as they come to you. Putting considerable thought into your admissions story will certainly facilitate the process of writing the application in general and the personal statement in particular.
8. Research Medical Schools to Decide Where to Apply
Deciding where to apply often stumps pre-meds. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be. Start by purchasing the MSAR on the AAMC website and/or a book that provides medical school descriptions.
Read through each school and circle those that you like on gut feeling alone. Then follow these rules to start creating your school list:
- Apply to all in-state public schools
- Avoid out-of state public schools unless you are an exceptional candidate
- Then pick about 15 private schools for stellar candidates, 15-25 for pre-meds with some holes in the application, and 25-40 for applicants with big holes. Most of these schools will be mid-tier private schools. But remember to include a few reach schools in the mix. Bottom line – cast a wide net because there is a lot of luck involved in the process.
9. Read the Newspaper
It’s amazing how easy it is to wall yourself off from the “real” world while in college or post-baccalaureate studies, or even while working. Yet, current events will often shape your admissions narrative and serve as fodder for medical school interview questions. Given the abundance of news sources at our fingertips, it is easier than ever to gain access to news. But the quality of these news sources is often lacking.
Take some time every day to read a quality news source, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, or The Economist Magazine. There is no need to read every word of every paper or magazine. But try to read entire articles from time to time instead of just scanning the headlines. You will be a better applicant for knowing what is going on in the world.
10. Gather Financial Aid Documents
If you expect to apply for financial aid, gather your financial documents now and ask your parents to do the same. These include tax documents and records of how you paid for college. Organizing these documents now will save significant time when applying for medical school financial aid.
Get going and good luck!
Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate.