Well today is the first day of a new application season so I thought I should post a few tips for those getting ready to fill out the application. Remember, you want to make sure this is the best representation of you as an applicant, so spend as much time as you can getting this perfect.
- Apply Early. And I mean it. I believe you can submit June first. Do it. Spend this month filling everything out and get that application in ASAP. You would not believe how busy the people at AAMC are around mid June. This year, for those who submitted mid to late June had to wait 8 weeks for their applications to be processed. Also, a mediocre early application has a better chance of getting you an interview than a stellar late app. In addition, after you submit your primary AMCAS or AACOMAS app, start prewriting your secondaries. Each school will require you to write 3-7 school-specific essays and the prompts don’t change much year to year, so scour the Internet and see if you can find them (a great place is studentdoctor.net).
- Apply Broadly: Medical school admissions are pretty much a crapshoot for the average applicant. Roughly 40% of all those who apply get accepted, which is why it is necessary to apply to a lot of different schools. I heard somewhere that the average number of schools applicants apply to is 15. With that said, don’t apply somewhere you can’t imagine yourself going. You don’t want to have your only acceptance at a school you hate. My best advice is buy the MSAR for MD schools as take a look at the school information on the AACOMAS website, along with going through the specific schools’ websites. You will find a wealth of information and hopefully get a sense of whether or not you will fit in, although most of that will come from your interview day. You also need to look the scores and types of experiences that this school looks for. Do they emphasize research or community service? Is their average MCAT a 28 or a 34? Be realistic with yourself on your chances of getting into a school, but don’t be afraid to reach for the stars. Remember, you will hopefully only do this once.
- MCAT: Try to schedule your MCAT so you will have your scores by the end of June; that way, if a retake is necessary, you will still have time to take it again without a horribly late application. The MCAT is a big test, so make sure you are prepared when you take it because you really only want to go through that stress once. A great way to see if you are prepared is by taking the practice tests offered by AAMC. They are extremely predictive so you’re actual score will probably be within 1-2 points of your averages on the practice tests.
- Letters of Recommendation: Before getting these, think about who has gotten to know you the most. You want to find people who can really show the admission committees that you deserve to go to their school and you will work hard. So when you do ask for those letters, ask them if they think they can write you a GOOD letter; if they say no, it’s better than a bad letter ruining your app.
- Extra Curricular Activities: You are given space for 15 ECs. You do not have to use every single one. For each one, you need to concisely explain what you did and why it’s relevant. You may also choose up to three to be your “most meaningful” activities. For these, you are given extra space to explain. Choose these wisely because medical schools will look these at more carefully.
- Secondary Applications: As I said before, each school will require you to write specific essays for them. Try to get some of these done ahead of time, especially if you are applying to a lot of schools. The general consensus seems to be to get these turned around in less than two weeks, so you don’t want the pressure of getting 30 essays done in less than two weeks. Schools take these very seriously, so make sure you have several people look over them and give them your very best effort.
- Relax. This is an extremely long process full of “hurry up and wait” moments. You will rush to get your app in and then wait several weeks to get it processed. Then the secondaries from schools will poor in and you will get those turned around and then wait months for interviews. Then you will wait more to get a decision. But it will be worth it when you finally have that acceptance letter in your hand. Just try your best not to check your inbox every 5 minutes for the second half of the year like I did and enjoy your last few months before school starts.