Congratulations on arriving to the application phase of medical school! Making it to this point as a premed student is a significant accomplishment. You have put in countless hours of hard work, studying, and experiences that make you the applicant that you are today. So take a moment to appreciate how far you have come. The application process is the time to show off all of your accomplishments and directly tell medical schools why you will be a great doctor. The single best thing you can do now that you have done the work is to be timely with your application materials. Below is a guide that will give you the best chance at admission to US MD schools. These schools use AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) through the AAMC. The requirements, cost and timelines are very similar to other services such as AAMCOAS and TMDSAS, with a few key differences. Let’s get into what you will be up against:
January – April 2021
Many medical students say that writing the personal statement is one of the hardest parts of their application. The goal is to answer the following questions in less than 5300 characters: 1) why do you want to become a doctor and 2) why you will be a great doctor. There is no perfect formula for a great personal statement, but in general it is best to answer these questions in the form of a story or anecdote that highlight your unique experiences in medicine. Start by being honest with yourself and jotting down a simple outline of your favorite moments in medicine, key events in your life that have made you who you are, and some reflections about who you want to be.
Find out if your school has a pre-health committee and if so, what their requirements are. In most cases, you will want to get at least 4 letters of recommendation: two from science professors, one non-science professor, and at least one clinical role (such as a volunteer coordinator or manager). Other great options would be a research advisor, other non-clinical employer, or anyone who knows your work ethic and commitment to medicine.
PRO TIP: Don’t forget to write a thank-you note after this person submits their letter, and keep them updated on your progress through medical admissions!
It is possible to take the exam in May or early summer and apply without your official score, but this comes with a set of risks. We recommend having taken the MCAT and getting your score prior to submitting your AMCAS primary application at the beginning of June, so you can know exactly what your score is and can decide whether to proceed or retake the exam. This will also help you in building a school list that fits your performance on the MCAT and give you the best chance at admission.
PRO TIP: Utilize our free MCAT Question of the Day here to help maximize your studying.
Depending on your budget and goals, choose between 5-20 schools you feel you have a good chance at. Casting a wide net has pros of more chances, but cons of high cost and more work during application season. Applying to too few limits your chances but allows you to focus more on individual programs and saves money.
PRO TIP: View the avg. GPA and avg. MCAT scores for all MD and DO programs in the United States here.
The AMCAS primary typically opens in early May. Take a look early at what is needed on this application so you can be prepared to find any information you don’t have on hand. Now is a great time to complete the demographics and contact information sections, as well as tally hours spent on activities and list out contacts who can verify these hours if needed.
As soon as your final semester grades are in, request your official transcripts to be sent to the AAMC. This can take several weeks and your primary app will not be verified to be sent out to schools until these transcripts are processed.
The bulk of your AMCAS application will be describing your activities and experiences. Each section should be categorized in one of the following:
You can list up to 15 total experiences, and each section allots 700 characters to describe what you did and reflect on why it was important. 3 of these 15 can be identified as “most meaningful”, where you will get an extra 1,325 characters to elaborate on the impact these had on you.
Are you wanting help with your activities descriptions? Check out our affordable essay review packages here.
You should submit your AMCAS as early as possible without sacrificing quality. Recruit a trusted and knowledgeable friend or family member to check over all of your essays for spelling and grammar. It is extremely beneficial to have qualified people who have been accepted into medical school review your essays for content and flow. We recommend submitting once the application opens for submission on May 28th, and no later than July 1st for your best chances at admission.
Now that your AMCAS primary is submitted, it’s time to begin the next phase of the application cycle: secondary applications. These are unique to each school, but typically have common themes:
We recommend submitting each secondary application within 2 weeks of receiving, without sacrificing quality. Prewriting essays (with past prompts found on websites like Student Doctor Network) can save you time when you receive the actual invitation, just make sure to revise each essay to fit the school’s exact prompt!
Are you wanting help with your secondary essays? Check out our affordable secondary editing packages here.
Some schools require an ethics and professionalism assessment known as the CASPer. Research if any schools on your list require this and allot a morning or afternoon to complete this 90 minute assessment.
The last thing you want to do while prepping for interviews is have to go out and try on suits. If you don’t have one already, invest in a well-fitting suit that you feel comfortable and confident in. Don’t forget a nice pair of dress shoes that you are able to walk around in as well, as many schools do walking tours of campus.
We recommend submitting each secondary application within 2 weeks of receiving them. As with primary applications, don’t sacrifice quality to get these in early! Do you need help with your secondary essays? Check out our affordable secondary packages here.
September 2021 – December 2021
If you are worried about not hearing from schools months after your interview, consider sending this school an update letter. This can include new jobs, volunteering, experiences, grades, awards, or publications. Try to avoid sending “letters of intent”, but rather as a way to add to your application in a meaningful way.
Jan 2022-April 2022
If you have been accepted to an MD school, congratulations! If they offer a second look day, this is a great opportunity to get to know the students better, scope out potential housing, talk to upperclassmen and more. If your top programs don’t offer this (perhaps due to COVID), consider taking your own trip before deciding or starting to see the facilities, talk to students and meet with any key administrators to help make your decision.
Take a weekend to visit the city you will be in the next four years and tour some possible apartments or housing options. You want to be comfortable and happy with where you are living during this new challenging phase of life.
Reach out to schools where you had interviewed at and ask for feedback on improvement. Even this simple act shows them your commitment and interest in their programs. You can work on these things prior to secondaries and interviews the following cycle, or take a year in between to really implement the changes they suggest, as well as save money and have some time to take a break. Learn more info on reapplying here.
Do you need to retake the MCAT? Get more clinical hours? Work on interview skills? Take some time to reflect on what you can do better and come back even stronger next time.
We’d love to help you navigate this confusing time. Check out our advising packages here.
How can I decide which schools to apply to?
We recommend utilizing the MSAR, or the Medical School Admission Requirements guide. The MSAR is an official AAMC resource available for $28 that spells out every MD school acceptance data. This will tell you the mean GPA, MCAT, and experiences for accepted students for both in-state and out-of-state. We do also offer a free resource, Top Schools, that is similar to the MSAR. You can gain access to Top Schools within The PreMed App. Create your free account here.
How much does applying with AMCAS cost?
The base cost for your first school is $170, with $40 for each additional school. Secondary application fees are school specific, but average around $100. So if you applied to 10 schools, you would spend $570 on primary applications and $1000 on secondary applications for a total of $1570.
How long does the verification process take?
Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, so it is best to submit your AMCAS primary early. This can take up to a month without delays like transcript processing, so be sure to have everything entered on time!
The AACOMAS is the application service used by all accredited DO schools. While the AMCAS and AACOMAS are very similar, there are a few crucial differences that you will need to pay attention to. The character limit for both the AMCAS and AACOMAS is 5300 characters, but it is essential to ensure that your personal statement for the AACOMAS addresses your motivations and preparations for pursuing osteopathic medicine specifically. Both the AMCAS and AACOMAS provide the space to input descriptions of your work and activities, but the descriptions for the AACOMAS are limited to 600 characters with spaces, and unlike AMCAS, there is no additional space to write descriptions for your most meaningful activities. Thus, it is imperative that your activities descriptions for the AACOMAS are concise and to the point. A few plus points of the AACOMAS is that there is no limit to the number of activities you can include and the AACOMAS also has an additional section to write about “achievements,” like publications, honors, or awards. The AACOMAS is also open for submission earlier than the AMCAS, usually in the first week of May, and unlike with AMCAS, you can submit your AACOMAS from the very first day that it is open for submission.
“Congruent with the osteopathic medical profession’s philosophy, AACOMAS participating schools intend to adapt their application review process to allow for greater flexibility in accepting online coursework, accepting pass/fail/satisfactory/unsatisfactory coursework, and reviewing applications prior to receiving MCAT scores.
AACOM has added three optional questions to the AACOMAS application in response to COVID-19. Students should use these questions as an opportunity to provide more context to medical schools about their application and pathway to medical school.
Extracted from: ChooseDO.org
Monthly AACOMAS Timeline Breakdown
January – April 2021
September 2021 – April 2022
How much does the AACOMAS Application cost?
The AACOMAS costs $197 for the first school you apply to and $48 for each additional school. Fee waivers to offset the cost of the application for your first school (valuing $197) are available upon request and based on income level. Some schools also offer coupon codes for applying to their programs
How many activities can I include in the AACOMAS and how long can the descriptions for these activities be?
There is no limit to the amount of activities you can include in your AACOMAS. Include as many activities that you feel are relevant to your application and that you can confidently discuss. Each activity description is limited to only 600 characters with spaces, so make sure that your descriptions clearly explain the significance of your role in the activity and its connection to osteopathic medicine as concisely as possible.
Do I have to take the CASPer for DO schools?
Yes! Most DO schools require the CASPer. Many schools will not look at your secondary application without a CASPer score, so make sure that your CASPer is processed and sent to the schools you are applying to well before submitting your secondary application.
While most students have heard of AMCAS as the standard application for applying to medical school, many are not as familiar with the application for Texas medical schools. TMDSAS (Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service) is the application system students can use to apply to Texas medical and dental schools. While there is a lot of overlap between TMDSAS and AMCAS, the timelines vary slightly. Applicants may submit their TMDSAS applications about 10 days earlier than AMCAS and TMDSAS and AMCAS personal statements also have different character limits. TMDSAS also differs from AMCAS in that TMDSAS participates in a Match process. Be mindful of these differences! Try to tailor your TMDSAS personal statement to qualities of Texas schools. Texas loves Texas, as they say, so in your application, try highlighting your ties to or interests in practicing in Texas upon graduating from medical school.
Monthly TMDSAS Timeline Breakdown
January – April 2021
August 1, 2021: Early decision deadline, Match ranking opens
September 2021 – April 2022
Please reference the TMDSAS website (http://tmdsas.com) for updates on the timeline and deadlines, as these may change.
Please view the above dates in red.
How many programs does TMDSAS include?
There are 13 schools that participate in the TMDSAS application rather than AMCAS.
How much does it cost to apply through TMDSAS?
TMDSAS has a flat application fee of $200, no matter how many Texas schools you apply to! If you apply to just one Texas school, or all 13, your total will be $200. Take advantage!
What does the acceptance process look like?
TMDSAS has a “pre-match” and a “match” process, where applicants can receive acceptances between October 15th – January 29th. If you receive multiple offers during the pre-match, you will only have ONE acceptance by the end of the match. Applicants cannot hold more than one acceptance after the Match.
Is there an Early Decision process?
Applicants can apply as an Early Decision applicant.