As a pre-med approaching medical school application time, you may feel like your entire academic career has been cresting toward this moment. The medical school application process is one more step in (long) list of steps you’ll take toward realizing your dream of becoming a doctor, but it’s a crucial one. Getting your complete application in early can significantly increase your chances of getting accepted to medical school, so as we near June 7, when you can finally click “submit”, here are our best tips for getting AMCAS right the first time.
Start Yesterday, No MCAT Necessary
You can start collecting your supporting documents for AMCAS as soon as it opens for each year’s application cycle. Note that AMCAS opens for document and credential submission about a month before you can start submitting applications to schools. Since AMCAS has to verify all documents, the earlier you start, the earlier your application will be ready, ideally the day you can start sending to medical schools.
You can even submit your applications to schools without an MCAT score, but note that schools won’t act on them until they’re complete with an MCAT score. Once you’ve taken your exam and your scores are released, AMCAS will upload your results directly into your application and send updates to the schools you’ve applied to.
Nudge Your Recommenders
If you have access to a pre-medical advisor or advising team, they may issue a committee letter. If your school offers this option, you’re in luck — advisors are great at managing those application deadlines, so you won’t have to do any nudging. The committee letter is often required by medical schools from applicants whose undergraduate institutions offer one, so make sure you’re on top of all communication coming from your pre-med advisor.
If you’re pursuing individual recommendation letters, or letters of evaluation, you’ll have to tightly manage your recommenders to make sure they’re on track to submit their letters on time. If you’ve given them enough notice, it’s perfectly acceptable to send friendly reminders, along with a sincere thanks for their help. It’s also a good idea to have a backup recommender or two in case one falls through. We don’t recommend lying, but you may want to give your recommenders a “special” deadline, one that’s a few days earlier than the must-have deadline.
Pare Down Your “List of 15 extracurriculars”
We know, as a pre-med, your initial “list of 15” is more like a “list of 236.” Pre-meds are notorious for being eager, active, and might we say, over-involved. Start with that list of 236, and whittle it down to reflect activities and achievements that reflect a high level of competency, involvement, or work. For example, participating in one Habitat For Humanity build is certainly admirable and great use of your time, but isn’t indicative of any special ability. Consider that you may be asked about these items at a medical school interview, and you’ll want to draw parallels between those activities or awards and your overall goal of becoming a doctor.
Your list doesn’t need to include items related to medicine exclusively. For example, if you’ve spent three semesters in an after-school literacy program because you’re passionate about children and education, you should definitely include this. Medical schools will want to see where you chose to spend your precious time as a busy pre-med, so make sure you’re presenting the best you possible.
One caveat — a frequent misconception is that you must be a well-rounded candidate, adept in everything from pottery to protein structures. While schools want a well-rounded entering class, they’re looking for students who are passionate about one or two things, and show their dedication through time and leadership positions. After all, if you’re passionate about 236 things, how much of an impact have you made on any of them?
Where are you in your AMCAS process? Have you started? Share your best tips with our community and we may give you (and your great tips) a shoutout on Instagram and Facebook.