Applying to Medical School
Applying to Medical School is a daunting task, and understanding all small details is a hurdle in itself. That is why we have broken down this process to make it as easy as possible to understand, and added specific tips that have helped us along the way.
Before getting concerned about the actual application, make sure you have all the necessary elements for a well-rounded applicant. This includes completing/on track to complete appropriate coursework, calculating your respective GPAs, having taken/planning to take the MCAT, and having the essential opportunities, which include but are not limited to: clinical, research, service, leadership.
(For more information, check out the Academic and Opportunities tab for more information or have a specific question, reach out to one of us!)
The Primary Application opens in May and can be submitted as early as June. The sooner you get your application in, the quicker you will hear back from schools about the next steps.
Like the "Common App", Demographic and Background Section includes:
Identifiers | Contact Information | Biographic Information | Language | Visa | Childhood (including loan information) | Disadvantage | Parent/Guardian | Criminal Background
The Primary Application then divides into four sections:
- all previous education
- transcripts from ALL institutions must be submitted to AMCAS (including those from semesters abroad)
- electronic and paper (prepare for this in advance, because paper can take some time to arrive by mail and for AMCAS to mark as received)
- ideally received and processed by the time you submit your app in early June on AMCAS
-important to note: AMCAS receives your transcript(s) and then could take up to two or three weeks to process... send it in as soon as possible
- You must input all classes from all institutions
- make sure to triple check so the processing of your transcript does not take longer than it needs to be
- This information is used alongside your transcripts to calculate GPA
- $40 per each school you submit to, AMCAS processing fee is $170
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of Recommendation are essential for your application. Try to obtain letters of recommendation as you take courses or complete certain extracurricular activities, and ask your advisor to keep them on file for you. You want to ask professors, PIs, volunteer directors, etc. that can talk about your accomplishments, how you are as a student, and your amazing characteristics. It is normal to be afraid to ask however, they are usually more than willing to ask!
Logistically, your school must collect a minimum of three (3) letter of recommendations (the maximum depends per medical school; quality > quantity) before the med schools review the file. The process behind the submission of your letter of recs to your AMCAS portal differentiates per college/university, so double check with your advisor. Ultimately the letter of recs are submitted through AMCAS and released electronically to each med school.
There are three kinds of letters:
5300 characters including spaces
Here are the Hacks:
Try to make it stand out, show off your best characteristics
Give a unique/captivating answer on why you want to pursue the career of medicine
Remember when writing about your experience(s) etc remember to lead by example. Don't tell but show the reader how you are a great clinician or caring individual or down to earth.
The best way to go about this is by first brainstorming or writing in a stream of consciousness
Food for thought
What is my narrative?
How can I portray myself on paper?
Why am I going into this field?
What was my pivotal moment(s) where I knew this is the right field for me? Was it a feeling? Was it a person?
700 character limit including spaces
Have up to 15 applicable experiences and properly categorize them
If you have 15 applicable experiences, best to fill them all
If not, quality>quantity
If you have more, pick the best ones or the ones you connect with the most
3 experiences can be expanded for most meaningful
This is an additional 1325 characters including spaces
Focus on what you have learned and qualities you possess.
Med School Dependent
After submitting the Primary Application, the next step is based on where you are applying to medical school.
Make sure to check MSAR and the specific medical school websites for more details.
After the primary application is released to the schools, each institution reviews it and send out secondary apps at their discretion.
All schools monitor this process differently: some schools send secondaries to all applicants, some send to applicants who meet certain criteria, and some send to applicants they have already screened.
Questions can change from year to year; however, you can see the past years here.
If you have the time to start pre-writing your responses, that would be a tremendous help as they tend to come in at a rush. Ideally, you should submit them within a 2 week range of when they are first sent.
If you submit your application on the day they open, you should expect to start receiving the bulk of your secondaries in July. Start pre-writing those responses in June if you can!
CASPer is essentially an online ethics test. It asks students realistic, hypothetical scenarios and what they would do if faced with that dilemma.
It tests your skills and attributes: Collaboration | Communication | Compassion | Empathy | Equity | Ethics | Motivation.
The test is 65 minutes long, but can take up to 90 minutes with breaks. There are 12 scenarios presented– half of them are video scenarios, which are less than two minutes long. The other half are personal questions, and you have 30 seconds to read it. These are placed in random order. Then you have 5 minutes to answer 3 questions about the scenarios. Don't worry spelling and grammar do not count!!
This is the process:
Schedule the test early, around May or June. Spots are taken pretty quickly. It is $10 to take the test, and then $12 per school to send it to.
You do not need that much practice. Take the practice test and check out the CASPer blog for more scenarios.
Before the test, run the systems check to see if your wifi is strong enough. CASPer needs required access to audio, microphone, and webcam.
Make sure you are in a quiet place to take the test.
Schools will not complete review of your application until they receive your scores. It takes about 4 weeks for scores to be released to schools.
Here are the Hacks:
1. Although there is no right or wrong answer, do not be lazy with answering the questions. It is key to write about 2-3 full sentences.
2. Always answer the question.
3. Although people will say, "you can't study for this exam," you can. You can look at the test prep released by CASPer, different blogs and forums.
Medical schools extend invitations from August to March of that application year. They are usually in person at the school, however due to COVID, they are virtual.
To prepare for interviews, you can...
Ask a friend to conduct a mock interview
Think about practice questions, practice answers, and then read them aloud.
Although no one likes hearing their own voice, recording/videotaping yourself is a great way to hear your tone and how you project your answer
Practice in the mirror
This is getting more popular. It is usually a subsection of an interview.
Format: entails working in a group to solve problems.
Assessment: The reviewers watch your interactions and evulate you based on your performance.
Multiple Mini Interviews
This is getting more popular since it assesses non-cognitive skills.
Format: students are required to rotate between about 6-12 stations. They usually have 2 minutes to read a prompt and about 8 minutes to go in and discuss the prompt with a reviewer.
Topics: Prompts can be anything from ethical problems to dealing with a pretend dilemma with an actor.
Assessing: These scenarios are meant to assess your behaviors and judge your non-cognitive traits.
Interviewee will meet with one or several students, staff, or faculty for traditional interview questions to learn more about your goals.