The Whole Medical School Application Process Explained

Written and edited by the MCAT Self Prep Tutoring Team

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When I first began researching the medical school application process, I was completely overwhelmed. Between the MCAT, primary applications, secondary applications, interviews, and more, it was all very daunting! I wished I had a straightforward guide when I was planning my senior year of college. As a current applicant to medical schools, I felt that it may be helpful to provide a broad overview of the entire process. In this article, I’ll be walking you through the four main stages of the application process: pre-application, primary application, secondary applications, and interviews. If you want the full step-by-step guide to optimizing your Medical School Application, check out our Medical School Application Course.

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1. Pre-Application: What are Medical Schools Looking for?

While each medical school is unique in its application process, however, there are components of an application that are nearly universal. Before you submit your primary application, you’ll want to participate in a variety of personally meaningful experiences: service/volunteering, research, leadership positions, and involvement in extracurricular activities. In addition to these experiences, medical schools will also evaluate other important factors of your application, such as the MCAT and letters of recommendation.

I would recommend getting a head start on asking for letters of recommendation and planning out your MCAT studying. The MCAT is a unique and often unfamiliar exam. Getting organized in your planning and setting goals is a game changer. I used the MCAT Self Prep Study Plan to help me set my MCAT goals within a realistic timeframe. I would highly recommend this option to anyone looking to maximize their study plan!

2. Primary Application

Once you’ve decided to apply to medical schools, submitting your primary application(s) is the first big step! There are three different primary applications: AMCAS (for allopathic/MD schools), AACOMAS (for osteopathic/DO schools), and TMDSAS (for Texas public medical schools).

You’ll want to submit your primary application the summer before you plan to matriculate into medical school. For example, a student hoping to start medical school in Summer or Fall 2022 would submit their primary application in the summer of 2021.

The primary application processes are slightly different for the three application systems, but you can expect them all to open in early May. From this point, you can fill out the applications. The first day that you’ll be able to submit your AMCAS application will be at the end of May. For AACOMAS and TMDSAS applications, submission is allowed as soon as the application opens and all fields are complete.

The most reliable information regarding the timeline and dates for your application cycle will be found on the official AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS websites.

My biggest piece of advice for the primary applications would be to complete them as soon as possible. The sooner you submit your application, the faster your application will be reviewed. Many schools use rolling admissions as well. This means that the earlier you submit, the more times your application will be reviewed by the admission committee.

3. Secondary Applications

Secondary applications are different from the primary applications in that they are much more school-specific. Each medical school has its own essay requirements that can be found using this link. But be aware, they change every year! In your secondaries, you’ll likely answer questions related to the individual schools, such as your fit with the schools’ missions, connections to the schools or regions, and your motivations for applying to specific schools.

Unlike AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS, schools send secondary applications based on their timelines. For information specific to each school and its secondary application practices, I would recommend visiting MSAR for specific notes and deadlines to keep in mind.

The secondary application is a great opportunity to show schools how passionate you are while also learning more about the institutions. I would recommend submitting your secondary applications within roughly two weeks of receiving them. This isn’t a rule by any means, but a helpful tip to keep you on track!

4. Interviews

After submitting your secondary application, the next step is to wait for interview invitations. Invitations will be delivered by email, so check your inbox frequently. Some schools also require AAMC VITA, and others require the CASPer test, which requires you to record yourself answering a set of questions. Not all schools require this option. So make sure to check if any of your selected schools require this as part of the application process.

Following your interview, there will likely be a period of downtime. Each school has a different timeline between their interview season and when they start to send acceptances. Waiting to hear back from schools often can be the hardest part of our pre-med journeys. The best advice I have for this stage is to take care of yourself. It can be stressful to wait for those final decisions, so make time to do things that bring you comfort and joy.

Medical School Application Guidance

And there you have it: a very rough guide to the medical school application process! There are many aspects of the application process to keep in mind, which is why I highly recommend investing in MCAT Self Prep’s Medical School Application Course which helps you plan and track every aspect of a high-quality application. I’ve used that course in my application cycle and have found its simple format and concise explanations incredibly helpful.

Applying to medical schools is complex and often overwhelming. If you’d like extra support and guidance throughout the application cycle, I would recommend looking into MCAT Self Prep’s Elite Tutoring. Your tutor is an expert in this process and is an excellent resource and source of support. Whether or not you decide to gain access to tutoring or other features of MCAT Self Prep, I believe in you! Getting this far is an accomplishment in itself.

Warm regards,

Jess Hack

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