The Whole Medical School Application Process Explained

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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How we Matched up the Khan Academy Passages with the eCourse Lessons

Each lesson of the eCourse contains links to 1 to 5 Khan Academy science passages for the purpose of providing you with non-AAMC material to practice your science passage reading skills on. By completing all the linked passages within every lesson, you will have finished all the freely available Khan Academy science passages.

To match up the Khan Academy Science Passages with the eCourse lessons, we carefully examined the passage and question content of each one. Then we decided which lesson of the eCourse best correlated with that content. You may notice that some passages don’t match up perfectly with the current lesson. If they don’t match up with the current lesson, they should match up with one of the previous lessons in the module. We did this carefully so that you could practice your science passage reading skills on passages that contain the content you’ve already learned.

Why we don’t recommend non-AAMC CARS practice questions

We recommend practicing CARS by reading non-AAMC CARS passages but not doing the associated practice problems. The reason we don’t recommend doing the practice problems is because the MCAT is written by the AAMC. They have a very unique style in which they write CARS practice questions that third-party companies (try as they might) are unable to replicate. When students spend time on non-AAMC CARS practice problems, they get familiar with the wrong style of questioning, leading them to overthink and incorrectly respond to the questions written by the AAMC. Thus, it is in your best interest to solely practice on AAMC CARS practice questions.

That said, we highly recommend practicing your reading skills on non-AAMC CARS passages. In our Ultimate CARS Strategy Course, we provide you with 1,000 free CARS passages and 100+ homework assignments, giving you ample material to practice on. Reading countless passages while practicing the proper reading habits and strategies will prepare you well to conquer the CARS section as it was written by the AAMC.

Which books do the lessons match up with?

The books we use in each lesson are linked below. We plan to stick with these older editions of the books since very little has changed and the older editions are much more affordable:

First Edition of the Kaplan 7-book Series
First Edition of the Princeton 7-book Series

Do the chapters match up perfectly?

The Kaplan Books, Princeton Books, and Khan Academy Videos were all produced by different authors. For this reason, there are some chapters in the Kaplan Book or Princeton Book that are not even found in the Khan Academy Videos and vice versa. For instance, the Kaplan and Princeton Books have chapters that cover certain experimental procedures that the Khan Academy Videos do not cover.

Our goal in matching up the books with the videos was to correlate the content as best as possible while also covering ALL the content from every resource. For this reason, when nothing in the Kaplan Books matched up with one of the video playlists, instead of leaving the reading assignment for Kaplan blank, we inserted material that did not fit in anywhere else (i.e. one of those chapters on an experimental procedure that was not covered by Khan Academy). So, when the assignment doesn’t appear to match up right, please know that this was intentional.

*If you follow the reading assignments outlined, you will finish the entire Kaplan 7-book series and/or Princeton 7-book series by the time you finish all 10 content modules.

Do the sections match up perfectly?

If the sections assigned in our eCourse do not match up with the sections contained in your content review book, you may have a different edition. The sections should still match up the large majority of the time, but in the rare instance that they don’t, I’d recommend simply reading sections that do match up and saving the ones that do not for a future lesson.

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