Med School Series: The Application Process
February 23, 2017
If you are hoping to one day become a physician, you understand what it takes to get there. You have likely prepared for years to get to this point, working hard in challenging high school and college courses, shadowing and working alongside medical professionals, and doing everything you can to build your resume — and the time has finally come to begin the application process.
With hundreds of MD and DO schools in the United States and the Caribbean, narrowing down which schools to apply to can be tricky. If you need assistance choosing the right school for you, read the previous post in our med school series for what to consider when picking medical schools to apply to.
Once you have narrowed down your list to a number you are comfortable with, you are ready to start applying.
Generally, the medical school application process is a lot different than applying for your undergraduate educational institution.
For one thing, unless you are only applying to a few schools, sending med school applications is typically more expensive. Additionally, the journey to getting accepted to a medical school is a multi-step process.
Keep reading for a quick guide to help you know what to expect when beginning the medical school application process.
What is the first step of the application process?
The application process begins with filling out primary applications. Most medical programs in the United States utilize the American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®). If you used the Common Application to apply for college, the AMCAS® is similar.
This means that generally, no matter how many medical schools you apply to, you fill out and submit just one application. If one or more of the schools you are interested in are not AMCAS® participating schools, you will need to fill out that school’s unique primary application.
The primary application is comprised of many different pieces, from personal statements to extracurricular activities and even family/individual financial information. You’ll also need to request your official transcripts and gather letters of recommendation beforehand, but the AMCAS® will collect and send your MCAT scores for you.
The application opens in June the year before your projected year of attendance. So, for example, if you wish to start medical school in the fall of 2018, you would want to submit your applications within the month of June 2017.
What is a secondary application?
After you submit your primary application, the schools have two choices: the med school could reject your application and your application to that school will be terminated, or they can request supplemental information from you.
This is where the application process for each school becomes a little different. Each school has its own secondary application, and they can request whatever additional information from you that they see fit. They could ask you questions, provide an essay prompt, ask for a photo, or request additional letters of recommendation.
Whatever they ask, they will expect a response within a limited window of time, so be prepared to provide a quick turnaround.
Upon receiving secondary applications, medical schools will generally provide three outcomes: you will be invited to interview at the school, your application will be terminated, or you will be placed on “hold,” meaning they will review your application at a later date.
How much will primary and secondary applications cost?
The majority of schools charge an application fee for both primary and secondary applications. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website, the primary application fee is $160 for the first school you apply to and $38 for each additional school.
If you are invited to fill out a secondary application, those can range anywhere between $0 and $150.
What comes next in the application process?
The third step is the medical school interview. Like the secondary application, this step will be different for all the schools you apply to. You could be scheduled for one or more interviews and interviewed on or off campus.
You could be interviewed by an admissions committee member or multiple committee members, and/or someone else in the area such as a practicing physician. Interviews often come with tours of the school and a chance to meet and chat with current students to get an idea of what student life is like on campus.
After your interview, the interviewers will fill out evaluations. Typically within a month of your interview, you will be notified whether you are accepted, rejected, or placed on a waiting list.
The journey to becoming a physician is mirrored in the medical school application process — it’s a long process, and there are many hoops to jump through to get to the next phase. However, once it is all over and you are finally accepted to a medical school, you will not have to do it again. Good luck to all those applying in the coming months!
Are you a veteran in the medical school application process? Share some tips in the comments!
For additional medical school resources, check out these articles:
- How to Choose the Right Medical School
- How to Prepare in High School and College
- Top 10 Easiest Medical Schools to Get Into
- Med School Interview Questions
- 9 Stress Management Tips for Medical Students
- Pros and Cons of Caribbean Medical Schools