Guide to the medical school application process

November 7, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Students listening attentively to their mentor Congrats if you have decided to become a physician. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to work in medicine. Before you can pursue your goal of becoming a doctor, you need to get over the first hurdle, which is the medical school application process.


Med school admission requirements

The first thing you need to understand is admission requirements. You will be wasting your time applying to schools if you do not meet their requirements. Admission requirements vary by school. But all schools require a bachelor’s degree and completion of some basic science classes, such as biology, physics and chemistry. Medical schools also require English and math classes. Additionally, med school applicants have to take the medical school admission test.

Specific school requirements can be found through the Association of American Medical Colleges website. You will also find the grade point average range and MCAT scores needed for admission, which may help you determine your chances of getting accepted. 



If you plan to attend medical school in the fall after graduating from college, you should plan to apply the summer before your senior year. This means you need to take your medical school admission test sometime during your junior year. But you should be researching medical schools even before then.

In addition, determine who you will ask to write you a letter of recommendation. If you have worked or volunteered in the medical field, consider asking a supervisor. If you shadowed a doctor, consider asking him or her for a letter of recommendation. Professors, especially those who teach science classes, may also be a good choice for a letter.   


Your initial application

Most medical schools use the American Medical College Application Service as their processing service. Instead of applying to each medical school individually, you submit one application online through the AMCAS and specify the schools you are interested in. The American Medical College Application Service usually starts accepting applications in early June each year.

Your initial application submitted to American Medical College Application Service will include your undergrad transcript and your MCAT scores. The application will also include information about the extracurricular activities you participated in, as well as a short personal statement. It varies by school whether letters of recommendations are submitted with the initial application or at a later time.

Be careful when it comes to the deadline to apply. Although you are submitting only one application, it will be sent to your chosen schools. But each school may have a different deadline for applying. Make sure you submit your initial application in plenty of time to meet all school deadlines. 

Also, transcripts need to be official, so allow yourself plenty of time for your university to process your request. In most cases, the American Medical College Application Service will accept transcripts 14 days after their application deadline. Keep in mind, the peak period for transcript requests is often from June through September and processing may take a little longer that time of year.   

The American Medical College Application Service performs a review of your application to determine if everything is there. If you have something missing, your application will be returned to you. For example, if you failed to list grades for classes you repeated, your application will be returned.

The best way to prevent an initial application from being returned is to take your time and carefully review the instructions. Make a checklist and check off items one at a time as you include them. Taking a little extra time initially, may save you time in the long run and prevent your application from being sent back.


Submitting secondary applications  

If any of the schools you have chosen are interested in you, they will send you a secondary application. Your secondary application may vary by school. But in most cases, it involves completing essays on various assigned topics. Essays may be related to experiences that will make you a good doctor. For instance, you may be asked to discuss an academic achievement.

In other instances, essays may be on topics, which appear to be unrelated to the medical field or becoming a physician. For example, you may be asked to discuss your favorite movie or book or talk about a time you struggled with a decision. The point of the essays is to get to know you better. You want to show your personality and let the admission committee get a feel for the type of person you are.  Also, if you did not submit letters of recommendation with your initial application, you will submit them with your secondary. 


The interview

If a school likes your secondary application, you will be invited for an interview. Your personal interview is a great opportunity to overcome any negatives on your application, such as low science grades or limited extracurricular activities. You can only tell so much about a person looking at an application. An in-person interview is a chance for the medical school admissions committee to determine what sets you apart from other applicants. It is also a chance for you to standout.

Most med school admissions committees are made up of faculty members and individuals from student affairs or administration. The type of questions asked may vary. You may be asked standard interview questions like you would be for a job.

You may also be asked your opinion on controversial topics just to see how well you perform in an uncomfortable situation. The most important thing to remember is to be yourself and answer questions honestly. If you try to be something you’re not, it will show through.

After you interviews, be sure to follow up by sending a thank you letter. Thank the admissions committee for the opportunity to meet with them and hear more about their program.

Once your applications have been reviewed and you have been interviewed, then comes the hard part. You may have to wait a few months before you hear back from any of the schools. By late winter or early spring of your senior year of college, you should start receiving any rejections and hopefully acceptance letters.