Nearly all allopathic and osteopathic medical schools use online application services, known by acronyms: AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) and the AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine). These services make the application process easier than it would be otherwise (although it is still time consuming). They allow applicants to fill out one set of forms, online, and an application is then sent to all the schools that the applicant wishes to apply to. The service has a set fee ($160 for AMCAS 2005) with additional fees depending upon how many schools you apply to ($30 for each school after the first for AMCAS in 2005). Applicants need to arrange to have their transcripts from all institutions where they took college courses sent to AAMCAS and/or AACOMAS.
The application is straightforward although it does take some time to complete. You do not need to complete the application all at once; you are able to save it online and log on repeatedly to review, add information, and modify what you have already saved. You are asked for a variety of information relating to coursework and grades, biographical information, awards and honors, extracurricular activities, employment, volunteer work and medically related experiences. Do not feel that you have to completely fill up the spaces; activities/awards from high school generally are not relevant unless they are sustained through college. A long list may simply reveal that you have done lots of little things which usually is not as valuable as having done a few things that are more substantial. Having had some medically related experience is nearly essential, so make sure that you get some! Activities that demonstrate compassion for others and an ability to work with and for others are also very significant. The form also asks if you have been subject to any disciplinary action. Be honest here, as the same question will be addressed in the letter from the Premedical Advisory Committee (we are expected to check your standing with the Dean’s Office). Being subject to disciplinary action does NOT result in an automatic rejection, but being dishonest does! If you have questions, talk with your premedical advisor.
The part of the application that takes the most time is your ‘personal statement,’ an essay about you and why you want to be and would be a good physician. For most applicants, including applicants who write well, this is a difficult task because you need to strike the right balance between being too boastful and being too unassuming. Most of all, the essay should be personal and revealing. This is the part of the application that requires the most preparation, and in order to apply in the summer, you need to start working on the personal statement in the spring. It is a document that needs to be both inspired and well edited; while inspiration may come for some ‘in a flash,’ it is much slower for others and good editing always takes time. PLAN AHEAD!!
The AMCAS/AACOMAS application is the ‘primary application.’ Medical schools consider your credentials, as revealed by your transcripts, your MCAT scores, and your primary application, and if you pass muster, will then ask for ‘secondary applications.’ These applications are school-specific and require an additional fee averaging around $100. Requests for ‘secondaries’ may come one to two months after submitting the primary application, although it often is slower than this if your MCAT scores are not yet available.