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Getting into Med School

Last month, we gave a brief overview of what the path to medicine looks like. This week, we’ll look at the bottleneck of that process: getting into medical school. In the 2019-2020 application cycle, over 53,000 students applied to an average of 17 medical schools each, with only 22,000 students getting accepted to medical school. Each year, there is under a 50% chance that any student will not get accepted into any of the schools to which they apply. However, on the bright side, that means that the average student has a 50% chance of ultimately becoming a doctor each time they apply to medical school. Overall, the process looks like this: primary application -> secondary applications -> interviews. The whole process takes about a year, meaning that if you wish to begin medical school in the Fall of 2021, you would have had to start your application in the summer of 2020. 

Let’s start at the beginning. Any student wishing to apply to medical school must use the American Medical College Application Service, or AMCAS. AMCAS collects all of your application information, verifies it, and then distributes it to any/all medical schools to which you wish to apply. It is the “Common App” of medical schools. The AMCAS application opens in the beginning of May for students applying to matriculate the following year. There are nine major parts to the AMCAS application: 1) Identifying Information (name, ID, etc), 2) Schools Attended (high school, colleges, transcripts, etc), 3) Biographic Information (citizenship, family, military service), 4) Coursework (a detailed list of all of the student’s coursework beginning in college), 5) Work/Activities (you should highlight the most meaningful experiences), 6) Letters of Evaluation (i.e., letters of recommendation), 7) Medical Schools (pick which schools will see your application), 8) Essay(s) (personal statement), and 9) Standardized Tests (MCAT, GRE). Each section entails more than one may think, so it is highly recommended to consult people who have recently gone through the process themselves because it can save you a lot of time...which brings me to my next point. 

AMCAS applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. This means that the sooner you get your application in, the sooner it can be verified and sent to medical schools--most of which also use a rolling basis. After the AMCAS application is submitted, medical schools will send out secondary applications, which are also called “secondaries”. Most schools send out secondaries to all applicants. In this secondary, schools ask more detailed questions that help them tailor their student body to their liking. According to one source, the five most commonly asked questions are “Why our school?”, “How will you enhance our school’s diversity?”, “How will you spend your gap year?”, “Describe a significant challenge in your life.”, and “Is there anything else you’d like us to know?”. If a school likes what they see, students will be invited to an interview day, where the school and the student will see if they’re a good fit for one another. 

The process is clearly rigorous and time-consuming. Those looking to add “MD” to the end of their name are certainly put to the test. If you or someone you know is planning on applying to medical school, be there to encourage and support them every step of the way! I’m sure that I haven’t answered all of your questions here, so please feel free to reach out to me directly at