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Cheat Sheet

Getting into Medical School For Dummies

Getting into medical school is extremely competitive, and the application process is long and complex. Keeping track of the application timeline is essential because early applicants are at an advantage when it comes to getting admitted to medical school. The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a particularly important part of the admissions decision, and doing well on it will greatly enhance your chances of acceptance. Your primary application contains many elements of your application package, including your personal statement, course work, and activities, so make sure you invest the time and effort needed to present your candidacy for medical school as effectively as possible on this document.

Timeline for Medical School Applications

Understanding the timeline for applying to medical school helps ensure you complete every step early in the application cycle. Submitting a timely medical school application improves your chances of acceptance to a med school.

With rolling admissions (where schools review applicants’ files as they receive them), early applicants are at an advantage while those who delay face worse odds of admission to medical school.

The following suggested timeline can help keep you on track during the admissions process.

Med school preparation: What to do in your junior year of college

In September through December:

  • Become familiar with the application process and gather information about medical schools.

  • Register and study for the MCAT if you plan to take the test in January. (Register at least two months prior to your planned test date.)

  • Check with your premedical advisor to see whether your school provides a committee letter of recommendation.

In January through March:

  • Take the MCAT in January or prepare for a spring test date.

  • Begin writing your personal statement.

  • Request individual letters of recommendation or follow your institution’s protocol for obtaining a committee letter.

In April through June:

  • Continue working on your personal statement and other aspects of your primary application.

  • Take MCAT by the end of May if possible in order to have your scores available early in the cycle.

  • Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS) opens (early May).

  • American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) and American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) applications become available online.

  • AMCAS and AACOMAS may be submitted beginning in early June.

In July through August:

  • Begin receiving secondary (supplemental) applications. Aim to submit secondary applications within one week of receipt.

  • Some schools begin extending interview invitations as early as July.

College senior year before medical school

In September through April:

  • Interviews are underway at most medical schools by September and continue until late February at many schools. Some schools continue interviews through late March or early April.

  • Earliest acceptances for regular (non-early decision program) AMCAS applicants are offered in mid-October.

  • Send letters of update or interest to schools at which you’re waitlisted.

In May through September:

  • By May 15, cut down multiple acceptances so that you’re holding only one, although you may remain on waitlists for other schools.

  • Continue to update schools at which you’re waitlisted.

  • Finalize your plans for medical school.

  • Begin medical school!

Maximizing Your MCAT Score for Medical School Admissions

Your Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) score is a crucial factor in admission to medical school. A stellar MCAT score can take your medical school application from good to great in the admissions committee’s eyes. Here are some tips to help you nail this challenging exam:

  • Make a detailed (but flexible) study schedule. Map out your study schedule as specifically as you can, but be flexible as well. If you see that you need to spend more time on one area and less on another, adjust accordingly. Plan to spend at least three or four months studying for the test, and even longer if you’re juggling a full course load with your MCAT studies.

  • Start with your weakest area. Your weakest subjects are the ones that you have the most room to improve in. Mastering those areas can have a major effect on your score, so begin addressing them early.

  • Consider taking a preparation course if you need structure for your studying. For some students, attending class each week and having specific assignments is more effective than self-study.

  • Do plenty of practice questions. Reading and memorizing aren’t enough to succeed on the MCAT. The test is also about being able to think critically and apply information, so make sure that you incorporate ample practice questions and examinations into your study routine.

  • Don’t neglect the Verbal Reasoning section. It may not be science, but schools take this section seriously, and you should too.

Completing Primary Applications for Medical School Admissions

Your medical school primary application is the first step in getting admitted to medical school. The application services submit your primary application to every medical school you apply to, so completing it properly is an admissions must.

The primary application contains detailed information about every aspect of your candidacy for medical school, from your academic record and list of activities to a personal statement and biographical information. Check out the following tips for guidance as you prepare to undertake this critical step of the medical school admissions process:

  • Start your personal statement at least two months before you plan to submit your application. A compelling personal statement takes a long time to create, and you don’t want to end up rushing to finish it or delaying your application while you perfect your statement.

  • Be aware of length limits. Each section of the application has specific character limits. Check the specifications for each element before you start working on it to avoid having to go back and cut down an essay or response that turns out to be too long.

  • Compile a list of the information you need to fill out the work and activities section. This way, you aren’t scrambling around looking up details while you’re trying to finish this section. For each activity, you need the name of the organization, dates you participated, hours per week, location, and contact information of someone who can verify your participation.

  • Start filling out the AMCAS and AACOMAS applications online in May. Although you can’t submit these applications until June, they’re available online in May so that applicants may begin entering information. (TMDSAS opens in May and may be submitted then.)

  • Request copies of transcripts from every post-secondary institution you’ve attended to be sent to the application services you’re using. The application services verify the course work you’ve entered on your application against your official transcript. You must list every course you’ve taken and provide the application service an official transcript from each institution you’ve attended.

  • Proofread carefully. Nothing looks worse than an application riddled with errors. Proofread every word of the application carefully, and have someone else read your application over as well.

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