Getting into Medical School For Dummies
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A medical school primary application contains basically anything about you that is remotely relevant to determining your suitability for the medical profession. A medical school primary application contains not only your personal statement, but a laundry list of details, such as the dates you volunteered at a homeless shelter your freshman year and the name of the art history course you took at a community college two summers ago.

Mistakes or omissions, particularly in the academic record, can delay the processing of your application, so making sure your materials are accurate and complete is essential.

The following list focuses mostly on the parts of the AMCAS application.

  • Personal statement/personal comments essay: You have ten minutes to convince the admissions committee to give you an interview. What would you say? Those words belong in the innocuous-sounding personal statement section.

    You have anywhere from 4,500 to 5,300 characters, depending on the primary application, to state your case. Use this space tell your story — why want to be a physician, what experiences have shaped you, and what qualities make you suited for the profession.

    The Texas schools also allow for two optional essays of up to 2,500 characters each in which to discuss unique or challenging experiences.

  • Work and activities: In this section, you list your clinical activities, research, work, and volunteer experience as well as honors, awards, and extracurricular activities. Describe each experience and reflect on what you learned or gained from it.

  • Standardized tests: This section includes the dates and scores for the MCAT as well as other tests, such as the GRE (required for certain dual-degree programs). If you’ve already taken the MCAT once or more, the information about your test(s) will automatically be included on your AMCAS application, so all you need to do is check those entries for accuracy.

    For TMDSAS and AACOMAS, you must release your scores to the application service through the MCAT Testing History System. If you haven’t taken the MCAT yet or will be retaking it, enter your planned test date.

  • Academic record: The primary application requires an exhaustive academic history. You need to list each college you’ve attended and your major and minor, plus each course you enrolled in with credits and grades earned.

  • Identifying information and biographical information: Each primary application requires your name, address, family information, date of birth, state of residency, and other background information. Some information in this section may help the schools to determine whether you’re socioeconomically disadvantaged. Don’t hesitate to provide any information here that may enhance your admission.

  • List of schools: Your primary application is sent only to the schools that you designate in this section.

    The temptation may be to check off the few schools you know as well as a bunch of others you’re only vaguely familiar with. That approach is a quick way to get your list done, but the next year will go by very slowly if you have to go through the whole process again because you didn’t apply strategically.

    A balanced, realistic list is critical. Yet even with the best-researched list, new information or a change of heart may inspire you to add more schools after submitting the primary application, and for an additional fee, you can.

  • Certification and payment: The certification functions as a legal signature and is considered to be a binding agreement between you and the application service. It consists of your reading and agreeing to the terms of the application service. You also have to pay the necessary fees before submitting to primary application.

2012–2013 Fees for Primary Application
Application Service First School Each Additional School
AMCAS $160 $34
AACOMAS $175 $32
TMDSAS $135 No charge for additional schools

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Carleen Eaton, MD, has used her expertise in admissions and test preparation, as well as her experiences as an applicant who received acceptances to top-ranked medical schools, to guide hundreds of applicants successfully through the medical school admissions process. She is the founder of, a medical school admissions consulting firm.

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