Note: The information posted here is geared toward the needs of next year’s applicants. At this point in the admissions cycle, current applicants should either be working on their interviews or waitlist positioning.
Don’t Forget: Only a few schools are still taking applications for next fall. If you’re not an exceptionally strong candidate, you may be wiser to wait and apply early in the next application season than to try to win one of the few remaining seats that are still available this late in the admissions cycle.
The computer-based MCAT will be offered on 30 different test dates at testing centers throughout the country. Register early to guarantee yourself the most options in test dates and locations. Seating is limited at many test sites and the available spaces for any given test date may fill up quickly. For more information, go the AAMC website (www.aamc.org).
Are you unsure if you need a MCAT prep course? Call us at 1.800.809.0800 (+1 703.242.5885 outside the US and Canada) to discuss your situation. We’re happy to help you!
Research your school choices. As Admissions Consultant Dr. Wayne Shelton points out, “Unless you can devote a significant amount of time to completing applications, you are well served by limiting your applications to 10 to 15 schools. Less than that, and you risk not being accepted anywhere. More than that, and you may not have time to complete all of the applications carefully.” (To read more advice on school selection, click here.)
As you work on your list of target schools, be sure not to trade quality for quantity. Remember that you will be more successful submitting 10 applications that each reflect 100 per cent of your best effort than submitting 20 applications that each reflect only 50 per cent of your best effort.
Start visiting schools. Try to meet with admissions staff and students, if any are available.
Request a unofficial copies of your college transcripts, for your own use as you start planning your applications. You will use these to refresh your memory about your school performance and position yourself for medical school admission.
Extracurricular activities are an important component in medical school admissions. Think about the activities you participate in. Will those activities support your case for medical school admission? What is the best way to spin these activities to optimally advocate your candidacy?
Some premeds complain that it is difficult to find volunteer work that will support their medical school applications. If that is your situation, analyze what the difficulty is. Are you focusing too narrowly on health care work that requires specific training or a background check? If so, is there another kind of volunteer activity that you could pursue instead? Remember, the qualities that the admissions committees look for in applicants’ volunteer experience include things like interpersonal and communication skills. You can demonstrate those in a variety of activities outside of a health care setting.
The medical school admissions committees will be taking a hard, critical look at your profile. You must do the same thing first. Only by understanding your candidacy from their perspective, can you best mitigate your weaknesses, highlight your strengths, frame your fit, and employ the ‘wow’ factors that differentiate yourself from the many other highly qualified applicants in your demographic.
Your weaknesses. Sometimes it is best not to bring attention to a weakness. Other times, it must be mitigated. Weaknesses can be mitigated in the personal statement, addendum, or letters of reference.
Your strengths. You need to become a self promoter but you must balance that against the need to avoid being perceived as arrogant. You also need to prioritize your strengths. Most likely, you will not be able to highlight all of them in adequate detail within your applications. You will have to decide which points are most important to you and focus on communicating those.
Your story themes and ‘wow’ factors. What are the most important points you need to make about your background, values, beliefs, experiences, and reasons for pursuing med school? Have you adequately prioritized these points? If you attempt to convey too many different points, you risk coming across as disparate and not covering any points in adequate detail to successfully set apart your application. What makes you unique in a way that is going to make any admissions officer just really want to recruit you to their school?
Your fit. Why are you a match made in heaven for the specific medical school being targeted? Why will you be a better fit and contribute more to the program and community than the other applicants? Does your application convincingly argue that, if admitted, you will gladly attend the program?
If you’re applying to medical schools next year, you need to take a critical inventory of your candidacy. Will you clear the academic qualifications hurdles at the schools you are targeting? Would you benefit from an alternative transcript? Can you find some additional extracurricular activities that will not cast a perception of expediency to the admissions committees?
“Putting together a medical school application is a tedious process that takes months to complete – but the time and energy you invest in creating a successful application is a small price to pay for the difference it makes in your chances of acceptance to medical school.”
– Senior Admissions Consultant Dr. Wayne Shelton
AMCAS 2024 will open on May 2 – which will be here sooner than you think! Use the coming months to prepare as much of your application material as possible before that time. That way, you will be able to submit your applications early in the admissions cycle, which will give you an advantage at the many medical schools that use rolling admissions.
Letters of reference. If you’re applying next year, start thinking about your choice of recommenders. Be proactive but don’t approach your prospective recommenders too early. You should have at least a good draft of your personal statement done first so you know what you need the recommenders to emphasize.
Look over your resume/cv. Be sure it is updated and presents you in an optimal light for the admissions committees. Would you benefit from gaining some additional work or volunteer experience? If so, now is the time to get started! Make sure you understand the format that you should use for your resume in your applications as well.
Start thinking about your personal statements. You need a personal statement that will give the admissions committees a clear idea of the unique individual that you are and of your motivations for seeking admittance to a long and rigorous medical training program. Your transcripts, MCAT scores, and recommendations will tell the committees that you’re smart. You want your essays to express the person you are beyond that. Start keeping a folder or notebook with notes about life experiences that might be good material for your statement.
Determine if you need to include an addendum to your personal statement. What additional points, if any, do you need to make? If you are attempting to mitigate a weakness, be sure you don’t come across as defensive or whiny. Doing so will only draw more attention to your flaw.
Our Medical School Admissions Timeline page will be updated on January 2.