7 Questions About Medical School Applications You Want Answered


It can be a little intimidating to turn your intention of applying to medical school into action. While you’ve probably wanted to become a physician for years, pursuing an MD has always seemed so far away. That’s not the case anymore. You’re at the stage where you need to start getting organized.

The first order of business is figuring out a plan for completing your medical school applications. You need to come up with a timeline, determine which schools to target, and gather all the appropriate materials. There’s clearly a lot you need to sort out.

The good news is you can easily start your research right now. And we’re here to help.

7 common medical school application questions

You have a lot of questions about the road ahead. Keep reading to learn the answers to some of your most pressing application questions.

1. What does a completed application include?

Most pre-med students apply to programs using the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). You’ll fill out information regarding your background, work experience, and extracurricular activities, but there are many other requirements.

Aspiring medical students also need to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), obtain letters of recommendation, write a personal statement and other essays, and complete a number of required courses. Not every medical school has the same expectations when it comes to course prerequisites, but the AAMC has a checklist that should cover most of your bases. The final step is attending medical school interviews.

It’s also worth noting that AMCAS isn’t the only way to submit medical school applications. Students interested in attending osteopathic medical schools or programs in Texas apply through separate application services. International programs may require that you complete a separate application or allow you to use one of the services already mentioned.

2. When should I start working on my applications?

Because there are elements that take a significant amount of time to complete, you’ll be working on your application long before you actually start using AMCAS. Finishing all the medical school course requirements can take a lot of time, so take that into consideration. You may even need to complete additional coursework to satisfy those prerequisites if you’ve already graduated.

Gaining exposure to medicine also takes time. Some applicants accumulate work experience over a number of years by shadowing physicians, working as a scribe, or conducting research.

A concrete timeline becomes clearer during spring the year prior to your intended start date. If you didn’t take the MCAT in the fall, you should sit the exam in April or May. It’s also a good idea to submit your letters or recommendation and school transcripts to AMCAS as soon as you can. Most schools’ deadlines aren’t until October or later, but the rolling admissions system means it’s better to apply sooner. You can start submitting applications in June.

3. Which medical schools should I apply to?

You need to do some serious research to determine which schools will make your final list. Medical school applicants often make the mistake of limiting their selections too much. That could mean they focus all their efforts on reach schools, frame their entire application to please one program, or automatically discount a school based on a misconception.

So, how do you choose? You obviously want to make sure you attend a program that gives you a great education. Be sure to look into residency placements and other student performance data. And don’t forget to consider your personal goals and preferences. It’s important to evaluate all the important factors and find the right fit.

4. How many schools should I apply to?

It might sound extreme, but the average student submits 16 applications. This is a pretty good benchmark when you consider how competitive the applicant pool is, though you may choose to submit a few more or a few less. Deciding which schools to apply to is most likely going to inform your final number.

5. How much does it cost to apply to medical school?

No two students will spend the same amount of money during the admissions process. It’s dependent on how many schools you apply to, how many interviews you attend, and other factors. The initial AMCAS application fee, which covers one school, is $170. You’ll spend $39 for each additional school. If you apply to 16 schools, for example, your AMCAS fee would be $755. Individual schools may also charge additional expenses, which are typically around $100.

You also need to account for test fees and interview travel expenses. It costs $315 to sit the MCAT. Travel expenses are a lot more variable. The final cost will depend on how many interview invitations you receive, your choice of accommodations, and the mode of transportation you use.

6. Who will evaluate my application?

Once a school receives your application, it will go to the admissions committee. This group is a little different with each program. Committees typically include faculty members and individuals from the school’s leadership team, but some programs even include upper-level students and individuals from the community.

The way your application is reviewed is also different for each school. Some programs automatically discount students that fall below a certain GPA or MCAT threshold before committee members get to begin looking. Programs that use holistic reviews, on the other hand, consider your entire application from the very beginning.

7. What happens if medical schools reject my application?

Even with loads of preparation and hard work, some promising students are ultimately rejected. Given all the time and effort put into the process, this can be incredibly disheartening. Give yourself some time to recover, and then figure out how you want to proceed.

Some applicants repeat the same process the next year and see the same lackluster results, so make sure you’re smart about your strategy. It might mean considering different medical schools. Many physicians have been surprised to discover that attending a Caribbean program was actually the best route for them.

Start your MD journey

Hopefully this information about medical school applications has cleared up some of your uncertainties. The process is pretty streamlined. You just need to make sure you stick to deadlines, choose schools wisely, and devote enough time to each application component.

And don’t forget to put forth your best effort. It’s not enough to submit good applications — you want them to be great. Learn more about how you can focus on quality during each step of the process by reading, “A Sneak Peek at the Medical School Application Process.”

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