Application & Interview

How do I apply for medical school?

Medical School Application (and Application Services)

Most medical schools (over 95%) use application services—AMCAS for MD programs and AACOMAS for DO programs. Schools that do not use these services will be clearly identified on their web sites and in the MSAR Guide (in the Dow Science Office).

Applications should be completed over the summer between your junior and senior year. Print off an application early so you can see what information is required and assemble it in advance (see more hints in the timetable and personal statement section of the web site). Start on it EARLY and keep after it!

For MD/Allopathic Schools: AMCAS American Medical College Application Service (opens in June) 

For DO/Osteopathic Schools: AACOMAS Am. Assoc. of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (applications open in May)

The applications are online and quite complex. There are extensive FAQs associated with the application; chances are your questions can be answered there or with an e-mail to the service.

You can fill out the application in stages, and return to an application in progress.Do not start a new application, but do keep copies of everything you type in, just in case information is lost.

You will enter all your grades (as letter grades not numbers) and verify them with official transcripts from every school you have attended. After the service verifies your information, it distributes your application to the school(s) you have selected. If a school does not participate in AMCAS or AACOMAS, contact the admissions office directly.

Note you will have to specify the schools you want your application sent to, and you should understand how the fee scale works for each service.

How do I choose which medical or osteopathic schools I am interested in?

Certainly you will have done research on schools (websites, the MSAR, school visits), but you will also want to consider the following factors:

  • State of residence (priority is often given to in-state residents)
  • Size of school (small or large) and size of medical class (you fellow students)
  • Location of school
  • Primary mission of school (schools can differ in their approach and primary mission)
    • Are you interested in a research career, a primary care field, rural medicine?
    • More emphasis on community practice, preventative medicine, emergency care?
  • Specific educational approaches (like problem based learning or PBL)
  • Cooperating hospitals for clinical rotations
  • Affordability (tuition and fees) see the “financing medical school” section of the web site

How will medical school evaluate me? What do they look for? What is the process? Schools look at the following items, but how they weigh them can be quite different:

  • Completion of all the required courses
  • Your GPA (higher is better, see MSAR for averages; an easy curriculum will be noted)
  • Your MCAT scores (at least 9s across the board, some schools say 10s, or give a total)
  • MCAT scores are important because they:
    • Indicate basic ability on future tests such as the USMLE Step 1, 2 and 3
    • Are not affected by grade inflation
    • Give a numerical comparison to other applicants
  • Your list of extracurricular activities
    • Quality not quantity
    • Type (volunteer and health related ones count more than just being involved in things)
    • What impact you had in those organizations (essay in the limited space allowed)
    • Evidence of actual leadership/initiative (organize /complete tasks vs. office holding)

Your application will be reviewed by the Admission Office. Qualified candidates receive secondary applications which:

  • Ask for additional school specific essays or information
  • Formally request letters of recommendation be sent
  • Require an additional fee
  • The most successful candidates return them within a week of receiving them
  • Getting a secondary application is necessary, but not sufficient, for admission

Interviews with medical school admissions committees are offered to the most promising candidates:

  • On a rolling admissions basis (your chances go down the later you are in the process)
  • To see what you are like in person (potential to interact with patients and colleagues)
  • To get a better sense of your experience in the health care field

The Admissions Committee meets to discuss the data/impressions and recommends:

  • Acceptance (for excellent candidates)
  • Denial (for candidates that are either unqualified or are poor matches for the school)
  • Or wait-listing (for possible admittance later in the cycle if better matches fail to show)
  • Successful candidates will finalize financial and personal arrangements
  • Unsuccessful candidates will either choose another future or reapply
  • (more info under ”resources“)

Interview Preparation

  • There are many lists available of interview questions available on the Web
  • Collect some questions and know your answers to them, but don’t memorize them
  • Try to get others to ask you questions and frown at your answers
  • Be familiar with current (and proposed) health care policy
  • What is Medicare Part D? Will it work?
  • Read editorials in the medical journals from the Alma College library
  • The AMA and the Family Physician sites have current policy info
  • Relax and try to have fun
  • Usually they are checking for your ability to react and be personable
  • Some web sites rate interviews by school. It may be helpful to look if you have time

Selecting a Medical School: What should I ask on an interview? Students often forget that they, too, are making a choice. You are expected to ask questions!

  • Investigate this website: Getting into medical school
  • Prepare some questions you care about that were not answered in the school’s literature
  • Ask a follow-up question to information already provided, and it will look like you did your homework!