Student filling out their medical school application via the AAMC AMCAS

How to Fill out Your Medical School Application - AAMC AMCAS

July 5, 2021
Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. AAMC AMCAS Application Sections OverviewPart 3. FAQsPart 4. Conclusion

Introduction

Filling out your medical school application through the AAMC’s AMCAS can be quite intimidating, with its multiple sections and specific requirements. But, there is no need to fear when you take some time to review what you must do and break everything down into digestible sections.

This guide will help you do just that and offer some advice and tips along the way, so your application process is as hassle-free and straightforward as possible.

How to Fill Out Your Medical School Application: AAMC AMCAS Application Sections Overview

It is often helpful to start with a complete overview of what to expect for your medical school application to the AAMC’s AMCAS. The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) is a centralized service that is available only to first-year entering students at participating medical schools based in the U.S.

If you are transferring from another institution or have advanced standing, you will have to ask your school for what to do next. This guide only covers the AMCAS application and its nine total sections.

If you are planning to apply to medical schools in Texas, then you must use the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS), which is also not covered in this article. The AMCAS application is never directly involved with the decision on whether you are admitted to medical school; that is up to the institutions themselves.

It merely functions as a convenient, centralized place to collect and submit all necessary and supplemental material to your chosen schools that participate in the program. The service also does not necessarily contain all the information you are required to submit when applying.

To help you learn about all requirements, refer to the the Medical School Admission Requirements resource, as well as our tips on choosing a medical school. Remember, too, that you must keep all deadlines in mind and have everything ready well in advance.

Start early and continuously keep updated, organized lists of what you have done and still need to do before you begin the process. Missing information or incorrect use of the AMCAS application could lead to delays, so keep that in mind as well as you apply.

Including false or misleading information could lead to investigations of potential fraud, even if there was none intended, so be extra vigilant about these sorts of details. Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, you can register for your account to begin the actual application process.

Fill out all your personal information completely and accurately. This helps ensure your MCAT information (if you took the MCAT any time after 1977) syncs up properly, and keeps your account secure. Do not sign up for more than one account; if you forget your password, contact the AMCAS application help line directly.

The registration page is simple to understand, and it should look something like this:

Student filling out their medical school application via the AAMC AMCAS

Now it is time to dive in and understand each section of the AAMC’s AMCAS application application so you’ll know how to fill out every section. 

Sections 1–3: Background Information

These sections expand upon the basic information you entered when creating your account as discussed previously. Here, you will enter more detailed information about yourself, where you are from, and similar aspects about you.

Names and Identifiers

As always, enter the information completely and correctly. This includes your legal name and any nicknames or preferred names you use, and optionally, previous names you went by (such as your pre-marriage last name). Though marked optional, it is highly encouraged to fill the latter out as well.

You will also enter any useful ID numbers. These include numbers like school-assigned identification badge numbers, MCAT identifiers, AMCAS application IDs assigned before 2002, or other identifications that might appear on transcripts and documents you will be submitting.

Do not enter your Social Security Number (SSN), Social Insurance Number (SIN), or other government ID numbers here.

Your birthday and sex should auto-fill with the information you entered when creating your account, but be sure to double-check and make sure it is correct. In this section, you may also optionally enter information about your gender identity and the pronouns you use. These are offered to help gather information on diversity and inclusion and to help fully represent you as an applicant.

Schools You Have Attended

Next, you will enter information about the schools you have attended, starting from high school. If you attended multiple high schools, you only need to enter information about the high school from which you graduated.

Select the proper region and country from the drop-down menus to find your school, or select Other in the appropriate drop-down menu if your school is not listed and enter it manually. Then, enter the information related to your graduation year.

If you received a GED or another sort of equivalency, you should state the city and state in which it was earned, and then in the School field, select “N/A–Earned Equivalency or GED.” After doing that, you can then enter the year in which you took the test and the year in which you received the certificate.

Section 4: Coursework and Transcripts

The next section of the AAMC medical school application will ask you about all of the post-high school education you have had in any post-secondary institution in which you enrolled for at least one course. That applies to situations where your credits were transferred, you earned no credit, or you withdrew, as well.

For short-term programs, you can choose “Summer School Only” or “Study Abroad Program,” the latter of which only applies if you were in a program through a school that was not affiliated with a foreign school.

For dual enrollments at one school, such as joint undergraduate-graduate education, create separate entries for each of them, and use separate transcripts as well; any U.S.- or Canadian-sponsored study abroad program also gets a separate entry.

If you change the details or delete a school, all the information with it will be gone, too, so be warned if you attempt to do this. You will enter the degree(s) you earned where applicable for each school, and their associated major or minor subjects as well.

Like the previous section, choose the appropriate location and school from the drop down menus, or enter them manually if they are not listed. If you went to a U.S. college based overseas, select the country in which it was located, or use the manual entry option if you cannot find it.

You can choose to release the information about your application to the advisers at your institutions as well, if you want. This can help the schools you have attended improve their pre-health programs to aid other students similar to you in the future.

Transcripts and Courses are Vital to Get Right.

The AMCAS application requires you to send official transcripts from every school or postsecondary institution you attended.

This includes college classes you took in high school, AP classes that ended up counting for credit at a college or university, transfer credits, and basically anything involving courses at a higher education institution or college prep work, no matter if you completed the classes or program or receive a degree at the end.

If your program does not send transcripts, it must send an official letter stating as such at your request to AMCAS application. Paper transcripts are accepted from all institutions, but PDF eTranscripts are only accepted from approved senders, which means if the institution did not request a Transcript ID prior to sending electronic transcripts, then it is not an approved transfer. 

It is your responsibility to ensure that all your transcripts are up to date and accurate, and an AMCAS application Pre-Barcoded Transcript Request Form is included which can make this easier. Inaccurate, incomplete, or otherwise incorrect transcripts are the number one cause of delays and missed deadlines, so be sure your transcripts are complete and accurate before you request to have them sent and rectify any problems if they occur immediately.

For institutions no longer extant, ask local education authorities and search the internet for information on where you can secure transcripts. Make sure to ask to have transcripts sent from the registrar's office of every college or university you attended around May of the year you wish to apply.

When entering the classes you took into the Coursework section, the details on the transcripts you have sent in and what you enter must match each other in chronological order.

For example, if your transcript says you took Calculus I in 2014, then Chemistry II in 2015, followed by Calculus II in 2016, and finally Calculus III in 2017, then you must enter these courses following that order in the fields provided according to High School, Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years. These change over usually every 2 semesters, every 3-4 quarters, and every 2-3 trimesters. Use the following table to compute which of these years your courses fall into if you’re unsure:

Course credits corresponding to the year of study

Each course has to be assigned a Course Classification from the drop down-menu options available. The AMCAS application can change these if it sees fit, and if you think they got it wrong, you may send an Academic Change Request. Applications do not get rejected or returned for incorrect classifications, however.

If you are part of the military or armed forces, your institution’s office can usually help obtain the information and transcripts you need. If you are no longer part of active duty personnel, contact your military schools directly, because they are usually faster than central offices.

As part of this section, you must also state any previous medical school experience (if applicable), as well as if you have received any disciplinary action from any school. If these do not apply to you, then you can simply skip this part, but if it does, be honest and open about what happened and why.

If you experience any disciplinary action after hitting Submit, you have 10 days to let AMCAS application know about the situation. Like all other parts of the application, fill out everything as early and as accurately as possible. Be sure your transcripts are complete and accurate, and it is strongly suggested to use the Pre-Barcoded Transcript Request Form.

Section 5: Work and Activities

Chances are, if you are filling out your medical school application, you have some work and extracurricular activities experience under your belt. This section is the place to explain what you have done and when.

There are 15 areas to enter in details about these experiences, including volunteering, hobbies, medicine-related jobs, employment positions, and any internships. But you need not fill out every single entry; remember, quality is better than quantity. Choose the experiences that reflect on you best and showcase your abilities to their fullest.

You’ll have 700 characters (including spaces) to describe each entry. You can flag up to 3 of your entries as “most meaningful” and you’ll have an additional 1,325 characters (including spaces) to explain why these experiences are significant. 

Note that as you enter these experiences, they will organize themselves into chronological order and this cannot be altered. Much like the sections above, you will use drop-down menus to categorize your entries and include names, dates, and other such information where it is required.

All entries are plain text only, and any bullets, numbering, or other such formatting will not be saved, so be sure to keep that in mind and check that your entries are still readable without these sorts of formatting options. It is best to choose experiences that relate to medical school or that show how responsible and thoughtful you are.

For example, summer jobs at fast-food stands will tend to be less important to include than hospital volunteering or internships you have completed. Prioritize your entries with this in mind and keep a list yourself and cross off items as you enter them to make sure nothing gets duplicated.

Section 6: Letters of Evaluation

We already have extensive information available on how to secure medical letters of recommendation as part of the AAMC medical school application process. So, this section will cover how to properly fill out the AMCAS application forms to ensure everything is appropriately organized and to aid you in avoiding delays.

In the Letters of Evaluation section, you can indicate who will be writing the letters that the AMCAS application system will receive on your behalf and which schools they will be sent from.

You don’t have to do this, and can have your letters sent by your school or institution at your request before you submit your AMCAS application profile, but this section does make it possible for all the medical schools you are applying to to receive your letters in one centralized place inside the AMCAS application.

You can include up to 10 letters of recommendation with your application. Remember, however, quality over quantity. You can only submit letters for one application year; they are not saved nor do they roll over. As a tip, notify your writers early, remind them occasionally, and choose good writers whom you know well and are professional references.

Section 7: Medical Schools

Remember, the AMCAS application does not in any way determine your eligibility to enroll in any institution as part of the medical school application process. This section is where you enter the schools that will receive your AMCAS application. You can access this section easily from the “Quick Links” section, as seen here:

AMCAS' choose your school tool

Here, you will choose the type(s) of program(s) you are applying to, the school(s), and input the relevant information. You should know all of these details well before you get to this point in the process.

You will indicate if you are applying to a standard MD, MD-PhD, or another type of program in this section. This is also where you can specify if you are applying for the Early Decision Program (EDP).

If you wish to apply to the EDP, please note that you can only apply to one medical school. The EDP allows you to secure acceptance before the beginning of October, so if getting into the EDP program is your goal, this is where you make that clear.

If you do not get accepted, you will still have some time to apply to other schools as well. EDP deadlines mandate that your submission and transcripts must be in by the start of August, so remember that when considering to go down this route.

Additionally, any previous enrollments in medical school mean you are considered a reapplicant, so if that is the case, indicate that here too. If you fail to do so, you may come under Investigation, which causes delays and may mean you miss critical deadlines.

Section 8: Personal Essay

Your Personal Comments Essay (PCE), also known as the personal statement, is an essential required component of your AAMC’s AMCAS application. If you are applying to MD-PhD programs, then you will require two additional essays known as the MD-PhD Essay and the Significant Research Experience Essay (which allow 3,000 characters and 10,000 characters, respectively, including spaces).

You’ll have 5,300 characters (including spaces) to compose your PCE. This is where you can show your unique assets, personality, and experiences.

More often than not, admissions officers place very high importance to this section, so be sure you take your time and compose a clear, compelling piece that truly reflects your assets and puts your best foot forward. A table can be helpful to remember this information:

MD Phd vs MD essays

Use the PCE to discuss why you want to study medicine, your motivations, and other information that aspects such as transcripts, grades, schooling, and so on do not reflect. Here you can explain adversity and hardships you have overcome or provide reasons for gaps and oddities in your journey that you could not fit into the other sections.

Again, this essay is plain text. No bullets, numbering, or any other formatting will be possible. Type your essay in a plain text editor or directly into the input form, to avoid any hidden characters showing up and corrupting the essay.

If you do use an external program, do not use applications like MS Word, but rather, use a program like Notepad, TextEdit, or another plain text editor. Remember to check your spelling and grammar, as no corrections are allowed after you submit your AMCAS application.

Section 9: Standardized Tests 

You are almost done with your AAMC medical school application! This section is relatively straightforward, thankfully. Your MCAT scores should already be linked to your application and listed in this section. If you have not taken the test yet or if your scores are still due to arrive, then include the dates that these events will occur.

After you do receive your scores, remember to update these fields to your actual results, even after they arrive and after you submit the AMCAS application. Your scores need not be included for the AMCAS application to be valid, but remember the medical schools you are applying to do need them, so it is best to have everything good to go if you can.

In this section, programs such as MD-PhD or other degrees may require you to submit other test results. Enter them here, treating each separately. The AMCAS application only verifies your MCAT scores; it is up to you to ensure any other tests scores are accurate.

After you fill out the last section, you certify your application in total, hit Submit, pay any applicable fees, and you are done! Congratulations on your decision to apply to medical school!

medical school application AAMC sections


FAQs

1. Can I fill out the AMCAS application at different times, instead of all at once?

Yes. Be sure to remember to save your progress in AMCAS application and do not let anyone see your AAMC medical school application.

Set reminders about any and all applicable deadlines. And always note that the AMCAS application automatically times itself out after 30 minutes of no activity, so it is part of best practices to save often anyway.

2. What happens if I submit incorrect info?

Remember that when you hit Submit, it amounts to your sworn word that all the information contained in the AMCAS application is correct before it is forwarded to the schools that will receive your AAMC medical school application. If the AMCAS application notices a discrepancy, they can put you under Investigation.

That is a long process that delays your final submission and may cause you to miss deadlines. Avoid this happening by verifying everything is accurate and matches your records.

3. Can I change or correct things after hitting Submit?

It depends on which section of the application you are hoping to change. After you hit Submit you can only change the following sections:

4. Is the AMCAS application the same thing as the admissions office at my preferred school(s)?

No. The AMCAS application merely ferries your AAMC medical school application to participating institutions. It makes no judgments besides verifying relevant information and your identity. The medical schools themselves are the institutions that will make the decision on your acceptance.

5. What if I can’t source some info, like a transcript?

You should make all possible effort to gather all the information you need for your medical school application. That means tracking down old school admissions offices, previous supervisors, and more. If a school shuts down, often it passes on its records to state authorities or into an archive.

You may have to dig through the internet a bit or call local authorities. The AMCAS application only accepts an official letter from an institution saying they do not send results like transcripts, if you think that is the case for you, verify this information and ask your career or academic counselors for help.

6. Does every medical school participate in the AMCAS application program?

The AMCAS application is widespread, and almost every medical school in the U.S. accepts it, with the exception of most schools in Texas. If you’re applying to be a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), then you must use the AACOMAS (not covered by this guide).

7. I’ve applied to medical school in the past; can I reuse my old application?

No, you may not reuse previous medical school applications in the AMCAS application system. If you started an application in the past and did not complete it, you have to start again. Your AMCAS application is only valid for one year. If much of the information in your old application is still valid, then you will have to re-enter it in your new application.

Conclusion

Applying to medical school is a long, tough process, but you can do it! The AAMC’s AMCAS application requires you to be diligent, organized, and thorough, just like the future doctor you are destined to be.

Make sure to have your transcripts, letters, and essays in order and ready, and be sure to double- and triple-check everything before you hit Submit. Don’t fret, however. With some planning and preparation, you can definitely send in a truly amazing AMCAS application to gain entry into the medical school of your dreams!





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