Student filling out their TMDSAS application

How to Fill Out Your TMDSAS Application

July 5, 2021
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Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. Understanding TMDSAS Part 3. List of Participating Medical SchoolsPart 4. Overview of the TMDSAS Application, Section By SectionPart 5. Tips for Making your Application Stand OutPart 6. Common Mistakes to AvoidPart 7. FAQsPart 8. Conclusion

Introduction

“For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study, and the passionate possession of all Texans.” - John Steinbeck

The Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service  (TMDSAS) is a centralized application processing service for all public dental, veterinary, and medical schools in Texas. Although similar to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) used by most medical schools throughout the nation, the TMDSAS application is unique as it has its own components, deadlines, and requirements.

This article will outline how to fill out the TMDSAS application, provide tips for making your application stand out, and reveal common mistakes to avoid. 

Understanding TMDSAS 

As the TMDSAS application handbook states, “we simplify the application process for both the applicants and the participating schools by providing ONE standardized application… The applicants benefit by completing one application at an affordable, flat-rate price. Think: win-win.” 

All applicants are subject to a $185 application fee, payable by credit card only. This payment must be made before the end of October to successfully submit your application. 

The TMDSAS application timeline is as follows: 

TMDSAS application timeline


List of Participating Medical Schools

The fourteen schools that use TMDSAS include: 

1. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine – Lubbock

2. University of Houston College of Medicine

3. University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School

4. University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine

5. Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine 

6. University of Texas Health San Antonio Long School of Medicine

7. University of Texas Southwestern Medical School

8. University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine 

9. Baylor College of Medicine

10. University of Texas McGovern Medical School at Houston

11. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine

12. Sam Houston State University College of Medicine

13. TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine

14. University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine 

Overview of the TMDSAS Application, Section By Section

Transcripts and Education Information 

Aside from generic personal, demographic, educational, financial, and socioeconomic information, TMDSAS requires applicants to enter information on all academic institutions attended including what classes they undertook, the marks they earned in these classes, and credit hours. 

If you are struggling to find your courses, look at the Course Listings pages on the TMDSAS website. Be sure to also include any planned or future coursework and any violation of conduct or disciplinary action filed against you. 

TMDSAS also requires students to submit their academic transcripts. The handbook states, "one official transcript is required from every regionally accredited U.S., U.S. Territorial or Canadian college attended.”

If they are less than one year old and arrive in “in the official sealed envelope from the [school’s] Registrar," they can be organized by you. However, requests for transcripts can be submitted via the TMDSAS Transcript Request Form. 

Employment and Activities 

TMDSAS applicants are required to input their employment experiences and activities. Multiple categories exist for these: 

After selecting the category that best describes your experiences, the character count (including spaces) for each entry description is limited to 300 characters. It can be challenging to decide which category to enter your experiences under.

In these circumstances, the handbook suggests that "it is perfectly acceptable to make mention of the unlisted activity (or leadership role) in the description of the other entry. The same can be applied to activities that also led to Academic or Non-Academic recognitions, or any activity that you think might qualify to be entered in more than one section.”

Specifically regarding healthcare and employment activities, the handbook continues that they “may be listed in both categories if the experience was a paid position; otherwise, do not list experiences in more than one section below.”

To give you an example:

TMDSAS application fields


When filling in these fields, the application system automatically develops a 'Chronology of Activities.' The handbook says, "MUST account for all time between high school graduation and August” of the current year. 

Crucially, only the first fifty characters (including spaces) are copied into this summary document. So, prioritize critical information at the start of each entry so admissions officers are drawn to each of your descriptions, increasing the likelihood they will read them in full. 

TMDSAS Essays 

Personal Statement 

As the handbook states, “the personal essay asks you to explain your motivation to seek a career in medicine. You are asked to include the value of your experiences that prepare you to be a physician.” 

Consisting of 5000 characters (including spaces), the personal statement is an excellent opportunity to explain how your experiences, knowledge, and motivations make you an ideal candidate for your preferred medical school. Knowing how to write a personal statement for medical school is difficult, so leave plenty of time to prepare for it and find out how to ace it. 

Personal Characteristics Essay 

Limited to 2500 characters (including spaces), the personal characteristics essay is an opportunity to “describe your personal characteristics (background, talents, skills, etc.) or experiences that would add to the educational experience of others.”

Essentially, its purpose is to see how you have reflected upon your own journey to becoming a physician and find out what makes you a unique applicant. This is a great section to explain what others can learn from you.   

Optional Essay

Although this 2500-character (including spaces) essay is optional, we strongly encourage you to submit one. As the handbook states, it “is an opportunity to provide the admissions committee(s) with a broader picture of who you are as an applicant.”

It's important not to regurgitate what you have said previously – use the optional essay as an opportunity to say something different about you. It can be used to address certain shortcomings in your application, explore family circumstances, or reflect upon your exceptional achievements.

Dual Degree Essays 

If you decide to apply to MD-PhD, DO-PhD, or DDS-PhD programs, a 5000-character (including spaces) Dual Degree Essay will need to be submitted. This, as the handbook explains, is an opportunity to “discuss your research interests and career goals as an applicant to a dual degree program.”

It is highly recommended that you describe your “significant research experiences” and “include the name and title of your research mentor as well as your contributions to the project." Additionally, if any publications resulting from your work, don't be humble - include them in this section! 

Proof of Residency 

The TMDSAS website states that, in terms of its medical residency overview, “Texas state law requires that no more than 10% of the entering classes of medical and dental schools can be made up of non-Texas residents.” 

Within your application, you will be classed as either ‘resident’ or a ‘non-resident’ depending upon the details you input; State residency is determined by either ‘Residency through High School Graduation’ or ‘Residency by Establishing Domicile.’ 

To qualify for Residency through High School Graduation, you must have: 

To qualify for Residency by Establishing Domicile, you must meet the following criteria: 

If you are an international applicant, it is essential to do your research as not all programs that use TMDSAS will consider international candidates. If they do, they will require you to submit your Visa stamp in your passport or your Permanent Resident card to TMDSAS. 

Photo

Yes, a compulsory part of the TMDSAS application is uploading a digital photo of yourself. In terms of formatting, the handbook states that it must be “smaller than 100KB” and must be in either “jpg, gif, png or bmp” file formats. 

Most applicants opt for a professional headshot-style photograph. Ms. Castillo, the Senior Academic Evaluator with TMDSAS and the editor-in-chief of the TMDSAS Application Handbook, advises that candidates should “think professional!” Ideally, she says, “choose an outfit you’d be proud to wear to a job interview or to an event that requires just a little bit of dressing up, like a graduation.”

Crucially, “you are applying to professional school,” she says, “and in the professional world, there are expectations when it comes to dress code."

Be sure to upload your photo in the correct format as Castillo states that if the “technical aspects aren’t met, you might be prevented from submitting your application at the moment you’d like.”

Test Scores and Dates 

The MCAT is required for admission to all medical schools that use TMDSAS, and the MCAT scores needed to gain access vary between schools, so be sure to do your research! As soon as your scores become available, they must be submitted to TMDSAS via the MCAT Testing History Report System.

Your results “MUST be reported directly to TMDSAS by [the] AAMC," as offering your scores via your "personal score report will not be accepted,” according to the handbook. 

To do this, you must use your 8-digit AAMC ID number given to you by the AAMC. Besides your scores, you must enter the dates you have taken or will take the MCAT between the September of the application year and your application time. 

Several schools that use TMDSAS also require applicants to take the CASPer test as part of their application processes. 

Letters of Evaluation 

As part of the TMDSAS, medical school applicants must procure “three individual letters of evaluation OR one Health Professions Committee Letter/Packet.” There is also an option for an additional letter to be submitted.

Depending on your preferred program, there are different acceptable letters of recommendation. It is essential to secure strong medical school letters of recommendation as they provide admissions committees with a summary of you as an applicant from a medical professional’s perspective. 

Suppose your preferred school accepts individual letters of evaluation. In that case, you'll need to submit a 'letter placeholder' which details the evaluator's name, email address, relationship to you, and an indication of how the letter will be submitted and whether you want to waive your right to view the letters submitted.

According to the handbook, these letters must include:

However, your Health Profession Office can distribute your evaluation if your preferred institution uses a Health Committee Packet.

If this is the case, you must indicate the name of the school that is delivering your packet and answer 'yes' to the question that reads, “Would you like to release your information to the health professions advisor at any school(s)?” on the TMDSAS. 

Primary Application – Finishing Touches  

Congratulations! As long as you have paid your application fee and certified your application, you have successfully completed and submitted your TMDSAS. So, what now? 

We advise you to continually check the status of your application. Crucially, you’ll be assigned an ‘Applicant Liaison’ who, as the handbook explains, is “an individual who is assigned to work with you throughout the ‘post-submission’ phase.” Make sure to reply to their messages promptly and update your grades at the end of each term you complete. 

Several schools also require you to complete a secondary application.

Tips for Making your Application Stand Out

Start early.

As the handbook explains, developing a timeline that considers your submission deadlines is a great way to stay on track, manage your stress levels, and ensure you submit the most robust application possible! 

Several vital ideas to research thoroughly and sprinkle throughout your application are the 15 ‘Core Competencies.’ As the AAMC’s website reads, “Many medical schools use holistic review and to help define holistic review further, they use 15 Core Competencies as a tool to evaluate your application.”

These core competencies include: 

Pre-Professional Competencies 

1. Reliability and Dependability

2. Resilience and Adaptability

3. Capacity for Improvement

4. Social Skills

5. Cultural Competence

6. Service Orientation

7. Oral Communication

8. Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others

9. Teamwork

Science Competencies 

10. Human Behavior

11. Living Systems

Thinking and Reasoning Competencies 

12. Written Communication

13. Critical Thinking

14. Scientific Inquiry

15. Quantitative Reasoning

If you're struggling to include these competencies within your application, the website advises that "the work and activities you are already involved with, and your life experiences, likely demonstrate these competencies.

For example, you can demonstrate the scientific inquiry competency by excelling in scientific research, or illustrate a service orientation competency by leading a service trip.” 

To take one example from the website: “Daryl Fields demonstrated Reliability and Dependability by working as a firefighter and EMT in college. His experiences as a firefighter also demonstrate Ethical Responsibility and Resilience and Adaptability.” 

Organize your ideas and write.

Writing your personal statement is one of the most challenging aspects of the application. Luckily, the TMDSAS publication 'Apply' provides several top tips on nailing your personal statement. According to Apply, a great place to start is understanding what medical schools want to learn about you within your personal statement.

Ultimately, Apply states, medical schools “want to better understand your motivations for seeking admission into their school and entry into the given profession. They also want to know things that you have done to support these motivations, and what meaning you have taken away from those experiences.”

So, organize your ideas and demonstrate how your previous experiences and motivations indicate that you are an exceptional candidate. Apply recommends that you only focus on "a few experiences" and explain what you learned from them.

Additionally, expressing how you envision your career in medicine evolving is highly recommended by Apply as it demonstrates that you've thought about "what you want out of a professional life.”

You are not alone.

Finally, the TMDSAS handbook states that “Remember, you are not alone”; their team is “dedicated to providing you with the assistance you need in a timely and friendly manner, and in delivering a world-class experience with TMDSAS,” so if you have any queries or concerns – get in touch!  

Cherry Gonzales, the Operations Specialist for TMDSAS, reiterates this message in Apply, where she states applicants should "use all the resources available on our various social media sites. We have a lot of application help for students to use that can help them avoid problems.”

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Submitting your application and forgetting about it.

After completing the primary application stage, make sure that you continually check the status of your application! As the handbook states, “it is your responsibility to verify and ensure that TMDSAS has received all of your official transcripts.”

Not prioritizing key information.

As mentioned earlier, the automatically generated ‘Chronology of Activities’ only shows the first 50 characters of each activity’s description. So, make sure that you prioritize the first 50 characters of each entry to convey your most exceptional achievements. 

Submitting an unprofessional photo.

Finally, as Cherry Gonzales reiterates, applicants should “submit a photo with their application that is professional.” Every year, Gonzales is “amazed at the number of students who submit photos that are less than professional." So, to ensure that your application is as competitive as possible, treat it as an interview and dress accordingly!

TMDSAS application guide


FAQs

1. Is the TMDSAS Optional Essay really optional? 

Yes, but also no. The TMDSAS website states that “this essay is optional; however, you are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity.” Ultimately, it provides you with an opportunity to further strengthen your application, so we recommend that you submit one too! 

2. Which TMDSAS schools require the CASPer test?

Currently, the schools that require CASPer include: 

3. What counts as a ‘Healthcare Activity’ in the ‘Activities’ section? 

Experiences like working as a nurse, patient care tech, shadowing, volunteering, scribing, conducting clinical research, observing patient care in a healthcare setting are all accepted. 

4. Which schools require me to complete a secondary application? 

The medical schools that require you to complete a secondary application include:

5. What do my letters of evaluation need to contain? 

To be accepted by TMDSAS, your letters of evaluation must contain the following

6. Who should I get to write my letters of evaluation? 

Your evaluators should be familiar enough with you to accurately evaluate you personally and academically. Therefore, current and former professors, supervisors, and physicians are examples of ideal candidates. 

Conclusion

So, much like the state that it represents, the TMDSAS application is unique. Although it is a lengthy application that requires a fair bit of time to complete, hopefully, this guide will help you navigate the TMDSAS application with ease. However, if you are stuck at any point, please get in touch with the TMDSAS team, who are more than happy to help you!  

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