Applying to osteopathic (DO) medical schools is just as confusing, daunting, and tedious a task as it is to apply to allopathic (MD) medical schools. There are so many different steps to keep track of, and on top of that, you need to tailor your application to osteopathic medicine. A successful AACOMAS application requires patience, dedication, and the ability to juggle many moving pieces at once.
Use our osteopathic medical school application guide to understand the primary application process. We’ll outline an ideal application timeline, what you need to include in your application, mistakes to avoid, and frequently asked questions.
AMCAS vs. AACOMAS vs. TMDSAS Med School Applications—what’s the difference, and how do you choose?
DO Schools For Osteopathic Medicine
Osteopaths (DOs) differentiate themselves from allopathic doctors (MDs) with a whole-body, holistic approach that treats the person—not the symptoms. The focus of osteopathic medicine is preventing illness from ever occurring and recognizing the connections between the various systems and organs in the body and how they influence each other.
DOs have to complete four years of medical school followed by residency, just like MDs. Nearly every specialization available to an MD is available to a DO as well. That being said, generally, a DO degree does not have the same reputation as an MD degree. This is somewhat due to the fact that the statistics for acceptance for DO schools are often lower than allopathic (MD) schools. DOs also have a harder time practicing medicine outside of the United States.
Learn more about osteopathic principles and the differences between an MD and a DO in our guide: What is a DO (Doctor of Osteopathy)?
Why Choose a DO School?
There are many reasons why you might choose to attend a DO school over an allopathic (MD) school. In some cases, it comes down to your philosophy on how to best treat people. DOs take pride in focusing on preventative medicine with a holistic approach to patient care.
Reasons to choose a DO school:
- You are passionate about osteopathic medicine.
- You are only planning to practice medicine in the United States.
- You have worked closely with osteopathic doctors or your mentor is a DO.
- You do not have a high enough GPA or MCAT score to get into allopathic (MD) schools.
If you want to go to an MD school but don’t have the right grades or MCAT score, Med School Insiders can help. Contact our team to learn more about our MCAT Tutoring, Courses, and Application Editing Services.
AACOMAS: Osteopathic Medicine Application Service
AACOMAS (The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service) is the centralized online application service for colleges of osteopathic medicine in the United States. It is the primary application method for students pursuing osteopathic medicine.
AACOMAS simplifies the process of applying to osteopathic medical schools by only requiring students to submit one set of application materials. So long as you are only applying to DO schools, AACOMAS verifies, processes, and submits your materials to the schools you choose.
AACOMAS Medical School Application Timeline
The AACOMAS application opens for submissions around the beginning of May each year, and colleges start receiving applications around mid-June. You should aim to get your application in soon after the submission opens for your best chance of success.
Due to rolling admissions, your likelihood of getting into medical school decreases the later you submit your application, so staying on top of deadlines is critical. By deadlines, we don’t mean the last deadline for submissions—you should complete your primary application and your secondaires well before the actual deadline for submission.
Follow our timeline, which includes possible and ideal schedules.
The Anatomy of a DO Application
1. GPA and MCAT Score
A high GPA and MCAT score is definitely something to be proud of, but they’re not as essential to your medical school application as you may think, and by and large, they’re even less essential to osteopathic schools.
Although GPA and MCAT score averages vary from year to year, depending on the type of school and specific institution you’re looking at, there are some common trends. In general, osteopathic (DO) schools require lower GPA and MCAT scores for acceptance.
The following are score averages of matriculants to DO schools for overall GPA averages and total MCAT scores. These are the average scores, so in order to be competitive, you should aim to make your own scores higher.
Average GPA and MCAT score for AACOMAS Matriculants:
AACOMAS Overall GPA Average: 3.54
AACOMAS MCAT Score Average: 504.31
Average GPA and MCAT score for AMCAS Matriculants:
AMCAS Overall GPA Average: 3.75
AMCAS MCAT Score Average: 511.90
2. Personal Statements
Why do you want to become an osteopath?
The key difference between the AACOMAS and AMCAS personal statement is that AACOMAS asks a more specific question than why do you want to be a doctor? It asks why you want to study osteopathic medicine specifically.
A personal statement is your opportunity to sell yourself to admissions committees and let them know who you are beyond your grades. What sets you apart? What inspired your goal of devoting your life to healing people? It’s your chance to highlight your unique strengths and past experiences and speak about how they have shaped your desire to become an osteopath. Admissions committees want to know that you have the passion, ability, and will needed to succeed in osteopathic medical school.
Learn more about what makes AACOMAS personal statements different in our AACOMAS Personal Statement Guide.
Becoming an osteopath is hard. It involves four grueling years of school followed by residency, and admissions committees want to know you’re ready to face the long, challenging road ahead. Your personal statement demonstrates who you are deep down, beyond your GPA, MCAT score, and list of accomplishments.
The personal statement can only be 5300 characters in length, which is roughly 1.5 pages of single-spaced 12-point Times New Roman font. It’s not a lot of space, so the challenge is selecting the key moments in your life that made you want to become a DO and communicating them succinctly.
It’s important to keep in mind that writing your personal statement will take a lot of time. Don’t set aside an afternoon to tackle this thing; get thinking about this aspect of your application as soon as possible. Give yourself plenty of time to reflect on your life and brainstorm ideas.
What are the character traits you’re most proud of? What are the things people notice most about you? Pick moments from your life that exemplify your best qualities.
Read our 11 step guide on How to Write a Personal Statement for tips on getting started, what to include, and common mistakes to avoid.
3. Letters of Recommendation (Evaluations)
Letters of recommendation, often called evaluations for AACOMAS applications, play a critical role in your application. It could be argued that they are even more important than the personal statement since they provide insight into what respected professionals think about you to admissions committees.
Start building relationships with your professors early on to ensure you receive strong letters of recommendation. Having more letters than you need or letters from well-known physicians isn’t as important as making sure your letter writers know you well and think highly of you. A bland or neutral letter of recommendation can hinder your application and chances of acceptance.
You should aim for 4-5 evaluation letters in total, but always check the requirements for each of the schools you are applying to. Each school has its own expectations for letters of recommendation. It is recommended that you submit evaluations through the Letters by Liaison portal.
A key difference between applying to MD schools versus DO schools is that you need to secure at least one letter of recommendation from a DO.
AACOMAS Letters of Recommendation:
- You can submit a maximum of 6 total letters through AACOMAS.
- 3 academic letters from undergraduate professors (2 science and 1 non-science.)
- 1-2 letters from extracurricular pursuits, most commonly DO research and clinical experience.
- At least one of your letters MUST be from a DO.
Read our AACOMAS Letters of Recommendation Guide for critical information on who to ask, how to ask, what to provide, and common mistakes to avoid.
4. Experiences, Achievements, and Other Information
The AACOMAS application has a section dedicated to Experiences and Achievements, and there is no limit to how many you can add. On the AMCAS application, this section is called Work & Activities and Most Meaningful Experience.
There’s also an opportunity to complete mini-essays for various extenuating circumstances. On the AACOMAS application, there’s an Economically Disadvantaged checklist instead of the essay opportunity on the AMCAS application.
Note that when you type in AACOMAS you see both a character count AND a word count. Limits are listed in characters.
- No limit
- 600 characters each
- Categories: Non-Healthcare Employment, Extracurricular Activities, Non-Healthcare Volunteer or Community Enrichment, Healthcare Experience
- No limit
- 600 characters each
- Categories: Awards, Honors, Presentations, Publications, Scholarships
- 500 character limit
- Dishonorary discharge from the military
- Have you ever been convicted of a Misdemeanor?
- Have you ever been convicted of a Felony?
- Have you ever been disciplined for academic performance by any college or school?
- Have you ever been disciplined for student conduct violations by any college or school?
- Were you ever denied readmission to any academic program due to academic conduct or performance?
- Have you ever had any certification, registration, license or clinical privileges revoked, suspended or in any way restricted by an institution, state or locality?
- Previous Attendance at a Medical School or Health Profession Program Questions
- Have you ever matriculated in or attended any medical school or health profession as a candidate for a professional degree?
- 200 character limit to explain the school and program you attended
- 500 character limit to explain why you left
- COVID-19 Question
- 2,500 character limit
- Please describe how COVID-19 has impacted your pathway to medical school.
- Did your school move to offering only online curriculum during the COVID-19 crisis? (Y or N or N/A)
- Did you have an opportunity to receive a letter grade for any of your courses taken during the COVID-19 crisis? (Y or N or N/A)
Learn more about the AACOMAS Experiences and Achievements Section, including what admissions committees are looking for and how to prepare.
Common Mistakes Made on AACOMAS Applications
No matter what application service you are using to apply to medical school, the process is tedious and complex. Just one oversight, mistake, or missed piece of the puzzle could be the difference between acceptance or another year of preparation.
Serious medical school applicants seek advice and guidance from those who have been through the process before. Read our list of common medical school application mistakes.
- Crafting an unrealistic list of DO schools.
- Failing to tell a cohesive story throughout your application.
- Failing to submit your application soon after AACOMAS opens. (Aim to submit within the first 2 weeks.)
- Not paying attention to deadlines or pushing your submission dates.
- Allowing spelling or grammar mistakes to slip through.
- Not checking the specific letters of recommendation policies for each school you apply to.
- Not getting a letter of recommendation from a DO.
- Writing a bland personal statement that doesn’t tell a story.
- Rehashing your CV and extracurriculars in your personal statement.
- Not addressing osteopathic medicine in your personal statement.
- Naming the wrong medical school on a secondary.
- Submitting your secondary applications late.
- Failing to ask for help from those who have done it before. Look for a team with advisors who have served on medical school admissions committees.
Learn more about these common medical school application mistakes and how to avoid them.
What Happens After Your Primary Application?
After you submit your primary applications through AACOMAS, you will receive secondary applications. You have time to complete these, but it’s best to complete your secondaries as soon as possible while still leaving yourself enough time to craft meaningful answers.
Try to respond to your secondaries within 1-2 weeks of receiving them. Ensure you tailor each secondary to the specific school, and don’t forget to match DO school names on each secondary application.
Learn what to expect from your secondary application including common questions and how to prepare: AACOMAS Secondary Application Guide.
How Does AACOMAS Differ From AMCAS?
AACOMAS is the application service for DO schools, and AMCAS is the application service for MD schools. The process for submitting your application is very similar, with a few important differences.
- The AACOMAS personal statement should address why you want to become an osteopath specifically.
- You need at least one of your letters of recommendation to come from a DO.
- There’s no limit to the number of Experiences and Achievements you can add.
- There’s a checklist for Economically Disadvantaged on the AACOMAS application rather than an essay question.
Can I Apply to Both DO Schools and MD Schools?
Yes, you can apply to DO schools and MD schools at the same time, but you will need to do so through separate services—AACOMAS and AMCAS.
Ensure you adjust each application based on the schools you are applying to. For example, you need a letter of recommendation from a DO for your AACOMAS application. If you are applying through multiple services, you may want to use a service such as Interfolio so that your letter writers only need to submit their letters once.
Is it Easier to Get Into DO Schools?
The process of getting into DO schools is very much the same as MD schools. Expect the same amount of planning and preparation for both. One small area that could be easier is that DO schools, in general, require lower GPA and MCAT scores for acceptance.
Is School Easier For DOs?
Schooling for DOs is just as long and rigorous as it is for MDs. Both DOs and MDs need to complete four years of medical school followed by residency, and nearly every specialization available to an MD is available to a DO. Additionally, DOs need to complete about 200 hours of OMM (osteopathic manipulative medicine) training.
What MCAT Scores Do I Need to Get Into DO Schools?
MCAT scores for acceptance at DO schools are generally a little lower than averages for MD schools. Keep in mind that requirements and averages will vary for each specific school.
AACOMAS MCAT Score Average: 504.31 vs. AMCAS MCAT Score Average: 511.90.
Do I Need to Have DO Letters of Recommendation?
Yes. You MUST have at least one letter of recommendation from a DO for your AACOMAS application. Ensure this letter is strong and comes from someone who knows you well.
Do I Need to Have DO Experience?
To be a competitive applicant, you need to have osteopathic extracurricular experience. MD exposure, research, and clinical experience is still useful, but you need to have some direct experience with osteopathic medicine. Ideally, ensure you involve yourself in the osteopathic community, and ensure you have at least one strong letter of recommendation from a DO.
Make Your AACOMAS Application Stand Out
Med School Insiders will help you create a stand out DO school application tailored to the schools of your choosing. Our team is built of doctors who have years of experience serving on MD and DO admissions committees, so you’ll receive key insights on the selection process.
We’re dedicated to creating a generation of happier, healthier, and more effective future doctors. Our Comprehensive Medical School Admissions Packages are tailored to your needs and the specific schools you are applying to. We offer AACOMAS Application Editing as well as one-on-one advising, essay editing, mock interviews, and more.
Still not sure which route is best for you? Learn more: MD vs. DO: Allopathic/Osteopathic Doctor and Medical School Comparison.