The AACOMAS experiences and achievements section shows an admissions committee what your interests are and how you spend your time outside of the classroom. It demonstrates your personality and indicates whether or not you fit the mold of the medical student they’re looking for.
The experiences and achievements section encapsulates the wide range of extracurricular activities you’ve participated in during college. While there isn’t a limit to the number of experiences you can choose for the AACOMAS primary application, you do not have much space to discuss the experiences. Choosing the right experiences and communicating their impact on you clearly and succinctly is vital to your application’s success.
This guide will cover the AACOMAS experiences and achievements section, including its relevance to your application, what’s included, and how to prepare for it.
Not sure what application type you need to submit? Read our guide to AMCAS vs. AACOMAS vs. TMDSAS Med School Application Differences to find out how the three application services compare.
The Anatomy of a AACOMAS Application
The AACOMAS application for osteopathic (DO) schools opens at the start of May every year, and you will be able to submit your application around the middle of June. But don’t procrastinate. Your application should be submitted as soon as possible. Rolling admissions decrease your chances of acceptance the later you submit. Staying on top of your deadlines could be the difference between medical school acceptance or rejection.
The technical submission deadlines are misleading; submit your primary and secondary applications way before the actual deadline, as submitting early is your best chance of acceptance.
Our timeline below includes both possible and ideal schedules. For a complete breakdown of the entire application process, read our Medical School Application Timeline, which includes key dates and an ideal month-by-month preparation schedule.
The AACOMAS experiences and achievements section is only one piece of your primary application. For a successful application, you must work on multiple application components at once.
- GPA and MCAT Score
- Personal Statement
- Letters of Evaluation (also called Letters of Recommendation)
- Experiences and Achievements Section
- Mini Essays
- Depending on the schools you apply to, you may also be required to take a Casper test.
Read our complete AACOMAS Application Guide For DO Schools for more information about the other application components.
The AACOMAS Experiences and Achievements Section
The AACOMAS application has a section dedicated to experiences and achievements, and there is no limit to how many you can add.
The AACOMAS experiences section asks you to list your non-academic work, such as your extracurriculars, non-healthcare work, and volunteer work, and the achievements section provides you with the space to list your academic awards, scholarships, and honors.
On the AMCAS application, this section is called Work and Activities. AMCAS only allows space for 15 experiences with 700 characters to describe each, whereas AACOMAS allows you to add unlimited experiences and achievements with 600 characters to describe each.
Unlike AMCAS, there is no additional space given to describe your most meaningful activities.
For AACOMAS, your experiences and achievements will not appear in any order.
There’s also an opportunity to complete mini-essays for various extenuating circumstances.
Note that when you add words to the AACOMAS application itself, 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)
Types of AACOMAS Experiences and Achievements
The experiences and achievements sections are separate and each has a brief list of categories to choose from.
- Non-Healthcare Employment
- Extracurricular Activities
- Non-Healthcare Volunteer or Community Enrichment
- Healthcare Experience
- Awards, Honors
Do all that you can to include a wide range of categories, but do not misclassify experiences to make it seem like your experiences are more diverse than they are.
In general, you should make sure to include clinical exposure, research experience, and community involvement within your application. Advance planning will help to ensure you have adequate experiences across all three of these areas.
Clinical exposure demonstrates that you know what it means to be a DO in a real, practical sense because you have been immersed in that medical environment. The best way to get this experience is through either volunteering with a DO or shadowing a DO. You should have some experience working in a DO setting to make yourself appealing to AACOMAS admissions committees.
Research experience is critical to your experience and qualifications, as research is the foundation of advancements in healthcare. You could choose basic science, clinical, or even non-hard-science as your field. What’s essential is that you demonstrate you know how to **ask relevant questions, analyze data, and develop logical conclusions.
Community involvement shows an admissions committee you’re serious and passionate about helping people—which is easily one of the most important aspects of being a DO. Admissions committees are especially interested in applicants who volunteer with underserved populations.
Learn more about the main types of Extracurriculars Medical Schools Look For.
Experiences and Achievements Section Strategies
1 | Plan Your Activities Well In Advance
It’s critical that you start thinking about this section early. Don’t procrastinate, and don’t wait until you begin your application to start thinking about this section—you may find out you’re too late to collect any meaningful experiences. You should be well on your way to working on your clinical and research experiences during your sophomore year.
Experiences take time to find, and they take even more time to fulfill after you have signed on. It’s possible you’ll discover you don’t like an activity as much as you thought you would, so it’s important to give yourself plenty of time to find out which areas you like best. It’s important that you’re able to speak about your experiences with detail and enthusiasm, so find activities that you really feel passionate about.
You don’t have to spend an equal amount of time in each area if you find you prefer one over the other, but ensure you have a variety of different experiences across clinical exposure, research experience, and community involvement to demonstrate your well-rounded knowledge of medicine.
2 | Keep a Journal to Document Your Experiences
Keeping a journal of your experiences will help you immensely in the long run. Your memory is a fickle creature—do not rely on it. Write down your experiences in detail so that you will be able to accurately and enthusiastically describe them on your application and during interviews.
It may be years between when you participate in the activity and when you apply to medical school, so document your experiences carefully, and be on the lookout for interesting anecdotes and notable events.
Record how these experiences made you feel and what you learned from them. These insights into your past will be invaluable to you when you begin to organize your application, write your personal statement and essays, complete the experiences and achievements section, and prepare for interviews.
DO NOT RELY ON YOUR MEMORY. Keep a dedicated journal of your experiences so that you can speak about them authentically and in detail.
3 | Include a Wide Range, But Classify Correctly
A wide range of experiences is best, and it’s important that you pick the activities that will demonstrate your experiences in clinical exposure, research, and community involvement. Illustrate that you are a well-rounded candidate based on your experiences, but don’t sacrifice quality for variety.
Choose experiences you played an active part in and ones you are able to speak passionately about. Some activities may be flexible on how they are classified, so how you classify the experience is up to you. For example, a clinical research position could fall under either clinical exposure or research experience. If you already have several experiences in research, you will likely want to classify this experience as clinical exposure.
That said, ensure you classify your experiences honestly and accurately; do not misclassify just to show a wider range of experience. Every classification should make logical sense.
4 | Describe the Experience, Not the Activity
You have very limited space in which to describe the experience, so ensure you do not describe the everyday minutiae of the activity itself. Instead, describe your personal experience and specific role. How did it affect you? What did you learn? What impact has it made on the future hopes and dreams you have for your career?
Focus on your individual responsibilities and the impact of your actions. Ideally, find ways to utilize storytelling and anecdotes that illustrate the impact of your involvement. You only have 600 characters of space, so choose your words wisely.
This is why keeping a journal of your clinical, research, and volunteer experiences is essential. You do not want to rely on your memory for this. Check your notes to discover how you really felt while immersed in the experience. What were you feeling at the time? What impact did the experience leave on you? Did your actions make a lasting impact on anyone?
5 | Prioritize DO Experiences
Your AACOMAS application should highlight key DO experiences specifically. You want to be able to show your dedication and passion for osteopathic medicine in particular.
Your interest in osteopathy should be clear based on the experiences you’ve had leading up to your application—it shouldn’t be an afterthought based on grades or other factors. Again, this is why planning your activities well in advance is so important. It’s important to get a feel for what it’s like to work in a clinical setting to ensure you actually want to pursue osteopathic medicine.
Seek out opportunities to volunteer with or shadow DOs in a clinical setting. How does your research and involvement in the community demonstrate osteopathic principles? AACOMAS admissions committees will be looking for demonstrations of your interest in osteopathy and dedication to the osteopathic philosophy.
Experiences and Achievements Section FAQ
How Many Experiences Can I Include?
You can include as many experiences as you want, but think quality over quantity. Admissions committees want to see the depth of your experience and commitment. If you were a member of a premend organization but only attended a few meetings and were not heavily involved, do not include it.
If you were not an active participant in the experience, it’s not worth including. Diluting your experiences with activities that were not particularly noteworthy or impactful only hurts your application.
We recommend including at least 10 quality activities in which you were an active participant. If you’re worried you have too many experiences, it is possible to combine multiple experiences into one entry. For example, if you participated in a few different research projects in the same lab, you could include them as a single entry.
If you committed to an activity but have not yet participated in it, do not include it in your application. This section is a record of your experiences, so if it’s in the future, you haven’t experienced it yet.
How Many Achievements Can I Include?
You can include as many achievements as you want, but once again, focus on quality over quantity. Do you have any notable awards, medals, or trophies? Have you earned membership in honor societies or made the Dean’s List? Have you been publicized through newspapers, journals, or media organizations? Have you delivered any notable presentations on-campus or in regional or national championships? Have you earned any scholarships?
Include the achievements you are most proud of that further demonstrate your robust breadth of knowledge and experience. Do not include achievements from high school, and if you are a more mature applicant, only include achievements you have earned in the last 10 years.
Are Hobbies and Artistic Endeavors Worth Including?
Your experiences and achievements showcase your personality to an admissions committee, so including hobbies or artistic endeavors you’re passionate about is a great way to let the committee see another side of you.
First, ensure you prioritize your experiences in clinical exposure, research, and community involvement. However, once you have those bases covered, feel free to branch out if you have other relevant experiences that will add to the narrative of your application.
Only include a hobby if you have something meaningful to share about it. It’s important that you illustrate what the activity has taught you, how it has shaped who you are, and how it has prepared you for medical school.
For example, if you play the violin, you could share how dedicating your time to learning music has prepared you for the academic challenges ahead.
How Far Back Can Experiences Be?
Only include experiences you had in the last ten years at the collegiate level or above. Do not include anything from high school. The only exception to this is if you have continued to participate in an activity during college that you started in high school.
Attention to Detail For Your Entire AACOMAS Application
Med School Insiders will help you create a stand out DO school application with experiences 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—including how to make your experiences look as impressive as possible.
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 MCAT tutoring, one-on-one advising, essay editing, secondary editing, mock interviews, and more.