AMCAS vs. AACOMAS vs. TMDSAS—what’s the difference, and how do you choose? While you don’t have to create an individual medical school application for each school you apply to, different schools and programs use different application services.
In general, all three of these application types follow a similar format, but there are important differences to be aware of. The sooner you decide which schools you want to apply to, the sooner you can begin tailoring your application.
Learn about the differences between AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS, including the requirements for personal statements, letters of recommendation, activities, and matriculant scores.
AMCAS: The American Medical College Application Service
The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) is the AAMC’s centralized medical school application processing service. It’s the primary application method for first year entering classes for the vast majority of US medical schools. It doesn’t matter how many different schools you intend to apply to; you only need to submit one set of application materials to AMCAS.
Although you submit your medical school application to AMCAS, the service has no say in admission decisions—those are made solely by the individual medical schools. AMCAS simply collects, verifies, and delivers your application materials and MCAT score to the schools you apply to.
Most first year applicants will apply to medical school through AMCAS, as it’s the standard. If you intend to apply to Stanford Medical School, Johns Hopkins, or the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, for example, you need to apply through AMCAS.
Only submitting one set of application materials simplifies the already complicated process of applying to medical school. The exception is if you choose to apply to osteopathic (DO) schools or medical schools located in Texas.
AACOMAS: The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service
AACOMAS is the centralized online application service for the US colleges of osteopathic medicine. It’s the primary application method for students who want to pursue osteopathy. AACOMAS simplifies the process of applying to osteopathic medical schools by only requiring students to submit one set of application materials. They verify, process, and submit your materials to the schools you choose, so long as you are only applying to DO schools.
Osteopaths (DOs) distinguish themselves from regular doctors (MDs) with a whole-body, holistic approach that treats the person—not the symptoms. The focus of osteopathy is preventative medicine and recognizing the interconnectedness of the various systems and organs in the body and their influence on each other.
Just like MDs, DOs have to complete four years of medical school followed by residency, and nearly every specialization available to an MD is also available to a DO. That said, a DO degree generally doesn’t have the same reputation as an MD degree, in large part due to the fact the statistics for acceptance are often lower than allopathic (MD) schools. DOs also have a harder time practicing medicine outside of the United States.
Reasons to Apply Through AACOMAS
- You don’t have the GPA or MCAT scores to get into allopathic (MD) schools.
- You plan only to practice medicine in the United States.
- You had a DO as a mentor or worked closely with osteopathic doctors.
- You have a passion for osteopathic medicine.
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.
TMDSAS: The Texas Medical and Dental School Application Service
TMDSAS is the primary application service for most medical schools located in Texas, including dental and veterinary schools. The state of Texas only accepts a maximum of 10% of medical students from out-of-state, so since the vast majority of medical school applicants come from Texas, they have their own centralized medical school application service. Just like AMCAS and AACOMAS, you only have to submit one set of medical school application materials to TMDSAS, which they will process and transmit to your selected Texan schools.
It also means that native Texans have a significant advantage when applying to schools in their home state, whereas anyone from outside of Texas has a significant disadvantage. So, if you come from Texas, it makes sense to apply to a medical school in your own state.
Reasons to Apply Through TMDSAS
- You wish to attend a Texas medical school that uses TMDSAS.
- You live in Texas.
- You have extracurricular or work experience in the Texas medical system.
AMCAS vs. AACOMAS vs. TMDSAS: Personal Statement
AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS all require personal statements, but there are a few small differences.
AMCAS Personal Statement Length: 5300 characters****
AACOMAS Personal Statement Length: 5300 characters
TMDSAS Personal Statement Length: 5000 characters
If you plan on applying to medical schools both in Texas and outside of it, ensure your personal statement is 5000 words or less to meet the character limits of both applications.
Even though the length of the AACOMAS personal statement is the same, the question you need to answer is slightly different. You are asked a more specific question: why do you want to study osteopathic medicine? If you already have an AMCAS personal statement prepared, ensure you make the appropriate adjustments to focus on why you want to become a DO specifically.
Read our free Step-by-Step Guide: How to Write a Medical School Personal Statement for tips on getting started, what to include, and common mistakes to avoid.
AMCAS vs. AACOMAS vs. TMDSAS: Letters of Recommendation
The letters of recommendation requirements for all three application services are quite similar. The letters can be submitted through the respective services or through an alternative service like Interfolio if you are applying to schools across the board. With Interfolio, you only need your letter writers to upload once, even if you are using multiple application services.
The number of letters varies from school to school more than it does from one application service to the next. No matter which application process you’re applying through, it’s important to find out how many letters of recommendation are required for each individual school. For the most part, you will be covered if you acquire 4-5 strong letters of recommendation across science, non-science, and extracurriculars. If you are applying solely to Texan medical schools, you only need 3-4.
AMCAS Letters of Recommendation
- 3-10 total letters of recommendation (we recommend submitting 4 or 5).
- 1-2 letters from science professors.
- 1 letter from a non-science professor.
- 1 letter from a physician you shadowed or worked with.
- 1 letter from an extracurricular or volunteer supervisor.
- 1 letter from an employer.
AACOMAS Letters of Recommendation
- 2-6 total letters.
- One letter MUST be from a DO.
TMDSAS Letters of Recommendation
- 3-4 total letters.
- One Health Professions Committee Packet or three individual letters of evaluation.
- (Optional) One additional letter.
Read our Medical School Letters of Recommendation Guide for critical information on who to ask, when to ask, how to ask, what to provide, and common mistakes to avoid.
AMCAS vs. AACOMAS vs. TMDSAS: Questions and Mini-Essays
The Work & Activities section is a little different for each type of application. There are different character limits, added or omitted sections, and extra essay options depending on the application service.
For example, AACOMAS doesn’t have a Meaningful Experience section, but there’s no limit to the number of Experiences and Achievements you can add. Most notable are the extra essay questions available on TMDSAS applications that each have a 2500 word maximum.
AMCAS Application Questions and Mini-Essays
- Work & Activities
- 15 maximum
- 700 characters each
- Most Meaningful Experience
- 3 maximum
- 1325 characters each (in addition to 700 each for Work & Activities)
- 1325 characters each, if required
- Military Discharge
- Disadvantaged Status
AACOMAS Application Questions and Mini-Essays
- No limit
- 600 characters each
- No limit
- 600 characters each
- Dishonorable discharge from the military, Misdemeanor, Felony, Academic Infraction, License Infraction, Denied readmission to an academic program
- 500 character limit
- Previously attended a medical school or health profession program
- 200 character limit to explain school and program you attended
- 500 character limit to explain why you left
- Economically disadvantaged
- Checklist (no essay required)
TMDSAS Application Questions and Mini-Essays
- Activities (Chronology of Activities, which includes everything between high school graduation and the summer of your application.)
- 300 characters each
- Planned Activities (any activity that will take place after the application deadline.)
- 300 characters each
- Most Meaningful Experience
- Which of your previously listed activities were most meaningful and why?
- 3 maximum
- 500 characters each (in addition to 300 each in Activities)
- Personal Characteristics
- 2500 characters
- “Learning from others is enhanced in educational settings that include individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Please describe your personal characteristics (background, talents, skills, etc.) or experiences that would add to the educational experience of others.”
- 2500 characters
- “Briefly discuss any unique circumstances or life experiences that are relevant to your application which have not previously been presented.”
AMCAS vs. AACOMAS vs. TMDSAS: GPA and MAT Scores
MCAT and GPA score averages vary from year to year, but there are some common trends depending on the type of school and specific institution you’re looking at. In general, the necessary MCAT and GPA scores for AMCAS and TMDSAS schools are similar, with some schools in each requiring higher scores depending on how competitive it is to get into that specific institution. On average, osteopathic (DO) schools require lower MCAT and GPA scores for acceptance.
The following are score averages of matriculants for overall GPA averages and total MCAT scores. These numbers only reflect average scores. In order to be a competitive applicant, you should set your own goals much higher.
AMCAS Overall GPA Average: 3.73
AMCAS MCAT Score Average: 511.5
AACOMAS Overall GPA Average: 3.49
AACOMAS MCAT Score Average: 503.8
TMDSAS Overall GPA Average: 3.80
TMDSAS MCAT Score Average: 510.8
Although each application process is generally the same, each subtle difference adds up. It can be a lot to remember while already balancing a stressful schedule.
Applying through multiple services can add an extra layer of complexity to an already complicated process. Carefully consider if you want to apply through multiple systems since it will mean adjusting your personal statement and affect who you can ask for letters of recommendation. The sooner you decide which schools you want to apply to, the sooner you can plan your application strategy, so don’t delay making this decision.
Med School Insiders can help. Utilize our Comprehensive Medical School Admissions Packages to succeed in every step of the application process, no matter which application service you apply through. We offer AMCAS Application Editing, AACOMAS Application Editing, and TMDSAS Application Editing tailored to the schools you choose.
Read our Guide to Understanding the Medical School Application Process, which includes an application timeline, what you need to include in your application, mistakes to avoid, and what happens next.