Don’t let anything slip through the cracks. Follow our medical school application checklist as you prepare to submit your primary application, including insider insights you may not have considered before.
Do you think you’re ready to apply to medical school? Are you sure you’ve checked everything off your list? Let’s dig into all of the components you need to have prepared for your application and what being prepared truly entails.
1 | Did You Take the MCAT?
You need an MCAT score to get into medical school, and you’ll need a great score to get into a competitive program. A perfect MCAT score is 528, which requires scoring 132 in each of the 4 sections, but you don’t need a perfect score to get into your top choice schools.
Are you happy with your MCAT score? Does your MCAT score align with previously matriculated students in the programs you want to apply to? When looking at averages, keep in mind they are only that—averages. If you want to be a competitive applicant with multiple offers and scholarship opportunities, you’ll need to shoot for much higher than average.
A good MCAT score means something different for everyone and largely depends on which schools you are applying to.
Learn more in our article: What MCAT Score Should You Aim For?
2 | Is Your Personal Statement Ready?
Your personal statement is a critical component of your primary application, as it helps admissions committees get to know who you are beyond your grades and test scores.
Your personal statement must be well-written, fall within the character limit, and answer the overall essay question. However, following the correct format and answering the central question is not enough—you must tell an intriguing story that piques the interest of admission committee members.
Why do you want to become a doctor? What makes you uniquely qualified? What sparked your interest in medicine? What life events led you to where you are today? An aptitude for math and science and a passion for helping people is far too generic of an answer, and it’s one that won’t make you stand out amongst other applicants.
So, is your personal statement ready?
Be honest with yourself. Have you put in the effort to craft a well-written and compelling personal statement? Did you take the time to reflect on your life, answer prompts, and brainstorm multiple ideas? Has it been thoroughly edited and revised to ensure you’ve chosen the most effective words and sentence structure? Are you absolutely sure it has zero spelling mistakes, errors, or other grammatical issues?
Did you get feedback from someone you know with adcom experience or a reputable service backed by professionals who have adcom experience?
Having a friend or family member edit your personal statement is okay for finding grammatical errors, but you must also get feedback from someone who has been intimately involved in the application and admissions process.
3 | Do You Have STRONG Letters of Evaluation?
Notice the question here is not do you have enough letters of evaluation but do you have strong letters of evaluation.
When it comes to your letters of recommendation, quality is much more important than quantity. Ensure you have a variety of recommendation letters (4-5 are recommended for AMCAS), but the goal here is not to fill all of your available letter spots. What’s most important is ensuring that each of your letters of evaluation presents a strong case for why you should be accepted to medical school.
But how do you know if you have strong letters of recommendation when you’re not able to read them before they are submitted?
Getting strong letters is all about knowing who to ask. While it might be nice to get a letter of recommendation from a widely known and respected professional or a practicing physician, what’s more important is that the letter writer knows who you are and is able to speak to your unique qualities and skills directly. The people you ask must know you very well and be able to speak about the specific qualities they’ve observed in you that will make you a stand out medical student. Otherwise, you’ll get a generic or lukewarm letter that will end up hindering your application rather than helping it.
Another way you can weed out mediocre letters of evaluation is to gauge how people react when you ask them for a recommendation. If someone you ask hesitates or suggests they might not be the right person for the job, do not push the issue—look elsewhere. They are either saying they are too busy, in which case, you might struggle to get a letter from them on time, or they are politely saying they don’t think they are able to write a notably positive recommendation for you.
Finding strong letter writers begins with building strong relationships. Start building these relationships early on in college. Be intentional about building relationships with professors and mentors by sophomore year, and maintain these relationships throughout your college career.
Learn more in our guide: How to Get Strong Medical School Letters of Recommendation.
4 | Did You Plan Your Work and Activities?
The work and activities section of your primary application summarizes the wide range of extracurricular activities you participated in during college. Do not overlook this section, as this is your chance to continue building the narrative you want to express to admissions committees.
Your application is the complete story of your journey and accomplishments thus far. Each application element should add something unique to your narrative; no piece of your application should be repetitive or redundant.
Even though the work and activities section is fairly straightforward, you still must plan ahead and prepare your answers. Every aspect of your application, no matter how small, is another chance to sell yourself.
Narrow down your activities by only including the ones you were heavily involved in. If you have nothing worthwhile to say about the experience or weren’t very invested in it, leave it out. Including a lackluster activity will only dilute the impact of your stronger experiences.
Plan how you want to title and describe each experience. Choose descriptive titles that outline the experience and your role within that experience. This means your titles need to say much more than “Research” or “Clinic Volunteer.”
For the content, don’t waste too much of your space describing the activity itself; instead, focus on your experience. What did you bring to the experience specifically? What was your impact? What did you learn from the experience?
Advance planning will ensure each of your activities and meaningful experiences provides new information and adds to the overall narrative of your application.
Learn more about the AMCAS Work and Activities section, including how to prepare for it, how to approach this section, and common mistakes to avoid.
5 | Do You Have a Copy of Your Official Transcript?
This step may be simple to check off, but it should not be overlooked. Ensure you have a copy of your official transcript so that you can reference it as you fill in your primary application.
Make sure it’s an official transcript, as some of the information you need may not appear on an unofficial transcript.
Any mistakes, such as entering incorrect grades, can cause delays in the application process. If you’re ready to submit your application as soon as applications open in June, you won’t have to worry about missing a deadline, but you could fall behind other conscientious students who submitted their application with correct information.
Due to rolling admissions, the earlier you submit your application, the better. Make sure you have an official copy of your transcript available to avoid any careless mistakes on your application.
6 | Do You Know Which Medical Schools You’re Applying to?
Have you done your research and deeply considered which medical schools you want to apply to? Don’t leave this to the last minute—you’ll have enough on your mind when medical school applications open.
Determine which schools you have a possibility of getting into by researching the statistics of recently matriculated medical school students. AAMC’s Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) database allows you to browse, search, sort, and compare medical schools based on a number of factors, including GPA and MCAT averages.
We recommend applying to around 20 schools. Applying to too few programs may result in receiving too few interviews, and applying to too many schools will significantly add to your workload and application costs. Choose a variety of target, reach, and safety schools to cover all of your bases.
Learn more: How Many Medical Schools Should I Apply to?
Consider other important factors, such as cost, location, the reputation of the school, and research opportunities. When calculating costs, look at more than tuition. How much will it cost you to relocate? How much will it cost to travel home for the holidays? How much is the cost of living in the city you are considering? How much is transportation in the city you are considering? What financial aid opportunities are available?
Follow our list of 12 important factors for how to decide which medical schools to apply to.
7 | Do You Need to Take the Casper Test?
Not all schools require you to take the Casper text, but the list of schools that require Casper continues to grow each year. In addition to Casper, you may also be required to complete a Snapshot interview and a Duet assessment as part of the Altus Suite.
The date your Altus Suite components are due varies depending on the schools you are applying to, but you won’t need to complete Altus Suite before you submit your primary application. Some students find time to complete their Casper test before applications open, while others use the time between submitting their primary and receiving secondaries. You could also choose to focus your attention on Casper at a convenient time during interview season, so long as you follow individual school deadlines.
Whatever you decide, do not go into your Casper test or any of the Altus Suite components unprepared. Casper has a unique format that you must be familiar with in order to do well on the assessment.
Research whether or not you need to take the Casper test so that you can prepare and plan accordingly.
Read our Casper Test Guide for everything you need to know about the Casper test, including test logistics, how it’s scored, how to prepare, and a Casper FAQ.
8 | Are You Prepared for Rapid Secondaries?
Secondaries typically arrive about two weeks after you submit your primary application. You may be losing steam on the application process by this point, but do not delay completing your secondary applications.
Submit your secondary applications 7-14 days after receiving them.
This is a tight timeline, so do what you can to prepare in advance. Even though you don’t know the exact questions you’ll receive in your secondaries, a little research will give you a good idea of what to expect. Look up common secondary questions and begin crafting your answers in advance so that you can return all of your secondaries soon after receiving them.
We created a free Secondary Essay Prompts Database that is regularly updated. It includes the most recent information about secondary requirements for a wide range of US medical schools.
For your best chance of acceptance, you must be ready to submit your primary as soon as applications open.
This is why it’s so important to thoroughly understand the complete medical school application process in the months and years leading up to when you hope to apply to medical school. Do your research early, create systems for yourself, set a schedule, and stick to it.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or try to tackle everything on your own. Follow our Medical School Application Timeline and Monthly Schedule, which includes a breakdown of what you should be working on each month leading up to medical school.
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