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What does the medical school application season look like? (Part 1)

Hi everyone and welcome back to the blog! I hope you all had a great Holiday season and you are ready to tackle 2023! I wanted to get this last blog post out before New Years so that you have a sense of what the first part of the medical school application season looks like (up until you submit your primary or AMCAS application). If you are applying to medical school in 2023, it is super important to know what to expect and when so that you can plan out your application preparation.


The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) application, also referred to as the primary application, is the first step in the process of applying to medical school. This application will be sent out to all of the medical schools that you choose to apply to before they are able to send you any supplemental application materials. I will focus this post on the timeline up to the point in which you submit the AMCAS application. I will write future posts about the timeline after submission of the AMCAS application.



January-February

Personal Statement:

This is the time to really start brainstorming and writing your personal statement. If you haven’t started writing your statement prior to this time, you should start at least thinking about what you want to write about. As the process to write the personal statement can take some time, it is crucial to get started early and give yourself plenty of time. If you are struggling to figure out what you want to write about, check out my previous blog post regarding how to pick a personal statement theme.


AMCAS activities:

If you have started your personal statement already or you need a break from writing, you can start working on your AMCAS activities list during these months so that you have a jumpstart on them. Stay tuned for a future post about the AMCAS activities section but in brief, you have the opportunity to list up to 15 activities on your AMCAS application that you have participated in prior to your application (excluding high school activities). Each activity has a space for a description of up to 700 characters, including spaces (except for the three “Most Meaningful” activities you designate which allow for 700 characters plus an additional 1,325 characters). While the description section for each activity isn’t necessarily as daunting as the personal statement, these descriptions should not be overlooked and do take some time to write.


Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT):

There are multiple possibilities for when students take the MCAT exam and the month of January can be a popular time. If you happen to have some time off from your studies and plan accordingly, taking the MCAT in January can be advantageous for you if you plan to apply that same year. If you didn’t plan on taking the MCAT in January, don’t sweat it, there are other times in the application process that will not hurt your application overall.


March

Personal statement:

If you started brainstorming your personal statement and began writing it in January/February, then March is a great time for you to do personal editing of the statement to get it to a point where you want it to be. If you have a good start on your statement but it isn’t quite done yet, then take the month of March to keep writing with the goal of having it completed by the end of March. If you were on top of the ball and have the statement written by this point, you can start sending it to other individuals to review as this process can take some time as well.


AMCAS activities:

If you haven’t started thinking about your AMCAS activities up to this point, I would start in March. You don’t need to complete all of your descriptions at once and can slowly work on them one-by-one to get them at least started.


Letters of Recommendation:

March is the first month that I would start to think about your letter of recommendation writers and begin asking those individuals about writing a letter on your behalf. This will give them enough time to compile their letter and they won’t feel rushed while you still have enough time in the application cycle to give them multiple months to write the letter. At this point, you will also likely have at least a draft of your personal statement in which you can send them if they ask to see it before writing the letter (some letter writers will ask for a draft).


Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT):

Personally, I would not recommend taking the MCAT in March of the year that you are applying. This typically falls right in the middle of your spring semester of school work and can be a very busy time for midterms, projects, etc.


April

Personal statement:

This month is all about reviewing your personal statement, and more specifically, having other individuals read through your statement and provide feedback. I advise to have 5-8 individuals read through your personal statement and provide feedback. If you have less than this number, you may not get enough diversity in opinion while having more than this number could lead to having too many varied opinions and you may not know which advice to listen to. After you send your personal statement to reviewers and receive feedback, take a few days to incorporate the feedback and choose which aspects you do (or don’t) want to incorporate.

AMCAS activities:

At this point in the application season, you are starting to balance multiple things. While you are waiting for your reviewers to send you feedback on your personal statement, you can hopefully chip away at your AMCAS activities descriptions if you haven’t finished them yet. Once they are complete, you should also have other individuals review them for grammar, spelling, and whether your descriptions truly convey what you did in that activity and the impact it had on you.


Letters of Recommendation:

If you haven’t asked your letter writers for a letter yet, this is the time to do so. By asking in April, you will still give them a few weeks to write the letter and there is still enough time for them to get it done by the time you submit your application (note: you don’t actually need them to submit their letters by the time you submit but if they can have them done, it is one less thing for you to worry about after submission).


If you have already asked individuals for letters, I would not reach out to them again in the month of April as it is not urgent yet to bug them for the letter at this point.


Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT):

While I noted that March wasn’t a good month to take the MCAT (in my opinion), I have seen that some students choose to take the test in April. There may be a lull in your courses at this point as midterms are over and you haven’t quite started studying for finals yet. If you can make it work comfortably in your schedule, then it’s not a bad time to take the exam. If it doesn’t line up with your schedule or a test date is not available, this is completely fine as there are other times to take the MCAT.


May-June

Personal statement:

The month of May is all about putting finishing touches on the application. If you are still waiting on reviewers for your personal statement, I would reach out to them in May to see if they have any further comments or suggestions for your statement. If you have received all of the comments from your reviewers, then I would take the first two weeks of May to finalize your statement when you are happy with it. If you are a deadline type of person, I would aim to have the statement finalized by May 15th so that you can have 1-2 weeks to input it into the AMCAS application (it is not as easy as just copy and paste).


AMCAS activities:

Just as with the personal statement, May is the time to finalize the descriptions for your AMCAS activities. After you have finalized the descriptions, typing them into the AMCAS application can take some time as well. I would advise against using copy and paste for this as there can be formatting issues that arise depending on what text editor you used to write the descriptions.


Letters of Recommendation:

If you are still waiting on your letter writers to upload their letters to the application, I would gently reach out to them in May to see if they need any more information from you to write the letter. This can be a challenging task as you don’t want to seem pushy but at the same time, you do want to let them know that you are still waiting on the letter. Contact me if you have questions regarding how to best accomplish this.


Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT):

If you haven’t taken the MCAT yet, many students decide to take it in May/June of the year in which they are applying. You may ask: is this too late? And the answer is no, it is not too late. You can definitely still make it work for your application if you take the exam in May/June. Keep in mind that once you submit your AMCAS application, you will still have to wait 3-6 weeks for it to be “verified” and schools will not receive it until this process is over. That gives you some time to wait on your MCAT score to come back as well and it shouldn’t delay your application overall.


The AMCAS application typically “opens” at the beginning of May each year but you are not able to submit your application until the last week of May or first week of June. This gives you about 3-4 weeks to get your account set up and the application completed before submission. While it is important to submit your application as quickly as you can after the first date in which you are able to, be sure to take the time to ensure it is ready as you cannot change it after submission.


I know this was a long post but I hope you find a lot of good information in it to help you in the first phase of the application cycle. I will be making another post about the next phase of the cycle so make sure you keep on the lookout for that!


I hope you all have a wonderful and Happy New Year and I will see you in 2023!


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