The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), run by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), is a web-based, centralized application processing service that was developed to simplify and standardize the process of applying to U.S. allopathic (M.D.) medical schools. All but a handful of these medical schools currently participate in this service (contact Leslie Bell for information on applying to non-participating schools). What this means is that you only need to submit one set of application materials, no matter how many medical schools to which you apply. Once you submit the required information, AMCAS will collect, verify, and process your applicant data and transmit it to the schools you designate. Individual medical schools are then free to review your application and send you any secondary or supplemental applications that they may require.
Although the early decision deadline is August 1 and the normal decision deadlines begin in October, your application will essentially be dead on arrival if you wait to submit it anytime near these deadlines. Most schools have a "rolling admissions" policy, meaning those applicants who are reviewed first will be given the first interviews, and subsequently, be granted admission before other candidates. Consequently, you should submit your application as soon as possible, ideally on or around June 1 (the earliest date you can submit your application). Remember that AMCAS can take 4-6 weeks to process your application, so the earlier submit your application, the better.
You should begin gathering your application materials together and become familiar with the application process long before it becomes available online on May 1. Planning ahead will not only make you aware of the application requirements with sufficient time to respond to them, but it will also make you aware of the attributes and gaps in your evolving application. Here are some things you should be thinking about prior to beginning your application:
Complete Your AAMC Registration
Because AMCAS is entirely Web-based, you will need to create an account so you can log onto your application. If you have previously registered for the MCAT or other AAMC services, you will already have an AAMC username, password, ID that you should continue to use.
Get to know AMCAS
Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the AMCAS Website. Make sure you look at all it has to offer, such as links to key steps in starting an application, an application worksheet that previews the application content, an application timeline/checklist, important FAQs, and other helpful application resources. You should also make sure to read the AMCAS instruction booklet so that you know how to correctly fill out your application, understand all relevant policies, and recognize your responsibilities as an applicant.
Begin collecting required materials and information
Once you get a sense of the scope and type of information the AMCAS application asks for, begin collecting the required materials and information you will need to complete it. Your goal should be to have everything ready to go when the AMCAS application becomes available online so you can just enter the information.
The AMCAS application consists of nine sections, which may be saved and completed during multiple sessions:
While most of these sections are fairly straightforward, there are a few that merit further mention:
Use this section to enter information, grades, and credits for every course you have enrolled in (or are currently enrolled in) at Hamilton or any other U.S. or Canadian post-secondary institution. Applicants commonly make mistakes entering information into this section, so make sure you carefully read over the appropriate directions in the AMCAS instruction booklet to make sure you fill out everything correctly. Remember that AMCAS will verify the information you enter here using your transcript (and may change it accordingly), so make sure the information you provide is accurate and the same as how it is listed on your transcript.
For each course, you will have to provide the following information: where you took it, when you took it, what type of course it is, its course number, its name, the number of credits it was worth, and your grade. Classifications can be tricky for some courses, so make sure you refer to the instruction booklet to ensure that you are making the correct designations. You should use the complete official course name (as written on your transcript or in the course catalogue); if you can't fit the entire name, then use a logical, unambiguous abbreviation. For those courses that include a lab component, add the words "and Lab" to the course name and answer "yes" when asked if the course included a lab component. In terms of credits, a semester-long Hamilton course is equal to 1 course credit.
Use this section to enter information on up to 15 work or extracurricular activities, awards, honors, or publications that you would like to bring to the attention of the medical schools to which you are applying. For each entry, you will be allotted around 1300 characters (1/4 of a page) to "describe" each of these experiences. You should use this space to clearly explain what you did, why it was important to you/what you learned from it, and how it reflects your values. At the same time, however, you should be as brief and succinct as possible in your description and try not to use all of the allotted characters. When writing your descriptions, make sure you show the same excellent writing skills you used in your essay. Medical schools assume that you had your essay edited and will likely look carefully at the writing in these descriptions to compare your writing styles.
Although you may enter 15 experiences into this section, you do not need to use them all. Medical schools are more interested in quality over quantity, and you should only include significant or meaningful experiences. You should enter repeated experiences only once. For example, if you were on the Dean's List multiple times, you should list "Dean's List" as an experience and then use the description area to note the semesters in which you earned this honor. If you find that you don't have enough room to list all of the experiences that you want to include in your application, you may also consider grouping related experiences together to save space. For instance, if you worked as a tutor in many different areas, you may wish to list "Tutor" as an experience and use the description area to elaborate on your numerous tutoring experiences.
Letters of Evaluation
Most Hamilton students and graduates will apply with a "Committee Letter" from Hamilton (click here for more information). The Committee Letter is actually a packet of letters consisting of (1) a letter of evaluation written by Leslie Bell that reflects the Health Professions Advisory Committee's opinion of your candidacy and (2) all the individual letters written by all the recommenders you asked to write for you. The important point to remember is that you do not have to list all these people as writers on your AMCAS application. Instead, simply select "Committee Letter" and designate "Leslie Bell, Chair of the Health Professions Advisor Committee" as its author. This single entry will include all the letters contained within the Committee Letter. You will now have 9 additional entries for other letters. Use these slots for any individual letters you wish to send to specific medical schools separate from the Committee Letter.
For each letter you enter into your application, AMCAS will assign you an AMCAS Letter ID number. You will need to print out a Letter Request Form, which contains both the Letter ID Number and your own AAMC ID number, for each letter and send it to the person writing that letter. For the Committee Letter, give the letter request form to Leslie Bell (all of your individual recommenders whose letters will be included in the Committee Letter should send their letters directly to Leslie). Leslie transmits your Committee Letter via "Virtual Evaluations," a very effective and timely service that Hamilton pays to use. Remember, if you add new medical schools to your list throughout the year, you must inform Leslie of the change or these additional schools will not receive your recommendations.
If you wish to send your AMCAS application to additional medical schools after your initial submission, you will need to add these medical schools to the "Medical Schools" section and then re-submit/re-certify your application.
You may submit your AMCAS application prior to taking your MCAT. After you take the test, you can upload the scores to your application and re-submit it. ;Medical schools prefer that you have your MCAT score ready prior to submitting your application, but don't delay submitting your application early in the summer just because you are waiting to take the test.
The Application Fee
Upon submitting your application, you will be asked to pay a fee via either credit card or Internet check. The amount you will need to pay will depend on how many schools you apply to: AMCAS charges $130 for the first school and $31 for each additional school. (On average, students apply to about a dozen schools, which adds up to a $471 fee.) The AAMC offers a Financial Assistance Program (FAP) to MCAT examinees and AMCAS applicants who, without financial assistance, would be unable to take the MCAT or apply to those medical schools that use the AMCAS application. Applicants whose total family income is 300% or less of the poverty level for their family size are eligible for fee assistance. More details on FAP.
Most medical schools will send you their own secondary/ supplemental application after receiving your AMCAS application. While some medical schools send applicants secondary/supplemental applications after reviewing their AMCAS application, most send it to every applicant. These applications vary in length and what they ask you to do. Some simply require some additional personal information; others require you to respond to one or more essay prompts.
As with the AMCAS application, pay no attention to the deadlines for submitting secondary/supplemental applications. You should try to send them in as soon after you receive them as possible. In the era of rolling admissions, the earlier you have your application file complete, the better. Many schools also view your level of interest in their institution by how rapidly you respond.
For those secondary/supplemental applications that require you to respond to an essay prompt, make sure you're succinct and that your best writing/communication skills are on display. As a rule of thumb, follow the same rules that govern writing the personal statement, but avoid repeating the same information that you included in your personal statement. Most importantly, however, make sure that you show sincere interest in the school and its academic program. Do some research on the school beforehand so that your answers are tailored directly to the school. Don't be lazy and just cut and past the same response into every secondary/ supplemental application you receive, even if they ask the same questions. You should also feel free to use material that you could not fit into the personal statement or that covers things that have happened since you wrote the AMCAS application as long as the material is relevant to the question.
Before sending in your secondary/supplemental application, make sure to check it over to make sure it is complete, accurate, and error free. You should also have Leslie check it over. Make sure that you also print a copy of your application for future reference. When you finally do submit your secondary/ supplemental application, you will have to pay a fee. If you qualified for the FAP, then the school will likely waive this fee. Make sure that you contact the medical school to make sure that it received all of your application materials and that your file is complete.