Every year, applicants ask us tons of questions about the AMCAS. Although you’ve been hearing about it and know that you’ll likely use it for your med school applications, the AMCAS itself can be a little mystifying. Therefore, we’ve put together this brief Q&A to help medical school applicants get a grasp on the AMCAS and prepare for success this application season.
What exactly is the AMCAS? Do all med schools use it?
AMCAS stands for American Medical College Application Service, and the name says it all. They provide a service for medical schools by processing first year medical school applications. AMCAS does not make any decisions about who does or does not get into any particular medical school. Their job is to ensure that the application that you submit is accurate and complete.
Also, not all med schools use them. Only allopathic medical schools (MD) use AMCAS, and there are schools such as Texas medical schools and Caribbean medical schools that use either a different system or require an individual application. Finally, osteopathic schools (DO) use a different system (AACOMAS) as do podiatry schools (AACPMAS).
What is the deadline?
The medical schools themselves, not AMCAS, sets deadlines. Therefore, you need to find out the deadlines from each school. Regarding the AMCAS system itself, in order to meet your school’s deadlines, you’ll need to submit your application by 11:59 pm Eastern time.
What exactly will I need to complete the application?
There are 9 sections to the AMCAS:
1. Identifying Information – This section is basic information about your name, date of birth, and gender.
2. Schools Attended – AMCAS will ask about the high school that you graduated from and all colleges attended. Even if you enrolled in a college class but didn’t complete it, AMCAS wants to know. Therefore, you’ll need a transcript from every college you attended. While AMCAS does allow for electronic submission of transcripts from certain colleges, it is still recommended that you have a paper copy of your own for reference as you complete the application.
3. Biographic Information – This includes personal information such as your address, citizenship, languages, military service, and family information.
4. Course Work – In this section, you will provide detailed information about your college coursework. Also, this is the section that causes the most delays or rejections from AMCAS. This section needs to be completed precisely, and usually minor data entry errors are what trip up applicants. Moreover, once you’ve submitted your application, you can’t change this section. If you make a mistake, you’ll have to wait for AMCAS to get in contact with you. Therefore, start early and take your time with this section. Wait until you’re sure that everything is perfectly accurate before you make your final submission.
5. Work and Activities – This is where you’ll include your work experiences as well as write about your Most Meaningful Experiences.
6. Letters of Evaluation (Letters of Recommendation) – The AMCAS system allows you to submit up to 10 letters of evaluation so that you can tailor the letters of recommendation to different schools, if you wish.
7. Medical Schools – Here is where you will select the schools that you would like to receive your application as well as indicate whether or not you would like to apply for Early Decision.
8. Essays – This is the section where you will add your Personal Comments Essay, MD/PhD, and Significant Research essays.
9. Standardized Tests – The MCAT will automatically send your scores to AMCAS. For combined programs or for international students, you might also need to submit standardized test scores such as the GRE or TOEFL. You will need to make sure that your standardized test scores other than the MCAT are submitted to AMCAS.
How long does it take?
During AMCAS’ busy season, it will take about six weeks for your application to be processed.
What happens after I submit my application?
AMCAS is only the first step. Acceptance into medical school will come from the schools themselves, not AMCAS. Medical schools that are interested in your application will likely ask for follow-up information, an interview, and follow-up essays (secondary essays or just ‘secondaries’).