AMCAS Application Guide

AMCAS Applicant Guide 2021

The AMCAS is medical schools’ first chance to get a glimpse of who you are, and it’s a standardized application that is used by many schools at once, so getting it right is a critical first step to get into medical school.  Writing the AMCAS application can be a DAUNTING experience. But don’t worry! The Cracking Med School Admissions team will help you out with every step of the medical school admissions process. This blog post will be your AMCAS applicant guide.

Our goal is to provide you with basic information about the AMCAS and provide you with additional resources, including our AMCAS work and activities examples workbook

AMCAS Applicant Guide:

1) What is the AMCAS Application?

2) Questions from Current Applicants

3) Download AMCAS Activities Examples & Brainstorm Tool

4) Medical School Application Resources

We want to answer all the questions that arise while you fill out your AMCAS! Have questions about your AMCAS application? Feel free to get in touch with us if by filling out the contact form down below or emailing us at We’ve had several students ask us questions over the years, and we put the most common questions and responses in the “Questions from Current Applicants” section down below. 

What is the AMCAS application?

The AMCAS Application = primary medical school application for most schools

The AMCAS Application (short for American Medical College Application Service®) is a centralized application processing service that is available to applicants to the first-year entering class of participating U.S. medical schools. Make no mistake, nearly every medical school uses the AMCAS Application as the primary application.

No matter how many schools you end up applying to, you submit one primary application through AMCAS, effectively killing many birds with one stone. This is actually great news, because it saves you a whole lot of work. Imagine applying to 50 medical schools (which one student we advised did in fact do), and having to submit 50 different primary applications! The flip side of this, however, is that you need to work extra hard to make sure your AMCAS application is done well.

What are the different components of the AMCAS application?

1) GPA and Grades

The classes you choose can accentuate your intellectual passions. For example, perhaps you are interested in social determinants of health. You can highlight this AMCAS application theme through the classes you choose (e.g. Public Health & Society) and the letters of recommendations you ask for.

2) MCAT Scores

There’s no way around it, but the schools will look at your grades + MCAT scores to see if you have what it takes to thrive from an academic standpoint. 

3) Personal Statement

Most of the successful AMCAS personal statements our Cracking Med School Admissions team has read are stories about the applicant. As the old adage goes, “show, don’t tell.” One common mistake we see is that applicants try to cram too much information about themselves into their application. The AMCAS application, and especially the AMCAS personal statement is not a resume or a bibiliography about your life. Stick to 1-2 main points (themes) you want the med school admissions committee to remember you by, and write about it.

Buy our book for med school personal statement examples from successfully admitted applicants accepted to schools like Harvard, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins.

4) Work and Activities Section

Your activities will show the admissions officers what excites you about medicine. Highlight the impact of your activities, and reflect on how your activities have shaped you.

Aside from your AMCAS activities descriptions, you are also allowed to write short essays for your 3 most important activities. Like the AMCAS personal statement, paint a picture of yourself through stories and relate the experiences back to your themes.

For more specific advice about the work / activities section and examples of how to write your AMCAS work / activities section, follow our link here: AMCAS Work and Activities Examples

5) Letters of Recommendation

Make sure your AMCAS letters of recommendation also give specific details about who you are and what you have contributed. Make it easy for your letter writers by giving them a document that explains the themes of your application and examples they can highlight.

For example, instead of: “Sally was a great member of my research lab. She was an active contributor during lab meetings.”

Your Professor could elaborate, “Sally worked on her own oncology experiment. I worked with her closely to design the experiments. Additionally, during our lab meetings, she frequently asked insightful questions that led other lab members to consider modifications to their experiments. Sally would bring in additional, relevant research papers to followup on discussions we had in our lab.”

For advice about how to ask for medical school letters of recommendation, read our Cracking Med School Admissions book.

Work & Activities Workbook

Use this workbook to write STELLAR AMCAS descriptions. This section is as important as your personal statement.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Common Questions We're Asked
About the AMCAS

Responses by Dr. Rachel Rizal and Dr. Rishi Mediratta

Q: Do you have premed advising and editing services? 

Yes! We advise and will help you edit your AMCAS activities section, personal statement, and medical school secondaries.

Check out our medical school application packages here: Cracking Med School Admissions Application Packages

Believe it or not, this is the most common question we receive from applicants! We have a superb success rate! Contact us or email us at if you are interested in our medical school advising.

Q: How many activities should I have? I currently have 6. Is that enough? 

We recommend students to have 13 or more AMCAS work and activities. If you have fewer than 10 activities, that is not enough. We will help you brainstorm how to increase the number of activities. Don’t forget to use a space for awards, hobbies, and work experiences.

Q: I do not have enough activities for my AMCAS work and activities section. Do you have any recommendations? 

Most commonly, people forget that they did a volunteer activity and won an award from freshmen or sophomore year. Don’t forget to use a space for awards, hobbies, and work experiences.

Q:  I was a Varsity athlete in college. My first two years, I was a member and my second two years, I was a captain. Is it reasonable for me to split my activities into two?

Yes, especially if you do not have 15 activities yet. In your leadership role, differentiate it from the first activity (in which you are a member) by highlighting any impact you had on your teammates as well as what you learned about leadership. Reflection is important!

Q: I presented the same poster in two different events at my University. Should I put them under one entry or separate them?

If they are the same exact poster, you should probably keep it as one activity.

Q: I have experience in working as a scribe and doing clinical research in the emergency room. In both of these experience descriptions, I mention that I did shadowing. Do I also need to add “Shadowing” as a separate category?

You can either separate it out as another activity or include it in your Scribe + Clinical research activities. We would need to read the descriptions and know more about each activity before we give a final recommendation, but most likely, you should incorporate the shadowing component of both activities into both activities (as opposed to a separate activity).

Q: I worked as a waitress for a restaurant. Can I list that as an activity?

Definitely! Be sure to link it to what you learned about customer service or skills you learned on the job and how you can apply them to medicine.

Q: Can I put hobbies, such as playing the piano, as an activity?

Especially if you spend a significant amount of time on an activity, you can include them in the AMCAS work and activities section. If you can, try to relate it to medicine and what type of physician you want to become. Remember, reflections and connections to medicine are key!

Q: Do you think I can put traveling the world as a hobby?

Typically, we don’t recommend students to write traveling as an activity. If your travel includes a medical mission or volunteer work, you should list that as an extra-curricular activity or community service global health project.

Q: I have four different shadowing experiences. Should I put them all in one activity or separate them in different activities?

The answer of this question is extremely person-dependent, so please contact us and tell you your AMCAS situation if you have questions about your specific application. Most students should and will put all their shadowing experience into ONE activity. However, if you spent a significant amount of time with a specific physician or you gained a lot of experience in one shadowing activity, this can warrant having completely ONE activity space for one of your shadowing experiences. 

Q: I have multiple presentations and publications for the same research and lab. Should I put it under one activity or multiple AMCAS work and activities spaces?

If it’s the same research, we typically recommend students to write it all as one activity. If research is your medical school application’s forte, you can write the publication as a separate activity in order to make the research impact stand out more.

Q: I shadowed multiple doctors and put it all under one activity. Who should I put as the contact information?

The best thing to do is to put the contact information of the doctor you worked the most with or the clinician you worked with the most. However, feel free to use any of the doctors as the contact information.

Q: I had multiple positions in one organization. Should I fill it under multiple AMCAS activities or one AMCAS activity?

For the answer to this question, it really depends on the context, your background, your themes, and how many activities you already have. Either multiple activities and one activity is okay. There is no ONE correct way to fill out the AMCAS activities portion. However, if you put your involvement in one organization under multiple spaces, make sure the responsibilities, roles, reflections, and descriptions are different among the activities description. Contact us to tell us more about your specific situation and we can help guide you!

Q: Can I include an activity on the AMCAS work and Activities section that I did the summer before entering college?

If it’s the same research, we typically recommend students to write it all as one activity. If research is your medical school application’s forte, you can write the publication as a separate activity in order to make the research impact stand out more.

Q:The Professor / Physician / Adviser I worked with for one of my activities retired. Should I put their contact information still?

Yes! You can put a retired individual’s contact information for your AMCAS work and activities. Try to give the most up-to-date contact information, like his or her email address and phone number.

Other medical school application resources

This AMCAS applicant guide 2020 is one of several blog posts filled with tips for medical school applicants.

Check out our other informative blog posts here:

We hope this AMCAS application guide answered some of your questions, but of course, you’ll encounter tons of questions as you fill out your medical school application! Don’t hesitate to contact us. If you need help with your medical school application, check out our application packages here. We’re excited to help!

FREE AMCAS Work & Activities Workbook

Use this workbook to write STELLAR AMCAS descriptions. This section is as important as your personal statement.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Contact Us With Questions

We'll answer any and all your questions about medical school!
We typically respond within 1 business day.

Please provide us with a phone number if you prefer us to call you back.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

See Winning Examples &

Use Our Brainstorming Tool

Write STELLAR AMCAS Descriptions

AMCAS Work &

Activities Workbook

 * See Successful AMCAS Activities Examples
 * Use Our Brainstorming Tool

Scroll to Top