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AMCAS Applicant Guide 2020

By February 12, 2020November 20th, 2020Announcements, Primary AMCAS Application Tips

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 2020. 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

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 info@crackingmedadmissions.com. 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. 

AMCAS Applicant Guide:

1) What is the AMCAS Application?

2) Our biggest, high-yield AMCAS application advice

3) Questions from Current Applicants

4) Download AMCAS Activities Examples & Brainstorm Tool

5) Other Cracking Med School Admissions Resources

AMCAS Application Guide

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) AMCAS 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) AMCAS Work and Activities

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.

How will you make your medical school application stand out among the 50,000 other applicants? 

The two big pieces of advice we give on how to make your medical school application stand out:

  • Highlight a niche in medicine you are interested in: Make sure your entire medical school application highlights a niche in medicine you are interested in. It doesn’t have to be a specific field of medicine, like radiology or pediatrics. It can also be an aspect of patient care or healthcare you are passionate about. Are you a global health guru? Love research? Figure out your niche. And highlight these strengths throughout your medical school application. For example, say you are interested in health education. You should highlight this passion in your personal statement, AMCAS activities reflections, secondary essay applications, and your medical school interviews.
  • Paint a picture of yourself through stories:  Our Cracking Med School Admissions team has found that stories are the most powerful way to display an applicant’s relationships with other individuals, teamwork, compassion, and empathy. Your AMCAS personal statement, AMCAS letters of recommendation, and secondary essays should all include stories.

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 info@crackingmedadmissions.com 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 is, it depends. 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. 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.

 
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.

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

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