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Start Your Medical School Application Prep Now!


Session 210

It’s the last week of November 2016 as of this recording and it’s time to start your applications if you’re planning to apply in June 2017 for the 2018 class. It sounds too early but it’s not considering all the moving pieces involved.

In this episode, Ryan talks about why it’s so important to start your application prep now.

Here are the highlights of the episode:

3 Types Application Bodies:

  1. TMDSAS (Texas Medical and Dental School Application Service) – for all Texas schools except for Baylor
  2. AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service – for DO schools
  3. AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service – for MD schools

*These are all online services. You log into a website and register to get a unique identification number. They usually open up in May and you can submit them in June. If you’re only starting to gather information in May, then you’re way behind the curve.

The biggest mistake you can make is applying late (August, September, October).

You don’t go by deadlines when applying to medical school but by open dates. When they open for submissions is the date you are shooting for.

Aspects of the application that take time:

  1. Your school list

It takes time to do your research (location, temperature, class sizes)

Sources of information:

MSAR or College Information Book

Talking to the students at the school and administration

You don’t just go to any school that picks you but it should be one you’ve picked for certain reasons.

  1. Letters of recommendation

Don’t use old letters of recommendation. Figure out who you want letters of recommendation from and ask them to write for you. However, they too have lives and writing a letter of recommendation isn’t going to be at the top of their priority list. Getting letters of recommendation could even take months which can delay or worse, ruin your application.

  1. Personal statements

Personal statements take a very long time to edit. Everything takes time and things happen so you need to start early. Make sure you’re working several months ahead of submitting those applications. Don’t start in April or May.

  1. Extracurricular activities

There are 15 spots in the AMCAS application (around 700 characters each) and select a few of them which are the most meaningful to continue the story (around 1300 characters). You have to squeeze all your life experiences and pick the ones which are the most meaningful and you have to do it right.

  1. Filling in your grades and transcripts

It’s easier if you’ve only gone to one school but this could be harder if you went to multiple schools.

Have your applications ready to go!

You can’t let your MCAT prep dominate everything that you stop working on your personal statements, or EC’s, or letters of recommendation. You cannot put an inferior application out and apply late.

Have a sense of accountability by working with Dr. Ryan Gray so you can have your application ready to go. Go to to learn more about it.

Links and Other Resources:

[email protected]





College Information Book



Dr. Ryan Gray: The Premed Years, session number 210.

Hello and welcome to the two-time Academy Award nominated podcast, The Premed Years, where we believe that collaboration, not competition, is key to your premed success. I am your host Dr. Ryan Gray, and in this podcast we share with you stories, encouragement, and information that you need to know to help guide you on your path to becoming a physician.

Welcome to The Premed Years. As I said earlier, I am your host Dr. Ryan Gray, I used to be a flight surgeon in the Air Force and now I am here full time helping you get into medical school. This podcast is going to be all about the application. As I’m recording this, it is winding down November into December of 2016. The New Year is coming soon and with that it’s time to start your applications if you are planning to apply in June of 2017 for the 2018 class. It sounds like it’s so far away, but trust me it is not. There are so many moving parts and moving pieces to the application that if you fall down in one of those sections, one of those pieces of the puzzle, then your whole application may be ruined. Now we’re going to talk all about why it’s so early to start- why it’s so important to start working on your applications so early. We’re going to talk about all of those moving pieces and what that means to you. I’m interested to know if you’ve applied previously and haven’t gotten in, send me an email, [email protected] I want to hear from you, I want to know why you think you didn’t get in. Was there a problem with your application? Did it take longer for you to do certain parts of it? Were you waiting for somebody else for certain things like letters of recommendations? I want to know, send me an email. [email protected]

Alright so let’s go ahead and start talking about some of these things. I’ve jotted down a couple ideas here, some thoughts that I want to talk to you about, about why it’s so important to start your application prep now.

Differences Between Application Services

The biggest thing to think about is if you start working on your application and digging into it in May, when most of the applications open up, and let’s do a little discussion here about what the ‘applications’ are. So there are three different application bodies out there. There is the TMDSAS, the Texas Medical and Dental School Application Service. Yes, Texas has to be different. All of the Texas schools are part of that except for Baylor as far as I know. There is the AACOMAS application, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service. That’s a mouthful, that’s why we just say AACOMAS. And there’s also the AMCAS application for the American Medical College Application Service. Now the AMCAS application is for the MD schools, and the AACOMAS application is for the DO schools.

And so with that under our belt, if you start to dig into these application services, they’re all online, you log into a website, you register, you get a unique identifier, a number, and you look at those applications. They usually open up in May and you can typically submit them in June. The Texas one I think even starts earlier and you can submit in May. If you wait to look into that application and log onto that website for the first time when you can in May, and start looking at what is required, and start gathering that information then, you’re going to be so far behind the curve that it’s almost impossible for you to submit your application early. And if you’ve listened to this show before, you know that the biggest mistake that you can make, the biggest preventable mistake- usually preventable mistake that you can make when applying to medical schools is applying late. Don’t apply in September, don’t apply in October, don’t apply in August if you can help it. I know when you look at schools, they have application deadlines. This is not your typical application. We don’t go by deadlines for applying to medical school. We go by open dates. When does it open for submission? That’s the date we are shooting for. And if you wait to log into those websites and go, ‘Okay the AMCAS application wants me to submit and input all of my transcript information, all of the classes that I’ve taken, I guess I’ll have to go and get all of my transcripts from all of the schools that I’ve been to.’ You may be lucky and have only gone to one school and you have easy access to that school and can get that transcript pretty quickly. But it may take you longer to get transcripts. You may log in and go, ‘Okay they want to know what schools I want to apply to.’ If you start looking at what schools you want to apply to, you’re going to be delayed. The biggest thing is going to be things like your personal statement. If you’re logging in and going, ‘Oh I need to write a personal statement. Let me see how many characters I have to write. Okay what does it tell me I need to write about? Oh let me go research. What do I need to write about? Let me figure out all of that information.’ Then you start writing it, and editing it. If you’re doing that the month that the application opens and you’re trying to submit it, that is a tough challenge because not only are you trying to write a personal statement essay, you have to write extracurricular activity descriptions, and there are fifteen of them on the AMCAS application. Fifteen different spots that you have to fill out. Now you don’t have to fill them all out, some people say yes fill them all out, but I’m a quality versus quantity guy and if you’re putting stuff in there for fluff, don’t. So you have to write all of these different descriptions for your extracurricular activities, and my thought is it’s harder to write the descriptions for extracurricular activities than it is to write your personal statement. There’s a good way to do it and a bad way to do it, and most likely if you’re doing this at the last minute you’re probably doing it the bad way. So that takes a long time. So if you’re just starting to look at that in May when these open up and you can start looking at them, you’re way behind the curve.

Let’s dig a little bit into some of the more specific things. So as I was talking about, there are certain aspects of this application that take a long time to kind of flush out and think about. When you’re creating your school list, all the schools that you want to apply to, you need to do some research and figure out where the schools are located? What’s the temperature like? What are the class sizes? A lot of this information can be found in the MSAR, or the College Information Book, the two kind of Bibles for each of the types of schools; the allopathic or MD schools, or the osteopathic or DO schools. That information is there, but there is so much more to a school than what is found in the MSAR or the College Information Book. Doing some research and trying to talk to students at the school, trying to talk to some of the administration at the school, figuring out if these schools are right for you is a lot harder than just looking at the MSAR or the College Information Book. So it takes a long time to figure out what you want, what you need from a medical school. I know the big joke is, ‘Where do you want to go to school?’ ‘Any school that will accept me.’ But that’s really not the way to go about it. Yes you hopefully will get an acceptance, and if you only get one, then yes that is where you will go, but to get that acceptance to that school, it needs to be one that you’ve picked for certain reasons, that you’re applying to for certain reasons. The worst thing that you can do is spend the money on your primary application and get the secondary back and you go, ‘Never mind I actually don’t really want to go there.’ So it takes some time to flush out your school list. And when I’m working with students doing coaching for application stuff, I actually have a sheet that I have them fill out, and I have them rank certain things like do you care about weather? Do you care about location? Do you care about class size? Do you care about city or rural areas? There are a lot of other factors that go into this, so think about those things.

Letters of Recommendation Take Time

The other thing that students always underestimate is the amount of time that it takes to get letters of recommendation written. I’ve seen some posts recently in our Facebook group, which if you’re not part of, go check it out, It’s a free Facebook group, awesome collaborative environment. I’ve seen some posts recently about students that are still like two years away from applying, talking about getting letters of recommendations now and asking about services to store them and stuff. And two years is a long time, so I don’t necessarily recommend getting letters of recommendation that far out for applying to medical school. I do recommend getting those letters of recommendation that far out for other things, if you’re applying for other programs that you don’t know about. Obviously if you’re going through this process and an opportunity opens up at the last minute and you’re like, ‘Oh this is awesome. Oh but they need a letter of recommendation.’ It’s always great to have letters of recommendation from professors, or mentors, or principal investigators from research if they are willing to write you strong letters of recommendation. You might not be able to, or you probably shouldn’t use them for your applications to medical school if they’re two years old, because you’ve changed as a person. And so I don’t recommend using old letters of recommendation which means you need to go get new letters of recommendation, which means you need to figure out who you want letters of recommendations from. And then once you figure that out, you need to ask them to write letters of recommendations. And guess what? Professors, and mentors, and physicians, and whoever you’re asking to write you a letter of recommendation, they have lives and writing your letter of recommendation isn’t likely going to be at the top of their priority list, which means it’s going to take a while for you to get that letter of recommendation. And I’ve heard horror stories from students that I’ve worked with that have waited months to get a letter of recommendation, and it’s delayed their application from being complete for months. And it just- it ruins an application. Absolutely ruins it. So you need to start figuring this stuff out now. You need to know why you’re asking this person for a letter of recommendation. Is it just because- is it because they’re the only science professor that you know? Or do you know a couple science professors and one is better than another? You need to figure this stuff out.

Personal Statement

The personal statement is one of those things that sneaks up on people, and I’ve talked about personal statements a lot, I’ll be talking about personal statements a lot more in the future, I’m in the process of writing a book about the personal statement and creating a course on the personal statement, and I’ll be showing you- I’ll be breaking down personal statements for students that I’ve read, and the comments that I’ve left on it, and what works and what doesn’t, and why. The personal statement takes a long time to edit. In case you’re wondering, in case you haven’t noticed this theme that’s running throughout this podcast, everything takes time. And this is assuming everything is going well, and there’s no hiccups along the way, and you don’t get sick, or a parent doesn’t get sick and pulls you away from things, or your dog doesn’t get run over- I hope your dog doesn’t get run over. But anyway, everything takes time and things happen so you need to start early. One of the students I worked with this application cycle for the class of 2018- 2017, for the class of 2017, she had applied previously to about seven schools I think, and she told me, she’s like, “I disregarded all the little steps,” and she took the MCAT late which is a huge deal, and so her applications weren’t complete on time. We didn’t specifically talk about how long it took her to write the personal statement, but looking at the personal statement compared to where we got to this application cycle, it was completely different and told a much better story. She didn’t get any interviews the previous application cycle, and now after- she actually started working with me in October of 2015, October of 2015 to submit her applications in June of 2016. That is eight months ahead of time. Eight months ahead of working- eight months ahead of submitting those applications. She started working with me to craft her story, to figure out what she was doing to make sure all of those steps were done. Because if you wait until April or May to start working with me, there’s very little that we can do to affect your application. We can make it pretty, but we can’t do anything to affect it. We can’t change anything, we can’t scramble and get some shadowing experience, to get a different letter of recommendation, we can’t start reaching out to schools and asking the right questions that we need to ask. There are a lot of things that go into this application that can’t wait until the last minute. By the way, this student applied I think it was two application cycles ago, applying this application cycle after working with me she now has three acceptances and will likely get a fourth soon, I hope. So it takes time.

Extracurricular Activity Descriptions

What I think is harder than the personal statement is the extracurricular activities. You have all these spots, we talked about it a little bit, fifteen spots in the AMCAS application. Each of those extracurricular activities gets 700-ish characters that you need to write about, and then you select a couple or a few, three of them to be most meaningful, and then you get an extra 1,300 or so characters to write about there. And I’ve seen all kinds of problems that students make when they’re writing these. They duplicate what they wrote about in the regular 700 character description into the most meaningful description and then add on a little bit. They write a kind of continual essay between the two so that one ends and it’s not really ended, you have to go to the most meaningful statement to continue the story. These things are hard to write. You need to figure out what you’re going to write about, you have to kind of- you have to squeeze all of your life experiences into these fifteen different extracurricular activities, and if you’re a nontraditional student that’s hard. You need to write about them, you need to edit them, and you need to pick which ones are your most meaningful, and you have to do it right. You have to do it right.

Another student that I worked with this year had applied last year, had only applied to one school, she’s very dedicated, only wanted to go to one school. She’s a nontraditional student, worked at the hospital at the school, wanted to go to that school, and so she only applied to that one school, didn’t get in. Worked with me for many months, and we crafted her story, she ended up applying to two schools even though I wanted her to apply to more, it’s safer to apply to more. She applied to two schools, she got into the school of her dreams, the one that she worked at, the one that she wanted to go to. She did a better job at crafting her extracurriculars, she did a better job at crafting her personal statement. A lot of what students think they need to write about is wrong, and so we worked on crafting her personal statement, crafting her story, getting her ready for her interviews, and she got the acceptance of her dreams to go to the school that she worked at, and now she can start preparing for medical school.

One of the other things that the application services want you to do is fill in all of your grades, your transcripts, and so you need to gather your transcripts. And if you’ve gone to one school, like I said earlier it’s easier, but if you’ve gone to a lot it’s harder. It takes time. Time, time, time.

What about if you have a premed advising committee and they require a lot of this information ahead of time? And even before I mentioned getting letters of recommendation, how that can take months. Sometimes letter writers want a personal statement and want a school list to see what you’re doing. So it’s good to have all this stuff ready so that when you go and ask for a letter and the letter writer says, “Oh can you send me your personal statement?” you don’t have to scramble and throw together something that’s ugly. You can throw together- or not throw together, you can send them your well thought out, well put together personal statement, because it’s something you’ve been working on. So another thing to think about. And with the premed committee, they can take a long time to write your recommendations as well, and they’re going to want essays and everything else. And so to have all this stuff ready to go is so, so important.

Working with the Medical School Headquarters

One of the biggest things that I think when you work with me, one of the biggest things I think is having that accountability of me pushing you along and going, ‘Okay it’s March, we need this. It’s February, we need that. It’s April, we should be here.’ Because when you are doing more than just applying to medical school, which 99% of you are going to be doing, you’re going to be taking classes, you’re going to be studying for the MCAT, you’re going to have life problems creep up and take over your life. And you can’t let your MCAT prep dominate everything so that you stop working on your personal statement, you stop working on your extracurriculars, you stop poking and prodding letter writers to finish your stuff. You can’t put all of that aside because when you turn around, you take your MCAT test, it’s going to be June and you’re going to be scrambling at the last minute and put together an inferior product, an inferior application, and then apply. And you don’t want to do that- and apply late, likely. You don’t want to do that. You need to have all this organized ready to go.

So that’s what I wanted to talk to you about today. Having those applications ready to go. And as I’m recording this at the end of November, 2016, I’ve started working with students for applications for 2017, class of 2018. And I want to work with you. If you go to you can see how you can work with me. I’ve worked with- like I said many students over the course of a full year, I’ve worked with students for seven, eight, nine months, and it’s been an awesome experience, and I want to work with you. I want you to take a look at that, right now because starting January the prices are going to go up, the cost to work with me is going to go up. I’m doing a lot of things, and writing more books, and creating more courses, and other things to help you get into medical school, and starting other podcasts, and I’m going to be likely doing less of the one-on-one stuff. And so that means supply and demand, the price will go up. But I’m going to keep the prices where they are until January 1st, so if you’re thinking about working with me, go do it now,

I hope you got some good information out of this podcast episode. I hope what I’ve taught you will help you with your applications. Make no mistake, you can go and do all of this on your own, you don’t need me, but there are a bunch of you that need me. You know who you are. The ones that need a little bit of extra hand holding, the ones that need that accountability and clarity when it comes to working with me. And so working with me- let me kind of back off a little bit. Working with me means we meet once a month over Skype and talk about everything that you’re doing, everything that you need to be doing, any questions that you have, we email back and forth, and we will edit personal statements, and extracurriculars, and work on your letters of recommendations list, and work on getting your school list ready to go, and we’ll start to do secondary applications, secondary essay editing, and mock interview prep when it comes time; so it’s everything that I offer kind of a la carte all rolled into one, and it’s amazing when I’m able to work with a student and seeing those successes, and hearing the stories of somebody who- one of the students- and so I didn’t work with this student for application prep, but I did work with her for mock interview prep. And she had applied to medical school last year, had I think seven interviews- so her application was great, seven interviews is great. She didn’t get any acceptances. She was rejected from six schools and wait listed at one. This year she reached out to me and she worked with me, purchased four mock interview sessions, and we worked from that first one to that fourth one to craft her story, what she would say to challenging questions, and she is sitting at six acceptances now I think for this application cycle. So even if you put together the perfect application it doesn’t matter because then there’s interviews that come next, and so I want to help you. So I hope you reach out. I look forward to talking to you, to helping you with your applications.

Final Thoughts

Until then I hope you keep following us here at The Premed Years Podcast, and everything that we do here at the Medical School Headquarters.

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