When this podcast goes out, the medical school application cycle for students wanting to start medical school in 2019 is opening. What do you need to do now?
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Back to today’s episode, as of this recording of May 1st, the TMDSAS (Texas Medical and Dental School Application Service) for 2019 has opened up. It is application season! Listen in to find out things you need to know before even clicking on that submit button. Meanwhile, AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) and AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service) are opening up in the next couple of days as well. These three services are what you need to apply to medical schools in the United States. For Canada, there’s the OMSAS (Ontario Medical School Application Service).
[05:10] Step 1: Don’t Freak Out!
This is just another day in the process. Specifically for AMCAS, it opens on May 3rd and you can’t submit until May 31st this year. And the applications don’t get submitted until June 29. This being said, you have the whole month where the application is open. This means you can work on everything and not freak out.
However, for TMDSAS and AACOMAS, there is no separate open date and submit date. This means you can submit as soon as you want for these application services. Listen to Episode 245, where you hear about the common issues with applying thru TMDSAS. Some students out there are clicking submit before they put in the personal statement or extracurriculars.
Again, the opening of the application process doesn’t mean you have to get everything in there right now and submit it right now.
[07:50] Step 2: Read the Instruction Manuals
Application services have their own respective instruction manuals and you have to read them. Find out what the nuances are between each of the application services so you understand. You want to make sure you’re doing everything properly.
What’s worse is if you submitted your application and has an error on it and then the school sees that error so they write you off for not being able to follow the directions.So you really need to read the instruction manuals.
[08:50] Step 3: Get a Transcript Request Form
Once you go into the application service, you open up an account. The first thing you should do is to get a transcript request form for this new application cycle year. Then you get this sent out to every school you’ve been to.
Additionally, make sure that when you send off the transcript request for that you also get an unofficial one sent to you. You’re going to use this to help you put in your grades in the application service.
You have to manually put in each class, each grade, all the credit hours, line by line in the application service. This is probably one of the, if not the most, tedious parts of the application service and is the longest thing to do.
One of the hardest parts with transcripts and putting in grades is putting in incorrect transcripts or classes. When you put them in and being reviewed by a human, they’ll get kicked back to you if there’s anything major. Or they will change it for you to review. Again, go line by line by line as you enter all the information you need to. Make sure you’re transferring all the credits and grades properly.
Read the instruction manual based on how your school/s has/have given you grades. Read about how you can properly translate that for the different application services.
Should you wait to request transcripts until after your spring grades come back?
This actually depends on when your semester ends and when the grades are required to be submitted. So find out from your registrar and ask when the final grades required are to be in. Since you can’t actually get official transcripts until those final grades are actually in the system and submitted by the professors.
If that is going to delay your application and you can’t request an official transcript with those Spring grades until the end of May or mid part of June then maybe it’s not worth it.
There a lot of variables in this. Are those grades important in your overall application? Do you need to show a strong upward trend and those Spring grades are going to really help paint that picture? You will have to think through this process. You have to look at your specific situation whether it’s something worth waiting for you or not.
[13:50] Step 4: Follow Up
Make sure you’re continuing to follow up with your supervisors, professors, PIs, whoever it is that you requested letters of recommendation from. Follow up with them to make sure the letters are either in the Interfolio (if you have an Interfolio account). Or now that the application services are opening, you can give them the instructions to submit the letter directly to the application services.
[14:40] Step 5: Personal Statement, Extracurriculars, and Other Essays
Continue writing your personal statement and your extracurriculars. Just because the applications have just opened up, you don’t have to have finalized versions of all this. Don’t rush through the process just for the sake of having them done so you can submit your application tomorrow. Make sure you’re going through the normal editing process and all the normal feedback, draft processes, etc. Also, check out The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement to help you guide through the process.
Again, don’t rush just to be able to get your application in. It’s better to delay it a week and make sure your personal statement and your extracurriculars are polished and error-free before submitting it.
Additionally, take note that TMDSAS has extra essays – one is required, another is optional. The optional essay (I think) is actually probably a “required” essay so you might as well write something for that optional essay.
One of the common mistakes students make is in writing the required essay for TMDSAS. It’s a personal characteristics essay and a lot of students misread or don’t answer the question properly. The question is “how are your personal characteristics going to help the educational environment of your classmates?” If you analyze this, it’s actually asking how you can help the educational environment of your classmates based on your history, skills, traits, experiences, and characteristics.
You may also need to write other essays such as when you’re planning to mark a disadvantage on AMCAS, you can write that essay and get 1,325 characters. You have the most meaningful essays for three of the extracurriculars on the AMCAS application. If you’ve had any disciplinary actions against you, you’d have to write essays about that as well. So make sure you continue to go through that process as you are doing everything else that’s required on top of probably school or MCAT prep, etc.
With regards to demographic information, you need to know what your name is, your siblings, your parents, their level of education, contact information, etc. So be ready to answer all of that. It’s probably the easiest part of the application itself.
Also again, make sure all of the translations from your transcript to AMCAS, AACOMAS and TMDSAS are properly done. Even if you’d had a class removed from your transcript, if your undergraduate or community college have some sort of repeat policy where that grade is removed from your transcript, you still need to put that in your application service.
[18:50] Step 6: Complete Your School List
The school list is one of the last things you put into the application. Basically, you put in the schools you want to apply to. With TMDSAS, you only have to pay one fee so there’s no reason to not apply to all of them. Obviously, it increases your chances of getting in. You will also have to pay secondary fees for most of the schools. It’s just a bit of extra money but that’s okay. Apply to all Texas schools. However, if you could never see yourself living in the Rio Grand Valley, then don’t apply there.
School list is important. Rule of thumb: Do not apply to schools based on MCAT and GPA. Apply to schools based on location, class size, curriculum, and many other things outside the MCAT and GPA. On average, students apply to 14 MD schools and 9 DO schools.
A lot of students in the premed world are groomed on SDN and Reddit to apply based on MCAT and GPA. But I go against that trend.
[20:28] Step 7: Make Sure There Are No Typos and Other Grammar Issues
After you’re done with your school list, then you’re basically done with your primary application. Now you need to go through the application over and over again. Check for typos and weird characters. Remember that if you’re copying and pasting from Word or Google Docs, there may be some weird characters carried over into the text box of the application service itself. Generally, you can copy from Word or Google Doc into a plain text editor first. The application services don’t have any sort of formatting options. So if you need to emphasize something, all those stuff will not be carried over to the application.
One of the tools I recommend is Grammarly. It’s a plugin for Chrome and Safari where it checks for grammar. There’s a web app version of it as well. Simply paste in your text and it will show you some corrections you need to do. As you’re going thru the application cycle, it’s recommended you get the paid full version of it because it will greatly help you in writing better.
[23:40] Step 8: Submit Your Application, Then Pre-Write Your Secondaries
After checking for typos and other issues, you’re basically ready to submit. Again with AMCAS, you can’t submit until the end of May. With AACOMAS and TMDSAS, you can submit as soon as possible.
Applications don’t go out for AMCAS and AACOMAS until end of June or mid-June respectively. And then you’ll get secondary essays. Don’t wait to get back your secondary essays to start writing them. Go online and search for Secondary Essay Database, which we will have our own one soon.
After you do the first five or six schools, they tend to be repetitive so it will get easier as you go. That way, you’re ready when secondaries start to roll out from AACOMAS (the first wave of application goes out on June 15) and AMCAS (the first wave of application goes out on June 29). For TMDSAS, you would have to go to each school’s website and look for instructions on submitting a secondary essay.
[25:25] Step 9: The Waiting Game – Prepare for Your Interviews
Once done with your secondaries, then it’s just a waiting game. You should be preparing for your interviews leading up to this point. Reach out to your premed advisor, your career counselor, mentors. Get mock interviews under your belt before you actually interview. Not preparing for the interview is like not prepping for the MCAT. You need to do it. Check out The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview. I have gotten a ton of feedback from students telling that it has helped them on their interview days. So if you don’t have the time or resources to do private one-on-one interviews and if your school doesn’t offer them, at least get the book.
If you want to invest, I have the $47/month Mock Interview platform where you sign in. Use your webcam or your phone and a video of me asking you a question. Then it records your response so you can watch yourself from there and critique yourself from there. There’s an assessment afterwards so you can send it to somebody so they can give you feedback as well.
Again, this entire process runs from now (May) to next April and May. The process never ends actually. In fact, you can be accepted to medical school all the way through when medical school starts, which is in August of the next year. It’s a very long process. Make sure you’re staying sane through the process. And if you may have to apply again, that’s okay.
Still have questions about the process? Let’s continue this process on The Hangout Group, our free, private Facebook group made up of a super collaborative community of like-minded students.
TMDSAS (Texas Medical and Dental School Application Service)
AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service)
AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service)
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