What Is AMCAS?

AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) is a centralized application processing service located in Washington, DC. They provide a standard application for use by member medical schools. The AMCAS people do not make any admissions decisions. Rather, they process, duplicate, and send your AMCAS application, transcript, and MCAT scores to all member schools that you indicate on the official "AMCAS Designation Form." The AMCAS application greatly simplifies the initial stages of the application process. Instead of having to complete individual applications for every single school, you complete just one application. All but 16 of the U.S. LCME-accredited medical schools participate in AMCAS.

Schools that do not participate in AMCAS have their own individual applications that youll need to complete. This must be done for each of the non-AMCAS schools that you apply to, and the applications can differ significantly. Do not send a copy of your AMCAS application to a non-AMCAS school; they wont be amused.

The AMCAS Application The AMCAS application becomes available in April for the class entering in the fall of the following year. AMCAS will begin accepting applications in early June. The sooner you obtain the application, the sooner you can complete it, the sooner you can mail it, the better off youll be. Medical schools will require your application form, transcripts, MCAT scores, and letters of recommendation before theyll inform you that your application is complete. Until they receive all the components of your application folder, they wont consider you for a personal interview.

Many schools institute a rolling admissions system. Those applicants who are reviewed first will be given the first interviews, and subsequently, will be granted admission before other candidates. There is never a downside for getting your application in as soon after June 1st as possible. Even if youre taking the August MCAT, try to get your application in early so medical schools can open a file on you. Even schools that dont employ rolling admissions will begin assessing applications as soon as they are received, and consequently, will start offering interviews to qualified candidates. You dont want to be among the herd of late interviewees at a school. That being said, if you cant send it early, and you find that working on it really cuts into your MCAT prep time, you may want to put it away until after the test.

Electronic Applications AMCAS will offer electronic applications for students beginning in 1996. This "e-application" is being titled "AMCAS-E." Students will be able to complete their application on computer and submit data on disk to the AMCAS. For 1996, paper applications will also be accepted by AMCAS.
More Information about the AMCAS-E The AMCAS application consists of three sections spanning four pages:

  • General Information Page (Education, Work, Activities, Honors)
  • Personal Statement
  • Course Work and GPA Calculations

When you obtain the application, make multiple copies so that you can practice. Youll probably go through one or two rough drafts before producing your final, immaculate product. Remember, the application you submit MUST be typed or laser-printed and cannot be a copy. It should be pristine--no errant coffee or pizza stains, crusted whiteout, or smeared ink.

General Information Page: The information requested here is similar to that in most applications. What youll notice right away is that your space is very limited. Avoid the "throw in everything but the kitchen sink" mentality. Spotlight those activities and honors that are most important to you and those that you hope will distinguish your application. List in descending order of priority. You may also want to highlight health-related activities, public service work, and science or medically-related work experience.

Whereas the two other sections are essentially glorified lists, the Personal Statement is the one area of the AMCAS application where you can infuse a little bit of personality. As with all creative outlets, there is no single correct way to go about this. There are, however, some pitfalls that you want to avoid:

The Personal Statement is not the time to recount all your activities and honors in list-like fashion. Avoid writing the rehashed resume or typical biographical essay ("I was born in a small fishing village...").

Dont get too creative. Now is not the time to write a haiku. Remember -- the medical establishment is still primarily a conservative one.

You probably want to avoid delving into any controversial topics. If you do choose to delve, dont be dogmatic or preachy. You dont want to alienate a reader who may not share your politics.

Dont make apologies for your past. If you received a C in physics (hey, it could happen), you may feel compelled to justify it. Unless you believe that the circumstances truly do merit some sort of mention, do not make excuses. You dont need to provide them with a road map to your weaknesses; theyll find them just fine without your help.

Admissions committees may dismiss applicants who sound too high-toned and noble. Avoid phrases like "relieve the suffering of the world," etc.

AMCAS takes their margins seriously. They have been known to return applications in which the Personal Statement has strayed beyond the preset borders. You may even want to create a margin within their margins; you want your essay to be eminently readable and easy on the eye.

Dont type your Personal Statement in a font that is difficult to read, or in a type size below 10-point. Nothing is more of an eyesore than a lengthy Personal Statement in 6-point type.

The Personal Statement will be the part of the application that will best distinguish you from the rest of the crowd. This is your opportunity to show the admissions committee why you decided to go into medicine. Was it an experience you had in school? Was there a particular extracurricular that changed your way of thinking? Try to use vignettes and anecdotes. Weave a story, and make this essay a pleasure to read. Write multiple drafts and have your premed advisor and perhaps an English teaching assistant read and edit it. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Also, try reading it out loud. This is always a good test of clarity and flow.

Interviewers often use your Personal Statement as fodder for questions. Of course, if youve included experiences and ideas that are dear to you, that you feel strongly about, youll have no problem speaking with passion and confidence. Nothing is more appealing to admissions folks than a vibrant, intelligent, and articulate candidate. If you write about research you conducted five years ago, youd better brush up before your interviews. Dont engage in hyperbole in your essay: You risk running up against an interviewer who will see through your exaggerations.

The final two pages of the AMCAS application consist of a comprehensive matrix where you are required to enter every class you took in college/grad school, the number of semester hours, and the grades you received. Before venturing into this part of the application, get an unofficial copy of your transcript so that you dont have to rely on memory. After youve entered all your courses and grades, youll need to refer to the "Grading Systems Conversion Table" in the "AMCAS Instruction Booklet" in order to convert your grades into "AMCAS Grades." It is also a good idea to complete the "AMCAS GPA Calculation Sheet" so that you arent surprised to learn how AMCAS will arrive at your GPA. AMCAS also strongly encourages you to return this calculation sheet with your application.

We highly recommend that you read the directions on completing this section in the AMCAS Instruction Booklet very carefully. This part of the application is far from self-explanatory and has several idiosyncrasies.