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Applying to Med/PA School

Everything You Need to Know about AMCAS as a Medical School Applicant: a Closer Look at the Application

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About Anne Marie

Anne Marie Conrad is a 2021 graduate of Purdue University’s College of Liberal Arts with degrees in Global Studies and Spanish along with a certificate in Medical Humanities. She has explored her passion for global healthcare by doing undergraduate research on best practices for provision of healthcare across language and cultural barriers. Anne Marie was an Atlantis Fellow to Valladolid, Spain during the Summer of 2019.

AMCAS—one of many acronyms you’ll come across on your pre-med journey. When I began my medical school application process, my head was absolutely swimming with letters. If you’re a pre-med student in that very same position, keep reading. 

What is the AMCAS ?

The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges or AAMC. AMCAS collects, verifies, and delivers application information and MCAT exam scores to the schools of your choosing. Think back to high school and applying to undergraduate programs—AMCAS is the medical school analog of the Common App. Almost all allopathic (MD) medical schools in the U.S. accept primary applications through AMCAS. Applicants to medical schools in Texas as well as applicants to most osteopathic (DO) medical schools in the U.S. will need to apply through TMDSAS and AACOMAS, instead of AMCAS.

In order to fill out the AMCAS application, you’ll first need to register an account with the AMCAS website. This requires your name and a (regularly checked!) functional email. Following registration, you’re all set to begin the application.

AMCAS Application Section Breakdown

The AMCAS application includes nine sections. We’ll go through them here so you know what’s expected at each step.

Sections 1-3: Identifying Information, Schools Attended, and Biographic Information

These sections may take you a bit of time, but all of the information you’ll need to input is relatively straightforward. It might be nice to have transcripts handy at this point in order to confirm dates of enrollment. If you’re like me and took dual credit courses in high school or some summer classes at an institution other than your primary university during college, it’s easy to get dates a little mixed up. 

Section 4: Course Work

If you’ve known anyone who’s applied through AMCAS before, chances are you’ve heard about the dreaded Coursework section. Here, applicants must enter all of their college coursework. Give yourself plenty of time to accurately complete this section, and be sure to have all of your transcripts in hand. You’ll need to assign each course a subject matter classification (when in doubt, the AMCAS Course Classification Guide will be your best friend) and include grades received. The grades and classifications you input will be used to calculate your AMCAS GPA, a standard way to compare applicants’ academic backgrounds. Your BCPM GPA will be calculated based on grades in biology, chemistry, physics, and math courses while grades in all other coursework will go into the calculation of the AO (All Other) GPA.

Section 4 also requires official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions at which coursework has been attempted. Don’t wait too long to order transcripts! According to the AAMC, problems with transcripts are the number one cause of processing delays and missed application deadlines. 

More information about coursework, GPA calculation, sending transcripts, and processing time can be found on this page of the AAMC’s website.

Section 5: Work/Activities

This section is your time to shine. You’re able to list up to fifteen examples of jobs, extracurricular activities, awards/honors, or publications. Of these, you’ll choose up to three to further describe. In choosing these, AMCAS recommends you consider, “the transformative nature of the experience, the impact you made while engaging in the activity, and the personal growth you experienced as a result of your participation.” For example, I chose to further expand on my Atlantis experience shadowing abroad. My experience shadowing abroad truly was transformative as I learned more about cultural ideas of wellness and different systems of healthcare. I came away from Atlantis more sure than ever that healthcare was the right path for me and was excited to write about its effect on my personal growth in my application. 

Section 6: Letters of Evaluation

This is where you’ll identify your recommenders. You can submit your application for processing before your recommendations are submitted. More information on the AMCAS Letter Service can be found here. Many universities have a service through their career center that will compile all of your letters for you. Mine was super helpful, so be sure to check!

Section 7: Medical Schools

In Section 7, you’ll choose the schools to which you’d like to apply. In order to submit to AMCAS, you only need to apply to one medical school and can add other schools after submitting. If you’re applying to a dual-degree or early decision program, here’s where you make that known.

Section 8: Essays

All applicants will write a personal statement explaining their story and why they want to go to medical school. Students typically go through many iterations of this essay. Personal advice: be sure to start early and have editors you trust. In most cases, the more separate times you can sit with your writing and the more drafts you can write, the better your statement will be. Look back at old journals, photos, or even calendars to remind yourself of significant events that have shaped you and your desire to work as a physician. Here’s your chance to talk about what brings you to medicine and what you plan to bring to it. Your personal statement isn’t your resume in narrative form, but it is a way to describe how your experiences have impacted you. My personal statement includes a personal anecdote that connects major themes from my Atlantis program, a medical brigade I participated in, and my undergraduate research to the kind of doctor I want to be.

Section 9: Standardized Tests

Last section! Your MCAT scores, if not voided on test day, are automatically sent to AMCAS. List them here along with test dates. If you have yet to take the MCAT, you’re still able to submit the application. Be sure to indicate that admissions committees should be expecting a score from you (you’ll see an option to do so) and list the date of that exam.

You made it! After thorough proofreading, a signature, and an acceptance of conditions, you’ll pay your application fee. Your AMCAS application will then begin to be processed by AMCAS before being sent off to your schools of choice. What a weight off of your shoulders! While you’re waiting on your secondary application invitations, give yourself a pat on the back and breathe a sigh of relief.

Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.

Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook guidebook — download yours.

Our Alumni Enter Great Medical Schools

John Daines headshot.

John Daines

  • Atlantis '17
  • Brigham Young University '19
  • Washington U. in St. Louis MD '23
Zoey Petitt headshot.

Zoey Petitt

  • Atlantis '17
  • U. of Arizona '18
  • Duke MD '23
Yong hun Kim headshot.

Yong-hun Kim

  • Atlantis '17
  • Stanford '19
  • Mayo Clinic MD '24
Megan Branson headshot.

Megan Branson

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Montana '19
  • U. of Washington MD '24
Sarah Emerick headshot.

Sarah Emerick

  • Atlantis '19
  • Eckerd College '20
  • Indiana U. MD '25
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Snow Nwankwo

  • Atlantis '19
  • Catholic U. of America '21
  • Georgetown U. MD '26
Tiffany Hu headshot.

Tiffany Hu

  • Atlantis '16
  • U. of Maryland '17
  • U. of Michigan MD '22
Lauren Cox headshot.

Lauren Cox

  • Atlantis '18
  • Louisiana Tech '20
  • U. of Arkansas MD '24
Kayla Riegler headshot.

Kayla Riegler

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Kentucky '20
  • U. of Kentucky MD '24

About Atlantis

Atlantis is the leader in pre-health shadowing and clinical experience, offering short-term programs (1-10 weeks) over academic breaks for U.S. pre-health undergraduates. Medical schools want 3 things: (1)healthcare exposure, (2)GPA/MCAT, and (3)certain competencies. Atlantis gives you a great version of (1), frees you to focus on (2), and cultivates/shows (3) to medical school admissions committees.

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Watch Video: The Atlantis Shadowing Experience and How it Helps In Your Med/PA Admissions Future

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Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.
Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook — download yours.