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Applying to Med/PA School

Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid on Your AMCAS Application

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About Aldridge

Aldridge is a recent graduate of Indiana University and finished with a B.S. degree in Human Biology, as well as a Religious Studies minor. Aldridge is currently applying to med schools in his gap year and is planning to start his journey to become a physician in fall of 2022

Are you ready to submit your primary application to med school? By this point you at least somewhat know the ins and outs of what AMCAS is, and you’re looking for tips on what to do and more importantly, dealbreakers to AVOID. Many online resources are either written like a college essay, or just give general information that’s not very helpful. As a recently graduated pre-med from Indiana University, I’ve read through many of the same sources you have and through talking to many of my friends who are admitted or currently enrolled in med school, here is my list of top 10 MISTAKES to avoid on your AMCAS application:

#1 Submitting too Late

In general the timeline of your application should follow a similar pattern. Many medical schools have rolling admissions, which is similar to a first come, first serve system. This means that to maximize your chances you want to submit your AMCAS primary application by early June, and realistically as soon as possible after it opens in late May! You shouldn’t rush and it’s okay if you have to delay a bit to improve the quality of your app, but AMCAS will take several weeks to verify after you submit it, so the earlier the better!

#2 Personal Statement Not Genuine

One of the larger mistakes I have seen other students make is that their personal statement sounds like any other pre-med student could have written it. It’s best to look internally about why you want to become a physician and pick 1-2 big topics you can write about that will show who you are as a person, that may not show up on another part of your AMCAS application. In my personal essay, I wrote about my family background as they immigrated to America and tied that in with my shadowing experiences overseas in my Atlantis program, as these things strongly impacted my desire to go into medicine.

#3 Work/Activities Sounds Like a Resume

I have seen A TON of conflicting information about how you should write your work/activities section and I am here to tell you that writing it like a resumé is NOT advised. Making it sound more like a story with a narrative will be much more compelling and impress those ADCOMS at your dream school. Of course, include basic information about your experience, but if they wanted a resumé, they would have just asked you to upload that.

#4 Work/Activities Don’t Add Anything to the Applicant

Another work/activities mistake I see people do is adding relatively random experiences that add nothing to their standing as an applicant. No offense, but unless you had a major life changing experience, most adcoms will NOT want to hear about how you won a student-athlete distinction in your sophomore year of high school and this information should be RECENT. For example, something like a summer shadowing abroad experience offered by Atlantis would be fantastic. Admissions counselors read hundreds of applications and will likely think you are just adding things for filler.

#5 Entering in Courses

Do your best to NOT make a mistake when filling out your classes. This may seem like an extremely monotonous task, and it totally is, but it needs to be done correctly. AMCAS has fairly clear directions on how to enter in things like AP courses, and I’ve seen several friends get their applications delayed because they accidentally reported a grade as a B+ instead of a B.

#6 Early Decision to Out of State Schools

AMCAS really offers no guidance on if you should do “early decision,” or even what schools you should apply to for that matter. It is TOTALLY in your best interest to buy a subscription to MSAR, as it will give you statistics on a med school’s average GPA, number of out of state applicants accepted and much more. Given that, applying “early decision” to an out of state school is generally not advised because your chances of getting in are usually lower than your in state school. A risk not worth taking!

#7 Needing All Letters ASAP

Students often think that you need to wait until you have all of your letters received before you submit AMCAS but that is not true. You will be in pretty direct contact with your med school through email, and many schools take the late summer period to collect all of your materials before making a decision about your future anyway. That said, get them in ASAP if you can!

#8 Not Securing Letters Early Enough

A way to avoid the problems of #7 is getting your letters set in stone as early as possible. They are not exactly needed until later, but it will drastically reduce your stress if you are able to get to the “med schools” portion of the application and simply select all the letters you want to send, as opposed to waiting!

#9 Request Your Transcript Early

This is perhaps the MOST IMPORTANT mistake on this list- not requesting your transcript early enough. It can lead to your entire app getting delayed, and unlike letters of evaluation, AMCAS needs to receive your transcripts before you can submit. Get in contact with the registrar of your school as early as possible and start this process!

#10 Write About Things You Can Interview About

As a last rule of thumb, you should be writing about things you can talk about and explain in your eventual interview with med schools. Really similarly to mistakes #2 and #4, students often run into problems in their interviews when they mention something on their AMCAS that was really not an impactful experience for them. Just another reason to avoid fluff and write about meaningful things!

A lot of sources that aim to help students avoid mistakes on their AMCAS application are really what I call “half useful” and will give advice that applicants either already know, or is just plain wrong. I really hope this advice serves its purpose and that you get into the school of your dreams. Good luck!

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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.