Applying to Med/PA School, Medical Careers, Atlantis
What is the AAMC and What Does It Mean For Me
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.
As an early pre-med student, I was finding it difficult to navigate the world of preparing for medical school. I felt like there were so many terms, organizations, and acronyms floating around that I just couldn’t keep straight. One I kept hearing was AAMC, but I wasn’t quite clear on what its purpose was and why, as a pre-med student, it should be important to me. I’ve put together this post to help other pre-meds who are in that very position. I’ll explain to you what the AAMC is and my experience with how to use their resources to secure your spot in medical school.
What is the AAMC ?
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is, in their own words, a “not-for-profit association dedicated to transforming health through medical education, health care, medical research, and community collaborations.” The part that is arguably most relevant to you and me as pre-med students is their involvement in medical education. The AAMC is easy to understand as an umbrella organization which contains entities including AMCAS, the MCAT, and MSAR—more details on these to come.
Services and programs
The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) collects, verifies, and delivers application information and MCAT exam scores to each school you choose. Think back to being in high school applying to undergraduate programs—AMCAS is the medical school analog of the Common App and Coalition 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, respectively, instead of AMCAS.
After filling out the AMCAS application myself, my advice to other pre-med students is to start on it as soon as you can. Some pieces of the application are downright time-consuming. As medical schools typically admit students on a rolling basis, the earlier the better when it comes to applying. Something you can do right now to cut down on application stress is keep a journal. As a premed student, you’re likely involved in activities related to service, clinical shadowing, leadership experiences, and research. If you’re anything like me, part of the reason you’re doing these things is to discern if a career in healthcare is right for you. Oftentimes, this discernment I sought didn’t come while doing the things themselves but in the self-reflection I did afterwards. Not only has journaling been helpful to me in giving me an outlet to articulate my thoughts, it has helped me keep record of the things I’ve done throughout my time as a pre-med and why they’ve been meaningful to me. I cannot overstate how helpful it was to have a record like this. Rather than just stating in my application that I shadowed abroad with Atlantis, I can look back on specific shadowing experiences and see in my own words how they made me feel empowered to continue in pursuit of a healthcare career. Instead of telling admissions committees that I was a research assistant in a public health lab, I can articulate how the work I did in that lab taught me so much about reproductive healthcare and sparked a desire in me to work specifically with underserved women.
As a pre-med student, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This exam is developed and administered by the AAMC. Its official description is, “a standardized, multiple-choice examination created to help medical school admissions offices assess your problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.” MCAT examinees are tested on these skills throughout four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.
I recognize that every student studies differently and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to MCAT studying. What I suggest to you is: no matter what your strategy, come up with a plan early on and stick with it. This is not an exam where even the best students can wing it and come out on the other side unscathed. While I appreciate that just about everyone would agree, the temptation to not prepare is much stronger when there is no study schedule in place. Study schedules of all shapes and sizes can be found online–use them! It’ll be way better to feel over-prepared (if that’s possible) for your MCAT than under-prepared.
The Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) is an online database that enables you to browse, search, sort, and compare information about U.S. and Canadian medical schools and combined degrees (ex: MD/MPH). You can see a general overview of the school, contact information, combined degree and special programs, detailed admissions information, acceptance data, curriculum information, research opportunities, and data on tuition, aid, and debt. All of this information is available to subscribers. A one-year online subscription to MSAR costs $28; a two-year online subscription is $36. AAMC Fee Assistance Program members can access MSAR until the end of their qualified year.
If at all possible for you, I absolutely recommend investing in an MSAR subscription. Frankly, I can’t imagine choosing which schools I wanted to apply to without MSAR. You’re essentially paying a convenience fee to have all of the information in one, easy-to-compare place. However, some medical schools’ websites are harder to navigate than others. In my opinion, the time and headache you’ll save by having all of that information readily available is more than worth it. One of my favorite parts of MSAR is the “Premedical Experience” section where you can see percentages of accepted applicants who had experiences in community volunteering, military service, clinical shadowing, clinical volunteering, clinical employment, and research lab experience. By looking at these graphs, I was able to have a better idea of how my experiences compared to those of previously accepted applicants. You can also get an understanding of what each medical school particularly values. Here, I was able to discern which schools would look most favorably on my Atlantis program international shadowing, my research lab experience, and my volunteering with local elementary schools.
The AAMC does have more to offer, so don’t hesitate to check out their site for more information on prepping for medical school. These three services comprised my most interaction with the AAMC as a premed. I hope my experiences can be helpful learning tools for you. Best of luck in your pre-med journey!
Our Alumni Enter Great Medical Schools
- Atlantis '17
- Brigham Young University '19
- Washington U. in St. Louis MD '23
- Atlantis '17
- U. of Arizona '18
- Duke MD '23
- Atlantis '17
- Stanford '19
- Mayo Clinic MD '24
- Atlantis '18
- U. of Montana '19
- U. of Washington MD '24
- Atlantis '19
- Eckerd College '20
- Indiana U. MD '25
- Atlantis '16
- Amherst '19
- Columbia MD '24
- Atlantis '16
- U. of Maryland '17
- U. of Michigan MD '22
- Atlantis '18
- Louisiana Tech '20
- U. of Arkansas MD '24
- Atlantis '18
- U. of Kentucky '20
- U. of Kentucky MD '24
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.
Watch Video: The Atlantis Shadowing Experience and How it Helps In Your Med/PA Admissions Future
Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook — download yours.
Get our 76-page medical school admissions guidebook, by Atlantis alumni at Harvard Medical School and Stanford School of Medicine.