By: Ryan Kelly
The race begins! The AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) opens tomorrow, and if you’re not one of the first few to fill it out in the hours that it opens, you will never fulfill your dreams of becoming a physician.
Every second counts, dear reader, so we’re here to help. Not only do we present this guide to answer all of your questions about the AMCAS, but we strongly recommend that you memorize it - yes, all 20,000 words - to help fill out the application as quickly as possible.
Ready, set, go!
Okay, we’re kidding. Relax. You don’t need to memorize this document, and you have the entire month of May to fill out the application. But of course this IS the moment that - excuse the phrase - shit gets real. These are the actual words that medical school admissions committees will read about you. It can seem like one mistake in filling out the application will sink your chances.
Filling out the AMCAS can be a bit cryptic, leaving pre-meds with many pressing questions. Whether it’s basic info like deadlines, or nuanced questions about specific parts of the application, we’ve got you covered!
Welcome to our AMCAS FAQ!
Introduction to the AMCAS
A Note for Reapplicants
Letters of Recommendation
How do I get my letters of recommendation from Interfolio to AMCAS?
Individual letters or letter packet?
When do letters of recommendation need to be completed and sent to medical schools?
Can I add schools after I submit my AMCAS?
Do medical schools know which other schools I’ve applied to?
When are transcripts due?
When should I send transcripts? Should I wait for my final grades?
From which schools must I send transcripts?
Do I have to send multiple transcripts if I went to the same school for undergraduate and for graduate school?
Where should transcripts be sent?
Electronic or Paper transcripts?
How do I print transcript request forms?
How to Enter Basic Coursework
How do I enter AP coursework?
How do I classify interdisciplinary courses?
How do I enter future courses?
Do I have to include withdrawals and incompletes? What about foreign coursework?
Work and Activities
How should I organize my information in the Work and Activities section?
Do I need to fill all 15 spots?
How should I combine activities if I have more than 15 spots?
Can I list future activities in the Work and Activities section?
What if I have multiple positions within the same organization - one work/activity or more than one?
Does it matter whether the contact information for my work/activities is correct?
How do I cite publications?
Submission and Timing
When should I submit if I’m still waiting on my MCAT score?
Should I not list a future MCAT?
Should I submit right away on May 31st?
When should I expect to receive secondaries?
What should I put in the “disadvantaged essay”?
What’s the deal with Early Decision?
How does the verification process work?
As with all things related to AMCAS, you should always defer to the AMCAS instruction manual.
AMCAS also has a full set of video tutorials that are useful.
But it’s clear that you’re here because you want The Savvy Pre-Med’s expert opinion, so here you go: our answers to the most common AMCAS questions.
AMCAS Application opens: May 1st
AMCAS Transcript Receipt Begins: May 1st
AMCAS Application Submission Begins: May 31st
Click here to see all Participating Medical Schools and Deadlines (subject to change).
We recommended using the MSAR (Medical School Admissions Requirements) as a helpful application resource.
If you submitted an application last year and did not withdraw, most of your information will “roll over” to the current application. Hurray! However, you must go through each section and confirm that the information is still correct.
You will also need to re-submit official transcripts and letters of recommendation.
If you withdrew and did not submit last year, you’re not considered a reapplicant and your information will not roll over.
You’re only considered a reapplicant for the schools that previously received an AMCAS from you. You will indicate your reapplicant status per school in the Medical Schools section.
Most of our students use Interfolio, so the easiest way to do that is:
Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Individual letters give you more flexibility to pick and choose which letters go to which schools. In other words, if School A requests a maximum of 3 letters, and you have chosen your 4 letters to go in one “letter packet,” then you are sending school A more letters than it allows. This is not nice, and we want to be nice to medical schools. Instead, choose “individual letters” so you can send 3 letters to School A, 4 to School B, etc.
Everything else must be in before medical schools will review your letters of recommendation. That means at earliest, they would have to be in by late June.
But, why is there a section on the primary application called Letters of Recommendation? Good question, alter ego. A brief history lesson - 12 years ago, the letter of recommendation section on AMCAS did not exist. To get letters of recommendation to medical schools, you had to have your career services office send your letters to each medical school you wanted to apply to. Needless to say, this created a huge volume of unnecessary mail, prompting AMCAS to add its letters of recommendation service.
What this means is that medical schools did not review your letters of recommendation until everything was in - MCAT scores, primary application, secondary essays, and your payment (of course). And because medical school admissions offices are slow to change, even today they will still not review your letters of recommendation until everything is in.
Yes! You can submit your AMCAS to one or more schools, and later you can log back in to add additional schools. This works really well if you’re waiting on an MCAT score to come in. You can apply to 1 school, get your application verified, and then add the additional schools immediately once you get your new score.
No. Even though you can see your full school list when you print your AMCAS application, medical schools cannot. They just see that you have applied to their school.
If you’re accepted, then medical schools can learn that much later in the application process:
February - the Multiple Acceptance Report comes out.
If you’ve been accepted to, say, both Davis and Irvine, then both of those schools get notified that you have been accepted at the other school. None of the other schools where you’ve applied get notified.
April - National Acceptance Report comes out.
Every school gets to see a list of every applicant who has been accepted somewhere. If you have not been accepted, schools do not know anything else about where you applied.
You must start your application before sending transcripts. AMCAS starts accepting transcripts the day the application cycle opens. Transcript deadlines are 14 days after the school's AMCAS application deadline date.
If the transcript deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, materials are due on the next business day. Transcripts should be accompanied by the Transcript Request Form, which is located in the AMCAS.
If you’re on the semester system, then you should wait to submit your transcripts until your final grades come out. You should have plenty of time to send transcripts to AMCAS by early June.
If you’re on the quarter system, though, your final grades won’t come out until mid-June. By that time, AMCAS will be overwhelmed with applications, so your best bet is to submit your transcripts in May without the final grades. Yes, those last few A’s will bump your GPA by .02, but that won’t make much difference, and applying early is usually more important. (We wrote an entire blog post dedicated to this question).
Be sure to include Transcript Request Forms from AMCAS. Your transcript is less likely to get lost if you accompany the transcript order with one of those forms printed from AMCAS (on section two of the application).
You must send official transcripts for every college you've attended, including community college classes taken while in high school. The only exception (typically) is study abroad programs that your college gives credit for. You usually do not need to send in transcripts for those.
It depends. If there is only one transcript, and it contains both your undergraduate and graduate work, then yes, you only need to send one transcript.
On AMCAS, for the second listing of the college (usually for the graduate school portion), you would submit a Transcript Exception Request. You would then mark the reason:
You can contact the registrar's office for each university to have them mail (or, if possible, send electronically) a transcript to AMCAS. Note: you cannot send the transcripts yourself; they must come straight from the registrar's office. Here's the address (which is also printed on the Transcript Request Form):
Attn: Transcripts AAMC Medical School Application Services
P.O. Box 57326
Washington, DC, 20037
It doesn’t matter. If your school offers electronic submission (note: must be an approved sender by AMCAS), then I would do electronic because it’s less likely to get lost. Otherwise, paper should be fine.
Step 1 - Click the button on the right-hand side of your dashboard that says “Print Transcript Request Forms.” You won’t be able to click it until you’ve filled out “Identifying Information” and “Schools Attended.”
Step 2 - Click "Create Transcript Request Form"
Step 3 - Double Check that the information for the university is correct.
Your final, printable form will look something like the one below.
In an ideal world, you will be able to send this paper along with your transcript to AMCAS. If not, it's still okay. AMCAS will still be able to identify the transcript with your account; it will just take longer.
So, depending on how each transcript office does it, you may:
Contact each transcript office to see if there's a standard way they like to do it.
This one is tricky. You might want to watch this video.
Academic year and term: Put the academic year and term for which you first got credit for the AP course. For most applicants, that’s during your first term of freshman year.
Course number: The same as whatever is on your transcript. For example, “AP CH3.”
Course name: The same as what’s on the official transcript. So, “AP Credit: Chemistry.”
Credit hours: However many units you were given credit for by your undergraduate institution. Usually 4 or 8.
Transcript Grade: Whatever is on your transcript. Most transcripts either have no grade (so you would leave it blank) or list a “P” (so you would put in the same on AMCAS).
Don’t forget to check the box under the Special Course Types - Advanced Placement.
The AMCAS instruction manual lists common course titles and their classification. You should stick to this guide unless the content of the course differed from the department of the course.
If you believe that 51% or more of the course content was a different discipline, then you can classify the course differently. A great example would be a Psychology class that was primarily about statistics. In this case, you would classify this course as Mathematics (MATH).
It’s normal to have 3-4 courses that you reclassify. The worst that can happen is that AMCAS will just change your classification when going through their course work, so while it’s important to classify your courses correctly, don’t worry if you make a mistake.
The same as regular courses. Just leave the Transcript Grade blank, and click the box under “Special Course Type: Current/Future.”
Yep, sorry, you don’t have much choice. You must include information and grades for every course you’ve ever enrolled in at any U.S., U.S. Territorial, or Canadian post-secondary institution, regardless of whether credit was earned. Foreign coursework through study abroad will be in your undergraduate transcript, so that needs to be reported along with everything else.
Some would opt for a chronological order, others would opt for ordering them by relevance, with their three most meaningfuls coming first.
But apparently it doesn’t seem to matter what order you put them in. The AMCAS application automatically organizes the activities in chronological order. Admissions committees can change how the activities appear for their report, but you can't alter the order.
No. The average is around 12 spots. We’ve seen students get into medical school with as few as 4 spots filled out, and we’ve seen them get in with all 15 filled out.
Combine your activities in ways that make it easy for the readers to understand. Common ones would be:
Yes, but don’t spend too much time describing them. State what you plan to do in about one sentence, and just leave it at that. You will have a chance to update medical schools throughout the year (through secondary essays, update letters, and interviews) with your new activities.
It depends on what you’re going for. If it’s not a terribly important organization to you and your personal development, then just leave it under the same work/activity and put each new position as a different bullet point. If the positions were really different (say, you’re doing both shadowing and volunteering in the same organization), then you might consider separating them to make it clear to the reader that they are very different activities with different responsibilities. There’s no obvious right or wrong answer here.
No. We’ve worked with 400+ students, and never once have we had a medical school ask one of our students about the contact information that they listed. Think about it this way - you’re an application reader with 40 applications to read that day and not enough minutes in the day to even finish reading all of the text in the work/activities section. Are you really going to take the time to call or email someone tangentially related to the applicant? Just do your best to put something down in that spot, and don’t worry about it.
For the contact, use your PI. For organization, you can use the organization that publishes the journal. Use the publication date, or the date it was accepted for publication if not yet published. In the description, include enough of a citation for admissions officers to find the paper if they’re curious. Include enough of the author's list so that your place in the authorship can be determined.
It’s ideal if the publication has been published, accepted for publication, or accepted pending minor revisions. If a publication is only submitted or needs major revisions, then it might be smart to wait and include it in your secondaries or update letters.
You've probably heard that applying early to medical school helps your chances of getting in. If humanly possible, you should aim to get your application in even before you take your MCAT.
But that situation poses an interesting question: how do you figure out where to apply if you don't have your final MCAT score yet?
There's a great trick that lets you submit your application early if you're taking your MCAT later: apply to only one medical school. It doesn't matter which one; just pick a school, finalize your essays, and submit. Then, when you get your MCAT scores back you can make an intelligent decision about where else to apply, to make sure that your scores match your schools.
Why is this trick useful? Applying to one medical school allows your application to go through verification, the 4-6 week time period where your application and transcripts are processed. That will save you from having to wait those 4-6 weeks AFTER you get your MCAT score. It may not seem like a big deal, but getting your application to your medical schools a month earlier can be the difference between getting in and not.
You should always tell medical schools if you’re planning to re-take your MCAT. The counter-argument is that doing so will delay your application, since medical schools will wait until your score is in to review your file. But, this is not a good plan for several reasons:
As a result, you should always list future MCAT dates if you plan to take the test again.
Just to be clear - it does not matter whether you submit on day 1. In past years, as long as you submitted within the first week of the application, you have been verified and shipped off to medical schools with the first batch of applicants. So, day 1, day 3, day 7… it doesn’t matter.
Having said that, if you want to submit on the first day, the earliest you can do so is at 9:30am EST (6:30am West Coast time).
When you receive secondaries will vary by school. Over the past few years, we’ve gathered the first release date for as many allopathic schools as we can find, and we sorted the results by week (so, in the chart below, “June 28” means the entire span from June 28 through July 4). So, how many schools released their secondaries in that first week? 45, or approximately 35% of the schools we found.
Think of the disadvantaged essay as an argument - you're just stating facts and letting the readers draw their own conclusions. You want them to know certain things about your upbringing - for example, that your parents didn't go to college, how this affected you (particularly your grades while in college), what this meant about how much you had to work growing up, etc. There is no "why medicine." There is no "and this is what it all means." It's just "these are the facts about my upbringing that may shed some light on why it was slightly harder for me growing up than for the average, privileged pre-med."
The Early Decision Program (EDP) allows you to secure acceptance from one school, while still affording you time to apply to others if you are not accepted.
For the 2018 AMCAS Application Cycle, the Early Decision Program is:
Click here to read more about the Early Decision Program.
Once you submit, you will receive a receipt via email. This does not indicate that your materials (i.e. transcripts) are complete or that deadline requirements have been satisfied.
The verification process starts when your application has been submitted and your official transcripts have arrived at AMCAS. Then your application joins the “verification queue.” Processing can take up to six weeks from the time that all required materials are received.
During verification, AMCAS verifies your coursework against your official transcripts, ensuring that the information entered matches your official transcripts.
AMCAS may return your application to you—which could result in missed deadlines—if major errors or omissions are found. AMCAS will send an email notification if any missing or incomplete transcripts are discovered.
Good luck with the arduous process of filling out your AMCAS! We hope this FAQ will guide you along and help you finish the application in plenty of time.
Still have a pressing question that we didn’t answer? Comment below and we’ll get back to you with our Savvy tips!