Imagine a private gathering of medical school admissions officers, perhaps in an ivory tower somewhere. This conclave of academic gatekeepers, mostly from prestigious schools, is meeting behind-the-scenes to discuss candidates and divvy them up amongst their programs.
Sound corrupt? Sure does.
Thankfully, AAMC’s new traffic rules for 2019 aren’t plagued by such collusion, but they have their roots in unscrupulous activity by colleges in the past.
Back in the early 1990s, the Ivy League schools, MIT, and other famous colleges had a price-fixing ring that met every year called the Overlap Group to make sure they didn’t compete very hard over individual students. The Bush Administration accused them of violating antitrust, the Ivies promised to stop, MIT took them to court and lost, and then the Clintons dropped the case. It’s a long story and we don’t want to get too bogged down.
What’s important is this story’s relevance to the recent changes in medical school traffic rules.
DISCLAIMER: This information is very new and subject to change. We will update the article as new information becomes available.
Help us update and add it our information by posting your own questions in the comments below. We promise to post a personal response to your questions!
The AAMC used to publish the Multiple Acceptance Report (MAR). In February of the admissions cycle, it would release of list of everyone who’d been accepted, and later in April, release of list of candidates with multiple acceptances.
Now, the MAR has been abandoned. Why?
A federal judge recently rejected a lawsuit that challenged the admissions policies of Yale University's medical school. The plaintiff in the case, who was rejected by Yale, claimed that the MAR system enabled the school to discriminate against him. But the judge found that antitrust law did not apply to the system.
The plaintiff argued that Yale rejected him, despite granting him an interview and his outstanding academic record, because he is a white Republican. The court did not find sufficient evidence for this claim, but the suit raised questions about an alleged "conspiracy" between Yale and the AAMC, centering around the MAR.
We don’t exactly pity the plaintiff, but we’ve written about a similar type of claim in the past that “Asians don’t get into medical school anymore” based on discriminatory admissions practices, so the AAMC certainly seems to be good at generating this kind of heat.
Once the MAR was dismantled and replaced with the new Choose Your Medical School Tool, the AAMC did not publicly explain why. Instead, it released a statement to justify its prior use of the now defunct MAR:
"If a matriculated student leaves after a semester has begun to attend another medical school, the school cannot simply fill the seat with another applicant, as vital training time has been lost. To prevent unfilled seats, medical schools closely manage yield projections, including in some cases by increasing the number of acceptances offered. The now-retired report referenced in the court’s decision was a yield management tool, provided by the AAMC, which showed accepted applicants holding concurrent acceptances at multiple schools."
So, the AAMC is maintaining a certain degree of transparency. We’ll call it translucent. It’s hard to imagine that this lawsuit and the new traffic rules are unrelated, but the AAMC seems attached to its “no comment” approach.
Essentially, the AAMC is “suggesting” guidelines that each school should formally adopt. Hence, it will be each individual school requiring the use of the tool (not the AAMC), and each student will have to agree to it (not required by the AAMC). The AAMC is strongly recommending that schools require applicants to use the new tool, so by next February, schools will have the same info as the previous acceptance report provided.
As one AdCom on Student Doctor Network (SDN) noted: “The AAMC is creating the legal equivalent of a sterile field for colorectal surgery so they can’t get infected by any legal action.”
Now that the traffic rules have changed, you probably have a lot of questions. We’ll try to cover the most important ones (and some obscure ones too), so that you can be prepared:
It’s an online resource to help you communicate your decisions about which schools you plan to attend. It also supports the schools’ enrollment management.
You should review each school’s instructions, policies, deadlines, and expectations about the use of this tool. The MSAR is a great source for school-specific policies.
This tool is intended to supplement communication between you and schools, not replace it.
There’s a “Plan to Enroll” and “Commit to Enroll” phase which we’ll cover in more depth later. But here’s a quick breakdown:
February 19 - April 30
If you are holding one or more acceptance offers, you can select “Plan to Enroll” on the AMCAS. You are not required to select a school at this time, and your selection is not binding.
This will allow medical schools to view, in aggregate, the number of applicants that have made that selection for their school prior to April 30.
April 15 - April 30
Applicant protocols will ask you to narrow your acceptance offers down to three. There’s no limit on alternate-list offers.
April 30 - Date of Matriculation
For schools where you’ve been accepted, you will have two options: “Plan to Enroll” and “Commit to Enroll.” Selecting “Commit to Enroll” indicates that you have made a final selection and withdrawn all other applications.
Note: medical schools may set their own policies and deadlines that request you to indicate a "Commit to Enroll" anytime after April 30. You need to honor school-specific deadlines.
Not much, really. When you indicate “Plan to Enroll,” you help the medical schools; it has no benefit to you. It’s completely optional to be counted as “Plan to Enroll.”
Before April 30, a school will only be able to see the aggregate number of applicants who have selected that school or another school in the AMCAS tool.
You can still hold other acceptances, remain on alternate lists, and continue interviewing at other schools.
However, if you receive more than one acceptance and know you will not be attending a school, it’s recommended that you withdraw from that school in fairness to other applicants.
If you receive new offers, you can update your “Plan to Enroll” selection at any time, but you can select only one school at a time. If you select “Plan to Enroll” at another school, AMCAS will not identify that school.
Medical schools can only see aggregate information until April 30th and will not know whether you’ve selected "Plan to Enroll" at their school or other schools.
Beginning April 30th, medical schools can see which of their accepted applicants have selected "Plan to Enroll" or “Commit to Enroll” at their institution. This information will be visible only to schools where the applicant has a current acceptance or alternate list position.
According to the AAMC, selecting “Plan to Enroll” after April 30 will communicate to the school that you have withdrawn from other acceptances and hold only one acceptance. But in reality, this is non-binding until you actually select “Commit to Enroll.”
Eventually, in October, the list of matriculants will be released to all medical schools. But at that point it’ll just be a formality.
By selecting "Commit to Enroll," you are indicating that you have made your final selection and withdrawn all other applications, including waitlist positions.
All other schools where you have an acceptance or alternate list offer will be notified, but they will not know the name of the school you have selected.
Selecting "Commit to Enroll" is not an appropriate method of withdrawing applications from other medical schools. You should communicate your withdrawal and acceptance decisions with medical schools directly.
In the past, most schools have put little stock in LOIs and updates, but that MIGHT change now. If you’ve been waitlisted, a well-written LOI/update in the spring could convey that you are still on the market and still interested, two features a school might find appealing as it attempts to blindly navigate its waitlist.
If you want to share in an update letter that you listed a particular school as Plan to Enroll, the admissions office might look kindly on that. But do not promise or imply that you are really more in the “Commit to Enroll” category unless it’s true and you have taken that step in the AMCAS. Some admissions officers have stated they would see a premature or false LOI as deliberately unprofessional behavior.
If a school detects that your selections are not in accord with the AAMC’s meaning of “Commit to Enroll” and “Plan to Enroll,” you could have your offer of admission rescinded..
If schools require use of “Commit to Enroll” via AMCAS, you should make sure there is an LOI that matches it.
Students could always lie about this, technically, which is one of the reasons that LOIs tend to carry little weight in the admissions process. In the vast majority of circumstances, the only thing a LOI reliably tells a school is that the applicant took the time to write one.
A couple AdComs on SDN confirmed that schools will be much more reliant on the waitlist and will be sending out fewer initial acceptances. But others have suggested the opposite (more acceptances in general).
It's really up in the air, and individual schools might handle it differently. Since the rules are new and discontinue multiple acceptance and national acceptance reports (as in no school will know if you have been accepted anywhere), it is impossible to know for sure how schools will react.
It’s important to note that admissions officers are just as concerned as applicants about these new rules. They fear they might under-admit their next class to avoid the worse problem of over-admitting, which could violate federal regulations.
The relatively small and refundable deposits that are collected by some schools at acceptance likely won’t be affected. What might be affected are the larger, non-refundable (except as tuition) deposits that are being planned to offset the lack of traffic rules. You might see these be required some time during or after April.
Some medical schools might ask for large deposits before April 30th that, if you read carefully, are not required. Usually this is done in conjunction with processing financial aid faster. Since it is a "voluntary" deposit, it is not covered by the refundable deposit guideline of AAMC. Be wary!
Many schools are updating policies on acceptance offers with a provision that you cannot be matriculated at the time of an offer. Your acceptance is contingent on not being matriculated elsewhere, so despite the rumors, there is likely to be little to no poaching this cycle.
Financial aid is not tied to these protocols. Since financial aid packages are awarded on each school’s timeline, the best you can do is directly inquire about a school’s internal deadlines. Find out what info they need so you can maximize your chances of receiving a timely offer.
According to the AAMC acceptance protocols, schools can give you a minimum of five days to respond to an acceptance offer after April 30 and two days minimum when the matriculation date for that school is within 30 days.
The same protocols suggest that you must withdraw other offers “promptly” if you receive a preferred acceptance after April 30, but no actual deadline is given. It seems like communication between accepted applicants and schools will be critical in this period, especially if you’re trying to play the field and get the best financial deal for yourself.
Overall though, financial aid doesn’t play into traffic rules. If you don’t have your financial aid by the time you have to drop acceptances, it’s tough luck.
Have any questions about the traffic rules that we didn’t answer? Comment below and we’ll personally respond to your question and add it to our list!