Updates: Medical School Admissions 2020-2021
It’s a scary time. But despite any social distancing, we’re all in this together.
Note: we started this post as a Coronavirus-themed post, but since the updates to the admissions cycle are no longer just due to COVID-19, we will turn this into our “live-blog” style update post and try to update this at least weekly.
The AAMC VITA Opens This Week on August 6th
The VITA will be open August 6th, 2020 through April 30, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
While you will be able to complete the VITA anytime during this window, the AAMC recommends you complete the interview within two weeks of receiving the invitation from HireVue. Additionally, a school may indicate a deadline, so refer to school-specific information regarding deadlines and consequences for missing those deadlines.
HireVue will send AAMC VITA invitation emails to candidates every Thursday from August 2020 through April 2021. HireVue will send reminder emails until you complete theVITA.
You can see all the 48 participating schools in our database.
The AAMC has released the list of the 44 medical schools that are using the Video Interview Tool for Admissions (VITA). You can find the full list below. The AAMC claims that any changes to the list will be updated on this webpage before August 6th.
- Baylor College of Medicine
- California Northstate University College of Medicine
- Carle Illinois College of Medicine
- Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
- Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science
- Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine Hofstra/Northwell
- East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine
- Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University
- Morehouse School of Medicine
- New York University Long Island School of Medicine
- Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
- Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine
- Rutgers, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
- Saint Louis University School of Medicine
- San Juan Bautista School of Medicine
- Stanford University School of Medicine
- State University of New York Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine
- State University of New York Upstate Medical University
- UCLA/Drew Medical Education Program
- University of Alabama School of Medicine
- University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix
- University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine
- University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine
- Joint Medical Program UC Berkeley - UCSF
- University of Central Florida College of Medicine
- University of Florida College of Medicine
- University of Hawaii, John A. Burns School of Medicine
- University of Illinois College of Medicine
- University of Louisville School of Medicine
- University of Maryland School of Medicine
- University of Massachusetts Medical School
- University of Michigan Medical School
- University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine
- University of New Mexico School of Medicine
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine
- University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
- University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville
- University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio (MD-PhD program only)
- University of Texas Southwestern Medical School (MD-PhD program only)
- University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
- Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine
- Wayne State University School of Medicine
- Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine
- Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine
Secondary Essay Database being updated daily. Applying this cycle and tired of searching SDN for the latest essay prompts? We’ve compiled them all here:
SECONDARY ESSAY DATABASE (link goes to a Notion database)
**AAMC Announces its Video Interview Tool for Admissions (AAMC VITA)**
BIG news! The AAMC is launching the AAMC VITA, a standardized video interviewing tool that will be used to evaluate candidates, starting with this current 2020-2021 cycle.
How does it work?
- You get an interview invite from a specific school.
- HireVue sends you a link.
- You are given a deadline to complete the interview by.
- After you complete it, the videos immediately become available to schools.
What's the interview format?
- Six questions, with one question dedicated to each of the following competencies: Resilience and Adaptability, Reliability and Dependability, Social Skills, Cultural Competence, Teamwork, and "Applicant's Journey to Medical School."
- Up to 60 seconds to read each question, with 3 minutes to record a video response to each question.
- You may complete all six questions in one sitting, or you may complete any number of questions you choose, as long as all questions are completed by the required medical school deadline. The break between questions may be as long as you choose.
What are the dates/timeline?
- Participating medical schools will select applicants they want to invite to complete the AAMC VITA interview on a rolling basis starting in July 2020.
- HireVue will send AAMC VITA invitation emails to candidates every Thursday from August 2020 through April 30, 2021.
- HireVue will send reminder emails between August 2020 and April 2021 until you complete the AAMC VITA interview.
Which schools are requiring it?
We won't know the full list until mid-July. Schools that plan to use it can tell AAMC at any time, and the results will show up in the MSAR under the "Other Assessments" section.
Can the VITA be taken multiple times?
The AAMC VITA may only be completed once. If you complete an interview for a school and are later selected by a different school, you will not complete the interview again. Your video responses will be shared with any school that selects you to complete the AAMC VITA.
Our blog post next week will cover everything you need to know about the AAMC VITA, and we'll be releasing multiple practice interviews before August. Stay tuned!
JUNE 19-20 MCAT DATES ARE ON; EXAMINEES ARE REQUIRED TO WEAR MASKS
In an email to advisors, AAMC noted that MCAT testing is on across the US and Canada for the June 19 and June 20 dates. This is obviously good news, as it will allow thousands of examinees to take the test with plenty of time to submit their scores to schools prior to the July 10 release of secondary essays.
Buried in that email was this nugget:
“All examinees and test center staff are required to wear masks.”
I don’t know whether that’s the current airlines’ “we’re going to say we’re requiring masks but we will NOT under ANY circumstances ask a passenger to comply with this rule” rule or if it’s a “you will be removed from the test center unless you wear a mask.”
Either way, it’s a massive change to the way the MCAT has been delivered in the past and puts a significant burden on examinees. Once you’ve made the choice not to allow an online test, this makes sense to limit the spread of COVID-19. But it’s one more piece of evidence that the decision to make the MCAT in-person-only is not fair to all examinees. Also not fair: that people who have been exposed to COVID-19 within the last 14 days cannot take the test. Understandable, but yeesh, man. Just make an online version of the test.
What should you do?
- Practice your MCAT wearing the mask you plan to wear on test day. Yes, it’s annoying, but it’s the only way to get used to wearing a mask for 5 hours and 45 minutes.
- Review Pearson Vue’s precise test-day policies.
- Buy yourself a comfortable mask. Note that any mask that covers the nose and mouth is acceptable. So go find yourself one you like, since you’ll have to wear it for a long time.
AMCAS VERIFICATION MAY TAKE “UP TO EIGHT WEEKS”
In news surprising no one, the AAMC has announced that verification will take extra time this cycle. The AAMC says it may take “up to eight weeks” to be verified and blamed this lag time on the, “rapidly changing environment” (whatever that means). They did say that their building was damaged in the recent protests, but since everyone was working remotely, the damage to the building was not the source of the announced delay.
No, this delay was obvious to your author by early April that verification would be a problem. Verification is the process by which AMCAS takes official transcripts and verifies them by matching them with each applicant’s reported grades. Verification has taken 3-4 weeks in past cycles, and the height of verification delays are traditionally in late June and July.
Because of a poor response to the coronavirus by AAMC - their customer service is overwhelmed by pre-meds, and it sounds like their verification team will be soon - the need to apply early is greater than ever. Adding insult to injury is the fact that many of the pre-meds who will face the longest verification times are those who are waiting - still - on an MCAT date as a result of the baffling decision by the AAMC not to allow a virtual test.
What does this mean to you? Apply as soon as your application is ready. There are now five weeks until applications get released to the first batch of med schools, and especially if you’re waiting to take your MCAT in July, then submit an application now so that you are verified once your score comes in.
MAJOR TRANSCRIPT PROBLEMS FOR MANY AMCAS APPLICANTS
Reports of major transcript problems for students submitting their AMCAS applications. The problems seem to be related to:
1) AAMC is having a rough time processing paper transcripts. I have no idea why it’s taking them so long, as they’re normally good about this, but this year paper transcripts are taking weeks to process.
2) Community college transcript offices, at least out here in California, remain closed. And because there’s no online system for ordering transcripts, students are stuck without being able to send transcripts until the college re-opens.
3) AAMC is NOT accepting unofficial transcripts, one of the 13 changes we proposed back in MARCH (I’m ranting a bit, but damn, AAMC, why do you not listen?).
4) AAMC customer service is awful right now. They are overwhelmed with trying to help people re-schedule their MCAT. I’ve heard of students on hold for 5 hours (!?!) and another who had to call 300 times (!?!) to get through.
So, regardless of WHY we have these delays, what should you do if you are experiencing a transcript delay?
- Check the AMCAS Sign-in page. It may seem like an eternity to you since you sent the transcript, but it’s taking AMCAS about two weeks to “receive” (read: open and assign to your application) transcripts right now, so they may have not gotten to yours yet.
- Check with the registrar or transcript office to make sure they sent it. Unlike AMCAS, they will probably answer the phone. :-)
- Re-send your transcript. Yes, the might cost money and AAMC will be confused if they get two copies, but it’s an insurance policy against a lost transcript. If your transcript is lost and that’s why the AAMC hasn’t found it, you can’t just call AAMC and ask. And they’re not responding to emails very quickly either. So your best bet is just to re-send - NOW, before you know for sure that it’s lost - so that you can guarantee that one of the transcripts arrived.
And if all else fails, try not to sweat it TOO much. The missing transcript doesn’t delay your application one bit until July 10 at the very earliest, so there’s still plenty of leeway.
AAMC Potentially Canceling MCAT Tests in Some Regions
The AAMC - after refusing to offer the MCAT virtually on grounds of fairness - is now potentially having to cancel tests in SOME regions but not OTHERS, putting some applicants at a disadvantage. On the one hand, this is the only choice they now have available, but gee, who could have seen this coming? ;-)
Make sure to monitor your email! You might receive a message like this from the AAMC:
"You are receiving this email because you are registered to take the MCAT exam on June 5 in a state where government guidance restricting non-essential business operations is still in effect or other restrictions prevent activities such as MCAT administrations. This means MCAT exam administrations at your test center are at risk of being canceled unless these restrictions are lifted. We will continue monitoring local conditions over the course of the next few days.
If the health and safety guidance does not change by May 27, your June 5 exam will be canceled, and you will receive an email with your scheduling options. After you receive this email, you may go into the MCAT Registration System to reschedule your exam. If you want to reschedule your exam before May 27, you have the option to reschedule your exam now. All rescheduling fees have been waived until further notice.
Going forward, we will email examinees approximately 3-4 weeks in advance of their exam date if it is at risk of being canceled so they can adjust their plans and proactively reschedule if needed. If you do not receive a cancelation email, testing will proceed as planned."
New AAMC Data: 111 Medical Schools Report Changes to Their Admissions Processes
Better late than never! Schools seem rather unanimous about accepting online and pass/fail coursework, but fairly split on everything else.
May 29th MCAT Canceled for Some Regions (as reported by MCAT on Twitter)
If you are affected, you should receive an email from AAMC about next steps.
MCAT registration has reopened on May 7 (despite an initial system crash in the morning). It's back online, and you can register now if you still need a test date.
The AACOMAS and TMDSAS Applications are Available and Open for Submission
The TMDSAS opened on 5/1, and the AACOMAS opened on 5/5. If you're applying DO or to Texas medical schools, don't hesitate to get started on the applications. Both applications will be released to medical schools in mid-June, so do your best to submit early and get out in front of the pack.
The AMCAS is Available and Will Open for Submission on 5/28
Even though you can't officially submit until 5/28, filling out the AMCAS can be time-consuming, so make your account ASAP and start chipping away. The applications won't be released to medical schools until July 10, but it's still better to submit early if possible.
AAMC DECIDES CRAMMING APPLICANTS INTO SMALL ROOM GOOD IDEA DURING CORONAVIRUS
Rather than follow the admirable lead of the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, and SAT and ACT, the MCAT has decided not to make its exam available online. No, that wouldn't be fair, you see, to all of the students who had to take the exam in person.
Instead, they've announced that they will cram in more applicants - three times per day - into the same testing centers they've always used. They're even increasing the number of test dates to cram more virus-carriers into close proximity with each other!
And to do so, they've decided to shorten the test. It seems the AAMC has forgotten the key components of any standardized test: that it be fair, valid, and reliable.
And given the state of our lockdown after coronavirus, it would seem obvious that some regions will be open to gatherings of more than 10 people, while others may not. This will lead to a situation where you can take the MCAT in some states, but not others. SMH.
Preliminary facts about the old vs. new test in the table below. We’ll have a more complete post on this next week.
How long was the old MCAT? 7 hours, 30 minutes
How long is the new MCAT? 5 hours, 45 minutes
95 minutes --> 76 minutes
59 questions --> 48 questions
90 minutes --> 76 minutes
53 questions --> 48 questions
95 minutes --> 76 minutes
59 questions --> 48 questions
95 minutes --> 76 minutes
59 questions --> 48 questions
1. THE MCAT WILL BECOME MORE OF A TIME CRUNCH (LESS TIME PER QUESTION)
Old: 1.61 minutes per question
New: 1.58 minutes per question
Old: 1.70 minutes per question
New: 1.58 minutes per question
2. THE MCAT WILL BE LESS OF A MARATHON.
Focusing for 95 minutes at a time is not easy. 76 minutes is still long, but not the same.
3. THIS SHOULD AFFECT EVERYONE RELATIVELY EQUALLY.
The MCAT swears it's not curved; merely that it's "scaled and equated." (someone please explain in the comments the meaningful difference there. I don't think there is one).
What this means is that if there are substantive differences between the new format and the old format, those will get curved, err, scaled differently so that they match what past applicants have scored on average.
I've racked my brain to figure out whether anyone would gain an advantage with the new format over the old, but I can't see one.
4. TEST TIMES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL
The new MCAT will be given at three different test times throughout the day:
- 6:30 a.m.
- 12:15 p.m., and
- 6:00 p.m
The old exam was uniformly given at 8:00am.
In a former life, your author was a classically trained singer. To properly warm up your voice, I would wake a full two hours before a gig. Your brain works the same way when taking a test, meaning that if your MCAT is at 8:00am, you would wake no later than 6:00am, which is early but reasonable for most college students.
No one - no one - should be forced to take an MCAT at 6:15am.
Most should take the 12:15pm test, but night owls might be fine with a 6:00pm start time.
Need I add: How are variable start times standard or fair?
The AAMC has announced that has expanded its Fee Assistance Program eligibility by 33%. While this change won’t affect that many students, it is an admirable step in the right direction.
“The 2020 Fee Assistance Program award approval has been modified from 300 percent or less to 400 percent or less than the 2019 national poverty level for that family size. In 2020, an applicant may be awarded Fee Assistance Program benefits if each household reported on their application has a 2019 total family income that is 400 percent or less than the 2019 national poverty level for that family size.
Applying to 30 schools typically costs around $4000, and that’s BEFORE interviews. Yes, 30 schools is on the high end, but it’s about typical for the students we work with.
The Fee Assistance Program is typically matched by schools for compensation of their secondary essay fees, so for those eligible, it makes a huge difference in not having to pay for med school applications by taking on credit card debt.
Who qualifies? Take a look at these new guidelines:
Be sure to apply soon, as the FAP application process takes some time (and you cannot get reimbursed if you apply first and pay).
Rob Humbracht, Janet Snoyer, and Ryan Kelly
With special contributions from all of you, dear readers. We will be monitoring COVID-19 and updating this article periodically, so please help us by leaving:
The AAMC has announced that they will push back the release date of applicants from June 26 to July 10.
“At this time, we intend to open the AMCAS application as planned on May 4, and this transmission delay – moving from June 26 to July 10 – will give applicants additional time to complete their applications during this rapidly changing situation due to coronavirus (COVID-19). We do not expect this two-week delay to impact AMCAS operations, including application processing and verification.
I’m not sure I buy that last bit about no impact on AMCAS operations - transcript verification is notoriously slow, even without the delays associated with COVID-19 and the verification staff working from home. But nonetheless, the extra two weeks should be a breath of fresh air for applicants trying to cram in last-minute MCATs, get additional letters of recommendations from overworked professors, and otherwise adjust to life.
What this means to you:
- Secondaries will start being released on July 10. Historically, secondaries have trickled out a few at a time, but I would expect a lot of schools to release them in the first few days. So pre-write them ASAP.
- Aim to be in that first batch of candidates IF YOU CAN. By my best guess, that means submitting your application by June 12 to give yourself a full four weeks for verification. That also means that MCAT scores should be in to med schools by July 10 to be in that first batch, which would mean testing no later than June 20 (the current score release date is July 21 for that date, but the AAMC has said they will expedite scoring for summer MCATs).
- If you can’t be in that first batch, don’t sweat it too much. This year in particular will be weird for so many candidates. We still think it makes sense to apply as late as August this cycle.
Questions? Concerns? Hit us with comments below.
DO Schools have announced their new essay prompt on COVID-19:
Or, if you prefer the full text version (with typos replicated from the original slide, though presumably those will get corrected when added to the application):
Additional COVID-19 Questions (Optional)
- Did your school move to offering only online curriculum during the COVID-19 crisis?
- Did you have an opportunity to receive a letter grade for any of your courses taken during the COVID-19 crisis?
- Please describe how COVID-19 has impacted your pathway to medical school. (2500 characters) Items to consider incorporating in your response may include but are not limited to:
- Academic: Were you able to interact with your professors? Did you have to leave an academic program stateside or abroad? Did your school require you to move to pass/fail grading systems? Did your MCAT exam get cancelled, delayed? Other academic barriers?
- Professional: Did you hold a job? Did have to go out and seek new job opportunities? Did you lose a job? Other financial or professional barriers that you faced?
- Personal: Did you have to move out of a house or dorm? Did you have to cancel travel plans? Did you modify your planned experiences related to healthcare or volunteer opportunities? Did you seek out volunteer opportunities that arose from the crisis? Did you assist any family or community members that were affected?
Medical schools have yet to change any of the dates discussed in this article. Recently, MD schools announced that they MAY delay the date that applications are released to medical schools from June 26, 2020, to July 24, 2020, but that has yet to be confirmed.
We’ll update this post as we hear more information.
In an entirely predictable move, the MCAT has cancelled the May 9, 15, 16, and 21 MCAT administrations. They have also frozen the online registration system, so you will need to wait to switch dates.
The key date for you to remember:
Friday, April 17
That’s when the online registration system will unfreeze, along with allowing registration for additional test dates for 2020, presumably later in the summer. We don’t have many more details than that, but we will keep this post updated in the interim.
Med schools have begun to announce new essay prompts related to coronavirus. DO schools will add a question on their primary application, something to the effect of, “How has coronavirus affected your life?”
MD schools are encouraged to add such a question on their secondary essays, so expect plenty of opportunity to write about coronavirus if you’re applying to med school this cycle.
DO Schools have put together a spreadsheet of their coronavirus-related policies.
- Most DO schools do NOT require a letter of rec from a DO (though many do, which is particularly frustrating, given that they’re effectively asking students to put themselves and their families at risk to go follow a doctor around).
- Most DO schools are offering virtual interviews
- All DO schools (that have responded, at least) will accept online courses to fulfill pre-requisite courses, INCLUDING lab classes taken online
- All are accepting some form of pass/fail grading for this semester
- Schools are split about whether to review candidates and/or invite them to interviews before seeing an MCAT score
Specific policies are available at the link.
UPDATE: DO Schools have released a letter stating the policies.
The UC Med Schools have announced policies about Pass/Fail Grades and the MCAT that hopefully other medical schools will model:
“Our schools will accept pass/fail grades, without prejudice, for courses taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has always been our practice to consider grades in the context of numerous other aspects of the application, and an international crisis certainly provides a unique and compelling context.
This is a great start and a compassionate policy for those applying this cycle. We hope other medical schools will follow suit, and according to a recent spreadsheet put together by admissions offices, many schools have.
The other new policy is this:
“We will accept applications from individuals who were unable to take the MCAT due to COVID-related test cancellations. For these candidates, we will base secondary application decisions on the information that is available to us at the time of the application. Assuming that MCAT testing resumes prior to October, we will require applicants to have taken the MCAT before we make admissions decisions for the Class of 2025.
What happens if the MCAT does not resume prior to October? Nobody knows. The key take-away, however, is this: if you want to apply and have not yet taken your MCAT, you should apply without it.
UCSF is the first med school we’ve heard of that is allowing students to apply without an MCAT score.
“Delayed MCAT – UCSF will accept applications from individuals who were unable to take the MCAT due to COVID-related test cancellations. For these candidates, we will base secondary application decisions on the information that is available to us at the time of the application. Assuming that MCAT testing resumes prior to October, we will require applicants to have taken the MCAT before we make admissions decisions for the Class of 2025. If MCAT testing does not resume by October, we will reconsider the requirement. In any case, applicants should not delay applying simply because an MCAT score is not yet available.
They also announced that pass/fail courses will be accepted without prejudice and that online courses will be accepted as well.
So glad to see some sanity coming from the mouths of admissions officers. Well done, UCSF!
While this article doesn’t explicitly relate to med school admissions, it does shape the way we look at coronavirus exposure: the dose matters. The greater the exposure, the more likely we are to have a lethal exposure.
Why might this matter? We might start to relax societal restrictions if we can discover how to minimize high-dose interactions - in a crowded bar, say, or public transit. We also may be able to resume activities with low-dose interactions: while taking the MCAT at a computer terminal, wearing a mask, and with at least six feet of distance between you and others in the room.
This is speculative, obviously, but it may shape policy by governments and organizations in charge of admissions.
So much of this post hinges on the question, “when will things go back to normal?” And to that end, I’d like to share two resources that - while based on rough assumptions - have a rough prediction date.
Kinsa’s Digital Thermometer Data shows evidence that sheltering in place is slowing the spread (click on “Trends” to see the decrease in fevers over the past few days).
This projection - the first of its kind? - shows a peak hospital beds need in mid-April for the US (though regional peaks vary by state).
Both of these models suggest that the peak of the curve is earlier than we previously expected, which indicates that perhaps social distancing restrictions will ease in May or June.
- Upcoming MCAT dates “likely to be canceled” (source: AAMC email to advisors)
- The vast majority of medical schools that have announced a new policy on pass/no pass have said that they WILL accept pass/ no pass grades for courses taken Winter / Spring 2020.
- No explicit updates for when the applications (AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS) will open, but most admissions committees still want the applications to open in May since the deadlines will still be months away.
Your life’s dream has been to get into medical school. And now you’re facing hard questions about the timing and feasibility of this dream due to COVID-19.
Remember: we’re in this together. Whenever there's a catastrophe that involves everybody, then EVERYBODY understands. That includes admissions officers, who are humans and who will be as accommodating as they can. If you face problems with online courses or transcripts, admissions officers will understand. If you have to reschedule your MCAT because of illness or family emergency, admissions officers will understand. Admissions officers will do their best to help everyone this cycle get their applications in.
This is your chance to step up. We expect our doctors to give selflessly for the rest of their lives, and now you find yourself:
- With most of your extracurricular activities canceled
- With time to spare since all of your classes have moved online
- With an urgent need right in your own community
Yes, you have to be careful not to infect your family members. But you're young. You're healthy. You’re much less likely to have complications from this disease.
HOW WILL THE MEDICAL SCHOOL ADMISSIONS TIMELINE CHANGE?
We don’t know.
Applications are still slated to open May 28 (AMCAS) and early May (AACOMAS, TMDSAS). Historically, our advice has been to apply as early as possible, since the deadlines aren’t the deadlines.
My best guess at this point (March 2020) is that the application process will be much more spread out. Whereas last year, the majority of candidates applied in June-July, this year you should see a much larger spread of applications, which means it’s probably okay to apply a little later in the cycle.
Application deadlines generally aren’t until the Fall (October and beyond), so you should still have plenty of time to take the MCAT and get your applications in this cycle.
See our full post: Medical School Application Deadlines 2020-21 Cycle
UPDATE: HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
source: NAAHP pre-health advisors (many thanks!)
- Be an active, helpful member of your home community. Volunteer to cover childcare needs for neighbors or to check in (by phone/from a distance) on the elderly. If you’re part of a religious community, see if there are ways that you can provide support through them. Check with organizations where you have volunteered in the past to see if you can step back into previous roles.
- Use idealist.org or volunteermatch.org to seek other local options, but be ready for slow responses.
WILL I BE ABLE TO SHADOW A DOCTOR?
Probably not. Non-essential people who are considered potential virus carriers in the clinical setting are the first people to be excused.
But the shortage of doctors and nurses could give you the opportunity to put on your hazmat suit and rubber gloves, if you are permitted, and pitch in.
For example: you could call your local public health department and volunteer to assist staff at drive-in testing centers in Walmart, Walgreens, and Target parking lots.
Now is the time to provide service and show that you’re a leader. You could invite your friends virtually into an organization that provides care and attention to the most virus-vulnerable populations. Educate others. Bring groceries or medications to a shut-in. Reach out to the isolated. Teach them how to use Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime. Generate a list of ways to help, just like we generated this tip sheet.
Oh, and by the way, you can write about it in your medical school applications.
IS IT BAD THAT MY EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES ARE GETTING CANCELED?
Yes and no. It is not bad for two reasons. First, since this is happening to most pre-meds, you can rationalize that the expectations will be lower in the coming cycle. Secondly, you may be able to find a way to carry on your activities virtually. And you may be able to institute new ones, as mentioned above.
It is bad because you need extracurriculars to have a multi-dimensional, strong application. If your particular set of extracurriculars are canceled, leaving you with few to none, you ought to look for others.
WILL I BE ABLE TO TAKE ALL THE COURSES I NEED TO APPLY TO MEDICAL SCHOOL?
Many colleges have moved classes online, so the obvious concern is whether you will be able to complete all of your prerequisite courses in a timely fashion.
We want to remind you of a critical insight: admissions offices require that courses be completed prior to matriculation, NOT prior to applying.
For example, let’s assume the following dates for your application process this cycle:
May 1, 2020 - TMDSAS/AACOMAS may be submitted
May 28, 2020 - AMCAS may be submitted
August 2020 - First interviews held
October 2020 - First acceptances go out to applicants
April 2021 - Most candidates pick their final medical school
July 2021 - Most medical school classes begin
Under this case, your prerequisite courses are due by July 2021. You can continue to take those courses while applying, and there is typically no penalty to your application.
WHICH COLLEGES HAVE CANCELED CLASSES OR MOVED CLASSES ONLINE?
226 colleges and counting as of this writing. This spreadsheet has the latest data (though, due to demand on the spreadsheet, it doesn't always open smoothly).
WILL MEDICAL SCHOOLS ACCEPT ONLINE CLASSES TO SATISFY THEIR PREREQUISITES?
It used to be that medical schools did NOT accept online courses to satisfy admissions requirements:
“I polled more than a dozen medical school colleagues, and nearly all reported that they did not accept online courses for the required sciences. Some schools do not accept even non-science online courses.”
This will change for this cycle. While medical schools have traditionally been skeptical of online courses, we’ve never seen an entire applicant pool whose science classes have been moved online against their will.
If you spot such language on a medical school’s website, understand that it’s a vestige of old policies that will not be continued through the present.
Nevertheless, you want to take reputable online courses. The most reputable require that you be tested in person with a proctor whom the school approves. This probably can’t happen during the social isolation period of spring 2020, but it will remain the gold standard to preserve the integrity of the examination.
WILL I BE ABLE TO TAKE MY MCAT?
If you’re testing in March and would like to reschedule your exam at no cost, you must call Pearson VUE at 866-281-7532. Be advised Pearson VUE is currently experiencing long wait times.
If you’re testing in April and would like to reschedule your exam at no cost, please reschedule your exam online rather than by phone as a courtesy to those testing earlier. You will be charged a rescheduling fee, which will be automatically refunded. Please allow two weeks for your refund to process.
These policies will be updated as the situation changes; however your opportunity to reschedule will remain at least until the end of March.
Test center cancelations will be posted here.
The AAMC has added more MCAT testing dates for July, August, and September.
WILL THE APPLICATION DATES AND DEADLINES CHANGE?
Anything is possible, but nothing will move closer, only later.
WILL MY SCHEDULE BE DISRUPTED?
Most pre-meds are planners: they fill their days and weeks with studying, extracurricular activities, volunteering, and more. You crave routine and stability. You need it to accomplish your prodigious set of goals.
The currently chaotic climate could be a test of your resilience and adaptability, and it’s time to flex those muscles. Talk it over with a good listener, and take it one small step at a time to reset your schedule and routine. One great thing about social isolation is that it frees up lots of time.
SHOULD I BE WORRIED ABOUT MOVING HOME?
People don't want to go home and possibly infect their parents or grandparents. Plus, home can often be chaotic: siblings, parents, various disruptions. You may not even have your old room back.
But you probably don’t have another option if your college has shut down.
Remember that home may be worried about having you back as well. Practice kindness and good communication to come up with the best solution.
HOW CAN I STAY PRODUCTIVE WHILE WORKING VIRTUALLY?
Just think back to the time when you transitioned from high school to college; you probably felt that you had so much more time under your discretionary control. Then “WHAM!” You were busier than ever… how puzzling it was.
Working from home is similar. It can feel lonelier, more chaotic, distracting, and lazier. Many students have conditioned minds that tell them the thing to do when they get home is just to “sleep it off.” Sleep off the stress, the sleep deprivation, the ever so slightly dysthymic feeling of being in that constricting (and comforting) container you sprung from to go to college.
You have developed skills to work in a disciplined way from anywhere. It’s best to write them down on your first morning at home and systematize them so you can develop new habits with efficiency.
WILL I BE ABLE TO GET LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION?
You probably won't be able to ask in person (or probably shouldn't). But you can definitely use FaceTime Video or another video conferencing app to ask face-to-face. It’s worth scheduling this because it’s just warmer and friendlier than email.
Be professional: prepare to make the ask, don’t just wing it. Have all the background info you want them to have at your disposal, and be ready to send it in the way the writer prefers (Google Drive link, email attachment, messaging attachment, etc.).
WILL I BE ABLE TO START MEDICAL SCHOOL ON TIME?
Unanswerable questions like this about the future ought to be stored on a list. You have enough in the present to occupy yourself. If you attend the virtual fair on 3/27, you can ask all the medical schools this question and create a great body of data for our next blog posts!
ARE MEDICAL SCHOOLS CANCELING SECOND-LOOK DAYS?
Yes, and it’s a bummer. Look for virtual substitutes and form connections with everyone who can enlighten you about the school. Ask the admissions office to put you in touch with M1 and M3s in particular.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO SCHEDULED MED SCHOOL FAIRS?
Medical school fairs are a critically important way for you to introduce yourself to admissions offices. Unfortunately, schools are canceling their spring fairs, which is unfortunate, but there is a silver lining!
According to the AAMC: “We endeavor to support prospective applicants with meeting your respective goals amid uncertainty.”
The AAMC has decided to hold a Virtual Medical School Recruitment Fair on March 27th from 11 am – 8 pm ET. Mark your calendars. This is your chance to connect with admissions officers, learn what others are wondering, and get your own questions answered.
This is all we know now, since the details are still being worked out, but you should take advantage of this opportunity. It’s likely that nearly every US medical school will participate this time, a far more complete list than the February 20th virtual fair.
There is an action you can do, and I hope you will. It's quick, and it will help all pre-meds: write to the admissions offices of medical schools of interest to you and ask them to please hold a booth at this fair. They do not have to pay for a booth like they usually do, so please encourage them!
All medical school fairs on college campuses are closing. For example, the UCLA medical school fair will be held virtually. This may mean that you can attend fairs that were formerly open only to a school’s own undergraduates!
WILL THIS AFFECT TRAVELING FOR THE MEDICAL SCHOOL INTERVIEW?
While we don't know the extent of the infection or the rate of its spreading, the virus has already affected the traveling for medical school interviews.
Make sure to offer to interview via video conferencing software.
DOES THIS MEAN I SHOULD DEFINITELY TAKE A GAP YEAR?
If you are already concerned about whether you're going to be able to complete all of the application requirements and are now dealing with the disruption, this is another reason to wait. Also, you are more likely to have USMLE Step 1 be pass/fail!
WHERE CAN I STUDY UP ON THE LATEST CORONAVIRUS DEVELOPMENTS?
Applicants will need to know the latest developments about COVID-19, since that will likely be asked about in your medical school interview.
We like this website: flattenthecurve.com.
This article from the Washington Post about quarantines vs. social distancing is well worth a read:
IF THERE'S A RECESSION, WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO MEDICAL SCHOOL APPLICATIONS?
Medical school application numbers usually weather recessions. The competition is just as robust because the job of a doctor is seen as economically secure. We wish the number of applicants would go down, but it’s not likely.
We hope this will be a valuable resource for you as you continue dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like we said before, we’d appreciate your help in keeping this guide as up-to-date as possible, so please don’t hesitate to leave us comments if we’re missing any key information.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. And best wishes during this vulnerable time.