AMCAS is the American Medical College Application Service, run by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in Washington, DC. The AMCAS application is the most common application system used by U.S. allopathic medical schools.
A centralized application processing service for MD programs, AMCAS allows you to submit MCAT scores, work experience, extracurricular activities, AMCAS letters of recommendation, along with your grades, test scores, and personal statement.
This guide to applying to medical school offers step-by-step instructions for completing the AMCAS application, tips from professional advisors with admissions committee experience, and detailed information to make sure you nail every medical school admissions requirement.
Recommended resource: Clinical Shadowing Programs
The complete process of applying to medical school takes more than a year from application to acceptance.
Medical schools use a rolling admissions process, which means applications are reviewed as admissions officers receive them. There is an obvious advantage to this first-come-first-reviewed process. But what a lot of students don’t realize, is that submitting earlier in the cycle means less time is required to verify their primary application, just a few days or a couple of weeks. Students who submit later in the cycle could experience a 4 to 6 week delay while their application is in the queue to be verified.
The dates vary slightly each year, so check the AMCAS website before you start your application.
In general, the AMCAS timeline is as follows:
Before you ever log into AMCAS, you need to do some legwork to get ready and organized. Here’s how:
Dr. Katzen, MedSchoolCoach Master Advisor and previous admissions committee member at GWU, recommends that students planning to apply in May/June should start preparing a personal statement in December/January.
During your time as a premed, you’ve likely given thought to whether you want to earn an MD (allopathic) or DO (osteopathic) degree. There are more than 150 accredited allopathic colleges in the U.S., versus just 35 accredited osteopathic colleges, and the process for applying differs.
Applying to MD Programs: Students applying to allopathic schools in the U.S. will use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) application. This includes MD/PhD programs.
Applying to DO Programs: Students applying to osteopathic schools in the U.S. will use the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) application.
Students applying to medical school in Texas: If you are planning to earn your MD or DO from a Texas state school, you’ll use the Texas Medical and Dental School Application Service (TMDSAS) since medical schools in Texas have a unique set of restrictions. In Texas, no more than 10% of the class can be from out-of-state. Having a state-specific application process and comprehensive database of in-state Texas applicants is more convenient for the schools.
Now let’s jump into the AMCAS application.
Follow these steps to thoroughly and accurately complete your AMCAS medical school application.
1. Vist the Applying to Medical School with AMCAS® page at AAMC.org.
2. Click the blue “AMCAS Sign In” button in the upper right corner.
3. On the sign in page, click “Create Account” on the right.
4. Enter your Personal Information, Initial Questions, and Account Information as indicated.
5. Check your email for a verification link.
6. Once you’ve clicked the link in your email, you’ll receive a notification that your account has been verified, and you will be directed to sign in.
Select from available application cycles.
Follow the prompts to enter your identifying information, including:
Click “Save & Continue to Application”.
You’ll be taken to an application main menu that shows your personal information, the 9 sections of the application (and whether they’re complete or not), quick links for help with your application, and your document statuses. You won’t see an area for letters of evaluation/recommendation or transcripts since they are submitted directly to AMCAS.
There are 9 sections on the AMCAS application. You must complete the Identifying Information and Schools Attended sections before you can go on to other sections.
Most of this data is pulled over from your profile creation. Complete any missing or inaccurate information in this section until a checkmark shows the section is completed.
In this section, you’ll enter the information for your high school and colleges, including any attempted postsecondary, foreign/study abroad, or military education.
You will also have to state whether you have matriculated as a medical school student previously, and whether you were ever the recipient of any institutional action by any college or medical school for unacceptable academic performance or conduct.
This is also where you’ll first see the notice that official transcripts are submitted directly to AMCAS from your school’s registrar. Once you enter a college’s information, you’ll have an opportunity to create a transcript request form.
This is a hefty section with a ton of personal information and background. Go step-by-step and fill in the blanks as indicated.
You must enter every course you took at each school — it’s tedious, so have your printed transcripts at-hand and settle in for this section. Prior to entering your coursework, AMCAS encourages you to watch some brief tutorials that will guide you through the process of entering your coursework.
AP Course Work/Credit Tutorial
Current & Future Course Work Tutorial (no grade earned yet)
Study Abroad Course Work Tutorial
You will have to complete multiple sections for each course:
Pro Tip: Course classification can be tricky. All courses are classified as BCPM science courses (biology, chemistry, physics, math) and AO courses (all others). AMCAS offers a Course Classification Guide that provides examples of how courses are often categorized. Ultimately, you are responsible for selecting the correct course classification, but AMCAS reserves the right to change classifications if the assigned classification clearly does not apply. Misclassified courses may delay the verification of your application. Working with an application advisor can ensure you classify courses correctly the first time.
This is another hefty section where you’ll have the opportunity to show what makes you a strong applicant beyond your school work.
In all, there is space for up to 15 work and activity entries (but it’s ok if you don’t have 15!), and the opportunity to highlight the 3 most meaningful experiences to you or the ones most relevant to your future career in medicine.
There are 16 Experience Type categories to choose from for each work/activity entry:
For each experience, you’ll enter the following information:
The Experience Description box is the kicker here. Admissions committees are not simply looking for what you did. They want to know the depth of your responsibilities and what you accomplished. They want to know the impact you made within the organization, and more importantly the impact the experience made on you.
They’re also hoping to hear what qualities you demonstrated, how the experience reflected your values, and how you learned and grew from it — both personally and as it relates to your future career in medicine.
You have just 700 characters to wrap that up in a nice little package!
Pro Tip: The key in the Work & Activity section is to show that you’re well-rounded. Admissions committees want to hear about your hobbies and interests outside of your science background, as well.
For schools using the AMCAS Letter Service program, your letters of recommendation are another item submitted directly to AMCAS and the medical schools you are applying to. Since AMCAS doesn’t require a student’s LORs to verify their application, students may submit their application even if their letters have not yet arrived at AMCAS. The medical schools will receive the application and letters after the application has been verified.
When adding a letter of evaluation or recommendation, choose 1 of 3 types. Each letter type is considered 1 letter entry, regardless of the actual number of letters it contains.
Each medical school has a different requirement for letters of recommendation. For example, schools may require a committee letter/packet or 2 letters from science professors plus 1 non-science professor plus 1 to 2 others, including physicians. Check each medical school’s website for their specific requirements.
For each entry, you will also include a letter title. Make this a meaningful title that you can remember, as you will later need to match letters and assign them to the medical schools you’re applying to.
For each entry, you will also include a letter title. Make this a meaningful title that you can remember, as you will later need to match letters and assign them to the medical schools you’re applying to.
Before completing this section, you will need confirmation from your letter writers. You will add an entry for each letter you’re expecting with the author’s contact information and letter title. AMCAS will then assign an ID number for each letter that the letter writer must include. After you add each entry, you will be prompted to create a PDF AMCAS Letter Request Form that you will provide to the author.
Pro Tip: Like your personal statement and work/activities section, your letters of evaluation are another place to really set your application apart. Generic LORs will not add value to your application. This is really the place to get letters from professors, supervisors, and mentors that you had genuine relationships with — people who can speak to your character and accomplishments.
In this section, you’ll select all of the medical schools you’re applying to.
How many medical schools should you apply to? Admissions advisors from MedSchoolCoach recommend you apply to 25 to 40 schools, including both in-state and out-of-state schools that you feel are a match.
You don’t need a full school list at this point; you only need to apply to one school to “submit” your application, which gets most of the heavy lifting out of the way. You can come back and add more schools later, but this first submission of your application is what gets the verification process started.
For each school you add, select a program and state whether you’ve previously applied to that school. You will be able to see whether or not the school participates in the AMCAS Letter Service and the AMCAS-facilitated Criminal Background Check. If you have entered letters of recommendation, you will also have the opportunity to assign a letter to each school at this point.
As you add schools, you will have a nice dashboard where you can see each medical school, the program you’re applying to, and the transcript and application deadlines. You’ll also see your fees start to add up here.
How many schools can I apply to with AMCAS? You can apply to as many schools as you want with the AMCAS, as long as they accept the application service. The fee is $170 to send your application to the first school and $42 for each additional school.
While it’s wise to apply to multiple schools, a lot of thought should go into cultivating your school list. In-state tuition is almost always going to be cheaper than out-of-state, but you also need to consider factors like proximity to family and preference for culture and climate.
Schools should also be an academic match and best suited to your professional experience.
Your personal statement is arguably the most important part of the application. This is the place for you to really shine, show some personality, and set yourself apart from other applicants.
A strong personal statement speaks volumes about your potential to succeed in medical school. It can demonstrate to admissions committees your potential as a future physician and how you’ll contribute to their school. Additionally, it helps to distinguish you from the number of other applicants with similar MCAT scores and grades.
Likewise, an unimpressive personal statement can ruin your chance at getting an interview. A poorly written personal statement with typos and lacking content is hard to come back from when admissions committees have hundreds of applications to review.
The challenge with this section is how deceptively simple it looks on the AMCAS application: “Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school.” And you have 5,300 characters – or around 500 words to do it. No pressure!
If you click the link provided in this section, AMCAS does give you a bit more guidance for what to write about:
Advice for writing a standout personal statement:
Things NOT to include in your personal statement:
It may help you write your personal statement if you break it up into smaller, manageable chunks. In general, think about your essay containing 4-5 components:
Introduction (1 paragraph) – Introduce your narrative/theme by tying it to a personal story or anecdote.
Body (2-3 paragraphs) – Highlight pivotal experiences and how they drove you to pursue medicine.
Conclusion (1 paragraph) – Tie everything together and share how you envision yourself impacting the field of medicine in the future.
When it comes to the actual writing process:
Start early – As early as December/January if you’re planning to apply in May/June
Brainstorm – Use whatever brainstorming methods work for you – outlines, idea clouds, etc.
Some things to think about:
Just start writing – If freestyle writing works for you, go for it! A lot of students start with a lot of content then edit it down. Others find it easier to carefully craft each individual sentence.
Take breaks between drafts – Many students who successfully got accepted into medical schools say they wrote multiple (different) drafts of their essay. By taking breaks between drafts, you can put a fresh set of eyes on each and select the best one.
Get opinions from others – Have others read your essay, but be selective with who you ask. A professor, work colleague, or a medical student are likely better options than a family member.
Proofread to perfection – There should be ZERO errors when you submit this essay.
Want even more help writing your essay? Read our Ultimate Guide to Writing Your Best Medical School Personal Statement.
This is the final section! If you have already taken the MCAT, your scores are automatically released to AMCAS and will be visible here. If you haven’t taken the MCAT yet, or if you plan to retake it and have a test date scheduled, you can indicate that here and your latest test score will be updated when released.
This is also where you have the opportunity to enter any additional standardized test scores, such as GRE, LSAT, or GMAT.
New for 2022-23, the AAMC AMCAS introduced a new section called “Anticipated Experiences”. This section now allows applicants to enter future activities. This change is a big one, as now activities such as a research year experience, clinical experience, scribing, etc that take place during a gap year could go onto the application.
Take note: Secondary applications used to be a place to talk about anticipated experiences, so this may change the calculus when it comes to medical school secondaries.
CAUTION: If you have completed the AMCAS sections in order, and each section on the left has a green check mark circle next to it, then as soon as you save your standardized tests sections — you will be asked if you want to submit your application.
WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU SAY NO. It’s always a good idea to go back and carefully review each section to check for errors, accuracy, and completion.
From your main application menu, you have the opportunity to go back into every section and make changes. Check and double check everything.
When you’re ready, click “Submit Application.”
Follow the prompts on the next few pages. AMCAS does a great job of telling you what you still need to do in the Pre-Submission Checks, such as assigning letters of recommendation to medical schools. Remember, letters can be added and assigned at a later date as you get confirmations from letter writers.
From here, you will complete the following to officially submit your application:
Certification: This acts as your legal signature to certify everything on your application is accurate. There are 13 statements to read, check, and agree to on this page.
Password: Under this section, you’ll have the opportunity to print your application. We highly recommend you do so. Even if you don’t physically print it, the file will open as a PDF and you can read through it. This is exactly what medical schools admissions committees will receive. If you find any errors, you can still go back and edit your application before continuing the submission process.
When you’re satisfied with your application, you will enter your AMCAS password to certify that you understand that you may not change, correct, or update selected parts of the application as outlined in the AMCAS Applicant Guide once it has been submitted to AMCAS.
CBC (Criminal Background Check): This page informs you that AMCAS partners with Certiphi Screening, Inc. to perform criminal background checks. Upon your initial, conditional acceptance by a participating medical school, Certiphi Screening, Inc. will send an email with additional information to your preferred email address to start your background check.
Payment: The final section is where you’ll pay your application fees.
What is the cost of the AMCAS application? The AMCAS application costs $170 to send your application to the first school and $42 for each additional school.
For students that need financial aid for fees, AAMC offers a fee assistance program.
Once your payment is confirmed, your application is officially submitted.
Certain items can be changed after you submit your application (i.e. adding letters of recommendation or medical schools) while others are set in stone (i.e. personal statement and work/activities sections). AMCAS offers an in-depth overview of Postsubmission Actions.
If you make any changes to your application, you must recertify and officially update your application. Processing will not be delayed and you will not be charged unless you add more medical school designations.
Items that can be changed on your application include:
The only exception to the editable items above is for the Coursework section. Remember that it’s ultimately up to you to correctly classify your courses and enter grades; however, AMCAS has the authority to make changes during the verification process if they feel you incorrectly classified a course. After verification, you are required to review the Coursework section and agree (or disagree) with any changes AMCAS made.
If you find a discrepancy or want to dispute something, you must submit an Academic Change Request, which is located under “Quick Links” on your AMCAS Main Menu.
To submit an Academic Change Request, select one of the following reasons and include an explanation:
The verification process can range from a few days to a few weeks, and can be delayed if there are errors on your application, such as misclassified coursework.
In order for your application to be placed in the queue for verification, the following are required:
These items are NOT required for verification and they will NOT delay the verification of your application:
Once you submit your application, you’ll want to monitor the status closely. On the top right corner of your main menu, you will see a blue status. You can also click “View Application Status History” at any time to see a record of updates.
It’s important to understand the meaning of each status so that you can track your application and know if you need to take some action:
Withdrawn from AMCAS: You have withdrawn your AMCAS application. This step is final, so you are no longer eligible to apply for the current application cycle.
We’ve taken an in-depth look at best practices for completing your AMCAS application, but there are certainly some things you’ll want to avoid. Here they are:
Fluff: be clear and concise across the entire application.
Errors: proof until it’s perfect. There is ZERO room for errors in any field — even something seemingly minor like an accidental comma instead of period after a street abbreviation (i.e. Mill Creek Dr,) looks sloppy.
Abbreviations and jargon: If you make it to medical school, the rest of your life is going to be riddled with jargon. Your application isn’t the place for it (i.e. don’t refer to the admissions committee as the “adcom”).
Putting too much emphasis on scores: minimum GPA and MCAT scores are prerequisites and don’t really help you stand out from other applicants.
Embellished or made up stories: honesty and integrity are foundational values of any physician. Don’t start your potential career as a fraud. Medical schools want to know the authentic you.
Name dropping: it’s obnoxious, and could backfire if the person reading your application doesn’t think highly of the person you’re bragging about.
Hiding behind a well-known organization: don’t write about an organization you worked at instead of YOUR role there. If the role wasn’t significant enough to include on your application, don’t use the organization’s reputation to boost your credibility.
Generic letters of recommendation: only ask for letters from professors, supervisors, and mentors you had a genuine relationship with. Generic letters add no value to your application and can even harm your chances against a similar applicant with better letters.
Only including what you THINK admissions committees want to see: One of the biggest mistakes you can make is falling victim to the “perfect pre-med checklist.” Admissions committees want to see what you’re passionate about and what makes you unique.
Explaining one-off bad grades: It’s usually not worth mentioning. The exception would be an entire semester you bombed, but there was an underlying cause that you overcame and grew from (i.e. your mom had terminal cancer so you were traveling home a lot and school suffered. But the experience inspired you to want to specialize in palliative care, and your commitment and grades rebounded in the next semester).
Having too broad or too narrow of a school list: A focused and intelligent school list is important for so many reasons. Schools you apply to should be a good match academically, but should also meet your personal and professional preferences.
Also remember that any school you apply to could send you a secondary application, which consists of multiple essays and a lot of additional effort if you’re applying to a ton of schools. The good news is that you’d hopefully have multiple offers to choose from. On the flipside, if you apply to too few schools, you may not get any offers at all and be forced to reapply in the next cycle.
Starting too late and submitting a sub-par application: As outlined in this guide, a LOT of work and time goes into applying to medical school. This is not where you want to procrastinate, especially with the rolling admissions process. Start early and give yourself several months (as many as 6) to gather everything, reach out to letter writers, and write your personal statement and work/activities entries.
The reality is that only about 40% of students who apply to medical school will make it through matriculation. For the other 60%, they have to decide whether they want to reapply in the next application cycle, or pursue a different career path.
While some students may worry that reapplying makes them look bad, data from the AAMC showed that 27% of applicants during the 2020 cycle were reapplicants. Getting into medical school is tough – it’s ok if you don’t make it the first round and have to reapply! The important thing is that you’re honest with yourself. If you’ve got the numbers, experience, and extracurriculars and are truly a competitive applicant, give it another go.
The good news is that most of the information on your AMCAS application will remain the same when you reapply. Here are the sections to consider updating:
Work and Activities: If you added any relevant experience during the year that you originally applied, or if you took a gap year or earned a post-baccalaureate certificate, update this section of your application.
Letters of Evaluation: While you can reuse letters of recommendation, you will need to resubmit them as AMCAS does NOT retain letters from previous application cycles. However, you may want to request new letters if you worked with a new mentor in the past year.
School List: You can absolutely reapply to the same medical schools again, but reevaluate each with a critical eye and be honest with yourself about how competitive you are.
Personal Statement: Unfortunately schools do expect reapplicants to write a new essay. While you can certainly still use the same theme, personal attributes, and reasons for wanting to become a physician, the stories and anecdotes should change.
If you struggled with your AMCAS application the first time around, professional admissions advising services can help you prepare to reapply. Advisors with prior admissions committee experience can provide honest feedback on your qualifications and help you update your application to improve your chances of getting into the medical school of your choice in the next application cycle.
Hopefully this guide has prepared you for what to expect as you begin your AMCAS application. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or looking for a hand, an admission consultant at MedSchoolCoach can help.
Our goal is to help you prepare a great application so you can stand out and ultimately achieve your dream of becoming a physician.
Learn more about our Application Advising Services, then schedule your free consultation to see how we can help you.
Renee Marinelli, M.D., a Director of Admissions for MedSchoolCoach and a primary care physician. Dr. Marinelli graduated magna cum laude from California State University–San Marcos with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She attended the University of California–Irvine School of Medicine, where she served on the admissions committee and interviewed many applicants. She is a regular contributor to US News and World Report.
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