Applying to Medical School: the AMCAS Application and Personal Statement

Medical student applicants complete their AMCAS applications completely online at http://services.aamc.org. Upon completion of the application, the applicant designates the medical schools to which he or she wishes AMCAS to send his or her application. AMCAS charges the applicants based on the number of schools to which they intend to apply. AMCAS is divided into 5 broad categories:

1. Biographic information
This section allows the applicants to provide basic identifying information about themselves, parents or guardians, ethnicity, primary language, and reasons for which they should be considered for a disadvantaged status.

2. Post-secondary experiences
In this portion, the applicant provides detailed information about all employment, volunteer, clinical, research, teaching, leadership, or other extracurricular, civic, or military activities. They may also list any publications, honors and awards, important conferences they attended, and any artistic endeavors or hobbies. The AMCAS allows them to chronicle the duration of involvement in each activity, hours worked per week, pertinent reference contact information, and allots them 510 characters to discuss each activity or award. For a point of reference, this section contains 600 characters.

3. Essays
This document goes into more detail about these subsequently.

4. Academic performance
In addition to the applicant’s transcripts from each post-secondary institution that they attended, applicants must fill in each course they took and the grade they received in these courses. The AMCAS has some special formula of standardizing grades with which I am not familiar. The applicant’s yearly and cumulative science and overall GPAs are included in this section as well.

5. Schools attended
This section lists all of the academic institutions (high school, undergraduate, and graduate schools) that the applicant attended.

II. THE ESSAY

The Personal Statement
The instructions are as follows: “Use the space provided to add any personal comments to your application. The available space for your response is 5300 characters, or approximately one full page.”

Some questions you might want to consider while drafting this essay are:

*Why have you selected the field of medicine?
*What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
* What do you want medical schools to know about you that hasn’t been disclosed in another part of the application?

In addition, you may wish to include information such as:

* Special hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits.
* Commentary on significant fluctuations in your academic record which are not explained elsewhere in your application.

DOs
1. The application reviewer will have access to the client’s transcript, list of extracurricular activities and volunteer experiences, letters of recommendation, and description of any research and clinical endeavors in which he or she may have participated. Thus, their personal statement should focus on something unique about them that is not represented in these other portions of your application.

2. The MSPS should not be a prose form of the client’s CV. Many applicants often feel pressured to describe the clinical and research activities in which they have participated at the expense of introducing something distinctive into the statement. Only significant activities should enter the personal statement. The significance should not lie in the laudability of the activity itself, but rather the impact that the experience had on the applicant.

3. While all schools have a different type of individual who they wish to attract to their institution, clients should avoid coming across as the “typical pre-med.” By this, I mean the undergraduate science major who has volunteered at a hospital or clinic, performed a bit of laboratory research (perhaps with a publication or two), and has known they wanted to be a doctor since age 7. Help your clients avoid portraying this all-too-common image and portray a more sophisticated, nuanced theme.

4. Some of the best personal statements mention very little, if anything, about medicine. The overall goal should be to paint multiple pictures of your clients in time such that the application reviewer can clearly see them, principles or experiences that have shaped them, and a clear direction into where their self development will continue to lead them.

III. SUMMARY
The MSPS is not a statement of purpose. Medical school applicants do not need to explain why they are qualified to be doctor in the MSPS at the expense of not showing how they are unique, well-balanced, accomplished individuals who can be distinguished from the “run of the mill” medical school applicant. If after editing their statement, you cannot read the essay and visualize a distinct individual who presents a part or parts of themselves that would make you want to interview them, you should spend more time on your revision or work with the client to construct a more personal essay.