Secrets of the Medical School Application Cycle

Originally posted May 2014

Okay, so they aren’t really secrets but they are things many applicants don’t know or don’t think about when they apply to medical schools unless you have good guidance. Applying to medical school, as many of you know, is a big process that happens over the course of months and months and causes plenty of stress. So in the wake of my loan meeting, I shall share for those of entering the process something you might find useful!


Get everything in early, I cannot stress this enough. Take the MCAT early, turn in your primary right away, try finish your secondary by the week after you get it, you get the point. Because most med schools are rolling admissions, the earlier you apply, the better chance of the school having a spot that you can fill. It also makes you seem interested and enthusiastic about being in medical school.

Your science GPA might be different from application to application

The science GPA is one of the most important parts of your application, but you already knew that. AMCAS science GPA consists of any classes that fall under biology, chemistry, physics, any health science classes and math (it will say in the FAQs how to calculate it). AACOMAS doesn’t count math in your sciGPA. Furthermore, one of the reasons the schools make you list out every single freaking class is because they have their own formulas for our GPAs. This is why need to make sure there are as little discrepancies as possible on any application and of course get good grades.

Report every MCAT score

This is not a suggestion. This is a rule and a warning. Say you turn in your applications and have started getting secondaries, but you took the MCAT a second time just recently. A few days after submitting you get a second MCAT score and you aren’t happy with it so you just…leave it out. You cannot do that because I believe it is mandated at this point that you must report all scores. You need to report the new score no matter what because if you are accepted and they find out you have an unreported score, more likely than not, your acceptance will be revoked. And that would be absolutely terrible.

You will be doing a lot of introspective writing

I am not talking about your personal statement here, though you should feel that internal connection to it. When you get secondaries some might not have any questions, you might have a one to ten short essays or you might have to write a few 1,000 word stories. Technically, these are maximums, but if you get 500 word limit, you should at least get to 2/3rd of the word count. They want you to explain in that case. Similarly, if they only want 100 words, they want it short and sweet. Some of these questions will be pretty simple, while some ore going to make you dig deep. Either way, you will always have to be creative and play up those positive points. And you be be completely sick of writing about half way though, so don’t burn out!

You will have to be an adaptive writer

Every secondary is different, and even though many of those essay type questions are similar you will almost never have the same word limit. You need to learn how to say the same thing in 100, 500 or 1,000 words. You must also learn how to tone your essays. If something negative happened, like a bad grade you need to make it sound like you learned and improved from it, not that you had a shitty semester for whatever reason. Adapt. Evolve.

Pretty much everyone gets a secondary

I feel like I’m bursting a few bubbles here, but getting a secondary means you fulfilled the bare-bone requirements set by the administration of whatever school. Basically a computer goes; GPA, check. MCAT score, check. Classes, check. No one really looks at any of your stuff until you turn in your secondary. Think about it though. With secondaries ranging from $30 to $120 and some schools having well over 5,000 applications, why not let everyone send them in? It’s pretty great way to make money if you ask me. So keep a level head.
Know how FAFSA works

Even if you don’t know if, when and where you will be going to medical school, you must fill out FAFSA, which you have to do for college anyways. If you want to screw yourself over, then ignoring finaid is the best way to do that. Having trouble or don’t know how to do it correctly? Get help. Ask an adviser, a finaid counselor or call FAFSA. Also, when you first fill out your FAFSA don’t freak when it says you might only get 20k. That is the max for any grad student for a fiscal year. Medical schools go in manually and change it, if needed to the med school max of like 40k (I’m not 100% on that). This is because medical schools are listed under graduate education, not doctorate. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know why.

Medical schools have their own magic formulas

Magic formulas for who they invite for interviews of course. Medical schools generally want to keep their stats in the same place, varying slightly from the students who actually go to the school or if they want to up their averages. Basically it looks like this; a school averages MCAT at 508 and GPA and 3.7. Well if you get a 514 MCAT, you are okay to have a 3.5 GPA since it will round out, while another student can have a 502 MCAT and a 3.9 GPA and get into the same program. Of course all the other factors are mixed in there, but that is the basic concept. Remember, an average just means everyone complied together. Every school has their own formula, and their own exceptions.

There is no real timeline after submitting your secondary

It all kind of goes up in the air. Some people get interviews a few days after submitting their secondary, while other wait until the very end of the cycle to just be rejected. You might be given a hold, or the school may provide a loose outline of an expected timeline, but that really means squat. There have even been cases of silent rejects, which is when you don’t hear anything at all. So if you are at this point, don’t freak out, you aren’t the only person suffering.

It’s okay to contact the admission committee

Listen, medical school administration is far from perfect. If it’s been a while and you haven’t heard a thing, it’s okay to call the school and ask if they got all of your application material okay and to find out when they begin and end their interview process. I had a friend who applied to a school which actually had misplaced his application and because he called to ask, they found it and invited him for an interview. Be careful though, because if you call more than once they could just see you as pushy and annoying. And that’s bad.

I know this is way too long, but I hope those of you just entering the application cycle find this helpful! Good luck to everyone out there!

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