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The Top 7 Things I Learned While Applying to Medical School

Are you applying to medical school? This can be one of the most stressful times of you life, but sheMD is here to help! Student Doctor Andrea D. shares with us some lessons she's learned while applying to medical school!

1) It’s expensive!

Applying to medical school is so expensive!

You must budget for primary apps (AMCAS, AACOMAS, TMDSAS), secondary apps, transcript fees, MCAT, CASPer (depending on the school), and interview-related expenses. Let’s try to break them down.

AMCAS- $170 for processing fee + one med school designation, $40 for additional designations

(AAMC, 2019)

AACOMAS- $195 initial application fee + one med school designation, $45 for additional designations (AACOMAS, 2019)

TMDSAS- $185 flat rate (TMDSAS, 2019)

Secondaries- varies by school. I encountered some with no fees and others as high as $125

Transcript fees- varies by school. Mine were between $3-5 each.

MCAT- $315

CASPer- $10 fee plus $10 for each school.

Interviews- this varies. You’ll need to budget for a suit, hotel, transportation, and food. My advisor recommended we budget around $250 if we could drive to the interview and $500 if we had to fly.

There’s a little bit of good news though! AMCAS and AACOMAS have fee assistance programs. I suggest you apply even if you don’t think you qualify. This is a quick summary of their benefits; for more info, click on the links below!

AMCAS benefits- $125 MCAT registration fee, access to MSAR, and waiver of all AMCAS fees for 1 application with up to 20 school designations. They also cover the cost of the CASPER.

AACOMAS benefits- $195 waiver which covers the initial application fee.

2) When to take the MCAT

Short answer is: take it when you’re ready. Don’t rush it or take it “just to see how it goes.” Med schools see all your attempts, so it’s better to wait. Your practice scores should be close to your target score before you take it, maybe even a couple points above it. I took the AAMC 3 full length test and my score was the same as the score I got on test day, so make sure you’re happy with those scores before you take it!

If you think you’re ready and your scores are reflecting your target score, don’t take it later than June of the year you’re applying to. Any later and you’ll delay your application. You want your app to be submitted and complete as soon as possible to give you your best chance.

3) Only apply to schools where you see yourself

Save some money and apply to schools you think will be a good fit. I applied to some schools that were near my home state to be close to family, but besides that, I had no interest in attending. Writing secondaries for these schools was rough! Looking back, I’m sure my writing reflected how unenthusiastic I was about these places. I didn’t realize how badly I didn’t want to go to these schools until I was relieved that I got rejections (which is crazy, because my plan was to go anywhere that would take me, even if I wasn’t in love with the school). If you’re close enough to the school, take a tour. If you’re not, check out their website. Sometimes they have virtual tours so you can get a feel of the school.[6] Contacting alumni through Facebook groups and asking what they liked or didn’t like about the school may also be helpful!

4) Pre-write your secondaries

This is something I heard about all the time but decided to ignore. Don’t do what I did and let them pile up! I had 20 at a time that I had to get done, and most of them had more than 3 prompts. Try to turn them in no later than 2 weeks after getting them; it shows the school you’re serious about their program. Secondary database:

5) Check deadlines for secondaries!

I cannot stress this enough. Check all the deadlines! Write them down in more than one place! I had a secondary that was due 3 days after I received it, so it became my priority when writing them (which shouldn’t be a problem if you pre-write them!) I also noticed that some deadlines didn’t show up on the emails, but rather once you logged in to the portal. As soon as you get secondaries, log in to the portal to see what you’ll need and when they’re due. Check them every day!

6) Proofread everything!

This is very important! Proofread everything! Proofread it multiple times! Have someone else check for grammar and spelling and someone else check for content. When checking for content, don’t ask your family and friends to do this! They think you’re amazing (and you are!), and they might not be able to give you constructive criticism to make your essay even better. If your school has a writing center, USE IT! They do a fantastic job and it’s usually free!

Another thing I didn’t learn until it was too late- beware of paid services! They are great, but they’re also human and may miss things! I paid for the premium service of Grammarly to check my personal statement, EC essays, and secondaries. They did a great job for the most part, but I caught some mistakes they hadn’t on my EC essays. Of course, I do my best proofreading AFTER I hit submit, and on these apps, you can’t edit anything after you’ve submitted them. So, if you go with a paid service, proofread their work too!

7) The interview

You got an interview, hooray! Make sure you dress professionally (a suit is safe bet) and have questions ready. Make sure the answers to these questions are not found on the website! Think of something that you can only find out by speaking to the person interviewing you. My favorites are, “Why did you choose to teach/attend this institution?” or “If you had a daughter/son that was thinking about coming here, what would you want them to know?” Something I used to prepare and help me think of questions was “The Premed Playbook Guide to the Medical School Interview” by Dr. Ryan Gray.

However, the most important tip I can give you is… BE YOURSELF! They want to get to know you and see if you’ll be a good fit for their school, and they can’t do that if you aren’t yourself. It’s okay to be nervous, but take deep breaths, you’ll do great! They offered you an interview, so they’re already interested in you. Just let yourself shine!

♥ Bonus lesson:

This is something I recently learned that I thought I should include. If you are lucky enough to get accepted, be prepared for more expenses! You’ll likely have to cover moving expenses, rent, supplies, and even doctor’s appointments. Many schools require physicals and blood work to prove immunity to certain diseases. This can add up if, like me, you have to get boosters, or your physician accidentally orders the wrong test (qualitative vs quantitative). Something else I didn’t realize was that financial aid disbursements don’t process until after the semester starts. This may leave you with limited funds for the first couple weeks of your program, so make sure you plan for this as well.

Best of luck applying to med school! It’s not easy, but it’ll be worth it when you get that phone call or email to telling you that you’ve been accepted!

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