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Charting A Course to Medical School: PART V

AMCAS and the AACOMAS 

The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) is a non-profit central processing unit for applicants to participating allopathic medical schools, and AACOMAS is the comparable entity for osteopathic medical schools. Most medical schools participate in the AMCAS or AACOMAS application process, and they are rather efficient services. The application is only a four-page "academic autobiography" that is sifted and sorted into a one-page sheet which is sent to all of the medical schools to which you wish to apply. For all of its benefits, the AMCAS or AACOMAS application process is expensive. There is a fee waiver program for financially disadvantaged applicants, but there is a separate application for a fee waiver, requests for which may be submitted beginning May 15 of each year.

The AMCAS and AACOMAS application packets contain an overwhelming amount of paperwork. There is an acknowledgement postcard (which is sent to you when they receive your application), designation forms, an application form, a code booklet, a GPA calculation sheet, a fee waiver request packet, an official transcript inventory form, a pre-addressed return envelope, and four transcript matching cards. There is also a 36-page instruction booklet which is reminiscent of registering for the MCAT. Letters of recommendation are not included in your AMCAS or AACOMAS application. They are sent with the secondary application. The only piece of personal datum, initially, is your personal essay.

The personal essay is one of the most important sections of the AMCAS or AACOMAS application. It allows you to demonstrate who you are by giving you an opportunity to explain your motivation to pursue medicine, or even to explain why your grades or MCAT scores were, perhaps, not so good. Whatever you decide to write about in your personal essay, remember that you want to express yourself in an honest, dedicated, and coherent manner.

The AMCAS and AACOMAS applications are usually available in mid-March and can be obtained either through your preprofessional advisor or directly through the services themeselves. Or, you can choose to utilize AMCAS's electronic application (AMCAS-E) or AACOMAS's electronic application. Electronic applications have their advantages and disadvantages over the paper version, but we recommend that you at least give it a shot. It will save you a lot of paperwork, and you don't have to mess with a typewriter! Check the resources section of this guide for more info.

The sooner you get your application in, the sooner medical schools will be able to evaluate your application. AMCAS and AACOMAS begin accepting applications June 1, and they begin accepting transcripts March 15. Both services suggest that you have transcripts sent to the application services (from all colleges that you have attended) prior to submitting your application so that your application can be processed more quickly. AMCAS and AACOMAS do not make any admissions decisions, and they do not advise applicants where to submit applications. Each participating school is totally autonomous in reaching its admissions decisions. AMCAS and AACOMAS only provide a central application processing service to your chosen schools. It is up to the individual schools to send you secondary applications, an interview invitation, and, hopefully, an acceptance letter. Remember, not all medical schools use the AMCAS or AACOMAS services. Check with the schools you would like to attend to determine their application procedures.

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