When is the Best Time to Submit the AMCAS Application?

InGenius Prep

When is the Best Time to Submit the AMCAS Application?

Admission into medical school is no walk in the park. The average medical school acceptance rate is 7%, and the highest acceptance rate at one of the top 30 schools is only 11%. The 2018-19 cycle saw a 25% increase in the number of applicants from ten years prior. With a high demand and very few spots available, you might be worried about your medical school chances.

Don’t panic. Taking it one step at a time is crucial. Completing the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) application is where you need to begin. When it comes to the AMCAS, timing is extremely important. As a result, a question on the minds of a lot of students is, when is the best time to submit the AMCAS?

Just like the Common Application for undergraduate colleges, the AMCAS will be sent to nearly every MD program you apply to. With the medical school application process being very cutthroat and competitive, you better prepare in advance. The impact of a timely, correct, and well done AMCAS application cannot be underestimated, as the process takes almost a full year. So, when is the best time to submit the AMCAS? Our InGenius Prep team can help you get it done well and on time.

The earliest you can submit is May 30th, 2019 for the 2020 application round. In order to understand the AMCAS timeline, I will first take a look at the overall phases of medical school applications. Then, I will look through the stages within the AMCAS itself, and discuss how you can know when is the best time to submit the AMCAS. Finally, I will outline tips on how to make the most of your time while you wait for the AMCAS to open for submissions, because let’s be honest: you must always take advantage of any free time you have if you’re preparing to apply to medical school.

Medical School Application Process: An Overview

Before I get to the AMCAS itself, let’s take a more holistic look at the overall medical school application stages because it is crucial to be timely about the entire process, and getting a strong start is a big part of that.

The medical school application process is divided into three phases: the primary,  secondaries, and the interview, with most programs operating on a rolling admissions basis. The AMCAS is used to submit your primary, which includes your personal statement, your list of activities and experiences with the opportunity to pick the “three most meaningful” among them, up to ten letters of recommendation (although you should try to stay between 5-7), your transcript, and your MCAT score.

Submit your primary materials as soon as the AMCAS application opens at the end of May. Once you have submitted your primary application and it has been verified, you will receive your secondaries, which are essays specific to each of the schools you have applied to. You will not be able to access and answer these questions until your primary has been submitted and vetted. The fist secondaries are typically released in July, but you’ll receive them much later if you wait to submit the AMCAS.

You should ideally take only two weeks to turn all of these secondaries back around. Take a second to think about writing approximately 60 essays in two weeks. Then put your career on the line. It’s a great receipt for stress. But the amount of time you take to submit your secondaries reflects your interest in the school, so make sure you stay on top of your applications!

While you’re juggling many, many, many essays, some medical schools may require that you submit the CASPer, which is a timed ethical dilemma test. There is no perfect way to prepare for this test, but you should be aware of it and the time it can absorb when you are managing one of the busiest months of your entire life. Once again: how fast you turn around your secondaries impacts your chances of receiving an interview, so there’s not much time left for feeling overwhelmed.

If you make it to the third phase - the interview - congratulations! That is quite an achievement in itself. Interviews typically take place between August and March. Medical schools cut a large number of applicants between the secondary and the interview stages. The first interview invitations will go to applicants at the top of the pile. You guessed it: those are the candidates that were timely with all of their application components.  If you’ve got an interview, your chances of admission increase significantly. Make sure you prepare well for your interview and review commonly asked questions - this really is make or break. The three kinds of interviews are:

  • Traditional - between applicant and faculty
  • Group interview - in groups of applicants and faculty
  • Multiple Mini Interviews - quick interviews with different people

Understanding the overall medical school timeline helps you get a clearer picture of the importance of submitting the AMCAS application on time. It could risk your entire application chances, and that jeopardizes your dream of becoming a doctor!

Once The AMCAS Has Opened

Let’s zoom in on the primary phase now. The AMCAS submission process goes:

Submission >  Verification > Processed > Sent to medical schools

Submission You complete the online application and submit all the application materials to AMCAS, You pay the application fees
Verified and Processed Your transcripts are forwarded to AMCAS, Your coursework is verified, Your grades are converted into an AMCAS GPA,
Sent to Medical Schools The medical schools on your list receive your verified application, Your letters of recommendation are sent to each school, MCAT scores are sent to each school as they become available

You should be ready to fill out the AMCAS application as soon as it opens in May. Once you have carefully entered your demographic information, coursework, experiences and personal statement and forwarded all your official transcripts and score reports to AMCAS, it’s time. You are finally ready to submit! Note that while you do not need your MCAT scores or letters of recommendation to submit, admission officers will not actually read your application until they have all of the components of the primary.

Again: in the case of submitting your primary, timing is everything. I highly recommend that you submit your primary the very day the application opens. Your timeliness with submitting the primary will dictate the rest of your application, so you do not want to mess up this step in anyway.

After you submit the AMCAS, you enter a waiting period for verification. During the verification process, AMCAS compares your official transcripts to what you have entered on your AMCAS application. AMCAS will also convert your grades to AMCAS grades and an AMCAS GPA to provide a standardized GPA to medical schools. Once this is completed, the application is considered processed and is delivered to the medical schools indicated on your application. Letters of recommendation are delivered on a rolling basis. MCAT scores are automatically received and delivered to the indicated medical schools. Even with these, sooner is better.

When Do I Need To Submit My AMCAS Application?

In case it wasn’t clear already, let me say this one more time: You need to submit your AMCAS application as soon as possible! During peak periods from June to September, it will take approximately 6 weeks for AMCAS to process your application. Don’t forget, the earliest you can submit the AMCAS application this year is May 30th, 2019. The early decision program has an absolute deadline of August 1st for all medical schools. Regular medical admission deadlines range from October to December. You can see the AAMC calendar with important dates here. The bottom line is: the earlier you submit your application, the more spots will be open and available, and the greater chance you have.

When Am I Ready to Submit My AMCAS Application?

If you feel that you have done everything, and are absolutely ready to send your AMCAS application, ask yourself the following questions to figure out if the time has truly come.

  1. Is my personal statement and my experiences section in its best and final form?

Make sure your personal statement depicts you in every sentence. It shouldn’t talk about why your uncle was a doctor, it shouldn’t talk about how your hero changed medicine forever. It should talk about you. It should talk about why you are passionate about the field of medicine and what qualifications you would bring to the table. Medical school admissions committees read applications from the very best candidates around the country. Be as specific as possible and avoid cliches. In order to stand out, you need to deliver on what makes you truly unique.

There is always room for edits. Has your personal statement been revised, edited and revised again? Once you have submitted the essay and experiences section, they cannot be edited, added to, or removed. These are critical parts of your application, and you should feel confident that they are in their best and final form before you submit. Always make sure a second set of eyes has looked it over. There is no word processing software within the AMCAS application, so double check for spelling and formatting. A sloppy early submission is worse than a polished later submission.

  1. Do I have all my official transcripts?  

Do you have all the final grades you want to include? If you have had a recent upward trend in your grades, or you are enrolled in a post baccalaureate course, you may want to wait for your most recent grades to appear on your official transcripts, so they are included in your submission.

  1. Is my information entered correctly?

The most common reasons for a delayed application include the failure to correctly list coursework as it appears on your official transcripts. If there are errors, your application will be returned to you and this will ultimately hold back your application and may cause you to miss deadlines. Check and double check to make sure that you have all of the information the AMCAS asks for, including agreeing to the certification statements and paying the application fees.

  1. What changes can I make later?

You can only change certain things once you submit your application. Make sure you are aware of what AMCAS allows you to change after submission: Your name, your ID number, your date of birth and sex, your contact information, letters of recommendations upto ten, your next MCAT date, additional medical schools, and the release of your application information to your pre-health advisor. You should also be aware of what can be added to your application later. You can usually ADD up to twelve letters of recommendations and you can assign new letters to certain medical schools, but you cannot remove a letter previously assigned to a medical school. You can also add a new MCAT test date and score.

So, What Do You Do While You Wait For The AMCAS To Open?

Start working on your application for medical school at least three months in advance of the AMCAS opening. You should be utilizing the majority of the time you have while you wait for the application to make every element as strong as possible.

While you wait for the AMCAS, try to find more opportunities for patient interaction Whether you volunteer at a hospital or shadow a doctor, you should highlight contact with patients in your application. If you’ve had research experience when you were an undergraduate, that definitely helps. But if not, this is a key time to rack up those lab research experiences.

Spend your waiting time thinking about what your application persona might look like. An application persona is the overall theme of your application. Your motivations behind pursuing medicine, your extracurriculars and interests, and your ultimate career goals should align into a story about who you are. Your personal statement should not just convey your experiences, but why you want to study medicine, and why your story is unique. Moreover, think about what admissions officers are looking for in medical school applications.

Work as thoroughly as possible on your “three meaningful activities” within the Activities and Experiences section. Do your “most meaningful activities” convey your love of medicine? The space for the three activities allow you to write a more elaborate paragraph than the initial Activities section allows. Take advantage of this. Do not just list the activity, but discuss in-depth why the experience has been meaningful to you, and how it has shaped your ambitions in medicine.

Pay close attention to your personal statement. Read, re-read and revise as necessary. Does your personal statement give the reader a clear picture of what makes you unique and suited to a medical profession? Make sure that all your components align with the overall narrative of your application, and illustrate your story vividly.

So, when is the best time to submit the AMCAS application? The bottom line is that the earlier you submit, the better. Keep in mind that some medical schools may start sending acceptance letters as soon as October. Once a medical school has begun filling its class, the admission committee will be more discriminatory with the available spots they have left to fill. Late submission is a common mistake that may have a significant impact on your chances for admission to your top choice schools. Do not hold yourself back from submitting early. When it comes to submitting the AMCAS and taking the right first step to applying to medical school, timing is everything.

Once you’ve prepared to submit a strong application, make sure to submit it on time. Even if you have a fantastic application, any hesitation or delay can slow down the entire process. Do not hold yourself back from submitting early. When it comes to submitting the AMCAS and taking the right first step to applying to medical school, timing is everything.

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