Now that you’ve decided to apply to medical school, what application should you use? Depending on the type(s) of medical schools you’re applying to and which states they’re located in, you’ll need to use a different centralized application platform. The three US-based platforms—which we’ll discuss in more detail below—are AMCAS, which is for MD (allopathic) programs; AACOMAS, which is for DO (osteopathic) programs; and TMDSAS, which is Texas’s own, special system for (mostly public) MD and DO programs. Each platform has different deadlines and essay requirements, so keeping track of which you’re applying through is key!
Whatever platform you’re using, we advise submitting your application as close as possible to the time that submission opens! The medical school admissions process advances on a rolling basis, and getting a head start will enable you to have your transcript verified more quickly, to receive secondary applications sooner, and to be considered for interviews when there are the most slots available. For further details on the benefits of getting an early start with your medical school applications, read our previous post.
The MD application process is administered through AMCAS, the American Medical College Application Service, which is run by the AAMC (American Association of Medical Colleges). The AMCAS application typically opens in early May and submission begins on or about June 1; the precise dates vary each year. Each MD school has its own deadlines for application submission; for the primary application, these typically fall between October and December.
For AMCAS, you will write a single Personal Statement (at a maximum of 5300 characters, including spaces) that will go to all the med schools you’re applying to. The purpose of this Statement is to make a compelling case for why you want to attend medical school, why you want to become a physician, and the type of physician you aspire to be. For tips on writing a strong Personal Statement, see our previous post here.
Most medical schools on the AMCAS platform will also request that candidates complete school-specific secondary essays as part of the application process. Typically, after AMCAS verifies applicants’ transcripts and forwards the applications to the medical schools on your list, most medical schools automatically send secondaries to all applicants, but there are some AMCAS med schools that screen candidates (beyond transcript verification) before sending secondaries.
For each med school, the deadline for submitting the secondary application is either a set date, which typically ranges from November to February, or a set number of days after receipt of the secondary, typically ranging from 14-30 days. Since the turnaround can be so quick, we recommend preparing for secondaries as soon as you’ve submitted your primary application by pre-drafting responses to common essay questions. Even if your school’s secondary application questions differ slightly from what you’ve prepared, drafting in advance will give you substantive material to work with. For more information on secondaries, see our previous post here.
The DO application process is run through AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service), overseen by AACOM (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine). The AACOMAS application opens for submission in early May. (If you’re considering applying to DO schools in addition to or instead of MD schools, take a look at our post on what osteopathic programs have to offer.) Typically, deadlines for the primary application are between December 1 and March 1.
As with AMCAS, applicants using AACOMAS will submit a single Personal Statement that will go to all the DO schools you’re applying to. The AACOMAS Personal Statement (5300-character maximum) has similar goals to the AMCAS Personal Statement, plus you’re asked to demonstrate your fit with the osteopathic approach to medicine.
Also, as with AMCAS, you’ll need to submit secondary application essays to the schools you apply to via AACOMAS. The deadline for DO secondaries falls between February 15 and April 15.
In addition to AMCAS and AACOMAS, there’s a third American med school application service specifically for Texas-based schools. TMDSAS (Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service), which is run by the University of Texas System, has traditionally been used by state-supported MD and DO medical schools; recently, however, Baylor College of Medicine became the first private med school to switch from AMCAS to TMDSAS. Currently, 12 medical schools in Texas use TMDSAS. The TMDSAS application opens May 1, and the deadline is October 30.
The TMDSAS Personal Statement (5000-character maximum) has the same overall goals as the AMCAS and AACOMAS Statements, depending on whether you’re applying to MD or DO schools. The TMDSAS primary application, though, includes two additional essays, so you may need to reshuffle some content from your Personal Statement in order to avoid repeating yourself.
The first of these two additional essays, the Personal Characteristics essay (2500-character maximum), asks you to describe the unique aspects of your background that would help diversify your medical school class and therefore enrich the experience of your classmates. The second essay, on Unique Experiences (2500-character maximum), is technically optional, but we strongly recommend writing it, even if you don’t fill the character count. In this essay, you’re asked to describe shortcomings in your application or challenges in your life situation, which may include family circumstances, socio-economic limitations, health challenges, or other adversities. Show how you attempted to overcome these challenges and the impact on your identity and goals. You can also use the space to highlight unusual aspects of your background that you feel are relevant to your potential as a physician.
If you’re applying to medical schools outside of the United States, you’ll use different application services. Medical schools in Ontario, for example, use a platform called OMSAS (Ontario Medical School Application Service), while medical schools in Canada outside of Ontario each have their own separate application. Similarly, medical schools in the Caribbean each have their own application, but some schools, such as Ross University School of Medicine, will accept AMCAS, AACOMAS, or TMDSAS.