Primary Application: First Step To Officially Becoming A Med School Applicant
The primary application is the gateway to secondary applications and interviews and therefore the most crucial of the admission steps. Primary applications can make or break your chances to get an interview invite from your dream medical school. As a pre-med student, you put yourself through endless hours volunteering, mandatory course-work, extra-curricular and work activities so that you can show your passion and commitment to becoming a medical professional. Primary applications are the first stage where you get to present yourself and your path to medicine.
When it comes to primary application, the sooner you apply the better. So without further ado, read on to learn what is needed and where to start:
- Start by calculating your timeline: As a pre-med student, time is the most precious commodity you have, and planning ahead will help you avoid feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Let’s suppose that you wish to start med school in the fall, this means you have to apply one year in advance in the summer. And even before you apply, you have to be ready with other pre-requisites, such as your MCAT score, LORs, Essays, required coursework etc. Therefore, sit down and make a timeline of crucial steps for the next one and half years at least. Then see where you stand and how much time you have on hand to decide when you will be able to apply.
- For example, if you want to go to medical school straight after 4 years of undergraduate (no gap year) your timeline will look something like this:
- Freshman year: focus on your classes and start joining clubs and finding extracurricular activities you are passionate about
- Sophomore year: continue focusing on doing well in your classes and pursuing extracurriculars. Start looking for research opportunities and clinical experiences if you haven’t already.
- Junior year: take the MCAT, start preparing your application material and requesting letters of recommendation from your professors. You will submit your application at the end of your Junior year in June.
- Senior year: during the summer before the start of your senior year you will be busy submitting your secondary applications. When classes start, try to schedule and easy workload as you will likely be traveling around the country for interviews. Prepare for your interviews and fingers crossed!
- Fall after graduation: Start medical school!
- Research which medical schools you want to apply to: When you start preparing for your primary application it’s important to make a list of schools you wish to apply to. Not all medical schools are the right fit, so do your research and choose wisely. Talk to you Mentor, Pre-health advisor or your pre-med friends to get advice on which med school will be the best fit for you. Consider attributes like average GPA and MCAT, if they have a specific mission or focus (i.e. research, community service, etc) location, cost, etc.
- Get your MCAT score: MCAT and GPA are fundamental focus points of your primary application. Before you take the MCAT exam make sure you have taken many practice tests, and your practice scores come close to your desired real score. We suggest to take the MCAT as soon as you finish all the pre-requisite classes, it will be easier to study the topics if they are fresh in your mind. For more tips on how to prepare for MCAT, go here.
- Choose your path: Once you fill-out all the personal information, you must decide if you want to apply for MD or MD PhD.
- Educational Details: The Educational Qualification part of your primary application is a bit of a work and you have to fill out all your information from MCAT scores to class grades. This list must include all the colleges that you have attended, classes, grades and any course-work you are planning to take in the future. Make sure that you input the correct grades as everything is cross-checked with your transcripts.
- Extra-curricular and work activities: In this section, you can mention your academic as well as non-academic achievements and activities. This part is extremely crucial as admission officers and application screeners are always looking for signs that confirm your genuine interest and understanding of what being a doctor entails. You may have a long list of activities, but if you have more than 15 (which is the maximum number you are allowed to write about) it is advisable that you only list the most significant ones. Remember that you are trying to show the application screener that you possess all the core competencies needed in a medical professional.
- Employment history for non-traditional pre-med students: Non-traditional students don’t have to be afraid of the med school application. Many non-traditional students have successfully gotten into medical colleges with good employment history and different background. It is best that you make a list of your employments so far and choose the ones that best reflect your exposure and experience in the medical field.
- Residential Information: Giving proof of residency is essential as it the sole criteria to decide whether you will be categorized as in-state or out-of-state student. This impacts the amount of tuition you will pay and also some schools prefer in-state applicants (which gives you a higher chance for an interview and a seat in the class).
- Have your transcripts ready: Just like the MCAT score, submitting your transcripts is crucial. Make sure that as soon as the AMCAS application portal opens you have your schools send your transcripts to AMCAS. Any delay in AMCAS receiving your transcripts will delay the time when your primary application will be considered complete and sent to the schools you applied to.
- Have your LORs ready: On average, applicants submit 4-5 Letters of Recommendation (LOR). But getting an LOR is not immediate. You have to start by building a relationship with your professor, mentor, or supervisor in order to ask the,m for a strong LOR. Ask your mentor for help to learn what qualities you can ask your recommender to emphasize in your letter.
- Personal Statement: You are required to submit essays both at the Primary Application & Secondary Application stage. The primary application essay is your personal statement. All these essays are your golden chance to talk about your passion for medicine and why you wish to become a doctor. In order to write an ideal and winning personal statment, you have to start at least 2-3 months in advance, depending on your writing skill. A good essay is preceded by many sessions of editing and rewriting, based on the feedback from your mentor, friends, and family.
The best way to ensure that your Primary Application is complete and perfect is to engage your mentor in the process. Ask for his or her feedback and discuss any questions or roadblocks you encounter. It is advisable that you keep a pre-med journal during your work/activities and internships so that when you sit down to complete your Primary Application you hit all the important points.
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