The Liaison Committee on Medical Education accredits medical schools in the US and Canada. Accreditation ensures that medical schools meet standards set by the LCME. Medical schools are required to “demonstrate that their graduates exhibit general professional competencies that are appropriate for entry to the next stage of their training and that serve as the foundation for lifelong learning and proficient medical care.”

Most state medical boards require that U.S. medical schools be accredited by the LCME as a condition for graduates’ licensure. US medical students cannot take United States Medical Licensing Examinations unless they are enrolled at an accredited school.

Each medical school periodically goes through a review and re-accreditation process. Occasionally schools are put on probation and must make changes to maintain their accreditation.

Medical school applicants should be cognizant of the schools on probation. If they apply to those schools they should find out what the schools are doing to rectify the situation to be taken off probation.

At this date the following schools are on probation:

Albert Einstein

California Northstate University College of Medicine

Louisiana State

Meharry Medical College

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Updated in 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024

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Medical school applicants often wonder whether they should update schools. An “update letter” can keep medical schools informed as the application process unfolds.

Applicants often wonder what merits sending an update; only significant additions to an application should be reported and/or information that was not provided previously.

The following list includes items of interest for the medical schools.

Honors or Awards:  If an honor or award is achieved since submitting the application, the medical schools should be informed.

Publications/Presentations: If there is a new publication, abstract, poster, or presentation, relay this information.

Changes in Classes:  If courses change, and a class which was included in the application is dropped, it should be reported to the medical schools, especially if the course is a requirement at a particular school.

New Jobs or Responsibilities in the Workplace:  If you switch jobs or assume more responsibilities/roles it is worthwhile to update schools. Continue reading

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As the former director of both the Johns Hopkins and Goucher Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Programs, I have in-depth knowledge of the post-bac application process; I have screened, interviewed, and made decisions on thousands of post-bac applicants. The post-baccalaureate premedical program application process entails submitting an application with essay(s), transcript(s), and letters of recommendation. Once your materials are complete your application will be reviewed and you may make it to the next step of the admissions process for the more selective career-changer programs: the post-baccalaureate premedical program interview.

Just as with the medical school interview, the post-bac program interview assesses several important elements:

  • Do you match your written materials?  In other words, is there synergy between your application and your actual persona?
  • Are you a good fit for the program? Will you thrive in that particular institution’s academic environment? Are you ready to handle the academic demands in a post-bac program?
  • What will you contribute to the program? Will your personal traits and attributes make you a welcome addition to the program?
  • Is your enthusiasm—for both the program and for a career in medicine—palpable?
  • Will you help foster a positive learning community?
  • Can you handle the rigor of medical school?
  • What have you done to have a realistic view of the medical profession?  How have you tested, explored, and confirmed your interest in medicine?

All of these factors are assessed during the interview. While post-bac programs have different ways they interview applicants, here is a synopsis of the various interview formats: Continue reading

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The Multiple Mini Interview format is now commonplace among US medical schools. Here is a list of MD schools using MMI in the 2023-2024 application cycle; this list is subject to change, please check with each school to which you apply to get the latest information. “Hybrid” means a combination of a traditional interview with MMI stations and sometimes a group exercise:

For information about how to best prepare for the MMI, please refer to a previous blog post here or contact me to do a mock MMI session. Good luck!

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Originally posted in 2019 and updated in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023.

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Secondary applications arrive soon after the primary application is transmitted to the medical schools. It is important to return secondary applications quickly; an application is not considered complete until the secondary has been received. The suggested time window for returning a secondary application is within two weeks of receiving it.

If an applicant applies to 20 schools, that’s 20 applications to complete within two weeks, all with several essays to write. Let’s say the average secondary application has three to four essays–that’s 60-80 essays. Writing that many essays in a short period of time creates a tremendous amount of work. Medical school applicants rarely anticipate the amount of work that secondary applications entail.

To streamline the process, many applicants pre-write secondary essays, putting the finishing touches on them when the secondaries are actually released.

The secondary applications are as important as the primary application; they should be completed carefully and with great care. 

There are several ways to approach pre-writing secondaries:

  • Look for common themes amongst secondary applications; focus on fleshing out ideas for those topics and prewriting a paragraph or two on each. You can then refine those essays for particular schools, tailoring them to the exact prompt, when you receive secondaries. Common themes can be found in my blog post on common secondary prompts.
  • Do a quick Google search for secondary application prompts and you will easily find them for particular schools. Start writing.
  • Be mindful that some essays can be recycled from one school to another but only with great attention. Always read the prompt for each school carefully—and tailor your response specifically for that school, answering it precisely. I often see essays that are more general in scope and which do not specifically answer the question posed. Also keep in mind each school’s mission and focus, and tailor your essay accordingly.

If you have questions about or want help with secondary applications feel free to reach out to me via email at

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Originally posted 2017 and updated in 2019, 2021, and 2023

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Casper  (Computer Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) an exam that is used by some medical schools in the admissions process. It assesses an applicant’s situational judgment in various scenarios. Here is the most recent list of MD schools requiring it; the list is alphabetical by state.

U of Colorado

Frank Netter (Quinnipiac)

Charles Schmidt (Florida Atlantic)

U of Miami

Medical College of Georgia


Indiana U

Boston U

Michigan State (either Casper or Preview)

Wake Forest

Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson


New York Medical College

Stony Brook

Northeast Ohio



East Tennessee State



McGovern (U of Texas-Houston)

Texas A&M

Texas Tech

U of Texas-Tyler

U of Texas-Medical Branch (Galveston)

U of Texas-Southwestern

Virginia Commonwealth

U of Vermont

Medical College of Wisconsin


To get ready for the Casper, read about the format of the exam and what to expect, and take the practice test. Here are tips to help you prepare for the exam, provided by the company that administers the test.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

Posted in 2019 and updated in 2020, 2021, and 2023


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Medical school admissions personnel have identified core competencies that are necessary to be a successful medical student and physician. The competencies are grouped into four categories: interpersonal, intrapersonal, thinking/reasoning, and science. The 15 competencies that are considered essential are:

1. Service orientation

2. Social skills

3. Cultural competence

4. Teamwork

5. Oral communication

6. Ethical responsibility to self and others

7. Reliability and dependability

8. Resilience and adaptability

9. Capacity for improvement

10. Critical thinking

11. Quantitative reasoning

12. Scientific inquiry

13. Written communication

14. Living systems

15. Human behavior

An article in Academic Medicine explores how competencies can be assessed. Over the last five or so years, I have noticed a shift in secondary applications and the questions they ask. More prompts/questions are focused on digging into the competencies; schools want evidence that applicants are aware of and have honed these competencies in preparation for a career in medicine. Premed students should be aware of these competencies; it can be constructive to keep a journal or log of experiences and reflect on how these experiences have helped sharpen the competencies. Applicants can then use their reflections in secondary application essays.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

First posted in 2015 and updated in 2022

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Receiving an invitation to interview is an exciting step in the medical school application process. If you’ve been selected to interview it means that the medical school has vetted your application and you have passed the academic threshold for enrollment. Congratulations!

Now the medical school wants to meet you to gather more information through an interview. To prepare fully, you should understand the purpose of the interview, which is multifaceted. During the interview the following elements are assessed:

  • Communication skills. Are you comfortable interacting with others, both students and faculty? Would you be a good member of a team and work well with your peers and others?
  • Personal traits and characteristics. Do your interpersonal skills project that you would be comfortable caring for patients? Do you add depth and breadth to a medical school class? Are you mature and able to handle the responsibility of patient care?
  • Experiences and knowledge of the medical profession. Can you speak convincingly about your past experiences and how they have informed your goal of a career in medicine? Do you truly know what you’re getting into?
  • Good fit. Are you a good “fit” for that particular medical school?  Do your goals and personality align with the school’s ethos?

The medical interview is also used as a recruitment tool; it’s a chance for the school to showcase its offerings and to entice you to enroll if admitted. Also remember that the interview is your chance to decide whether it’s a good fit for you.

While the prospect of a medical school interview is incredibly exciting for medical school applicants, it can also induce fear. Rest assured that the vast majority of medical school interviews are not stressful. Think of the interview as an opportunity to have a conversation with someone who is interested in learning more about you, your background, and your motivation for a career in medicine. Continue reading

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July is an incredibly busy month in the medical school application process. This is the time when secondary applications are in full swing. Having read thousands of secondary application essays over my career, which has spanned almost 30 years, I have tips for writing the best possible secondary essays:

  1. Read the prompt carefully. Don’t gloss over the prompt and write a general response. Instead, scrutinize every word and make sure you understand what the school wants to know about you. Some prompts can seem very similar from one school to the next—but there can be subtle differences. Tailor your response accordingly and be sure you have answered the prompt precisely.
  2. Be direct.  In your essays, be as direct as possible. Most prompts are asking for specific pieces of information. Give it to the schools in a clear and concise way. Don’t be vague.
  3. Don’t mindlessly reuse essays from one school to another. I have often seen applicants try to reuse essays—verbatim—to save time. This rarely works well. While you may be able to use the gist of one essay from one school to another, the prompts are often subtly different—as such, they need to be read very carefully (see #1 above!) and answered with precision.
  4. Tailor your response to each school.  If you do your due diligence, and learn about each school to which you apply, you will be able to create much more effective secondary essays. You’ll be able to show what you know and write more meaningfully about why you wish to attend a particular school or what you would contribute to its environment. If there’s one aspect of the curriculum that particularly appeals to you or a program you would want to participate in, cite this in your response.
  5. Help the schools get to know you.  Secondary essays offer a chance for you to help each school get to know you better. The secondary prompts are thoughtfully created by each school because they want to know key pieces of information about you. As such, secondaries present a golden opportunity to elaborate on challenges you have overcome, particular passions you have, interests you hold dear, or goals for your future.

Applicants rarely anticipate accurately the extensive time and thought it takes to write secondary application essays. This is an extremely important aspect of the medical school application process; secondary applications should be given the time and effort they require to produce stellar and effective essays. If you have questions about secondaries or want help with yours please send me an email at

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Originally posted in 2016 and updated in 2017 and 2022

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As described in another blog post, secondary applications are an enormously important component of the medical school application process. Secondaries are designed to suit the needs of individual medical schools. As such, medical schools pay as much attention to the secondary applications as they do to the primary. Give the secondaries the attention they warrant and be sure to write carefully composed and thoughtful essays. Always be sure to answer the prompt given. Don’t let your essay meander from the question posed; these are targeted questions, requiring specific answers.

While secondary application prompts may vary from school to school, there are some general themes/questions that are common. The most common questions involve the following topics, with examples of secondary prompts given:


Discuss what you might contribute to the diversity of our school.

Describe a situation in which you were not in the majority.

Our school values diversity. Please share unique or challenging factors in your background and how they have influenced your preparation for a career in medicine.

Overall Experiences:

What personal accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

Medical Experience and Future Intentions:

Describe your most meaningful clinical experience.

Discuss what areas of medicine interest you. Why do you feel you are particularly suited for this practice scenario? What knowledge, skills and attitudes have you developed that have prepared you for this career path?

Professional Intention:

What does it mean to be entering a profession?

What do you consider to be the role of a physician in the community?

Personal/Professional Hardships Encountered:

Please share a difficult or challenging situation and how you handled it. Identify the coping skills used to resolve the dilemma and the individuals from whom you sought help or advice.

What has been your most humbling experience and how will that experience affect your interactions with peers and future patients?

What is the most difficult feedback you have ever received? Why was it difficult and how did you handle it?

Good Fit for Our School:

Describe the characteristics and values that make you a good candidate for medicine. How will X School foster these traits and nurture your development in becoming an outstanding physician?

Please read our mission statement, which is an expression of our purpose and philosophy. Reflect on its content and write an essay describing why you’re a great “fit” for our school.

Describe your personality and personal characteristics and why you think they will lead to success in our curriculum and learning environment. Continue reading

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