The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) requires applicants to include descriptions of their activities. You are given space to include 15 experiences. All of the entries require contact and other pertinent information to be included. You must classify the experiences by type, selecting from a drop down list of choices. You are given 700 characters, including spaces, to write a short description of each activity.

The “Most Meaningful” Descriptions

In addition, you must select three activities as “most meaningful” and write an additional essay about these experiences. You are given 1325 characters, including spaces, to describe each experience in more detail and include information as to why it was meaningful to you. Quoting directly from AMCAS, “When writing your response, you might want to consider the transformative nature of the experience, the impact you made while engaging in the activity and the personal growth you experienced as a result of your participation.”  Read this carefully because the language here tells you exactly what to think about as you write your descriptions.

Here are some tips to writing the most meaningful AMCAS experience descriptions:

  • Think about why the experience was “transformative.” How did it change you? What did you learn from it? What skills did you acquire that you will bring with you to the medical profession?
  • What impact did you make with this activity?  Did you somehow leave a lasting legacy? Did you come up with new ideas to advance the organization or have an impact on the people you were working with? If so, describe these things.
  • How did the experience change you?  Did the experience help you see a population, a field of discovery, or the world in an entirely new way? Did it stretch you and teach you something you never thought you were capable of? If so, tell why.
  • The key to writing an outstanding entry for your most meaningful experience descriptions is thoughtful reflection.
  • Help medical school admissions committees understand who you are through the descriptions you write. Writing in-depth descriptions as to why an experience meant a great deal to you will help admissions officers understand you better.
  • Don’t try to “game” the system. Be honest in choosing the three experiences that were truly the most meaningful to you. If you do otherwise, admissions officers are likely to see right through it.
  • For the “most meaningful” entries it is common to choose a clinical experience, research experience, and community service experience, although this varies widely from applicant to applicant depending on the array of activities in one’s background.
  • Remember that you will likely get asked about these experiences in an interview; be prepared to talk about them.

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Being on a medical school’s waiting list offers the prospect of an acceptance but it can also be agony waiting for that acceptance to come through. For those who are already accepted at another school the waiting is not nearly as intense—they at least know they are going to medical school. But for those who have yet to be accepted it can be a time of stress as they wait to hear, fingers crossed.

For guidelines and tips on med school waiting lists check out another blog post. For the uninitiated here’s how the med school waitlist process generally works, although policies vary from school to school.

  • Schools fill their classes by March 1st, accepting at least the number of applicants to fill the class—this is required by the AAMC traffic rules.
  • Medical schools create waiting lists throughout the application cycle, with a firm waitlist in place by the spring.
  • Some waitlists are ranked while others are not. Most schools don’t reveal whether their list is ranked; if they are ranked, schools rarely, if ever, reveal an applicant’s ranking.
  • Some schools group those on a the waitlist into categories:  high priority, medium priority, and so forth.
  • April 30th is the date by which all applicants who have been accepted at multiple schools must make a decision about which one school they will attend; they must withdraw offers at all other schools.
  • Leading up to April 30th spaces become available at various medical schools as applicants decline offers. As a result, there is shuffling in med schools’ rosters as the deadline approaches and spaces become available.
  • After April 30th schools know exactly where they stand in regard to filling their class. If they have vacancies they go to the waitlist.
  • If an applicant is given an acceptance after April 30, schools do not have to give him or her much time to make a decision (prior to this date, schools must give applicants two weeks to decide whether to enroll).
  • If you’re on a waitlist, your contact information should be up to date at every medical school where you are waitlisted; the schools will want to contact you quickly should they decide to offer you an acceptance.
  • Most movement from waitlists occurs from late April to mid-June. Occasionally spots open up after this time but the openings become much less frequent.
  • For advice about being accepted to medical school from a waitlist please read my other blog post referenced above.

Please feel free to contact me via email at to discuss your particular situation or to ask questions.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting


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The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) provides a wealth of resources for medical school applicants to help them understand the intricacies of the application. Information regarding the AMCAS application has been released in preparation for the upcoming cycle, which opens in early June for submissions. To be fully prepared applicants should read the AMCAS instruction manual, which contains answers to questions about the application itself. There are also other resources for applicants, such as guides on entering coursework, AP classes, current/future courses, and courses that were taken abroad. There is also information about criminal background checks.

In addition, the Medical School Admission Requirements (widely known as the “MSAR”) is the official source for information about US medical schools, which provide pertinent facts and details for inclusion. Medical school applicants should refer to this source for prerequisite course information, acceptance data, the schools’ curricula, mission, and other data.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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AMCAS opens May 2 for applicants to start entering information; submissions open June 1. AMCAS will not transmit any applications to the medical schools until June 30th. Before the application opens you will hopefully have written your personal statement and activity descriptions. For guidance please refer to my other blog posts on those aspects of the application. As you gear up for the application cycle, here’s a checklist of tasks to complete once you start your AMCAS application:

  • When the application opens enter your biographical, school, and letter data immediately; this will allow you to generate a Transcript Request Form (TRF) and Letter Request Form (LRF). 
  • Send the TRF to the registrar’s office of all schools attended; transcript delays are the #1 processing problem for AMCAS applications. Ensure that you request your transcripts early, just in case problems arise, so you have time to sort them out.
  • Give or send the LRF to those who will write letters on your behalf; if using the AMCAS Letter Writer Application, your letter writers will need the AAMC Letter ID on this form, in addition to your AAMC ID.
  • Follow the guidelines provided by your undergraduate premed advising office in regard to the letter process (if you are still a college student or if you’re a nontraditional or post-bac student with access to institutional advising). For example, if your college/university provides a committee letter, you may only have to send one copy of the LRF to your premed advisor. Circumstances will vary according to applicants’ individual situations.
  • Alternatively, you can use Interfolio to gather and disseminate your letters to AMCAS (this is for applicants who do not have a committee letter process in place at their school).
  • Working directly from your college transcript/s, enter course information EXACTLY as it appears. Individuals at AMCAS will verify the course data you enter against the physical transcript for accuracy. The two should match. AMCAS will also convert the credits earned into a uniform system so that course credits can be compared at one institution vs. another; this makes it easy for medical schools to compare applicants’ course loads, apples to apples.
  • Enter your activity descriptions into the AMCAS application. These are important and perused carefully by the medical schools. Take the time necessary to hone your descriptions. Remember to give both information and reflection, where appropriate.
  • Enter your personal statement into the application. Put in the time necessary to write a statement that makes you shine. Seek out input/assistance from people who have experience reading statements.  Remember: this is your chance to present yourself, your motivation for a career in medicine, and your future goals. Be convincing!
  • Assemble a thoughtful and comprehensive list of medical schools to which you will apply. This is a tactical exercise: you should have a range of schools on your list.
  • Submit early in the cycle. Please see my other blog post on the importance of submitting an early application. 
  • Early is good but don’t rush and make mistakes. Be careful in your preparation and proofread, proofread, proofread. A perfect application is better than a rushed application.
  • Good luck!

Feel free to contact me with questions about your particular situation at or by phone at 410-292-5219.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accredits medical schools in the US and Canada. The accreditation process ensures that medical schools meet certain 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.”

Accreditation is important since most state medical boards require that U.S. medical schools be accredited by the LCME as a condition for licensure of their graduates and US medical students cannot take United States Medical Licensing Examinations unless they are enrolled at an accredited school. Each medical school goes through a review and re-accreditation process periodically. Occasionally schools are put on probation and required to make changes if they want to maintain their accreditation.

Medical school applicants should be cognizant of the schools which are 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. As of this writing there are two medical schools on probation.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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There are several written parts to the medical school application but the central component—and the one in which applicants have the most open space to convey their past experiences and future goals—is the personal statement. In the AMCAS application the prompt for the personal statement is:

Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school.” 

Prompts in the other applications (TMDSAS and AACOMAS) are similar. The space allotted in the AMCAS application is 5300 characters, including spaces, which is approximately one single-spaced page. In that short amount of space you must articulate clearly your reasons for wanting a career in medicine. Your medical school personal statement should be a convincing piece of prose: through your writing you need to convey your excitement about your chosen profession, along with evidence that you’ve tested the profession through clinical experiences.

I have read and helped applicants refine their personal statements for almost 25 years. To write the most effective possible statement adhere to these basic principles:

Draw in the reader:  The personal statement should have both immediacy—drawing in the reader instantly—and big-picture goals. It should help the reader understand what you’ve done to learn about the medical profession and convey your broad interests and what you eventually hope to accomplish as a physician.  Continue reading

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What are medical school “letters of intent” and what role do they play in the medical school admission process? A letter of intent is like a love letter that’s sent to a medical school: it expresses an applicant’s fervent wish to enroll at that one particular school, stating why the applicant feels so strongly about the school, its environment, student culture, and curriculum—and articulating in clear terms what he or she might contribute to the school if admitted.

The ultimate purpose of the letter of intent is two-pronged:

1. To let the school know that it is, without question, your top choice.

2. To inform the medical school that you will accept their offer if given the chance.

When weighing one applicant over another—and if they are equal in all other measures—a letter of intent may make a difference. Continue reading

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All premed students know that the MCAT is a big component of the medical school admission process. It looms large in the mind of every premedical student.

I have spent almost 25 years advising premed students and coaching them through the MCAT. Helping students refine their test-taking strategies has allowed me to come up with a list of tips to help premed students prepare for and master the MCAT. This list may be especially helpful for those who have taken the MCAT and did not receive the score they hoped for and it’s equally valuable for first-time test takers. Continue reading

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When I first began advising medical school applicants nearly 25 years ago, I hardly ever encountered anyone who was interested in pursuing a joint MD-MBA degree. But things have changed dramatically since then. Over the last several years I have seen an uptick in the number of clients who are interested in pursuing both MD and MBA degrees, a trend which is confirmed by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the New York Times. Between 2003 and 2016 the number of students in MD-MBA programs increased by about 143%. As one might expect, the impetus for earning a business degree alongside a medical degree stems from an interest in having the skills to either lead an academic department or medical center or run another kind of healthcare organization. More medical students have an interest in entrepreneurship, as well, and want the skills to navigate starting a business and keeping it strong.

To meet the increased interest in business amongst premedical students and medical school applicants, more medical schools are including business courses as electives in their curriculum. And the number of joint MD-MBA programs has risen to more than 70.  For a list of such programs, please refer to the Association of MD/MBA Programs’ website.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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Photo courtesy of New York-Presbyterian Hospital

Photo courtesy of New York-Presbyterian Hospital

As the world gets more globally focused and connected, more medical schools are incorporating courses to help medical students learn about and address global health issues. This trend is also, in part, due to increased interest in global health amongst medical students. Many medical school applicants and eventual medical students are interested in service learning during their medical education; as a result, more opportunities to engage in global health have emerged.

The approach in courses that teach med students about global health issues should be multifold according to experts such as Dr. Joel Shalowitz of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern, cited in this recent article in US News and World Report about the preponderance of global health courses in medical school.

Duke’s Global Health Institute offers an array of courses to educate students. The University of Colorado offers a Global Health Track.  Tufts also offers programs in global health, as does the famed program in Global Health & Social Medicine at Harvard.  In fact, most medical schools offer some sort of education in global health issues. Some other examples include Columbia and the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn.

–Liza Thompson, Medical School Admissions Consulting

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