Refining Your Medical School Application (Tips for the Entire Process)

If you are reading this, you might be in the middle of working on your primary or secondary applications for medical school. Perhaps you are preparing to apply so you are looking ahead. Either way, glad you are here! Here are a few ways to Refine the Anatomy of Your Medical School Application before you click submit.

This post is a continuation of 10 Tactics to Prepare an Impressive Medical School Application. These tips are lessons my husband and I both learned and observed before, during, and after submitting the primary and secondary applications for medical school. So, let's get started!

(Here is a quick recap of the Three Phases of Applying to Medical School from Kaplan Test.)

Tips for Primary Application

Primary applications. In this application, you will submit your background information, school transcripts, work experience, extracurricular activities, letters of evaluation, personal statement, and MCAT scores. You will also select what medical schools you want to apply to. Learn more about these sections from AAMC.

Here are a few tips when it comes to your primary application.

Keep track of your hours and activities. It will save you time and keep you honest.

Get it done early. Try to have everything written, uploaded, and ready to go when submissions open. The longer you wait to submit your primary application, the more applications there are in front of yours.

Edit and revise your essays. Then do it again. Be meticulous in your grammar, spelling, and how you portray yourself.

Review every section and detail before you click submit! You will be grateful you did when you realize you wrote "your" when you meant "you're". Or perhaps you forgot to include one of your transcripts from a college course you took your senior year of high school.

Your Personal Statement

Your personal statement. This piece of the medical school application plays a critical role for admissions committees when deciding whether to extend a secondary, interview, and acceptance.

It is an opportunity to share something about yourself beyond the 15 activity essays and peak admissions committees' interest in you so they want to learn more about you.

As such, you should take your time with it. Start months before the applications even open. This will allow you to carefully craft, draft, edit, revise, and review your personal statement before submitting it.

On a personal note...

I have quite a bit of experience when it comes to writing. I have a background in public relations and journalism. After writing for a newspaper, tutoring college students, and being employed at a blog and university specifically for my writing and PR skills, I've learned a few things.

With this in mind, here are a few tips when it comes to approaching your personal statement.

How you portray yourself in writing will contribute to whether or not you receive interviews. If you are sloppy and too casual, you may quickly find yourself lacking in secondaries and interview invites.While you don't want to be too casual, you don't want to be so formal that your voice is lost in writing. Find something unique to share in the personal statement. They want your story, not your resume in story form. Don't become married to your first draft and definitely DO NOT submit your first draft.

Have friends, family, professors, and others review your statement. Most college libraries offer writing labs where students can make appointments to come in and get help.

Don't know where to start? Starting writing. Explore the following questions.

Where do you get your drive and passion?

Why medicine and what experiences led you to want to pursue it?

What kind of doctor do you want to be? Think even beyond just the specialties, but how you want to interact with patients and approach healthcare delivery etc.

What are you currently doing to prepare for medical school?

What is your story? Explain past experiences have led you to your current doings, and why.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation or letters of evaluation. These are crucial to your medical school application! It is better to get a letter of recommendation from someone who actually knows you than to get one from someone who is prestigious just because they are prestigious. Generally it is suggested to get at least one letter from the following individuals:

Science professor

Non-science professor



Physician (Considered one of the most important letters)

Build relationships early with faculty, doctors, etc.

Double check and make sure all your letters of recommendation are submitted. Hopefully the person you asked remembers and follows through, but you don't want to find yourself having to reapply because you are missing a letter of recommendation.

Thank those who write a letter for you. Drop an email, write a note, or even simply thank them face to face.

Selecting the Schools You Apply To

This is tough one. You really have to do your research. Try to not blindly apply because it will likely be a waste of your money.I really liked my husband’s way of approaching this. He has run into multiple people who have given him the same sound advice.

Consider the following three categories as you make your list:

Schools you want to go to. These are the schools that you are a competitive applicant and are located in areas that you’d like to live.

Schools you know you can get into. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of schools give preferential admission to those who are residents of that state. So, this category includes schools that are in your home state or the state you received your undergrad in.

Schools that stretch you. These are the top 15 medical schools. Hard to get into, but the best of the best. Pick a couple and go for it!

Brittany and her husband are attending med school at the the University of Arizona College of Medicine. She shared the following tip when it comes to choosing schools.

"Look at where most people from your school got accepted and apply to those places! Definitely look at which schools accept out of state students if you are from or in a state with a limited number of med schools!"

For a few more things to consider check out this post How to Choose a Medical School. Grab and find all of this information with the comparison tools at Compare Medical Schools!

Tips for Secondary Application

Secondary applications. Many medical schools will simply send every applicant a secondary application. Others are a bit more picky and use the primary application to weed out applicants.

If we didn't say it enough with the primary application, let us emphasize again. Submit those secondaries as early as possible! But with that being said, don't get too hasty and submit it before they are ready.A good rule of thumb is to submit a secondary application no later than two weeks after you received it.

Proofread. You really don't want to be that person who copied and pasted all their essays, but then forgot to change the name of the school on one of their secondary applications.

You often are given a word or character limitation on essays so choose your words carefully. Cut out qualifiers like "really" or "very".

Make sure you answer the questions fully and thoughtfully. Don't make the reader work to understand what you are trying to portray. Your essays should flow easily off the tongue and connect the dots for the reader.

Submit It But Don't Forget It

Submit your medical school application, but don't forget it. You need to keep tabs on it during the verification process.

According to the AAMC's article Monitoring Your Application,

"AMCAS staff will verify your application and ensure that the coursework data that you have entered correctly reflects your official transcript(s). After we have verified your application, we will send the verified application back to you; it is your responsibility to check it for any errors that may have occurred during the verification process."

Some schools will allow you to update your application. For instance, if during the process of the application phase you finish and publish a research article, you could update your application. However, this varies at each medical school.

Here are a few more reasons you might want to update your medical school application from U.S. News and World Report.

Well, now comes possibly the hardest part. You have to wait for those interview invites! Be patient. Stay busy. Focus on your goals. You've got this.

What tips do you have for the medical school application phase? Comment below and share!

Hopefully these tips help you Refine the Anatomy of Your Medical School Application! If you found this useful, you might enjoy some of these posts too!

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By: Kristi Hargiss