Most health professions schools use a centralized application service (for more information about which application service utilized by the type of school you hope to attend, please visit the various school options on the Career Options page). Although the application sections listed below are specific to the AMCAS application (allopathic medical school), other professional schools will have simlar requirements.
Sections of the Application
Identifying Information: legal name, associated school identification numbers, birthdate and sex
Schools Attended: high school, colleges, transcripts, institutional actions
Biographic Information: contact and demographic information, felonies and misdemeanors
Course Work: all post-secondary coursework including foreign coursework/study abroad courses
Work/Activities: up to 15 work/activity experiences, three can be labeled as most meaningful
Letters of Evaluation: the Pre-Medical Sciences Program offers a Committee Letter
Selection of Medical Schools: choose between MD and MD-PhD programs
Personal Statement: 5300 characters (including spaces) that details why you’re applying
Standardized Tests: MCAT scores will be released unless voided
Committee Letter of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are an integral component of your medical school application. They are used by admissions committees to gain an outsider’s perspective regarding your suitability for professional school and often help determine if you will be selected for an interview. In general, medical schools use letters to evaluate candidates’ “social and interpersonal skills, reliability and dependability, teamwork, integrity and ethics, service orientation, and resilience and adaptability” (Geiger & Dunleavy, 2013). For more information regarding guidelines for letters of evaluation, please consult AAMC’s Admissions Initiative website.
The Pre-Medical Sciences Program recommends all applicants select the Committee Letter option when filling out their AMCAS application. The Committee Letter is authored by the Pre-Medical Sciences Director and will include a summary of the applicant's personal qualities and attributes, specific statements from individual evaluators selected by the applicant regarding their strengths and weaknesses, and other comments from the Pre-Medical Sciences Director. Needless to say, it’s important to get to know Dr. Pershouse before preparing to apply. Individual letters of recommendation submitted to the Pre-Medical Sciences office will be included with your committee letter when submitted to AMCAS.
To secure a Committee Letter from the Pre-Medical Sciences advising office, students must first complete a waiver form in which they are required to either retain or waive their right of access to their personal files. If a student waves their right of access, they are not permitted to read the Committee Letter or evaluations written by individuals they select. While medical school admission committees prefer confidential letters, they cannot be legally required. In cases where students retain their right of access, the Committee Letter will so indicate.
After completing a waiver form, students should use the Letter of Recommendation Request form to request evaluation letters from selected individuals. The Pre-Medical Sciences program recommends that students solicit a total of six evaluations. Three of these should be academic evaluations from professors that have had you in class, while the other three should be character references. Ideally, two of the academic evaluations should be from science faculty and one from a non-science faculty member. The character references most often from supervisors of volunteer experiences and doctors whom you’ve job shadowed. All evaluations are submitted to the Pre-Med office and become part of your advising file.
Almost all graduate and professional degree programs require applicants to submit essays that detail why they would like to pursue a post-graduate degree. For a health profession degree, you are answering the question, “Why do I want to be a ___________?” (doctor, dentist, physician assistant, podiatrist, optometrist, veterinarian, chiropractor, etc.) and you want to make sure that your response contains elements that apply to only you. Go beyond telling the admissions committee that you love science and want to help people – they will be hearing this from everyone. Distinguish yourself from other applicants by telling the story of what happened to you to prompt your decision to pursue this career.
Telling Your Story
Your personal statement should be a narrative – a story that brings a characteristic or experience to life for your audience (the admissions committee). Think back to the personal experience speech that you may have had to write for your public speaking course. In that class, you had to tell a story about a personal characteristic or experience that led you to develop an opinion about a public issue that affects all of us. For your application essay, your specific purpose is to persuade the admissions committee to let you into medical school. Well-written personal statements will go beyond telling the story and create a sense of identification with the audience. It will let the admissions committee know what happened and why you want to be a doctor, but also leave them feeling connected to you – so connected that they want to invite you to an interview to hear more.
If you choose to write your essay in this way, it should have three parts. First, it should have a short introduction that gives a preview of what your story is about and has a clear and concise central idea that transitions well into the body of your story. Second, you’ll need to spend time describing your story. Be descriptive, but also be concise (you have a limited number of characters to work with). Focus on just one or two characters and actions in the story and avoid unnecessary details that distract from the basic point you are trying to get across. Third, reinforce and elaborate on your central idea – that you want to be a doctor. Explain how your experiences will help you succeed in medical school and make you a great physician.
Finally, it’s important to make sure that you convey medical school is what you want and that they should want you. Admissions committees are willing to play the devil’s advocate. If you focus too much on your love of science courses, they will likely ask, “Why aren’t you pursuing a teaching certificate?” If your story emphasizes your desire to help others above all else, they will ask, “Why aren’t you looking into a degree in social work?” Your task is to let them know you’ve considered these other options and have found that medical school is the only path that allows you to really do what you want to do. Remember the three elements of good persuasive arguments – ethos (appeals to credibility and character), logos (appeals to logic and reasoning), and pathos (appeals to emotion) – and use them to make the case for yourself.
The AMCAS application contains a section for a 5,300-character essay (including spaces) or approximately one full page. On AACOMAS, AADSAS, AACPMAS, and OptomCAS you’re limited to only 4,500 characters, on CASPA and VMCAS 5,000, and on NDCAS 6,000. You will receive an error message if you exceed the available space. It is a good idea to visit the instructions & FAQs pages of each application service to make sure that you are addressing the questions adequately and formatting your essay to display properly in their system. Finally, keep in mind that your personal statement will be sent to all of the medical schools that you designate when you submit your application, so don’t point to one school in particular in your essay.
We’re here to help - contact the Pre-Med Office if you are interested in Personal Statement feedback and review.