The Basics

All U.S. Medical Schools participate in a Centralized Application Service (CAS). The AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) application opens in May, though the earliest you may submit will be early June. The AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service) also opens in May.  While the application deadline may be anytime from September-December, submitting your primary application early (during the month of June) is strongly encouraged. AMCAS and AACOMAS applications can take 4-6 weeks to process and be sent to selected schools. Read the instruction manual for AMCAS and AACOMAS and instructions for the programs you will be applying to before beginning the application process to avoid any delays in the process.

Secondary applications are sent from individual schools, usually with little to no screening of your application.  This provides you the opportunity to further discuss your interest in a specific program. You may also be required to send additional materials to the programs. Do not delay in completing secondaries—schools want to learn more about you and your interest in their program.  

Most medical schools operate on a rolling admission process, which means admissions committees begin reviewing applications as soon as they are completed.  Applications are not considered complete until schools have received the the AMCAS or AACOMAS, Secondary application, MCAT scores, and letters of recommendation.  

Programs with rolling admissions may provide decisions regarding interviews and/or admissions within a month of completing the application. Some programs offer Early Decision. If you choose this option and are admitted, you are committed to that program. If you are considering Early Decision, you are strongly encouraged to speak with a health professions advisor.

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Entrance Exam

Medical schools require the Medical College Application Test (MCAT), which helps admissions offices assess your problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles essential to the study of medicine. It is important to plan ahead determine when you should sit for this exam, in regards to your ideal application timeline.  Preparation for the MCAT includes taking recommended courses, studying, and practicing timed exams.  Ideally, the MCAT should be taken 15 months or more before you plan to enter medical school.  The MCAT consists of four sections:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills 

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Personal Statement

Your personal statement is an important part of the application because it distinguishes you from other applicants. The character limit, including spaces, is 5300 for the AMCAS personal statement and 4500 for the AACOMAS personal statement. Consider the following questions when writing your essay:

  1. Why have you selected the field of medicine?
  2. What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
  3. What do you want medical schools to know about you that hasn’t been disclosed in other sections of the application?
  4. Reflect on the experiences you have had (student organizations, volunteering, research, clinical healthcare, study abroad). How have these experiences influenced you to become a physician?

Your personal statement is also an area where you may address the following:

  1. Hardships, challenges or obstacles that have influenced educational choices
  2. Commentary on significant fluctuations in your academic record if it is not explained elsewhere on the application

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Letters of Recommendation

You may submit a minimum of three and a maximum of ten individual letters in AMCAS. AACOMAS will allow up to six individual letters.  Illinois does not provide a “committee letter” or "pre-med advisor letter" for applicants to any health professional program. Letters may be sent electronically through a letter writer application/evaluation or through Interfolio letter service. You are responsible for determining the specific type of letters that are required by the programs you are applying to. Letters may be required from:

  1. Science Faculty (2)
  2. Non-Science Faculty (1)
  3. Faculty Advisor
  4. Employer/Supervisor
  5. Research Mentor
  6. Healthcare Provider
  7. Volunteer Manager

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You will need to request transcripts from all institutions you have attended (University of Illinois, community colleges, previous institution, etc.). AMCAS and AACOMAS will calculate several GPAs.  Repeated courses are included in the AMCAS GPAs provided to allopathic programs (regardless of whether you utlize grade replacement). Osteopathic programs will calculate the last attempt of a course in the GPA.

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