As most of you who are applying to medical school this cycle are aware, the AMCAS opens during the first week of June. Typically, you are allowed to begin filling it out sometime in mid-May, but can't officially complete it until it opens in June. This is when you can submit the first part of your application - the personal statement, activities and extracurriculars, transcripts, letters of recommendation, MCAT score - to the schools of your choice. Needless to say, this is a very important part of your application, and there are some things you definitely want to consider before you submit.
1. Early is good!
There are thousands of students applying to medical school every year, and the verification process for all of those applications takes a long time. The earlier you get your app into the AMCAS primary pile, the earlier it will be looked at, and the less time it will take to be verified. For example, if you submit your primary on June 15, you might be looking at a 3 week turnaround for verification. If you submit it on July 15, that date might climb up to 6 weeks. The earlier your primary is verified, the earlier you can follow up with secondaries to the schools you are interested in, and the earlier they will receive your file. The early they receive your file, the earlier they can decide to interview you, and the more interview spots they will have available. You get the point. Try to make it a point to submit your primary application before the end of June. There is a BUT
2. Quality is better!
Even though submitting an application early is ideal, don't submit early at the expense of submitting something less than your best. Don't forget that the content of your primary application is essentially telling the medical schools everything about you - take the time to make sure it is well-written and comprehensive. It is much better to wait an extra week or two to adequately summarize all your activities and nail down your personal statement than rush to submit it the day it opens.
3. Quadruple Check Your Required Components!
When I was applying to medical school, I (mistakenly) assumed that my undergraduate university would send in my transcript to the AMCAS. By the time I realized I had to order it and allow it to be verified by AMCAS separately, I was nearly done with my primary and it set me back a few weeks. I definitely had a couple panic attacks thinking that I had completely ruined my chances of getting into medical school (I hadn't). Don't let that happen to you! Check closely with your university about the parts of your application that you are responsible for submitting - make sure you know how your 'committee' letter works, have submitted all of your letters of recommendation (http://blog.cambridgecoaching.com/how-you-should-be-asking-for-a-letter-of-recommendation), know who is submitting your transcripts, and have your plan for paying for the AMCAS set up. These are all aspects that might be out of your control, so you don't want to be held up by them after your work is done.
4. Don't panic!
The primary application can be intimidating, and it can really feel like everything has to be perfect. Always remember that this is only one of many parts of your application, and while you should put your best foot forward, there are plenty of other things that will help you shine. The primary (and secondary) application is most important for getting you an interview, which is when your personality can shine and convince admissions committees that they want you at their school. Another problem applicants run into is spending time deciding which schools to send their primary to. If you're still trying to finalize your school list, add the schools which you're sure about to your primary in this round, and then add more later if you decide you need to. Once your primary is verified you can always submit it to more schools, but it isn't worth waiting the extra week to send them all in one go.
In summary, if you're applying to med school in the 2016-17 cycle (aka you want to start in the Fall of 2017), try to have your primary submitted by the end of June. Use it to make yourself stand out, and pay close attention to your personal statement - it's the best chance you will have prior to an interview to convince admissions teams that you want to be a doctor. Good luck!
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