Last Updated on March 1, 2024

The American Medical School (AMCAS) Application Process Explained

More and more students seem to be pinning their hopes on becoming a doctor these days. Are you one of them? The number of medical school applicants, in fact, hit an all-time high of 52,777 in 2018, according to the  Association of American Medical Colleges.(AAMC) It’s a number that seems to be increasing year after year as more young people – a lot of them women and of multicultural origins – aspire to enter the field of medicine. Growing enthusiasm for submitting that AMCAS application to get accepted at a good medical school is promising. Especially as the AAMC is also predicting a looming dearth of medical professionals over the next decade; a shortage of up to 120,000 physicians by the year 2030, to be specific. With this data in mind it may be surprising to know that med schools are clamping down on admissions. Only 41% of applicants were admitted in 2018 – so odds are not necessarily in your favour.

When it comes to making it to the med school of your choice, knowledge is power. Read on to arm you with all the information you need to fully understand the AMCAS application process andget a head start in competing for admission against the best and brightest budding physicians of tomorrow.

What is AMCAS … and What does AMCAS stand for?

AMCAS stands for The American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®). It is the central location that processes U.S. medical school applications. All applications to all American schools – no matter how many you apply to – can be made easily through just one online application to AMCAS. Most U.S. medical schools use AMCAS as the primary application method for their entering classes.

AMCAS is only available to first-year students entering classes at participating U.S. medical schools. You’ll need to contact the medical school(s) directly for assistance if you have advanced standing or are a transfer applicant. While AMCAS is a processing service, it’s important to understand that AMCAS does not itself make any admission decisions nor advise applicants where to apply.

The AMCAS Program in Three Simple Steps:

Step 1. Submit your application

Complete the AMCAS application on the AMCAS website – The Application breaks down into 9 sections, as follows:

Sections 1-3: Your background information

Here you will be asked to enter basic information about yourself, including your name, birthday, schools attended, citizenship, ethnicity and race, and other pertinent details.

Section 4: Your course information and transcripts

This is a very important section where you must take care to include information and corresponding grades for every course in which you have ever enrolled at any U.S., U.S. Territorial, or Canadian post-secondary institution, regardless of whether you earned credit. This includes your withdrawals, repeats, failures, incompletes, and future coursework. Take great care to be accurate as errors may affect your AMCAS score. For more in-depth information, please consult How to Enter Study Abroad Coursework page.

AMCAS Application - Making it To Med School

This section should include:

  • Course Classification: Each course must be assigned a course classification based entirely on the primary content of the course. See the AMCAS Course Classification Guide .
  • Foreign Coursework/Study Abroad: For more info on this, consult the AMCAS Applicant Guide 
  • AMCAS GPA: AMCAS will convert most standard undergraduate transcript grades to AMCAS grades based on conversion information provided by your institution. The AMCAS GPA provides medical schools with a standard way to compare each applicant’s background. The BCPM GPA is comprised of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics courses. All other coursework will be calculated in the AO (All Other) GPA.
  • Your transcripts: AMCAS requires one official transcript from each U.S., U.S. Territorial, or Canadian post-secondary institution at which you have attempted coursework, regardless of whether credit was earned. Transcripts must be sent directly from the registrar’s offices and should be accompanied by the AMCAS Pre-barcoded Transcript Request Form. This form ensures that your transcript is matched to your application and provides more efficient processing. Paper transcripts should be mailed to AMCAS along with an AMCAS Pre-barcoded Transcript Request Form to help us match your transcript(s) to your application. This form is found within the application.

    Mail paper transcripts to:
    AMCAS, Attn: Transcripts,
    AAMC Medical School Application Services,
    P.O. Box 57326,
    Washington, DC 20037

    ** Be advised: Problems with transcripts are the number one cause of processing delays and missed application deadlines.
Section 5: Work and Activities

Here, you will need to enter relevant work experience, extra-curricular activities and any awards you may have. You may also want to note any honors, or publications that you would like to bring to the attention of your medical schools. A maximum of 15 experiences may be entered, but you can enter up to four occurrences for each experience. In filling out this section, be sure to limit yourself to only significant experiences; medical schools tend to value quality over quantity.

Section 6: Letters of Evaluation

In this section, you’ll need to indicate who your referrers are, what types of letters will be sent to AMCAS, and which schools should receive each letter. You can use the Letter Request Form on the AMCAS site, a PDF generated by you in the AMCAS application for your designated letter authors. Please note that AMCAS does not need your letters of evaluation to verify your application. Therefore, you may submit your AMCAS application even if your letters have not yet arrived at AMCAS.

Section 7: Medical Schools

This is where you will enter all the medical schools to which you wish to apply. You may wish to review the most recent edition of the Medical School Admissions Requirements and consult with an advisor for guidance in choosing the best-fit schools for you and your chosen field of study.

Section 8: Essays

For some, this is the most challenging part of the AMCAS application. You’ll be required to submit a Personal Comment essay. The length is relatively short, 5,300 characters (spaces are counted as characters), or approximately one page. If you exceed the available space you will get an error message. Be sure to proofread your essay carefully in another document format as there is no spell-check in the application form. If you’re applying to an MD-PhD program, you must complete two additional essays: the MD-PhD Essay and the Significant Research Experience Essay If you’re applying to an MD-PhD program, you must complete two additional essays: the MD-PhD Essay and the Significant Research Experience Essay Stuck? Worried you will get something wrong? We are here to help. If you need assistance with this or other areas of your application to Med school, be sure to contact: [email protected]

Section 9: Standardized Tests:

In this section, you will list your MCAT exam scores and other standardized testing results. Include only the MCAT exams you have taken at the time you certify and submit your AMCAS application. Do not include exams that you voided at the time of the exam. Be aware that should you not void your scores at the time of the exam, all MCAT scores earned in 2003 and later will be automatically released to AMCAS. Once you release your scores, you cannot “unreleased” them; they will be included in all future AMCAS applications. Most medical schools require that MCAT scores are no more than 3 years old. Consult the schools to which you are applying to ensure you meet their requirements.

Step 2. Pay the AMCAS Fees

At the time of submission, you must provide payment for any AMCAS application fees. If you have a Fee Assistance Award, it can be used towards your application costs. The 2020 AMCAS processing fee is $170, which includes one medical school designation. Additional medical school designations are $40 each. You can pay online by credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover) or with a Fee Assistance Program award. AMCAS will not accept any offline payments, including checks, money orders, or credit card information sent via mail, fax, email, or telephone.

Step 3. AMCAS Application is Processed – and your AMCAS GPAs are calculated

AMCAS Application Submission

At this stage, your application is in the hands of AMCAS. You do not need to submit your MCAT results or letter of recommendation. After the submission, you’ll enter the waiting period for confirmation. All your required official transcripts should arrive at AMCAS and administrators will process these and begin to verify your coursework. During the verification process, AMCAS compares your official transcripts with those you entered into the AMCAS application. AMCAS will also convert its notes to AMCAS and AMCAS GPA ratings to provide a standardized GPA for Medical Schools. This is to more fairly compare and evaluate an applicants’ academic records. As applicants come from a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate institutions that use different academic calendars and grading systems, it’s a way of ensuring all candidates are evaluated on fair and equal grounds. Your AMCAS GPAs are calculated during the verification and will be listed on your printable application once AMCAS processing is complete. You will also be able to view your Cumulative Undergraduate GPA and your Graduate GPA. Be aware that AMCAS GPAs will usually differ considerably from those calculated by the school(s) you have attended. For this reason, AMCAS does not in any way attempt to compare AMCAS GPAs with those that appear on your official transcripts. To see the formulas that AMCAS uses to calculate AMCAS GPAs ( and for details on AMCAS GPA conversion Canada university students need to know) see the AMCAS Grade Conversion Guide.

Step 4. AMCAS Applications delivered to Medical schools:

The next step in the process is also in the hands of AMCAS. Once completed, the program is considered to be processed and delivered to the medical schools listed on your application. Recommendations are provided on a continuous basis. MCAT points are automatically received and delivered to the listed medical schools. Your Letters of Evaluation will also be forwarded to the schools as they are received. Your MCAT scores will be automatically delivered as they become available.

When to submit your AMCAS application:

Wondering when does AMCAS opens? The answer is: during the period from June to September, AMCAS will take approximately six weeks to process your request. As soon as you can send it on June 3, it can be sent to medical schools earlier on June 27. The deadline for submission is August 1st. The regular treatment time will vary from October to December.

Questions to ask before submitting your AMCAS application:

1. Are my personal statement and my experience a part of their optimal form?

Has it been changed, edited, and revised again? After you submit a test and experiment, you cannot change, add or delete them. These are the critical part of your application and you should confirm that they are in their optimal format before sending. Always make sure that the second set of eyes is examined. The AMCAS application does not have text processing software, so check spelling and formatting. A sudden and disagreeable submission is worse than decent subsequent submissions.

2. Do I have all my official transcripts? Do I have any final grades I want to include?

If you’ve recently had some strong grades – and noticed an increasing trend in your academic standings, you will want to note this on your AMCAS application. You may, however, need to wait for your latest annotations to appear on your official transcripts in order to make changes and additions.

3. Is all my data correctly entered?

The most common reason for a delayed application is the failure to properly list the courses that appear on official transcripts. If there are any errors, your request will be returned, which will serve to postpone your expected request and could result in you missing important deadlines.

4. What changes can be made later?

You will be able to make only certain changes and additions after you submit your application. Make sure that you are aware of what AMCAS allows you to change – and what can’t – before you click SEND. Here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • You can add up to 10 characters of referrals
  • You can assign new letters to some medical schools
  • You can add a new MCAT test date and MCAT result
  • You cannot delete a letter previously assigned to a medical school.

The Bottom line – earlier is better.

Some medical schools may begin to receive acceptance letters as early as October. Bear in mind that once a medical school begins to fill its class, the board will become more discriminating with available places to be filled. Late submission is a common mistake that can have a significant impact on your chances of getting into your favorite school.

Make it through your AMCAS application and on to Med school with us.

Our team of doctors at MedApplications helps students get admitted to medical school and residency programs across the country and around the world. Look to our years of experience serving on medical school admissions committees and as faculty members of top schools to give your AMCAS application the edge it needs to succeed.

Or contact [email protected] for a free initial consultation today to expedite your career in medicine.

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