AMCAS Application Basics

AMCAS (the American Medical College Application Service) is the application service used by the majority of allopathic medical schools in the US. If you’re planning to apply to medical school, you will most likely use this system to send out your primary application. Before we jump into AMCAS application components, let’s review some of the basic information you need to know to get into an MD medical school in the US.

Education and Coursework

Even before you start planning your AMCAS application, you need to understand what kind of education and coursework you should complete in order to be an eligible applicant to MD schools in the US. Good news is that most medical schools do not have any strict requirements when it comes to the major you choose to pursue as long as you complete all the required prerequisites. 


The majority of AMCAS-participating medical schools have GPA and MCAT thresholds that applicants must meet. Please note that some schools use GPA and MCAT to weed out applicants in early application review stages. If your GPA and MCAT do not meet the school’s standards you may be removed from the applicant pool.

These two AMCAS application components are often viewed in tandem. This means that a high GPA can sometimes compensate a lower MCAT score, while a really high MCAT score can outweigh a slightly lower GPA. 


Start planning your journey to medical school as soon as you can. It will take you a long time to gain quality experiences that will allow you to stand out as a candidate. Research is one of those medical school extracurriculars that can really give you a competitive edge because it showcases some of the most valued qualities for medical school, like attention to detail, curiosity, organizational skills, and analytical skills. 


You need to test drive your career choice before you even apply to medical school! Shadowing is one of the most important experiences that you should gain because it allows you to oversee the everyday work of a physician. This will help you understand if the life of a doctor is a good fit for you. 

Clinical and Other Work Experience

Unlike shadowing, clinical work involves direct patient interactions. Clinical work, whether paid or unpaid, is a great way to see if medicine is the right path for you. Plus, premed clinical experiences will allow you to start forming your bedside manner, which will be super important during medical school and residency. 

But clinical work is not the only work that is valued by medical schools. There are many other premed jobs that will help you develop really valuable skills, such as sense of responsibility, communication skills, critical thinking skills, and more. 

AMCAS Work and Activities

The extracurriculars you get involved in as a premed will find their way into your AMCAS application in the Work and Activities section. Please note that you must be very selective with the experiences that you include. And most importantly, remember that you the experiences that you include in AMCAS Work and Activities do not have to be directly related to medical school – admissions committees want to see well-rounded applicants, so feel free to be creative!

Personal Statement and Essays

Your personal statement is probably the most challenging component of your AMCAS application. It’s important to start early, 6-8 weeks before the deadline, so you can submit the strongest essay possible. Keep in mind that your essay is not a resume or a CV – it’s a story. So take your time to create a strong narrative. 


Situational judgment test are a common application component for medical schools. AMCAS participating schools often use the AAMC PREview test to assess applicants’ preprofessional competencies. Make sure to understand the format and the scoring rubric for this evaluation even before you start your preparations and practices. 

Letters of Recommendation

LORs are objective evaluations of your suitability for medical school. Take note that medical school recommendations must be very strong. Lukewarm references can only hurt your application.

Secondary Essays

While secondary applications are not submitted via AMCAS, you should start preparing your secondary essays as soon as you finish and submit your primary application. You can start brainstorming and drafting secondaries based on some of the most common prompts and then adapt them based on the schools that invite you to submit the secondaries. 

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