Work on these documents early in the fall semester. They need to be well-conceived and well-written: enlist the help of your faculty advisor or another faculty member! Make sure to address in your personal statement (a) the reasons for choosing a profession in the health sciences, and (b) what you have done to prepare for professional school and the profession itself. Also describe:
- Important life events that helped you develop skills and values of importance in medical profession,
- Your idea of humanitarian values and provide some evidence of your motivation to help others,
- Examples of significant personal accomplishments, and experiences that helped you hone your personal communication skills.
To create a personal statement that distinguishes you from other candidates, do some soul-searching to find out why you really want to enter this profession. “I always wanted to be a doctor” in a personal statement says nothing.
- Take an MCAT practice test: In January/February of your junior year, take a few MCAT practice tests, which you can find through Barnes & Noble bookstores, online, in a professional advisor’s collection, or at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This will allow you to get acquainted with the format of the exam, have the experience of exam-taking under time constraints, and find weak links in your knowledge.
- Obtain letters of recommendation: Spring semester is the time to inform the individuals who will write letters of recommendation for you, that you will need a letter by the end of the semester. Faculty members often like to work on these well ahead of time, since a busy semester may allow limited time for letter writing. Select individuals who know you well. You will need letters from two science faculty and one non-science faculty, or another professional (not simply a family friend!) who knows you from a professional interaction. The latter may be a physician you worked with during your AST or a special project, not your personal doctor who only knows you as a patient. Remind the individuals that all letters need to be written on professional letterhead stationery!
- Take the MCAT exam in April: Much of the knowledge you have acquired by taking junior year courses will be fresh and will not require substantial review. This will also put you on track for medical school admission in the fall of the following year, immediately after the completion of your senior year. If you need to postpone taking the MCAT exam until August, you may not be able to meet the deadline for starting the medical school the following fall.
- Repeating the MCAT exam: The exam fees are expensive! It is not worth taking the exam unless you are well-prepared. You can have the experience of exam-taking by timing yourself on practice tests. In the case of repeated exams, some schools look only at the last score (Northwestern), while others look at average scores.
- Submit the AMCAS-E application: Submit the application immediately after June 1st to the American Medical Colleges Application Service organization. Submission must be electronic . This information will be distributed to all schools of your choice. Since the space on the application is limited, select those extracurricular activities that exemplify leadership and are of greater importance. This includes internships, independent research experience, honors, awards, and/or social activities. Significant awards are of particular importance.
- From this point on, pay attention to deadlines.
- Submit supplemental school applications: As different schools obtain information from AMCAS, they will send you supplemental applications asking you to address questions specific to the interests of their particular school. Schools usually expect that you return the application within one week.
- Mail letters of recommendation: After submitting your supplemental applications, it is time to mail your letters of recommendation. Do this in short order!