In part because of the failing economy, getting into medical school is becoming increasingly competitive. Top-notch candidates who used to target law or business school are turning their interest toward medicine, a more secure field. Consequently, more competitive candidates are now pursuing a medical career, making the submission of an excellent medical school application more important.
The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS®) is a centralized application processing service for medical school applicants. AMCAS® accepts letters of recommendation (LOR) for participating medical schools, enabling institutions to receive letters electronically. It also allows the letter of recommendation writers to send their written materials to AMCAS® instead of to individual medical schools, saving time.
Some of the most useful AMCAS® advice I can offer includes ensuring that your letters of recommendation are optimal, as these evaluations are one of the most critical aspects of applying to medical school.
One way to do this is to choose the right person to author your LOR. A wish list for an evaluator would be the following:
a)S/he is senior faculty with a weighty title who is well known in his/her field.
b)S/he has spent significant time with you.
c)S/he is an experienced letter-writer.
d)S/he has explicitly stated s/he will write you a strong LOR. It is important to directly ask any potential author, “Can you write me a very strong letter for medical school?”
Of course all of these qualifications are not possible for all letter writers. But the more of these you can garner the better. With regard to (a), admissions officers are human just like the rest of us: Receiving a LOR from an accomplished, known colleague will be weighed much more heavily than one from someone deemed less successful and unfamiliar. If you are better connected to someone without a title (for example, a teaching assistant), consider asking a more senior person who has a weightier title if s/he would consider writing a LOR with significant input from your closer contact.
To improve your medical school candidacy fully, consider working with a professional. Because applicants can unknowingly undermine their chances of success with poorly compiled application materials, a qualified, personalized medical school admissions consultant provides a great advantage. Medical school consulting companies come in a variety of forms. Some are bigger businesses that focus on admissions to several types of graduate programs – not just medicine. Others are smaller and provide a medical focus, but have a pool of consultants of varying quality. Finally, elite companies offer both the medical focus and a highly experienced consultant who works one-on-one with clients. These professionals are ex-admissions officers from highly respected medical institutions. They have the inside knowledge of how medical school admissions work, providing individualized guidance to optimize applicants’ personal essays, AMCAS® and interview skills.
When choosing a medical school admissions consulting company, a candidate should verify the company’s references and research its consultants. Elite companies that offer both the medical focus and a highly experienced consultant who works one-on-one with clients offer a large advantage for pre-medical applicants, especially during these competitive times.
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