For applicants to medical school, the steps involved in the application process and the wait for a decision can be long and grueling.
After submitting the primary application through the American Medical College Application Service or the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service, known respectively as AMCAS and ACOMAS, applicants have to complete secondary applications.
When med schools receive the completed supplemental applications, they begin reviewing applicant files and extending interview invitations to candidates they are most seriously interested in. If schools are unsure about a candidate, they may place the applicant on a waitlist and make the decision about an interview invitation or an acceptance offer later after reviewing other candidates’ files.
[Learn more about What to Do When You Get Waitlisted for Medical School]
This means the entire process from when you submit your primary application to med school to when you receive a decision may take many months. Premed students often ask what they should do during this long waiting game. There are a number of key pointers to keep in mind after you begin the application and as you wait to receive a final decision from med schools.
Keep Making Yourself a Stronger Candidate
A common misconception among premed students is that after the primary application is submitted, the game is over and nothing you do will count. This cannot be farther from the truth.
Throughout the application cycle, as you make progress in different areas, you have many opportunities to share that progress with med schools. The secondary application and interview are a great place to talk about additional experiences or ways in which you have grown.
For example, if you have taken a new course, volunteered more at a clinic or presented findings from a research project at a conference since submitting your primary application, you can share these with the school. Even outside of the supplemental application and interview, many schools welcome update letters from applicants.
Remember, medical schools want to know that you are continuing to stay involved and active, so make sure you have a concrete game plan for what you are going to do throughout the year you are applying to make yourself a more competitive applicant.
Use Update Letters to Communicate With Schools
As mentioned, update letters are a great way to keep in touch with schools about your progress. When you write a letter to a school to update them, make sure to mention that you are a current applicant and include your AMCAS or ACOMAS identification number. Keep the letter succinct and to the point.
These letters are not meant to be another version of your personal statement, where you reflect on all that you have done. Instead, they should be one paragraph or two maximum and should cover the different areas in which you have made progress.
Do not send update letters every two weeks. Only do so when you have substantial progress that you want programs to know about.
It is also important to note that different med schools may have different policies about applicants communicating with them. Make sure to read each school’s website and their correspondences with you to get a clearer sense of how they would like you to communicate with them. Some schools may even explicitly state that they do not want you to reach out to them with update letters, so make sure you avoid contacting those programs.
Show Continued Interest
One of the most important ways to get a school engaged is to let its admissions officials know that you are serious about their program.
You can communicate this with the school in your secondary applications, where they ask why you want to attend their school, and in follow-up letters of interest as you are waiting for an interview or a final decision after the interview. These letters can be especially useful for applicants who are on a waitlist.
When writing to a school to express interest in its program, be sure to outline why you are interested in that specific program. Provide details and do not just say that you think you will get a good education or that you want to live in the particular city where the school is located.
Additionally, demonstrate why and how the school of interest will afford you the chance to gain a strong education. Talk about the curriculum, clinical opportunities, the school’s culture and other aspects of the program that you find appealing.
If a school is your very top choice or among your top choices, say so. Medical schools are eager to finalize their incoming class list as early as possible each year. Therefore, they may give preference to a student who they believe is likely to attend their program.
If a school is your top choice, you can explicitly say that if you were accepted to the program, you would withdraw all other med school applications and attend. However, tell only one school that it is your top choice, otherwise you will be misleading programs.
Again, check each school’s policy about writing to them and make sure you do not send letters of interest to schools that explicitly instruct applicants not to do so.
Have a Backup Plan
It’s always wise to hope for the best but plan for the worst. This means having a plan in place early on for reapplication should you not get an acceptance. If you need to retake the MCAT or take additional courses, these activities will require planning.
Also, keep in mind that if you decide to reapply, it’s best to rework your personal statement and other aspects of the application to show growth and improvements since the prior application cycle. Plan for this so that you can have a new application ready to submit early after the new AMCAS or ACOMAS application cycle opens.
Take Some Time to Relax
While it’s important to work hard even after applying, you also want to take some time to enjoy yourself and not stress.
Though uncertainty can be anxiety-provoking, chances are you will be in med school in a few short months and immersed in a lot of work. So, use wait time as an opportunity to take some time off, unwind, travel and spend time with family and friends before medical school starts.
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What to Do While Awaiting a Medical School Decision originally appeared on usnews.com