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Pre-medical

Most medical schools require a year, with laboratories, of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. These sequences should be completed before you take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). Many schools also require a year of college English and college math. While not required, courses in anatomy, physiology, genetics, immunology, biochemistry and the humanities are often strongly recommended.

Student clubs that many premeds join are the American Medical Student Association Pre-Med Club (AMSA) and the Pre-SOMA Osteopathic Pre-Med Club. Keep in mind that most medical schools prefer to see evidence of leadership and serious commitment to a few extracurricular activities rather than superficial participation in many. You will need to acquire experience by doing volunteer work in a clinical setting, such as a hospital or nursing home. You can do your volunteer work in your home town during the summer or winter break, as well as in Athens within the school year. The difficult coursework and other activities will place significant demands on your time, but will provide excellent learning experiences.

Overview of the Application Process

In the first part of the application process you deal with the medical schools as a group. You submit a generic (primary) application, MCAT scores, a processing fee and official transcripts to AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service), the organization for most allopathic (M.D.) medical schools, and/or AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service), the organization for most osteopathic (D.O.) medical schools. AMCAS and AACOMAS are centralized application services that collect, check and duplicate your primary application materials and forward them to the medical schools that you designate.

In the second part of the process individual medical schools send you their own (secondary) applications, usually after they have received the primary application from AMCAS or AACOMAS. Many schools send secondaries to all applicants, but some send them only to candidates who have passed an initial screening. A request for an additional fee and for letters of recommendation accompanies the secondary application.

Although the procedure varies from school to school, after a medical school has reviewed all application material and letters of recommendation, it may sort the candidates into categories such as reject, decide later, or invite to interview with one or more members of the admissions committee. After the interview, the comittee normally decides whether to accept or reject the applicant or to place him/her on an alternate list. This process continues throughout the application cycle until a school has filled its class. Note: It is your responsibility to be accessible if you are on a medical school's alternate list. If you are traveling, you should give the school the name and telephone number of a dependable person who can contact you. If a school finds that there is no way to reach you, it may offer the position to the next person on the list.

Application Timetable

Usually, students hoping to enter medical school in the fall following graduation begin the application process during the junior year. Start studying seriously for the MCAT no later than the Christmas break. Continue this routine throughout the winter, leaving some time in your winter quarter schedule, if possible, to get ready for the exam. There will be a practice MCAT administered in February. You can obtain registration materials for the MCAT in the Pre-professional Advising Office during winter quarter. An announcement will be posted as soon as they are available. You may wish to supplement your work for the MCAT with a home study course or test preparation classes. If you are prepared, it is preferable that you take the MCAT in April of your junior year, rather than the following August. Many medical schools consider your GPA and MCAT score to be good predictors of your performance in medical school and weight them heavily in considering your application, so take this exam seriously and prepare well. If you averaged below 9 per section on the April exam, you should seriously consider retaking the test. Many schools consider a score below 8 on any section to be unacceptable, even if the other scores are high. If you decide to take or retake the exam the following August, pick up registration materials before you leave Athens for the summer break.

To receive a letter of evaluation from a member of the Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences or Chemistry faculty, you must 1) register with the Pre-professional Advising Office, 111 Irvine Hall, 2) obtain a recommendation packet and 3) get written permission from the professor before the end of spring quarter. Even though letters may not be due for several months, you should make early contact with all the people that you hope will be writing on your behalf. Remember that a last-minute, rushed request for a letter is unfair to the writer and, perhaps, to you as well. While the number varies, many schools request that letters of evaluation be sent from three professors who have had you in their class. Some schools specifically require letters from one non-science and two science professors. A letter from an osteopathic physician is strongly recommended for osteopathic medical school.

Applicants with extreme financial restrictions may apply for a waiver of their primary application fee. Apply for the fee waiver early, since you cannot file your primary form until you receive a response on the fee waiver request from the AMCAS or AACOMAS office. AMCAS will begin accepting fee waivers May 15. You may download the fee waiver requests from the application web sites.

The AMCAS is strictly an on-line application accessed at: http://www.aamc.org. The AACOMAS primary (AACOMAS On-Line) is an actual web-based application, available June 1, that you prepare online and submit with a click of the mouse. You may also download a paper-based version of the AACOMAS primary from the web site. AMCAS-E and a link to AACOMAS On-Line will be installed for your use in the computer lab in 112 Irvine.

AMCAS application may be submitted on or after June 18th and AACOMAS will start to accept applications on end of May or early June. Please see the website: http://www.aacomas.org for the specific day. Submit your application as early as you can after (not before) this date. Do not be mislead by winter deadlines. It is important to file your application material early. In recent years, many schools have reported that their entering class was more than half filled by October. A few weeks before you submit your application, request that official transcripts, including spring grades, be sent to AMCAS or AACOMAS. Transcript request forms are included with the application material. You must send official transcripts from every college that you have attended. If you get an extra copy of the transcripts for yourself, it will help you in filling out the "Academic Record" part of the application. Read all the instructions that accompany the applications before you start to fill them out.

The "Personal Comments" section of the primary application gives you the opportunity to persuade an admissions committee that you have what it takes to become a good medical student and physician. You may wish to mention a special person, or discuss aspects of your school work, scientific or lab projects, hobbies, volunteer, extracurricular or sports activities that have influenced or inspired you. Your perspective and the experiences that you write about should indicate to the reader that you are a responsible, caring, helpful and mature human being. Do not lie or exaggerate. Always remember that you may be asked to explain statements that you have made in your essay during a medical school interview. Your writing should be concise, concrete and straightforward. Avoid pompous abstractions about the nature of medicine or the meaning of life. Don't try to be witty or cute. Your essay should be clear, neat and well organized. Proofread your work carefully. Make sure that it is free from spelling and grammatical errors.

If you have taken your MCAT in April and completed your primary application during the summer, secondary applications from individual schools can arrive before September. Most interviews take place from October to April. Submit all your application material promptly. While schools may post deadline dates of, for example, December or January, this does not imply that a December applicant will have the same chance for acceptance as earlier applicants. In this process, sooner is definitely better. To make sure that you will have satisfied all the requirements for graduation and admission to medical school, have your course work checked by the College of Arts and Sciences early in your senior year.

The Competitive Applicant

Nationally, 45.3% of applicants to M.D. schools were accepted in 1999. Grades and MCAT scores are the strongest factors influencing acceptance. Although there has been a decline in the number of medical school applicants since 1997, the qualifications of accepted applicants have continued to rise. In 1999 the average matriculant to M.D. school had a GPA of 3.59 and close to 10.0 per section on the MCAT. Average matriculants to D.O. schools had an average GPA of 3.46 and 8.4 on the MCAT. If your grades and scores are not competitive, it is very risky to apply to medical school . Every applicant should explore some backup options. As an alternative plan, consider preparing for another clinically-oriented career, such as podiatry or chiropractic medicine. Some other possibilities include reapplying to medical school after postbaccalaureate work to improve your science knowledge and GPA, retaking the MCAT or pursuing graduate study in biology, biotechnology or public health.

School Selection

Because application fees are high, you should avoid applying to a huge number of schools. The Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) can help you to determine the entrance requirements, selection factors, matriculant profile and application procedures for the allopathic medical schools. The book is available for reference in the Pre-professional Advising Office. You can order your own copy from Follett's or from AMCAS (202)828-0416.

Wherever else you may decide to apply, you should also apply to the public medical colleges in your home state. State residents receive preference for admission to their state schools and pay much lower tuition. Conversely, before you apply to public medical schools outside your home state, remember that most of them accept relatively few out-of-state students and that tuition is high. Outside of your state of residence it is usually wiser to apply to private institutions. Consult the MSAR for information on a school's proportion of in-state to out-of-state entrants.

Early Decision Program

Approximately half the medical schools admit a small number of students under the Early Decision Program. On this plan, you apply to a single school by August 1 and receive a decision on your application by October 1. If you are accepted, you must go to that school. After October 1, if you are not accepted, you will be placed in the regular applicant pool for that school and you can then apply to other schools.

This option should only be considered by candidates with highly competitive grades and MCAT scores, as well as a strong preference for one particular school. If you are accepted, you gain peace of mind and save time and money. However, if you are not successful, you put yourself at a disadvantage by entering the applicant pool considerably later than your peers. For most applicants, the risks outweigh the benefits.

M.D./Ph.D. and Medical Scientist Training Programs

M.D./Ph.D. programs are designed for students preparing for a career in medical research. It usually takes approximately 6-8 years to complete the degrees. A common sequence of study is 2 years of medical school, 3 years for Ph.D research and dissertation, followed by an additional 2 years of medical school. A credible candidate to an M.D./Ph.D. program should have an outstanding undergraduate record and test scores and substantial research experience. Because the programs require that the applicant be accepted by the graduate school or department as well as the medical school, application frequently entails additional interviews and a strong performance on both the GRE and the MCAT.

The Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) is an M.D./Ph.D. program funded by the federal government's National Institute of General Medical Studies. MSTP grants are awarded to schools, which then select the students and administer the programs. Nationally, only about 150 new MSTP positions are available each year. Consult the MSAR for a list of schools offering MSTP's or for the contact persons for M.D./Ph.D. programs.

Financing Medical School

Your best source of information is the financial aid office at the medical school where you have been accepted. Most schools provide preliminary information around the time of the interview. Final awards usually are mailed to accepted applicants in the late spring, after they have completed their needs analysis forms. Loans are the most common form of financial aid in medical school. Helpful information on financial aid can be found in the MSAR and at the sites listed on the Internet Resources page.

Unpaid bills or late payments can ruin your credit rating, preventing you from obtaining loans. In past years, some medical schools have rescinded offers to students found to have bad credit ratings. Check your credit status, since your report may contain errors that could cause problems. You can obtain a copy of your credit report from companies such as TRW Information Services, Equifax Credit Services or Trans Union Credit Information.