Applying to Med School
The following checklist was prepared as a general guide to help you through the application process. Please note that the timeline may vary among individual applicants.
We recommend that you go through a process of self-reflection, consultation with the pre-health advisor, and a thorough investigation of various career options before initiating your medical school application process. If you have decided that a career in medicine is a perfect fit for you and have determined that the time is right to submit your application to medical school, take the appropriate steps in a timely manner to make yourself the strongest candidate possible.
During Fall and Spring Terms Before Applying:
- Meet with the pre-health advisor to receive individual counseling and assistance throughout the application process.
- Sign and return a waiver form provided by Oxy's Office of Pre-Health Advising.
- Attend relevant workshops offered by the Office of Pre-Health Advising.
- Take the MCAT. Register online several months before the test date, in order to secure a date and location that is most convenient for you.
- We strongly recommend that you take the MCAT by the end of June of your application year, as it takes 30 days to receive your scores. While you can submit your AMCAS application without your MCAT scores, medical schools will need them to process your application.
- Create a resume listing all activities and accomplishments from the first year of college. Have your resume ready to send to the pre-health advisor and your potential letter writers. You can also use your resume as a guide as you fill out your application. If you need assistance with your resume, please visit the Career Development Center.
- Contact your potential letters of recommendation writers: faculty, research mentors, employers, physicians, coaches, etc.
- Request official transcripts from all post-secondary schools where you have attended and check for accuracy.
- Draft your personal statement (essay) and go through the process of editing and re-writing. Visit the Center for Academic Excellence to have your personal statement critiqued by writing specialists.
- Attend the Applying to Medical School workshop, offered by Oxy's Office of Pre-Health Advising.
- Attend the Writing Personal Statement Seminar.
During the Summer as You are Applying:
- Finish writing your personal statement.
- Meet with the pre-health advisor.
- In early May, the AMCAS online application becomes available. You can start filling out the form and save it. Almost all allopathic schools use AMCAS, however check the MSAR (Medical School Admissions Requirements) for exceptions. Other centralized application services are: TMDSAS for Texas schools except Baylor, and AACOMAS for osteopathic schools
- Contact the Registrar's Office of all post-secondary schools where you attended. Request that they send your official transcripts to AMCAS. The request form is on the AMCAS application.
- Submit your primary application to AMCAS preferably in June or July.
- Send a copy of your primary application to the pre-health advisor.
- Submit the supplemental applications ("secondaries") requested by individual medical schools online, in a timely manner.
- Keep copies of your applications and all supporting materials.
- Make sure you have written confirmation from each school that your file is complete.
- Start preparing for interviews. Do mock interviews with the pre-health advisor, and attend the Interviewing Workshop offered by Oxy's Office of Pre-Health Advising.
During Fall, Winter and the Following Spring After Applying:
- Interview at medical schools.
- Acceptances are offered from October and throughout the following summer.
- Continue working with the pre-health advisor throughout the entire process, and as you make decisions about schools.
Letters of Recommendation Process:
The following instructions are based primarily on the requirements of allopathic (M.D.) and osteopathic (D.O.) programs. However, applicants to other medical and allied health programs might find it helpful to follow the general guidelines listed below. Please make sure that you are familiar with the specific requirements of the programs to which you plan to apply. The number of letters that schools request varies. Please do NOT exceed the maximum number of letters that schools require. For medical school applications, we recommend that you ask up to five people to write the letters on your behalf, but you need a minimum of three letters for most programs; two letters must come from your science faculty (i.e. biology, chemistry, math and physics). In addition, we highly recommend a letter from a faculty member in humanities or social sciences. Please note that some schools require three faculty letters and may require a letter from a humanities professor. Please check the official requirements of each school to which you plan to apply. A letter from your research mentor is important if you performed research on or off campus. Combined MD/PhD programs require letters from all research mentors with whom you performed significant research projects.
A letter from a medical doctor (M.D. or D.O.) whom you shadowed can provide helpful information about you if s/he got to know you well. For applicants to osteopathic schools (D.O.), we highly recommend that you submit a letter from a D.O. with whom you shadowed. Please make sure that the letters are submitted confidentially as receiving institutions will expect confidential letters. This means that you do not have access to the letters.
IMPORTANT: Please sign a waiver form from the Office of Pre-Health Advising (OPHA) and submit it to the OPHA Advisor, Angela Wood, South Trailer B2 or, scan the signed copy and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is your responsibility to request, submit and follow up with your letter writer. Please note that the OPHA does not collect, upload or keep track of letters of recommendation on your behalf.
Whom should you ask?
- Faculty members who taught you at Oxy and know you well including, quality of your academic work, your personal character, your background, and future goals.
- Other members of the Oxy community with whom you have had frequent and positive interactions: committees, special projects, campus employment, etc.
- Others with whom you had working or shadowing relationships: a medical doctor whom you shadowed (only if she/he got to know you well), director of a community program where you volunteered, a supervisor from any other employment.
- Whenever possible, ask in person whether they feel they know you well enough to write a strong, supportive letter.
- Please do NOT obtain letters from anyone with whom you do not have or have not had any working relationships: For example, your relatives, personal physicians, family friends, etc.
- Please share your goals and dreams with people you like and respect long before you are in need of their support. Focus on building good relationships, stay in touch, and then ask for their support when you need it.
- Please allow ample time for your writers. We recommend that you allow at least 3-4 weeks for the writers to compose their letters.
What should you provide to your letter writers?
Please provide the following information to your letter writers to help them write an accurate, detailed and supportive letter.
- Autobiographical essay (1-2 pages): You might consider including: quality of your early education (K-12), family and cultural background, languages you can speak and the level of proficiency, ethnicity, socio-economic status, your goals, experiences that impacted your decision to pursue a career in medicine, any unique or challenging experiences you would like to share, and hobbies you enjoy. Also, you may consider adding any information about yourself that you think would be helpful for your letter writers. Please note that this essay is not the same as your personal statement (essay) that you will be writing for med school.
- Resume: Include information on your college education (major, GPA, graduation year), research experience, co-curricular activities, work experience, leadership experiences, honors and awards that you received, etc. Please provide a brief description of your activities. If you need help with your resume, please seek advice from the Career Development Center.
- Transcript(s): All post-secondary transcripts would be helpful. They don't need to be official copies for the purpose of obtaining your letters of recommendation.
When should you ask and where should the letters be sent?
- Ask early in your application year (during the spring term, preferably by March). Writing an effective and thoughtful letter of recommendation takes a considerable amount of time, therefore, please allow ample time for your writers to compose their letters, a minimum of 3-4 weeks is highly recommended. Some medical schools invite you to submit their secondary applications as soon as you submit your AMCAS application. Please note that you can submit your AMCAS application without the letters. Your letters of recommendation should be ready to be downloaded by the medical schools when you are ready to submit your secondary applications to individual schools. Please let your writers know when you plan to submit your AMCAS application and, if letters are not uploaded by the time you are working on your secondary applications, please remind them to submit their letters as soon as possible. Please note that most applicants complete their secondary application in the months of July and August.
- If your letter writers request more time, please be flexible, and mutually agree on the ideal time frame. Please let your writers know when you will be submitting your primary (AMCAS) application.
- Please ask your letter writers to write their letters (one or two pages) on official letterhead and sign them.
How do you submit your letters?
When submitting individual letters of recommendation, you can choose Interfolio.com (dossier and credentials service) or AMCAS Letter Service.
If you choose to use Interfolio, please open your account with Interfolio.com before you contact your letter writers. It is necessary to create spaces in your account for the letters that you are expecting and you will also be able to send (by email or hard copy) the letter request form to your writers. If you already have an Interfolio account, please renew your account.
Please make sure that the letters are submitted confidentially as receiving institutions will expect confidential letters. This means that you do not have access to the letters.
- When you open your account, select "Occidental College- Health Professional Advising" as your affiliation and enter oxyhpa.
- Choose "confidential letter of recommendation" option.
- You will be asked to identify the type of document that you are requesting and create a name for this document (i.e. Letter of Recommendation from Prof. XXXXX).
- Follow the steps to request a letter of recommendation from your letter writer.
- Letters can be stored in your account until you are ready to submit your application to schools.
- Select the individual letter option and list the names of individuals who have agreed to write a letter on your behalf.
- Please send your AMCAS letter request form to your letter writer.
- Phone: (323) 259-2665
- Email: email@example.com