While the majority of students interested in medical school plan to complete premedical requirements during college and start the application process by the end of their junior or senior year, others take the necessary courses as postbaccalaureate students. Many students don’t make the decision to pursue a career in medicine until late in college or after graduation. Applying after college does not put you at a disadvantage; in fact, many medical schools say they appreciate the maturity of older applicants. If you are a current applicant for the 2023 cycle or if you an alumni planning to apply in the future, please subscribe to our Medical School Applicant Listserv.
Learn more about the steps required for applying to medical school:
Attending medical school directly after graduation; applying the summer after junior year.
Taking a year off before medical school; applying the summer after senior year. About 75-80% of Harvard College applicants to medical school take one or more gap years. Of this number, around two-thirds take 2+ gap years.
- Review the Premedical Information for Students booklet, which provides an overview of academic requirements and dispels some pervasive premed myths.
- Read our email newsletters and choose to receive “Health and Med” updates.
- Begin to identify possible sites for volunteering in the health field.
- Get involved on campus.
- Get to know your faculty, preceptors, instructors, and teaching fellows – attend office hours, invite them to dinner, etc.
- Seek out help and advice from faculty, students, and/or our advisers.
- Attend a Pre-Health 101 workshop.
- Attend workshops in the Gaining Traction in Pre-Health Series.
- Complete the Navigating Premed and Pre-Health form and schedule a Navigating Premed and Pre-Health advising appointment.
- Connect with the Pre-Health Peer Liaison PAFs (PPL PAFs) and attend Pre-Health Question Centers.
- Attend medical and other health-related programs at our office, in your House, and in the broader campus community.
- If you did not attend one as a first-year, schedule a Navigating Premed and Pre-Health advising appointment.
- Participate in service organizations and campus activities.
- Refine extracurricular interests whether or not they are medically relevant.
- Continue gaining healthcare experience.
- Continue meeting with faculty. Consider asking for a recommendation letter.
- Think about what you might like to do during the summer.
- Attend some medical school admissions information sessions co-hosted by our office with premed student clubs (schedule available in the Employer and Graduate School calendar).
- Attend workshops in the Gaining Traction in Pre-Health Series.
Junior Year (Senior Year for Alumni Applicants)
- Make an appointment with one of our Premedical/Pre-Health Advisers to discuss your timeline, grades, and activities to ensure that this is the correct cycle for you to apply.
- Begin Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) preparation (MCAT calendar).
- Apply for AAMC Fee Assistance Program (FAP) prior to MCAT (if eligible).
- Make an appointment to speak with one of the Resident Premedical Tutors on the Premedical/Pre-Health Committee in your House (or the Dudley Community).
- Attend pre-applicant meetings and/or other programs for upcoming applicants arranged by your House/the Dudley Community Premed/Pre-Health Committee.
- Review House/the Dudley Community deadlines for submitting required application materials to your Premed/Pre-Health Committee.
- Attend our workshop on the Medical School Application Process.
- If you have not already applied for the AAMC Fee Assistance Program (FAP), be sure to apply now (if eligible). Note that the benefits are not retroactive and need to be approved before registering for the MCAT or submitting the AMCAS to receive full benefits.
- Take the MCAT by early-mid May of the application year.
- Brainstorm and begin a draft of your personal statement for AMCAS application.
- Attend or request the link to view the recordings of our spring applicant workshops covering the following topics:
- Medical School Application Process (if you missed it in the fall)
- Selecting Medical Schools
- Personal Statements and other Application Essays
- The AMCAS Application
- Generate a list of medical schools to which you would like to apply.
- Confirm that all letters of recommendation have been sent to your Resident Dean’s Office/ your Premedical Committee. (See your House/the Dudley Community website for the waiver form and instructions for how to request and have your recommenders submit your recommendation letters to your Resident Dean’s Office.)
- Send spring grades and GPA recalculation to your Premed/Pre-Health Committee. (May-June)
- Arrange for official transcripts to be sent to AMCAS from all colleges attended.
- Complete and submit your AMCAS application by the middle of June.
- Receive and complete secondary applications for individual med schools within 10-14 days of receipt. (July/August)
- Premedical Committee letters are sent to all medical schools by August 15 provided you have adhered to House/the Dudley Community deadlines.
Senior Year (Post-Grad Year for Alumni Applicants)
- Confirm with medical schools that your application is complete. (September)
- Prepare for medical school interviews:
- Attend a Medical School Interview webinar.
- Keep up with current issues in medicine and healthcare.
- Schedule a mock interview with your House/the Dudley Community.
- Practice interview questions with friends/family.
- Attend medical school information sessions co-hosted by our office with premed student clubs.
- Receive invitations to interview. (August through March)
- Travel to interviews. (September through April)
- If you have received 0-2 interviews by mid-late October, please let your Premed Tutors and our premed/pre-health advisers know and make an appointment with the premedical/pre-health adviser in our office with whom you are working, to discuss your application and strategies to gain interview invitations.
- Stay in touch with Premedical Tutors regarding the status of your application.
- Be aware of the last date to hold more than three acceptance offers (April 15) and the last day to hold more than one. (April 30).
- If on wait list(s), keep in touch with medical schools.
- Register for your first day of medical school!
As an alumna/us who graduated fewer than five years ago, you may continue to take advantage of the resources available to you at our office (workshops, premedical/pre-health drop ins and start-of-term office hours, and individual advising appointments). If you are no longer in the Cambridge area or are abroad, advising appointments can be done over the phone, Skype, or Zoom. If you have been out longer than five years, please contact our front desk to arrange for a single courtesy advising appointment.
If you are planning to apply to medical or dental school soon, please contact your Premedical/Pre-Health Committee as soon as possible, preferably by late winter before your upcoming application year, for assistance with the process. The Premedical/Pre-Health Committee will write a committee letter of support for alumni up to five years post graduation. However, at the discretion of the House Faculty Dean, the number of years post graduation may, at times, be extended. Applicants should be ready to submit their AMCAS application by mid-June the year prior to matriculation at medical school. AMCAS processing and verification can take up to six weeks for those applicants who submit AMCAS later in the summer, significantly delaying consideration of their application.
If you are considering other pre-health professions such as nursing, physician assistant, physical therapy, pharmacy, optometry, or midwifery, please make an appointment in Crimson Careers with our premedical/pre-health advisers and emailing email@example.com with any questions.
A significant number of students take postbaccalaureate coursework before entering medical school. There are many types of postbaccalaureate programs, but they generally fall into two main categories: “career changer” and “enhancement” programs. The target population of these two programs differs. A “career changer” program is geared toward students who have completed few or no premed science requirements, whereas an “enhancement” program targets students who have completed all or most of their required science courses, but are advised to take additional science courses to strengthen their GPA.
Many Harvard alumni choose to enroll in the courses offered at the Harvard Extension School. This is an excellent option for “career changers” as well as students who seek to enhance their academic record and GPA. Note: Application and enrollment in the Extension School’s Premedical Studies Program is usually not necessary for Harvard College alumni.
Please review the following resource page for postbaccalaureate information, a glossary and FAQs developed by the National Association of Advisors in the Health Professions.
How do postbaccalaureate students afford to take classes?
Postbaccalaureate courses are often offered in the evening, allowing students to work during the day. Some universities offer tuition assistance to employees, encouraging staff members to enroll in courses for very low fees. For example, Harvard University offers an exceptional Tuition Assistance Plan (TAP), and several of the hospitals in the Boston area offer their own version of tuition assistance to employees working as Clinical Research Coordinators/Research Assistants, with which to enroll in science course at the Harvard Extension School or elsewhere. We also encourage alumni to look into the possibility of applying to be a Faculty Aide at one of the Houses (also referred to as a “House Elf” position) in exchange for free room and board.
Career-changer programs are typically designed for students with little or no science background, who have completed none (or only one or two) of the science course requirements. These programs can vary in their degree of structure, ranging from a certificate program with a set list of courses and pre-professional internships to a self-study continuing education program.
Things to consider when choosing a career-changer program:
- Structure and access to courses (including electives outside of the premed core requirements)
- Size of program
- Cost and financial aid
- Individualized advising (by whom) and academic support
- Workshops, programming, alumni contact
- Internships/volunteer/research opportunities
- MCAT support
- Committee letter
- Linkage arrangements with medical schools
- Postbac student culture
See a full listing of Career Changer Programs maintained by the American Association of Medical Colleges.
Postbaccalaureate Academic Record Enhancement
Academic record enhancement coursework is targeted to those students right out of college who have already decided that medical school is their primary goal, but whose academic performance requires additional effort to be competitive for medical school admission.
Examples of such students include, but are not limited to:
- MCAT scores with any section below 125 or a composite score below 505
- Science and overall GPAs below 3.30
- Students who experienced personal challenges during their undergraduate career, which impacted GPA negatively
Special Master’s Programs
Students with cumulative undergraduate GPAs below 3.3 and/or MCAT scores below 505 may want to consider a special master’s postbaccalaureate graduate program in which students take actual medical school courses and are graded in relation to the University’s own medical school students. This allows postbac students to demonstrate their ability to perform well in a rigorous medical school program. A true special master’s post-baccalaureate program is one that is affiliated with a medical school and whose curriculum overlaps with the medical school curriculum.
Many students with weaker credentials are better served by completing additional coursework or a full postbaccalaureate program prior to applying to medical school.
See the full listing of Academic Enhancer maintained by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).
Opportunities for Economically or Educationally Disadvantaged Students and Those Belonging to Groups Underrepresented in Medicine (URM)
Special programs for disadvantaged or under-resourced students exist. Although URMs account for about 25 percent of the US population, they account for a substantially smaller percentage of practicing physicians. To address this imbalance, numerous postbaccalaureate programs have been developed that assist disadvantaged students with gaining acceptance to medical school. These students are self-described as disadvantaged applicants using AAMC criteria. Eligible students typically matriculate into these specially designed programs with lower cumulative GPAs and MCAT scores. These programs for disadvantaged or underrepresented students generally fall into two categories:
- Programs at medical or other health professions schools that invite only students from their prospective applicant pools to apply. Some of these programs offer conditional acceptance to the medical school upon completion of the program with a certain GPA and MCAT score.
- Programs to which students may apply directly, regardless of their application status with the health professions school with which the program is associated.
Some medical schools offer summer programs which expose students to a limited science tutorial program in which they must attain a certain level of proficiency before they can be considered for acceptance to the medical school. Other schools accept students into their MD class, but require a summer enrichment program to facilitate the student’s transition to medical school. In some instances student performance may dictate that the accepted applicant be placed in a decelerated program (e.g., the first year of medical school courses may be taken over a two-year period).
NAAHP provides information and links to dozens of research programs and fellowships for premedical and other pre-health students at universities and research centers across the country, including the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP), Community Based Dental Education, and numerous postbaccalaureate programs.
See the full listing of postbaccalaureate programs designed for economically or educationally disadvantaged students as well as for groups underrepresented, in medicine maintained by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).
The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) assesses the applicant’s understanding of basic concepts in general biology, biochemistry, general/inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, non-calculus based physics, statistics, psychology, and sociology. The test consists of four multiple-choice sections:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
For the most up-to-date information about the test, please visit the official Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) website. Some highlights include:
- What’s on the MCAT Exam?
- Online practice questions
- Khan Academy MCAT video collection
- JoVE (pdf) MCAT video tutorials (current Harvard students have institutional access via HarvardKey login to the complete set of JOVE’s MCAT prep resources and videos.)
- Test dates and registration
If you are using the old MCAT to apply for 2022 matriculation, check the school-by-school list of the oldest and latest MCAT test dates accepted for the 2022 application cycle in the Medical School Admissions Requirements which can be purchased at aamc.org, check individual school websites, or review this document.
- The AAMC Fee Assistance Program (FAP) provides benefits for MCAT registration, access to the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR), and AMCAS benefits. Benefits are not retroactive, so be sure to apply early enough to receive full benefits of the program.
Retaking the MCAT
If your MCAT score was lower than you had hoped for, the following list of questions may help you decide whether to retake the MCAT:
- What is your score? On the MCAT website, you can view data on other applicants who re-took the test with similar initial scores.
- Which medical schools would you like to apply to?
- Are you truly motivated to retake the test? How thoroughly would you prepare? Do you have enough time and energy to do the preparation and practice necessary to improve your scores?
- Do you feel you were adequately prepared for the test the first time around?
- What opportunities would you miss out on by re-taking the test? Would your time, effort, and money be better spent strengthening other aspects of your candidacy, or do you really need an improved score to be competitive? How competitive are the other aspects of your candidacy, such as grades, activities, recommendations, etc.?
- Did you run out of time on certain sections of the MCAT? Was this in part due to not taking multiple practice tests?
- For students who took the MCAT during the Covid-19 pandemic: If you believe you underperformed on your test due to the changes to the test format or time, or other circumstance related to Covid-19, reach out to your House/Dudley Community premed tutor/s and our premedical/pre-health advisers for advice about retaking or not. You will also be able to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on your MCAT test and score/s in medical school secondary applications.
An AMCAS application workshop is held every spring for current applicants (see schedule). The 2023 AMCAS webinar presentation and recording (for late summer/fall 2023 matriculants) and FAQs are provided below.
AMCAS and other primary application & secondary applications and Casper and other situational judgment tests
- AAMC AMCAS Website | AMCAS Applicant Guide (pdf)
- AMCAS Course Classification Guide | AMCAS Course Classification Guide (pdf)
- AMCAS tutorials
- AMCAS Letter Service | AMCAS Letter Writer Application
Applying to State Medical and Dental Schools in Texas: Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS)
Applying to Osteopathic (DO) Schools: Association of American College of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS)
At this time, around 40 allopathic U.S. medical schools, a number of osteopathic medical schools, and some dental and veterinary schools require applicants to take an online situational judgment test (SJT) called Casper. The test presents scenarios which include an ethical dilemma and then asks applicants to comment on how the individuals in the scenario should proceed and why. Proponents of the test believe it measures personal traits such as integrity and the ability to reason. To help you prepare for Casper, there are free online practice scenarios and tests (see https://takecasper.com/sample-casper-test/ and http://apetest.com/caspersim/practice-test/ for two examples). PrepMatch: A free peer-to-peer CASPer simulation platform is a highly recommended practice resource. This SJT requires timed, rapid typing about specific scenarios, so applicants need to practice that skill if possible. Please be sure to review the Casper FAQs on the Acuity Insights site to learn more about the format of the test. We recommend that you aim to take Casper by the end of July, so it does not delay any interview invitations.
The 2022 AAMC PREview™ professional readiness exam (formerly known as the AAMC Situational Judgment Test)
Learn more about the PREview exam.
List of participating medical schools.
Register at www.aamc.org/preview
Review test dates and the registration deadlines for each testing window.
For questions about the PREview test and program, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-540-5457.
FAQ for Applicants:
Q: How do I classify a course in AMCAS?
A: Many Harvard courses do not fit perfectly into AMCAS course classifications, so you will need to use your best judgment. Classify according to the primary content or disciplinary approach of the course. So, biostatistics would be classified as math/stats, not biology. For further explanation, please see the AMCAS Applicant Guide. Our premedical/pre-health advisers cannot make this determination for you; AMCAS is the final arbiter of all course classifications. Your Science (“BCPM”) GPA is made up of your Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math (Statistics = Math) grades. For more information about how to classify your courses, see the AMCAS Course Classification Guide.
If AMCAS changes a classification you made, and you disagree with the change, you can appeal the change via the Academic Change request option (available within the AMCAS application). You only have a limited time to appeal this decision, so review your application carefully as soon as it is verified by AMCAS.
Q: I am not Advanced Standing but want to indicate to med schools that I have taken AP Calculus. How do I do this in the coursework section?
A: AMCAS has asked that students not list AP calculus on their AMCAS application if it is not on that student’s Harvard transcript. You will have other opportunities to tell medical schools how you are fulfilling their requirements, either on the secondary application, on the interview day or later after acceptance. The Harvard Registrar will not validate the APs, but you may be asked at some point to have the official AP score sent from the College Board to particular medical schools.
Q: Do I have to list future coursework?
A: No. Some applicants may want to indicate to med schools how they will complete the requirements or that they plan to take more science courses. But most applicants do not fill this out. You are not under any obligation to enroll in courses you indicate you plan to take.
Q: What should I list as the Course Number?
A: The course number is generally the department name and the number that follows (e.g., Chemistry 17, Math 21a, etc.).
Q: Should I list the Course Name exactly as it appears on my transcript? (e.g., “Frank Lloyd Wright and the”)
A: What you list for Course Name does not need to correspond exactly to what is listed on your transcript. But make sure it is similar enough, so that AMCAS can easily match up your course with the one on your transcript. Med schools need to be able easily to discern what kind of course it was. It is fine to abbreviate course names.
Q: For a SAT/UNSAT (or SEM/UEM) course, do I select “Pass/Fail” for course type?
A: Yes, AMCAS only has one option for pass/fail, so you select this regardless of whether the course was required pass/fail or optional pass/fail, and regardless of whether the grade on your transcript is “PA” or “SAT” or another binary grade notation. Note that the grade you enter should be the grade that appears on your transcript (e.g., “SAT” or “SEM”).
Q: If I took Harvard Summer School course/s after matriculating at Harvard College, and also took Harvard Extension School course/s (and/or Harvard Summer School course/s before matriculating at Harvard College), how do I enter this coursework in AMCAS?
Note: If this applies to you, you will need to enter the Harvard Extension School in the Division of Continuing Education (DCE) as one of the schools you have attended (in the AMCAS schools attended section), and order a transcript from the Extension School DCE Registrar’s Office to be sent to AMCAS (so AMCAS will receive two separate transcripts, one issued by the DCE Registrar and the other – your Harvard College transcript – issued by the FAS Registrar’s Office; both of these Registrar’s Offices use Parchment to transmit transcripts).
A: Enter the Extension course/s (and/or any HSS course/s you took prior to matriculation at the College) as coursework taken at the Harvard Extension School (or Harvard Summer School), as they appear on your DCE transcript.
Enter the Harvard Summer School (HSS) course/s you took on the Cambridge campus* after you matriculated at Harvard College as part of your Harvard College coursework, and as they appear on your Harvard College transcript.
Do not enter the HSS course/s you took while a student at the College under your DCE coursework (even though the HSS course/s appear/s on your DCE transcript as well as on your College transcripts). The AMCAS Department has confirmed that they are aware that HSS courses will appear on both transcripts, and they instruct applicants in this situation to only enter this coursework once as part of your Harvard College coursework.
*For instructions on how to enter Harvard Summer School courses taken abroad in a HSS study abroad program into your AMCAS application, see the answer to the following FAQ (under the AMCAS tab) at https://careerservices.fas.harvard.edu/applying-to-medical-school/:
Q: If I did a Harvard Summer School (HSS) abroad program, do I indicate that this was a study abroad program in AMCAS?
A. Yes. If you took courses abroad through a Harvard Summer School (HSS) program, you must first add a second entry for “Harvard University” in the “Schools attended” section of your AMCAS (in addition to your main entry of your “Harvard University” undergraduate degree program).
In the box called “School Name,” in which “Harvard University” appears as an option, please type into the box to add “—Study abroad” so that it will say “Harvard University—Study Abroad—Name of country in which you studied abroad.”
Next, assign “undergraduate credit,” enter the dates of your HSS summer program, and for “Other options,” check the box “Study Abroad Program.”
When you get to the “TRANSCRIPT REQUEST” page, you will be prompted to answer the question “Does AMCAS require an official transcript from Harvard University-Study Abroad?;” answer “No,” and select “Foreign Institution or Study abroad program sponsored by U.S., U.S. territorial or Canadian institution- Credits transferred” as your “Transcript Request Exception Reason.”
Next, answer “Yes” to the question “Was credit for Harvard University-Study Abroad transferred to another institution?”. As “School where transfer credits appear,” select “Harvard University” (which refers to your first entry of “Harvard University” under schools attended, where you recorded your undergraduate degree and major, and for which you should make a transcript request for your Harvard College transcript; your HSS Study Abroad summer course/s appear on this transcript).
Note that courses taken in the summer are entered as part of the upcoming academic year (e.g., a course taken in the summer of 2021 should be entered as part of the 2021-2022 academic year, along with the year in school status (i.e., SO, JR, or SR).
For all Study Abroad-related questions about course work and institutions attended: See the “Foreign Coursework” and other relevant sections of the AMCAS Applicant Guide. If your question is not answered by these instructions, please contact the AMCAS Help Line at 202.828.0600.
Q: I took organic chemistry, CHEM S-20, in the Harvard Summer School, for which I received a full year’s worth of Harvard credit (8 credits) / Q: I took an intensive semester-long language course (e.g., French Bab), for which I received a full year’s worth of Harvard credit (8 credits). How do I indicate that these courses were equivalent to a full year’s worth of credits? How do I make sure that the full weight of these grades is entered into my GPA calculation?
A: Your transcript will indicate the amount of credit you received. But do make sure that you double check that these courses were coded and calculated correctly when your verified AMCAS is returned to you. Do not code these courses as “Full Year” courses. For all summer courses, assign the upcoming year’s status (e.g., courses between FR & SO year will be listed as SO status). For an intensive term-long 8-credit course, assign the term’s status (e.g., for junior year spring, JR/ 2021/ S2).
Q: In the description section, is it better to write full sentences or in resume form? (e.g., “I volunteered at the Red Cross for four years” versus “Volunteered at the Red Cross for four years”)
A: From the AMCAS Applicant Guide (aamc.org): “Medical schools receive all text entry responses as plain text. This means that formatting options such as bulleted lists, indented paragraphs, and bold/italic fonts do not appear for reviewers.” Because of this and for the ease of the reader, it is preferable to write these descriptions in sentences rather than using a resume style of writing.
Q: Should I say only what I did or also what I got out of the experience (i.e., should I reflect on what the experience meant to me)?
A: We think that keeping your “Experience Descriptions” (700 or fewer characters) brief and to the point makes sense. Med schools will glance over your activities very quickly, and you want to make sure they are able easily to pick out the main points.
For the three activities you select as your “most meaningful experiences,” you have an additional 1325 characters to write about the experience. See the instructions that go with this additional “Experience Summary.” Remember that you also have your personal statement for additional reflection on any experience described in the “Activities” section you feel merits more attention.
Q: I was the director (or a member) of a student-run volunteer group, and there is no supervisor who can verify my role and responsibilities for this activity. Who do I enter as the “Contact” for the organization?
A: Supervisor contact information must be provided. If the activity was organized by a student group, list a faculty/staff advisor or another administrator who can verify your experience, if possible. This person does not need to know you personally. You may use a student director as contact if there are no administrators who can validate the activity. As a courtesy, be sure to notify the person whose name you list for this contact.
Q: Should I fill up all 15 slots for activities and/or go right up to the word limit?
A: Probably not. Many applicants will not have 15 substantive activities that they can list. Also, most activities will not require using all the space allotted to you in the description section. Be concise and to the point.
Q: If I was involved with an organization for an entire summer but only sporadically during the year, what do I fill in for hours per week, dates, etc.?
A: By selecting the ‘repeated activity’ option, you are able to enter up to four separate date ranges, including future end dates up to the start of the matriculation year. Specify the total hours spent on this activity for each date range. If you do not select ‘repeated activity’, you will only see one time range; if you enter an activity that began sophomore fall and ended junior spring as one continuous time range, you add up the total number of hours for the duration of the activity.
Q: Can I consolidate activities and awards under one entry?
A: Yes, feel free to be flexible. If you have been involved in three different service activities but do not have a lot to say about each one individually, perhaps list them as one activity and call it “Various service activities.” If you have received a fellowship for an internship, you can mention the fellowship in the description section of the internship; it does not require its own entry. If you have little to say about an activity or award, this is probably an indication that you can fold it into another entry or leave it out. You want to make understanding how you have been involved as easy as possible for the reader, and consolidating activities, awards, etc., can help you do this.
Q: Is it appropriate to include activities in which I participated for only a year (e.g., First or Sophomore year), or for short period of time only, etc.?
A: Any activities you list are fair game for questions during interviews, so list only those activities that were significant and that you know you would be enthusiastic to talk about.
Review the AMCAS letter service links on their website: AMCAS Letter Service | AMCAS Letter Writer Application
Q: How many letters do I need to “add” in AMCAS?
A: You will only enter one “committee letter” in the Letters of Evaluation section. This “committee letter” consists of the committee letter written by your House (or the Dudley Community), as well as your individual letters of support. For “Letter title,” enter “Harvard Committee Letter.” For primary contact’s title, enter “[House name/or Dudley Community] Academic Coordinator.” For primary contact’s first name, enter “Academic,” and for their last name, enter “Coordinator.” For primary contact’s email address, enter your Academic Coordinator’s email address, and for their mailing address, enter the US Postal Service address for your House Office.
Q: Will AMCAS process my application before my House letter is uploaded?
A: Yes, these processes are completely separate. Plan to submit AMCAS by mid-June. Your letters of recommendation will be sent to AMCAS by your House/the Dudley Community by mid-August.
Q: What is the AMCAS Letters program and what do I need to do?
A: For most U.S. medical schools, AMCAS is going to serve as a central repository for applicants’ recommendation letters. Letters will be sent to AMCAS and then AMCAS will make them available to each of the medical schools on your list. There are three things that you will need to do in order to ensure the successful delivery of your recommendation letters through AMCAS.
- Within the AMCAS application, you will need to “add” a committee letter to let AMCAS know about the letters they are going to receive from your Premedical/Pre-Health Committee.
- An AMCAS Letter ID is automatically generated when “adding” a committee letter in AMCAS. Your Academic Coordinator (see instructions in the first FAQ answer in this section for how to add their contact and other information) will receive an email from AMCAS with instructions for how to upload your letters to the AMCAS Letter Service.
- You need to assign the committee letter to each of the schools that participate in the AMCAS Letters program to which you are applying. Please see Completing the AMCAS 2022 Application (available at the top of this page) for more detailed instructions.
- For MD-PhD applicants: If you are applying to both MD and to MD-PhD programs, and wish to send a different selection of individual letters and/or different versions of your Committee Letter to your MD and your MD-PhD schools, respectively, you will create two separate AMCAS Letter IDs for these two sets of letters. You will then assign the MD schools Letter ID to the schools where you are applying MD only, and the MD-PhD Letter ID to the schools where you are applying MD-PhD.
Q: I created multiple AMCAS Letter IDs for each individual recommender rather than just the one that I was supposed to do. What do I do?
A: If you have created multiple Letter IDs (the IDs that get generated in AMCAS when applicants “add” letters that will be sent on their behalf), keep the Letter ID for the Committee Letter (to which your individual letters will be attached), which will be uploaded to the AMCAS Letter Service by your Academic Coordinator. Be sure to correct your AMCAS application to indicate that the other letters will no longer be sent.
Q: Do I need to let my Academic Coordinator know to which schools I am applying?
A: Yes, your Academic Coordinator will need your list of schools. For a school that uses the AMCAS Letter Service program, your letters will be sent as explained in the previous FAQ. As long as you complete your AMCAS Letter section correctly and meet your House/the Dudley Community-deadlines for turning in their materials (e.g., list of medical schools, individual rec letters turned in by your recommenders, list of which letters to send, etc.), your letters will be successfully transmitted via AMCAS to medical schools by August 15. For a school that does not use the AMCAS Letter Service Program, your letters will be sent by your Academic Coordinator directly to those medical schools, bypassing AMCAS. Only one MD program in the United States does not participate in the AMCAS Letter Service – the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine. For this school you will need to arrange for your Academic Coordinator to send a paper copy of your letters via U.S. mail. For those of you applying to Texas schools, Osteopathic (D.O.) schools, and/or Canadian, European, or other foreign medical schools, your Academic Coordinator will transmit your letters to these schools electronically or, in some cases, by mailing hard copies directly to the schools. Please consult directly with your Academic Coordinator for detailed instructions.
Q: Can I customize the group of letters I send from medical school to medical school?
A: No, all medical schools will receive a single PDF containing the committee letter from your House/the Dudley Community and the individual recommendation letters that you choose to include. (MD/PhD applicants: see below.)
Q: I am an MD/PhD applicant. Does the process change for me?
A: The letter transmission process is the same for an MD/PhD applicant as it is for an MD applicant. If you will apply to MD/PhD programs only, you will only need one AMCAS Letter ID. If you are applying to both MD and MD/PhD programs, and wish to send two different letter selections, follow the instructions in the third FAQ in this section. For example, applicants in this category may want to include four to five letters for MD-only programs and five to seven letters for MD/PhD programs (to include additional research-focused letters). Once you have created two separate AMCAS Letter IDs for these two selections of letters, your Academic Coordinator will be able to transmit the MD-only PDF to your MD schools, and the MD/PhD PDF to your MD/PhD schools.
Q: Do I need to list Additional Authors under the Committee Letter details in the AMCAS?
A: No, leave these fields blank. However, make sure to fill out the Primary Contact/Author fields with the words “Academic” and “Coordinator” as per the instructions in Completing the AMCAS 2022 Application (available at the top of this page).
Q: Will I be notified when my letters have been transmitted to medical schools?
A: Yes, you will be able to see if your letters have been transmitted to and received by your schools in the “My Documents Statuses” section or your AMCAS application.
Q: Can I send in a letter that came in late, after my letters were already sent?
A: Letters arriving to your Resident Dean’s Office after the committee letter packet has been sent will need to be submitted to AMCAS separately. This is highly discouraged and should happen only in the rarest of circumstances. Please use the AMCAS Letter Service to send any additional letters.
Q: When will my Committee Letter PDF be sent?
A: The Academic Coordinators will transmit all Committee Letter PDFs to medical schools by mid-August if the applicant abides by the deadlines set by the Premedical/Pre-Health Committees by which to submit all required application-related materials. This timeline for completing and transmitting letters is similar for all of our peer institutions. Medical schools are aware of this timeline for when to expect your letters, and have confirmed that receiving your letter PDF by mid-August will not place you at a disadvantage in the admissions process.
Q: What questions have medical schools asked within their secondary applications?
A: Read the examples of secondary application questions (scroll down to the end of the page) that medical schools have asked applicants on their secondary applications. Keep in mind that next year’s questions may be different and the specific questions vary from school to school. Many students access questions from the secondary applications of previous years on studentdoctor.net or the “Medical School Secondary Essay Prompts Database” on the prospectivedoctor.com site.
Q: Washington University (or another medical school) has a math requirement and on their secondary application say they accept AP Calculus but only if it appears on a transcript (and they will not accept the ETS score report in lieu of the score appearing on my transcript). What should I tell them? Will this hurt my chances for admission?
A: Washington University’s secondary application asks you to list which courses satisfy their year-long math requirement and, if an AP is used, that it should appear on the transcript. APs do not show up on the Harvard transcript unless you activated Advanced Standing. If you did not take math at Harvard and would like to use your AP Calculus scores to satisfy this requirement, please list the AP on your Washington University secondary.
In the additional information section, you should explain that you would like to petition that the AP be counted in place of coursework. Each House has access to a letter from the Math Department explaining the equivalence between an AP Calculus score and math courses offered at the College. For now, list your AP on the Washington University secondary and explain the situation briefly in the additional information section.
You will not need this letter until later in the process, if at all, and you should ask this to be sent to a medical school only if they explicitly request it. Please be aware that not all medical schools with this policy (e.g., John Hopkins University School of Medicine) will accept this letter and, therefore, not all medical schools will accept your AP test scores. In most circumstances, whether or not you have already verified that you satisfy a school’s math requirement will not affect your chances of being admitted.
For instructions about how to obtain your official Harvard transcript, please see the FAS Registrar’s Office instructions.
If a school has placed a financial hold on your transcripts, AMCAS will not grant an exception under any circumstances.
Our office is not equipped to answer questions related to this topic, as the definitions and requirements of residency vary from state to state, and within states, and sometimes from one medical school in the state to another. Also, residency is often defined differently for different purposes. Please contact state medical school/s directly for all questions related to how to validate, establish, or re-establish state residency in a particular state.
Remember that the quickest answers to many questions can often be obtained by contacting AMCAS directly:
- AMCAS Help Line: 202.828.0600; office hours M-F 9:00am – 7:00pm EST. 24-hour automated phone line.
- On the applicant website, see especially the AMCAS Applicant Guide.
- Email email@example.com
- Attend the Personal Statement webinar, held each spring.
What everyone writes for the AMCAS application
- Personal statement (5300 characters, including spaces)
- Activities descriptions (700 characters, up to 15 allowed)
- Three descriptions of most meaningful activities (an additional 1325 characters for each activity)
What some people write on the AMCAS application
- Institutional action explanation (1325 characters)
- Disadvantaged status explanation (1325 characters)
- MD/PhD essay—Why MD/PhD? (3000 characters)
- MD/PhD essay—Significant Research (10,000 characters)
- TMDSAS applicants—Personal Statement (5000 characters), Personal Characteristics essay (2500 characters) and Optional essay (2500 characters)
- AACOMAS applicants—Personal Statement (5300 characters)
What you write beyond AMCAS–Secondary applications
WHAT EVERYONE WRITES FOR THE AMCAS APPLICATION
1. Personal statement – The prompt for this is “Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school.” Keep in mind that for the average applicant who might apply to 26 schools, this essay will likely be read by somewhere between 54 and 270 people.
First, good editing is good writing. Be prepared to go through a lot of drafts. Do not worry if your first draft is too long. There will always be things to cut. Do not get too attached to your first idea. Often you will not be able to figure out how something will sound until you write it.
Get feedback, but not too much feedback. Asking 10 people to read it may leave you confused. In the end, it needs to be your voice coming through. Listen to advice when a trusted reader tells you that something seems off. It will hit some medical school admissions committee members the same way.
Please note: Your main resource for feedback on your personal statement will be your assigned premedical tutor (non-resident or resident) in your House/Dudley Community. If you are feeling stuck with the writing process or just want more general feedback, the writing center at Harvard can also be a valuable resource.
Here are some general issues to think about as you start to write:
- How do you know that you want to be a doctor? How have you demonstrated this interest?
- How has your interest in medicine changed and developed over time?
- How did you overcome your doubts?
- Why medicine and not other career fields, such as teaching, science, public health, nursing, etc.?
- Have you faced any obstacles in your life (for example, economic, familial, or physical)? How did you handle these?
- How have you been influenced by certain events and people?
- Recall a time when you had a positive impact on another person. How did you and the person change as a result?
- What were major turning points in your life?
- What do you want the committee to know that is not apparent elsewhere?
- Use a concrete anecdote or experience to draw the reader in; perhaps circle back to it at the end to create bookends.
- Approach the essay as a chance to share the arc of your journey to this point.
- Consider whether to discuss fluctuations in performance, hardship affecting academic record, and/or a personal or medical situation.
- Remember that if you write something in your personal statement, you may be asked about it in an interview. If you do not wish to speak about it in an interview, do not write it here.
Here are some specific “Do’s” for writing the personal statement.
- Tell a story.
- Keep it interesting by using specific examples and anecdotes.
- Provide information, insight, or a perspective that cannot be found elsewhere in your application.
- Describe experiences in terms of what they mean to you and what you learned.
- Make sure the reader learns about you, not just what you did.
- Use strong action verbs and vivid images; paint a picture.
- Be concise. Make sure every sentence needs to be there.
- Describe what you learned in your research, not the details of the specific research project (unless writing the MD/PhD significant research essay).
- Allow plenty of time to write, revise, reflect, and revise some more. Step away often so you can revisit your essay with fresh eyes.
- Proofread. Spell checking will not catch everything! Then, proofread again and get someone else to do the same. Read the essay out loud to catch typos your eyes may have missed.
Here are some “Don’ts” for the essay.
- Just list or summarize your activities. This is not a resume (and your activities have their own section).
- Try to impress the reader with the use of overly flowery or erudite language.
- Directly tell the reader that you are compassionate, motivated, intelligent, curious, dedicated, unique, or different than most candidates (“Show don’t tell”).
- Focus only on childhood or high school experiences.
- Use slang or forced analogies.
- Lecture the reader, e.g., on what’s wrong with medicine, what doctors should be like.
- Make excuses for poor grades.
- Begin every sentence or paragraph with “I”.
- Overwork the essay to the point where you lose your own voice.
- Use generalizations and clichés.
- Follow the advice of too many people.
- Try to share everything there is to know about you.
2. Activity descriptions—You are allowed space for up to 15 activities in this section and for each activity you are allowed 700 characters to describe the experience. This amounts to about 5 or 6 sentences. Some activities will not require that much description. From the AMCAS Applicant Guide (aamc.org): “Medical schools receive all text entry responses as plain text. This means that formatting options such as bulleted lists, indented paragraphs, and bold/italic fonts do not appear for reviewers.” Because of this and for the ease of the reader, it is preferable to write these descriptions in sentences rather than using a resume style of writing.
3. Most meaningful activities—You will designate three of your activities as “most meaningful.” For these three, you will write the 700 character description, but then you are prompted to write an additional 1325 character narrative to discuss why it was a most meaningful activity. Again, this should be in sentences. This may give you an opportunity to speak about an experience in detail that is not part of your personal statement.
WHAT SOME PEOPLE WRITE FOR THE AMCAS APPLICATION
We will first focus very briefly on the parts that only some people write.
1. Institutional Action explanation—You are required to disclose certain kinds of institutional action that may have occurred in your academic career. If this has been the case for you, we strongly advise you to make an appointment with your Allston Burr Resident Dean and with one of our premedical/pre-health advisers to discuss the situation and strongly advise you to ask for advice regarding this explanation.
2. Disadvantaged status explanation—If you believe you grew up in a situation that could be described as disadvantaged, you are allowed to explain this. From the AMCAS Applicant Guide, “you might consider yourself disadvantaged if you grew up in an area that was medically underserved or had insufficient access to social, economic, and educational opportunities.” Be sure to refer to AMCAS Applicant Guide section and appendix for this part of the AMCAS Biographic Information section for detailed instructions and examples of disadvantages that medical schools want to be aware of. If you are unsure if you qualify, this is also a good topic for an advising conversation. Again, we suggest letting someone at our office or one of your House/Dudley Community tutors review this explanation.
3. MD/PhD essays—Candidates for combined MD/PhD programs are required to write two additional essays. You can get advice from your House/Dudley Community tutor/s or your research mentors as you write these essays. The first focuses on why you want to get the combined degree. The second, much longer essay, focuses on your research experiences, including the project/s you worked or are currently working on with your supervisor, the nature of the problem studied, and your contribution to the project. These essays are sent only to the schools where you select the MD/PhD option.
BEYOND THE AMCAS SECONDARY APPLICATIONS
Some schools screen applicants prior to sending secondary applications but most do not. Secondary applications will begin coming as soon as your AMCAS application is verified and sent to schools. A few may come even earlier. You should make sure you set aside time to do these applications promptly and efficiently in the summer. Ideally, plan to turn each one around within 10-14 days and do not prioritize any schools when completing these. Error-free documents are critical, so if you have to hold on to it an extra day to check it, then you should do so. You need to be able to check your email virtually every day in the summer. Check your spam folder every day.
ADDITIONAL SECONDARY APPLICATION QUESTIONS
Why Medicine and Your Future in Medicine
- What satisfactions do you expect to receive from your activities as a physician? (2475 character limit)
- Please share with us your thoughts on specialties and how you plan to choose yours (250 word limit)
- What do you think will be your greatest personal challenge as a physician, and how will you address this? (300 word limit)
- Write another essay that provides us with some insight into you as a person.
Added Diversity to the Medical School Community
- Do you consider yourself a person who would contribute to the diversity of the student body of our medical school?
- How will you contribute to the diversity of your medical school class and Stethoscope Medical School? (300 word limit)
- At Stethoscope Medical School, we are committed to building a superb educational community with students of diverse talents, experiences, opinions, and backgrounds. What would you as an individual bring to our medical school community? (250 word limit)
- What makes you special, someone who will add to Stethoscope Medical School’s community? (250 word limit)
Additional Information/Special Circumstances
- Do you wish to include any comments (in addition to those already provided in your AMCAS application) to the Admissions Committee?
- Please feel free to use this space to convey any additional information that you might wish the Committee to know. (1000 character limit)
- Optional Essay: 500 words to give a stronger view of yourself as an applicant.
- Are there any special circumstances that Stethoscope Medical School should be aware of?
- Do you have unique experiences or obstacles that you have overcome that were not covered in your application about which you would like to inform our Admissions Committee?
- Indicate any special experiences, unusual factors or other information you feel would be helpful in evaluating you, including, but not limited to, education, employment, extracurricular activities, prevailing over adversity. You may expand upon but not repeat AMCAS application information. (2000 character limit)
Leaves of Absences/Post-Grad Experiences
- Did you take any leaves of absence or significant breaks from your undergraduate education?
- If you have already completed you education, if your college or graduate education was interrupted, or if you do not plan to be a full-time student during the current year, describe in chronological order your activities during the time(s) when you were not enrolled as a full-time student. (1800 character limit)
- Are you expecting to go on to medical school directly after completing your undergraduate work? If no, please explain. (1400 character limit)
- If you are not attending school full-time during the entire 2008-2009 school year, please indicate activities, coursework, employment, or other occupations for that period to account for full-time involvement. (three line limit)
Why Us? (Fit)
- At Stethoscope Medical School, we strive to identify students who will be a great “fit” with our medical school. Our mission statement is an expression of our core purpose and educational philosophy. Please reflect on its content and write an essay describing why you see yourself as a great “fit” for our school. Please include examples of past service, community, clinical, educational, and research experiences. Please also discuss your future goals.
- Briefly describe your interest in Stethoscope Medical School. (100 word limit)
- Why have you chosen to apply to Stethoscope Medical School, and how do you think your education at here will prepare you to become a physician for the future? (5000 characters limit)
- What is your specific interest in the MD Program at Stethoscope Medical School? What opportunities would you take advantage of as a student here? (ten line limit)
Situational and Experiential
- Tell us about a difficult or challenging situation that you have encountered and how you dealt with it. In your response, identify both the coping skills that you called upon to resolve the dilemma, and the support person(s) from whom you sought advice. (2400 character limit)
- Please check up to three activities which demonstrate commitment and leadership.
- Briefly describe any health-related experience and/or research experience (volunteer or employed). Also, indicate the time and frequency of your involvement.
- Select one experience from your list of non-academic activities and describe in a brief essay how it impacted on your decision to go into medicine. (250 word limit)
- Please provide a narrative or timeline to describe any features of your educational history that you think may be part of particular interest to us. For example, have you lived in another country or experienced a culture unlike your own, or worked in a field that contributed to your understanding of people unlike yourself? Or, have you experienced advanced training in any area, including the fields of art, music, or sports? This is an opportunity to describe learning experiences that may not be covered in other areas of this application. It is not necessary to write anything in this section. (2000 character limit)
Selecting Medical Schools webinar is held each spring.
- America’s Best Medical Schools: A Critique of the U.S. News & World Report Rankings (pdf)
- U.S Medical School Admissions Information – Financial Aid policies, MCAT policies, and information about in-state, out-of-state, and international applicants (xlxs)
- Academic requirements
- Rural Medicine Programs (pdf)
- Medical and other health professions school information sessions and campus visits: Open to all students and alumni, and especially helpful for students getting ready to apply or already applying to MD and other health professions programs.
An effective letter of recommendation provides a portrait of who you are beyond your college grades or entrance exam scores. Admissions committees rely on letter of recommendations not only to validate what you have written in your application, but also to gather information about your personality, character, and motivation for your chosen field. For medical or other health professions schools, you are advised to have two letters from science faculty/instructors and one letter from a non-science faculty/instructor.
Before Asking for a Letter
Before approaching faculty or employers for letters of recommendation, reflect on how these letters can strengthen your application.
- List the qualities that the graduate program is looking for in an applicant. Medical schools seek students who can handle a science-intense curriculum, but who have also shown evidence of compassion and strong motivation for medical careers. To get a sense of what an employer or graduate school is looking for in a candidate, think about who succeeds in the program or job you are seeking.
- Who can positively comment on these relevant personal qualities?
- If you need to provide several letters of recommendation, consider how each letter can fill different needs and request letters from individuals who know you in different contexts and can comment on different strengths.
- What would you like someone to include/address in the letter that may be missing in the rest of your application? Who can comment on your professional behavior? Your maturity? Did you take a particularly challenging sequence of courses that is not necessarily obvious from your transcript? Are there extenuating circumstances that might account for atypical grades?
- Decide whether you want to waive your right to see the letter of recommendation. For most employers and graduate programs, confidential letters have greater credibility and are assigned greater weight in the application process. Interestingly, many letter writers are less inhibited in praising an applicant when the letter is confidential.
- Allow plenty of “turnaround time.” Be sure the letter writer has the opportunity to write a thoughtful, complete letter without worrying about an unrealistic deadline.
When Asking for a Letter
After deciding which individuals can provide the most positive and complete picture of your relevant skills, experiences, and character traits, make an appointment to meet with each of the potential writers.
- Ask the letter writer if they feel comfortable writing a letter to support your application. If they seem hesitant or ambivalent, thank them for their time but do not request a letter from this individual. It is crucial that the person writing your letter is positive about your application and conveys that in their letter. If a letter is lukewarm or negative, it can reflect poorly on your ability to judge how you appear to others as well as give the employer or graduate program feedback that you did not intend to convey.
- Feel free to share these letter guidelines provided by the AAMC.
- The letter of recommendation will be especially effective if the writers describe specific examples and instances whenever possible. So, provide each letter writer with information relevant to your experience and application. This could be a resume, a personal statement, a reminder of particular incidents or discussions, etc. Spend some time with the letter writer discussing how this information relates to your application. Let them know what would be helpful to include in the letter. Consider whether the writer can comment on any of the AAMC competencies for entering medical students.
After Asking for a Letter
Don’t forget to thank the person writing your letter by sending a thank-you note. Let them know the outcome of your application. Not only could their letter make the difference in whether or not you are accepted, you most likely will want to ask for letters again in the future.
Each August, our office holds a medical school interview webinar for students who are currently in the application process. This webinar is an opportunity for advisers and students to discuss the medical school interview comprehensively. Please reach out to your assigned House resident or non-resident tutor to arrange mock interview.
Preparing for the Interview
Why do medical schools interview?
As you prepare for the interview, it may help to think about why medical schools interview applicants. They hope to evaluate your personality, professionalism, and maturity; to hear your motivation to pursue medicine in your own spoken words; to hear how you have tested and confirmed your desire to become a clinician; to learn if you have realistic expectations of life as a physician; and to decide if you are going to be a great colleague and peer.
What about logistics?
Schedule your interviews as soon as you receive an invitation. With regard to logistics, remember to use an incognito window as you search for flights; know that staying with student hosts is an option; and know that the Harvard Financial Aid Office may be able to help with some costs if you are on significant financial aid and are still an enrolled undergraduate student at the College. If you are going abroad or are otherwise going to be unavailable during portions of the interview season, make sure you let your schools know. 2022 Applicants: Since medical schools are continuing to hold remote interviews, your House/Dudley Community mock interviews as well as our Medical School Interview workshop will continue to cover advice and information about virtual interviewing.
There are two main options for interview attire: suits with pants or skirts and a solid color dress shirt or blouse or a dress with a blazer. Dress conservatively so that nothing is too low cut or too short. Remove facial/tongue piercings if possible, and cover large tattoos.
Preparing for the substance of the interview.
Come prepared to tell them more about why their medical school is the right fit for you. Build on what you wrote about the specific medical school in your secondary. Be prepared to show that you are familiar with the school’s style of teaching and assessment. Contact your House or Dudley Community premed tutor/s to arrange a mock interview.
Interview formats vary.
Medical schools use different formats which are listed on MSAR and on the individual schools’ websites. Schools may utilize traditional 30 to 60-minute interviews, multiple mini-interviews (MMI) or group interviews. The interviews may be closed or open with regard to your file. Interviews may also be remote. Here is a resource developed in September 2020 with information on preparing for remote interviews.
Tips for the Interview Day
The day of the interview can be stressful, but many people also find it exciting and enjoyable. Here are a few last minute tips:
- Be nice to everyone.
- Be prompt.
- Be prepared, but do not over rehearse.
- Be flexible and expect the unexpected.
- Actively engage.
- Be positive and upbeat.
- Give direct, thorough answers.
- Take your student interviewer seriously.
- Anticipate what might concern the interviewer (e.g., poor grades, disciplinary action). Have an explanation ready that is not an excuse or rationalization.
You are not expected to resolve difficult ethical, moral, or political issues, but you should be able to demonstrate familiarity with current issues in medicine. At the end, be prepared for “Anything else you want me to know?” and “Do you have any questions for me?” Do not ask questions that would have obvious answers from the website. It is fine to ask questions directly related to your interviewer.
The MD/PhD Interview
There are a number of ways in which the MD/PhD interview process is different. Be prepared to speak about your research at a number of different levels. You will often know who your interviewers are in advance. Be sure to use that to your advantage. Meet with and set up a mock interview with an MD/PhD student who is a resident or non-resident tutor at your House. Prepare an “elevator speech” (of 90-second duration) to describe your research extemporaneously.
The Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI)
More medical schools are using the MMI format. There is some variation from school to school, but the MMI usually involves 6-10 stations. At each station you are given two minutes to read a scenario and 6-8 minutes to answer/execute. There are varying types of questions. Some use scenario-based questions, which tend to be situational, ethical, and problem-solving oriented. Some schools use spatial and collaborative problem-solving questions.
What you are being evaluated on may not always be obvious. You receive scores based on how you answer the questions. Do you consider different perspectives and possible answers? How do you react emotionally to the interviewers’ follow up questions? How do you respond if you’re disagreed with?
There are countless possible interview questions that you might be asked. Many will seem predictable. Some will be unique and thoughtful. Rarely, they may seem silly or irrelevant. Your job is to roll with whatever you’re asked, to be familiar with your own application, to be generally familiar with the broad issues facing American healthcare, and to be familiar with the school as presented on the website. If you have solid, thoughtful answers to these few questions below, that will get you through the majority of your interviews.
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
- Why do you want to be a doctor?
- What experiences have most motivated you to pursue medicine?
- What got you interested initially in medicine?
- Tell me about a time when you had to compromise.
- Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. What did you do and how did you correct it?
- What was the most stressful situation you ever faced? How did you handle it?
- Tell me about a time when you collaborated on a successful project.
- Tell me about yourself.
- What is the one thing you want me to convey to the admission committee?
- What is the biggest challenge that is facing the medical field today?
- How do you imagine the balance of research and clinical work in your future?
- Why choose medicine over some other career in health?
- Tell me more about ______ from your personal statement (or AMCAS application).
Additional Sample Interview Questions:
- What makes you particularly interested in this school?
- How have you enjoyed your undergraduate experience? What would you change?
- What field of medicine interests you most?
- How did you choose to major in _____________?
- What non-science courses did you like the most?
- What do you think you will find most difficult about medical school?
- What are your strong points? What are your weaknesses?
- What has been your biggest failure, and how did you handle it?
- How do you work under pressure? Give an example. What, in hindsight, were you most dissatisfied with about your performance? What did you learn from your experience?
- What have you done that shows initiative? What did you gain from that experience? How were you most/least satisfied with that endeavor?
- How do you respond to criticism? Describe a situation where your work was criticized. What was your immediate reaction to the situation?
- What are the negative aspects of being a doctor?
- How could you affect the health care system?
- How would friends describe you?
- What do you think is the most important quality a physician should have?
- Are you interested in research? How do you imagine the balance of research and clinical work in your future?
- What is the reason for your poor grades sophomore year?
- What last bit of information would you like me to know about you?
- Describe a situation in which you felt like a fish out of water.
- Tell me about a time when you got into a conflict with someone else. How was it resolved?
- What do you do for fun?
- How would a good friend describe you as a person?
- If you couldn’t be a physician, what career would you choose?
- How do you see the field of medicine changing in the next ten years? How do you see yourself fitting into those changes?
- What is the one thing you would change about the American healthcare system?
- What is your opinion about what we can do about the high cost of healthcare?
- How would you react if a colleague wanted you to keep a medical error they made a secret from a patient?
- What would you do if a 15-year-old came into your clinic and wanted an abortion?
- What would you do if you were seeing a patient in the emergency room and he or she wants to leave against medical advice?
- What do you think about physician-assisted suicide? Alternative medicine?
Immediately After the Interview
If you are given an assignment, such as reading a paper or connecting with someone, do it quickly. Send a thank-you note to your student host.
Send a hand-written note to interviewers or to everyone on a panel as soon as possible, unless the school asks that you not do this. Travel with notecards and stamps. It is a great activity to do while waiting for trains, planes, buses, etc.
In the note, thank them for their time. Be enthusiastic about the school. Be sure to proofread. Do not try to sneak in a personal statement. This is a thank you letter. The letter may be read by your interviewer before presenting you to their committee and can strengthen their recollection of you. It may or may not become part of your file.
Considering becoming a physician scientist? The MD-PhD section of the AAMC website has many resources that can help guide you through the process. Highlights include:
- Why Pursue an MD/PhD? (from 2021)
- MD/PhD Chart with Programs, Policies, and Funding (from 2019)
- MD/PhD Degree Programs by State (a database of programs, searchable by school and by specific degrees they offer)
- Science magazine published this article, which provides answers to commonly asked questions, such as what admissions committees look for in an application and what factors to consider when selecting a program.
- “Is an MD/PhD program right for me? Advice on becoming a physician-scientist” written by Dr. Lawrence (Skip) Brass, University of Pennsylvania MSTP Director (from 2018)
- The Medical Science Training Program (MSTP) is an initiative by one of the NIH’s institutes. MSTP provides funding to about one-third of MD/PhD programs. Students admitted to MSTP receive full tuition, stipend, and insurance. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible.
- MD/PhDs and MD/PhD candidates who are resident or non-resident tutors in the Houses are great resources for learning more about the MD/PhD path. If your House/Dudley Community does not have a tutor who is an MD/PhD or MD/PhD candidate, reach out to one of your resident premed tutors and ask if they can connect you a tutor on the MD/PhD physician scientist career path in another House. Also, use the Alumni Directory to find alumni who have MD/PhDs.