Admission to US Medical Schools: From Application to Selection

Admission to US Medical Schools: From Application to Selection

Leila E. Harrison, Christina J. Grabowski, Leila Amiri, Radha Nandagopal, Richard Sanker
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1468-9.ch002
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This chapter includes in-depth information on the medical school application process in the United States (US), the various admissions criteria and selection processes, and the range of interview and assessment modalities used to evaluate applicant competencies. It also provides information about the various pathways aspiring physicians may take to seek admission to medical school. In these sections, evidence is provided highlighting the work that has been done to better understand these areas. The chapter concludes with the important perspectives of an admissions committee chair and a pre-health advisor to further elucidate this complex process.
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Application Services

There are three different application services to apply to US medical schools: the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS), and the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS). Each of these serves unique medical colleges, making it important for applicants and advisors to know their differences, deadlines, and processes. This section of the chapter provides details of each of these application services, including their differences and schools served.

As of early 2019, there were 154 MD-granting US medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME, 2019). The majority of these programs utilize the centralized application service through the AAMC which is AMCAS. The application includes questions about demographics, personal and familial background, academic background, essays, and an option for including 15 activities the applicant wishes to share. There are currently 35 DO-granting US medical schools accredited by the American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (AOA, 2019), many with multiple locations. Most of these programs utilize the centralized application service AACOMAS, and the application includes similar information as AMCAS. There are nine public MD programs and one public DO program in the state of Texas, which utilize TMDSAS. TMDSAS is slightly different than AMCAS in that rather than limiting activities to only 15, TMDSAS provides sections for employment, leadership, research, healthcare, and community service, allowing applicants to submit unlimited activities for each section. These application services provide a centralized process for applicants to apply to multiple programs.

Many medical schools also require secondary applications as a way of obtaining specific information from applicants as it applies to the program, mission, and goals. These secondary applications often include essays and questions regarding additional demographic information not acquired through the central application services. Medical schools use these additional tools to better assess whether applicants are a fit for their program as well as to learn more about applicants’ competencies and motivation. Applicant competencies often include non-metric information, which may not always be clear in the application process.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Multiple Mini Interviews: A structured assessment with multiple stations or scenarios used to evaluate applicants for key characteristics and competencies, much like Objective Structured Clinical Examinations.

Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME): The accrediting body for MD programs in the United States and Canada.

Admissions Committee: The majority faculty body at a medical school which makes most, if not all, of the selection decisions for entrance into the program. This committee’s oversight is also guided by requirements of the LCME.

Pre-health Advisor: In the US higher education system, the pre-health advisor helps students while at college/university as they prepare to apply to medical school. Pre-health and pre-medical advisor are often used synonymously.

Core Competencies: Interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies medical schools look for in applicants that inform selection decisions.

Holistic Review: A framework developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges that encourages the balanced consideration of an applicant’s experiences, attributes, and metrics to help the school meet its mission.

Situational Judgement Test: An assessment used to measure appropriateness of examinee responses to realistic scenarios; often used to assess applicant attributes.

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