Applying to Medical School

The Primary Application

The Primary Application 

In the past, I wrote specifically about writing the personal statement and gave personal statement tips. I also wrote about filling out the Works and Activities section. If you need help on your personal statement or you are not sure how to fill out the Works and Activities section, please read the 3 articles mentioned above.

The entire application process can be stressful but being well informed can help reduce your worries. Unfortunately, many applicants make unnecessary errors on their primary application, which ultimately hurts them in the long run. Remember, having a strong primary application is the first step to an acceptance. Therefore, in this article, I provide general advice and tips that could be helpful while filling out your primary application.

Be cognizant of the schools (and the number of schools) you apply to

There is no reason to apply to a school that you do not want to go to. You do not want to matriculate at a school that you never wanted to go to in the first place. Do not apply to schools where you are grossly under qualified. Have a realistic list of schools. Figuring out the right number of schools is important as well.

Send in your official transcript as soon as possible

One reason why applications get delayed is because there might be a lag time for your transcript to get verified. Send in your transcript in early May (unless you absolutely need your last quarter/semester grades) so that if there are any problems or delays, you can handle them as soon as possible.

Do not rush any part of your application

It is true that it is better for you to apply earlier than later. Nevertheless, you actually do not need to submit the primary application within the first few days of June in order for your application to be considered “early”. In general, submitting your primary application by the end of the second week of June is still considered very early. If AMCAS already has your official transcript and there are no issues, they generally take about 2 weeks to completely process your application. Therefore, submitting by mid-June will give AMCAS plenty of time your information. Secondary applications do not really start coming out until July so as long as your application is verified by the end of June, you are early.

Let filling out the AMCAS be a thought-intensive process. Be deliberate and write well. If your application is ready and you are very confident about it on the opening day of the AMCAS application, go ahead and submit. But please do not rush any part of your application simply for the sake of applying “early”. Taking an extra few days to review and edit will benefit you more than submitting a few days earlier.

Reread your application multiple times

You can start filling out your application in May. As soon as you finish your “first draft” of your application, you should reread your application multiple times to make sure there are no mistakes. A safe number of rereads is 10. You also want to make sure that you included everything you wanted to include. Personally, I forgot to include my shadowing experiences on my Works and Activities section. I’m sure it hurt my application to a certain extent. Please do not make the same mistakes I did. One way to prevent such errors is to ask others to look over your entire application.

Letters of recommendation (LOR) do not need to be assigned yet

You actually should not assign LORs to any specific school until you have received a secondary application from the school. It is standard to assign the LORs as soon as you receive a secondary. It usually takes a couple days for the school to process the letters and for them to show up on your status page. Even though you do not need to assign letters until your secondary applications, you should have your letters of recommendations already sent to AMCAS so you can assign them as soon as it is possible.

Edward Chang

Edward Chang is the Co-founder and Director of Operations of He graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is currently a urology resident at the University of Washington. He also attended UCLA as an undergraduate, graduating with a major in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. If you are interested in contributing to, please contact him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @EdwardChangMD and Prospective Doctor @ProspectiveDr.

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