The application process is quite different for each type of graduate health program, although most major health professions do at least utilize centralized application services for each type of program. For example, U.S. allopathic medical schools (except those in Texas) utilize AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service), while dental schools utilize AADSAS (American Association of Dental Schools Application Service), etc. Others include
1) Osteopathic medicine - AAOMCAS
2) Podiatric medicine - AACPMAS
3) Veterinary medicine - VMCAS
4) Pharmacy school - PHARMCAS
5) Physical Therapy School - PTCAS
6) Physician Assistant School - CASPA
7) Public Health Masters Programs - SOPHAS
8) Optometry School - OptomCAS
Well before it is time to apply, be sure you are thoroughly familiar with the application process and, if possible, APPLY EARLY. For example, although many medical schools may show a formal application deadline of October, successful applicants have usually done the initial application way back in June or July. It may be important to consult with the University Pre-Health Advisor, Dr. Steven L. Fedder, regarding timing.
Detailed below is the general time line for the steps involved in applying to any of the allopathic medical schools in the United States, except for those in the state of Texas which employ their own centralized application service, TMDSAS.
1) No later than the December holiday break of your senior year begin working on your personal statement and decide what type of MCAT preparation you are going to select. Hopefully you will be able to schedule fairly light academic loads (3 courses each) during the Winter and Spring Terms of your senior year.
2) Be sure to register for an MCAT exam to be taken in April or May of your senior year. Make sure you aware well ahead of time when registration opens for the various MCAT test dates offered.
3) Complete your MCAT preparation process, including taking at least two graded practice MCAT exams in order to gauge your progress. The preparation may be done through commercial entities like Kaplan, Princeton Review, and others.
4) Continue the process of narrowing down to a manageable number the medical schools to which you intend to apply. The average candidate applies to between 15 and 25 schools. If you want a clinical practice, for example, it is not advisable to apply to extremely research oriented medical schools and vice versa.
5) Through monitoring of the AMCAS website, determine when the new AMCAS application file will be ready to download. This file is generally made available around the first of May. You may examine the AMCAS file from the previous year to get a feel for content, but must apply using the new one issued for the year you intend to matriculate into medical school. Download the AMCAS file as soon as it is released.
6) During the Spring Term of your senior year, approach those faculty or other individuals from whom you hope to secure strong letters of recommendation and determine if they are willing to do so. You'll need 3 letters from SCU faculty, two from natural science faculty and a third from a faculty member in any discipline. It is also common to have a 4th or 5th letter from other individuals who know you very well, perhaps from an extensive volunteer experience or from your supervisor if you worked as an EMT.
7) In April or May, do a very nice job on your scheduled MCAT exam. It takes about 30 days for results to become available, in time to include in your AMCAS application. By now, several people will have read and offered suggestions for your personal statement which is part of the AMCAS file.
8) During May, complete the AMCAS application paying close attention to avoiding errors or omissions.
9) AMCAS will announce the first day it will allow submission of applications. Try to submit within a few days of this date.
10) During July and August you should begin receiving so-called "secondary applications" from some of the medical schools to which you requested AMCAS to forward your initial application information. Receipt of a secondary is not an indication you are close to admission to that school; it just means they want more information (essay questions), more money ($50-100), and your letters of recommendation. Most U.S. allopathic schools employ the AMCAS letter service, via which your recommenders submit your letter. The medical schools then obtains the letters electronically from AMCAS. The letters themselves are most conveniently uploaded electronically to AMCAS.
11) If you receive a request for an interview from a medical school, that IS a good indication you are being very seriously considered for admission. Be sure to consult available resources on how to prepare for a medical school interview.
12) Sometime between November and April you will hopefully receive one or more offers of acceptance to medical schools. You must decide which medical school to attend by May 1, so any acceptances you are holding at other schools may be released.
What if you are denied admission to any of the medical schools to which you applied?
Consult with the University Pre-Health Advisor to determine which of the following tacks is the correct one(s) to take.
-engage in additional experiential activities if that was the weakness in your initial application.
-apply again the next year, with a fresh MCAT score if needed.
-cast a broader net of schools to which to apply.
-engage in necessary post-baccalaureate course work if a low grade point average is a problem.
-obtain a masters degree in physiology, biomedical sciences, etc.