Medical School Admissions Lessons Learned 2019-2020

Learn from our collective experiences and beat more than 50,000 applicants.


Learning from our decades of experience can help you stay competitive throughout this daunting process.

Knowing lots about medical school admissions is great.

Working with motivated families and students is great.

So now is the time to read our annual Medical School Admissions Lessons Learned 2018-2019 and tape “MD or DO” onto your chest because you are driven.

Here’s the deal.

AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS open in early May and the next wave of applicants is preparing to submit applications.

So let’s get started!

It seems apropos to summarize some key observations we have made while privately advising medical school applicants.

We can get you organized.

Below is our list of some essentials, a list of Medical School Admissions Lessons Learned, for medical school applicants to improve their chances of acceptance.

RELATED: Medical School Admissions Statistics 2019-2020

Submit an Early Application.

Getting started early will give you a tremendous competitive advantage.

Everything you read tells you that the #1 rule of medical school admissions is to apply early.

Is that true?

Yes, but we find that many applicants still ignore this advice.  So let’s make a deal. Let’s get organized and started.

What else is important besides applying early?

Make sure that your transcripts and letters of reference are sent in promptly.

RELATED: Too Early to Start Working on Your 2019 Medical School Application? – When to Start Your First Draft

Take your MCAT Early.

Taking the MCAT early will help you make strategic decisions.

You might be wondering, what is early?  

Your application will not be reviewed until your pending MCAT scores are in.

Medical School Admissions Lessons Learned 2017-2018: Know the medical school admission timeline.

If you have worked hard to submit your AMCAS application in June, dont negate this effort by taking an August MCAT.

RELATED: The Importance of Applying Early and When to Take the MCAT

Don’t apply once for “a practice run.”

Presenting yourself in stellar fashion the first time will help you stand out from the rest of the crowd.

This is crazy and yes some student do apply as a “practice run.” 

We suggest applying only when you are truly ready.

While the stigma of being a re-applicant is declining, being a third-time applicant does trigger a negative bias, so it is best to try and make your application as perfect as possible the first time around.

What’s the bottom line?

Take an honest inventory of your stats, experiences and accomplishments and decide if you are ready to apply or if you must do something to enhance your candidacy.

Medical School Admissions Lessons Learned 2017-2018: Find a medical school admissions consultant to help you through the medical school admissions process.

Finally, if you have concerns, discuss them with your premedical advisor or medical school admissions consultant.

Did you have no interview invites medical school?

Apply Broadly.

Broadening your “school list” will help you create a safety net of potential medical school acceptances.

Here’s the deal:

It may be your dream to attend a top 10 medical school, but be realistic.

Too often, applicants apply to only a few schools initially and limit their chances.

Applying to medical school? no interview invites medical school

But here’s the kicker:

It is important to apply to a broad range of schools both in terms of geography and ranking.

Every year we receive the same phone call from applicants: Well, I didnt get in last year but I applied only to five schools because I wanted to stay in California.

So the bottom line:

If you really want to increase your chances of being accepted, do not limit yourself.

Think About your Story.

Your compelling, motivating narrative will make your interviewers want to get to know you.

We encourage applicants to think about their unique story and path to medical school.

Here are a few examples:

  • What motivates you?
  • What are the overarching themes in your background and experiences?
  • Why do you want to be a physician?

Really think about who you are, how you got here and what you hope to do in the future will set the stage for your entire application process.

And remember:

Think about this throughout your education. Nothing is set in stone. As you develop new interests, expertise and hobbies, your story will evolve and change.

Medical School Admissions Statistics 2019-2020


Make sure that your story doesnt have any major unaccounted gaps in time because admissions committee members often regard these gaps as red flags.

RELATED: Best Medical Schools in the US by State 2019-2020

Make your Application Entries Descriptive.

This is a great opportunity to wow adcom members with the details of your accomplishments.

While some applicants write a bulleted and brief description for each AMCAS entry, our advice is always to give as much information as possible in your written activities descriptions.


So where do you begin?

You have a 700 character limit per description so, unless you have nothing to say about your experiences (which would be a red flag in our book), use this space to your advantage.

It gets better:

The person who wants to read less can opt to skim your entries but the person who wants more information wont take the time to pick up the phone and inquire about your experiences.

What’s the bottom line?

These descriptions present an opportunity to write about your insights, experiences, accomplishments and observations.


Use your three most meaningful entries to your greatest advantage by writing in even greater detail about your experiences.

Do not Regurgitate your Application Entries in your Personal Statement.

Creating a seamless presentation throughout the process will allow adcom members to advocate for to the broader committee throughout the season.

How do I create a plan for the entire application process, not just my personal statement?

It is important to say something new, different, and fresh in your personal statement that does not repeat your application entries.

Interestingly, I find that many applicants shy away from the very topics and aspects of their backgrounds that make them unique.


Applicants also lament that they dont really have a story or anything special about them.


Every applicant has a compelling story, but sometimes you need an outsider to bring it into focus.

Discuss this with your premed advisor or medical school admissions consultant.

Often applicants are self conscious about the very experiences that will make them more compassionate providers (and more attractive applicants), such as being an immigrant, growing up with few opportunities, or having their own encounters with illness.

What should you write about in you medical school documents?

Applicants often say, I dont want anyone to feel sorry for me and I dont want to tell a sob story.

Here’s the deal:

As long as you present your story in a matter- of- fact way and write about the positive direction of your path, you wont be perceived as a whiner.

It’s important that you realize:

It is often the most challenging times in our lives that are the most catalytic, and any experienced medical educator understands this.

Fill out your Secondary Essays in a Timely Fashion.

This is another great opportunity to let your story unfold.  Give yourself 2-3 weeks to present these well thought out essays.

Here is that theme again.

As we discussed earlier in this Medical School Admissions Lessons Learned 2018-2019 guide, early, early, early is the key.

Submit early, but don’t compromise quality. We recommend returning essays within 2-3 weeks.


For schools that have secondaries, your application wont be screened until the secondaries are in.

RELATED: Medical School Secondary Essay Prompts

Practice Interview.

With good practice you’ll increase your chances by appearing confident, well-thought-out, and articulate.  Now is the time to WOW the them in person.

So what’s a good interview strategy?

Many applicants think interviewing is easy and, for some, it is, but everyone needs practice. 

You might be wondering:

Even if you are a great public speaker, sitting down and talking about yourself one on one with a person in a position of authority does not usually come naturally.

Related: Be prepared.  Click here to use the MedEdits medical school resource center. 

The doctor patient interaction.

Please remember:

It is possible to guide your interview and highlight what you think is most important about you.

But here’s the kicker:

Most medical school interviews are fairly low stress and conversational, so enter your interview knowing which experiences and thoughts you want to discuss and emphasize.

Keep calm because 80% of the interview battle is preparation.

Practicing for a medical school interview is imporant.

Here’s the deal:

When we do mock interviews with clients, we are often surprised at how many people, including those with a long list of impressive achievements, are not able to present their stories cohesively and comprehensively.

The bottom line:

Practice, practice, practice your interview strategy with your premed advisor or medical school admissions consultant.

RELATED: Medical School Interview (2019): What To Watch Out For

Make Every Interview Count.

Being invited for interviews is a gift.  Increase your chances of success up to 80% by being prepared.

Every interview is an opportunity for an acceptance.

Be sure to smile, be positive, and be personable on your interview day.

You might be wondering:

Regardless of scoring systemsor rankings,there is a huge subjective component when evaluating an interviewee.

This is crazy:

This halo effectworks both ways; if someone perceives you positively, this will likely carry over to everything about you and your candidacy, whereas if someone perceives you negatively, the opposite is true. 

Teaching is an important part of becoming a physician.

It gets better:

We have several clients who received only one interview invitation which resulted in an acceptance.

So here’s the bottom line:

Approach every interview, literally, as if it is the only one.

Get Good Advice.

Getting good advice from experienced leaders in academic medicine will lead to life long professional success.

This may sound easy, but hold on:

Seek out individuals who are knowledgeable about medical school admissions and provide sound guidance.

Interestingly enough:

When we used to evaluate applicants as an admissions officer, it was often obvious when an applicant received bad guidance because they did not have the best mix of experiences, had poorly written documents, or weak interview skills.

You might want to discuss your medical school admissions strategy with your letter of recommendation writers.

Who wrote your letters of recommendation?  Add them to the list of experienced professionals that can help guide you through this daunting process.

Stay Objective and Be Honest with Yourself About your Chances.

Acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to make strategic decisions throughout the application process and ultimately lead to success.

Here’s the deal:

If it is late in the season and you have not received any interviews or only have wait list offers, consider what went wrong and correct your mistakes.

Apply to medical school with a plan.


If you plan on reapplying, you must, once again, do so early.

It could get worse:

If you reapply in August after you realize you wont get off a wait list, you may again be unsuccessful.

Clinical exposure for all medical school applicants is important.

Interestingly enough:

Inevitably it is the waitlisted applicant who reapplies in June who gets off a waitlist in August just before classes start.

The bottom line:

Learn from our collective experiences working with medical school applicants and try to make the most of your candidacy.

Want to know the best part?

We have learned from our clients that the new generation of physicians is a motivated, well-intentioned and inspiring group with a positive outlook. 

So remember:

Apply well because our patients need you. 

Good luck!


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