Welcome back to PMH! As you probably noticed, we've been taking a bit of a hiatus recently. I've been super swamped applying to med schools all summer, Mo's been working his tail off and hyperstudying for the MCAT, and Brian is doing triathlons. On top of all this, all three of us are now back in the swing of school, living our (stereotypical) overcommitted lifestyles. So, yes, we apologize for lack of posting. But soon we hope to start posting regularly again!
Ok, that being said, onto the post. DISCLAIMER: any and all of the following are strictly MY experiences, MY opinions, and MY PERSONAL advice. Aka: They should not be taken as gospel...unless you choose to worship me as some sort of cult leader. In that case, shoot me an email so I know I have disciples.
Anywhooo, so as I've stated before, I literally spent almost all of the summer working full-time in a lab and applying to med school. "Whoa, Jon," you're thinking, "did it really take you ALL summer to apply? Why?!" Well young Padawan, lemme start from the beginning.
Back in the day (aka mid to late June), I started filling out my AMCAS and AACOMAS applications. I know, I know, the applications are available way before then, but per the advice of my pre-med advisor, there is no huge advantage to getting your application in May vs. June. So I took my time, crafted my personal statement (a later post if people so wish to hear how I went about it), took the leap, and started my application.
WARNING: Once you start the application, you are entering an abyss of repetition, redundancy, and repetition. You WILL fill out the same question about a million times. You WILL be forced to type our your ENTIRE transcript (x2 if you're doing AACOMAS for Osteopathic school). You WILL write a million essays, all of which are different enough to require individual attention and not similar enough to copy and paste.
Filling out both the AMCAS and the AACOMAS is nerve-wracking and intense. They require LOTS of information and both are very tedious. That being said, my advice to you is this: if you can, get them done relatively quickly. Why? Because the sooner they get in, and the sooner they get your transcript, the sooner you're application will be verified and the sooner you'll start receiving secondary applications.
But WAIT a hot second. Let's backtrack a little. Before you submit either of those applications, you need to pick schools (well, at least some of them). How do you go about doing that? Well, unless you've been doing research since you decided to be a doctor when you were 7 (aka NOT me), you'll need a little guidance. You're school's pre-med advisor (if you have one) is a great starting point. Though, often, they won't explicitly tell you what schools to apply to; instead, they'll give you resources. This is how I discovered the MSAR, the Medical School Admissions Requirements Handbook, otherwise known as "The Med School Bible". This tome of knowledge not only contains a pretty decent "How-To" on how to apply to med school, but also lists all the med schools in the country, their average applicant and matriculant GPA and MCAT scores, their mission statements, values, unique offerings, what they look for in an applicant. Basically, just about everything you want to know. Unfortunately, you have to fork over some green to get one, but lots of school libraries have the latest (or recent) ones available for perusal. The osteopathic profession has a similar (FREE) book, the Osteopathic College Information Book (CIB) you can download in pdf format here. After picking an initial list, you'll probably want to visit each school's website to do more research. Consider things like cost, curriculum and timeline, student life, etc.
Oh, speaking of cost, DEFINITELY take this into consideration to fees for applying to these schools. Both the AMCAS and AACOMAS require a pretty hefty fee (variable depending on the number of schools), and secondary application fees can range from $50-$100+.
Also before finalizing your list, consider how much work/time you'll be able to put into applications. Don't be stupid like me and apply to more than 25 schools. You WILL have TONS of essays to write, all of which will require individualized attention and a lot of writing (and believe me, the "Oh, I'll just reuse a lot of essays" mentality won't work here. You might be able to loosely adapt other essays you've written, but almost none are exactly the same).
Ok, this post is already obnoxiously long. Stay tuned for part 2 for advice on tackling secondaries and an ongoing reflection on my own application process (I already have three interviews lined up, so you'll be hearing about those in the future!).