Medical School Admissions: AMCAS Magic

Medical School Admissions: AMCAS Magic

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Chat Transcript:

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:11:52 PM)
OK. Let's start.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:12:29 PM)
First I want to welcome you all to our chat this evening. A special welcome and thanks to our Cyd Foote and Paul Bodine, editors, for participating this evening.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:12:40 PM)
Thanks to everyone for joining.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:12:55 PM)
I'd like to start with a few points to think about as you write your personal statement for the AMCAS application:

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:13:11 PM)
1. You're not writing the AMCAS essay in a vacuum. The reader will have your transcript, MCAT score, and experience descriptions. To make the most of this essay, don't repeat what the reader knows or has access to.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:13:26 PM)
2) There is no way you can fit everything that ever happened to you into the 5300 characters allowed for the AMCAS essay. You need to choose and focus on the 1-3 experiences that are most important to you and most distinctive about you. They do NOT have to be directly related to medicine, but they can be. They should reveal attributes that medical schools value, e.g., leadership, communications skills, empathy, compassion, and initiative.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:13:36 PM)
Don't write in superficial clichés. If what you are writing about, most other med school applicants could also write about and in a similar way, you are wasting your time and decreasing your chances of acceptance.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:13:45 PM)
4) Write about a specific experience(s), person(s) or event(s) and tell the adcom why they are important to you. In analyzing their importance, dig deep. Once again, don't say the obvious.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:13:58 PM)
5) Let you essays be a balance of description and analysis. The description as noted above should inform the reader of important details that you can't include in the rest of the AMCAS application. The analysis should reveal why these details are important enough to include and reveal much about you, your values, and personality.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:14:14 PM)
Now I'd like to stop lecturing and open the chat up to questions. But first a few stage directions:

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:14:32 PM)
If you have a question not related to the topic under discussion, please type a '?' and then your question. Cyd, Paul, or I will reply. If one of you wants to comment on the current topic, please jump right in. If you want to start a different topic, please type '?'.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:15:01 PM)
Final request: We would like to avoid the brief summary of qualifications (or even the long laundry list) followed by the question, "Can I qualify?" Or "What are my chances?" This isn't the forum for that kind of question. We love a short summary and then, "How can I maximize my chances?"

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:15:09 PM)
Other than that limitation, please post your questions.

medschoolchat (May 27, 2003 9:16:05 PM)
What do you mean by superficial clichs? can you give us an example?

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:16:27 PM)
I want to be a doctor because I like science and I want to help people.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:16:28 PM)
The most common one I've seen is "I want to be a doctor so I can help people."

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:16:33 PM)
The earlier the app is in after June 1, the better your chances of being accepted?

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:16:44 PM)
Cyd, I guess we think alike. :-)

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:17:01 PM)
It is superficial and so common!

medschoolchat (May 27, 2003 9:17:10 PM)
I see.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:17:11 PM)
My plumber helps me when he comes and fixes my toilet.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:17:19 PM)
Pre law applicants say they want to help people too.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:17:26 PM)
Why do you want to help people through medicine?

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:17:44 PM)
That's a far more interesting question and requires deeper thought and self-reflection.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:18:10 PM)
stadams, yes, the earlier you submit your AMCAS application, the earlier you will get your secondaries, and the earlier you can respond.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:18:29 PM)
All that means that your application will be considered when there are more spaces available.

bobby (May 27, 2003 9:18:49 PM)
When is the earliest date for this year?

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:18:51 PM)
I think it's important to apply when you have the best application. If you need to take a little more time to perfect your application, then do so. I worked with several applicants last year who applied in late July/early August and were accepted to their top schools.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:18:51 PM)
? so you say that we should include a specific reason for wanting to become a doctor, like an event or occurrence that happened in one's life. Should we also be very descriptive?

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:18:55 PM)
In my draft of my Personal Statement I talk about my research efforts, but I don't have room to elaborate on it too much more than in my extracurricular descriptions- should I still include it?

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:18:57 PM)
My only caveat: don't submit a mediocre package in a rush to submit. Don't compromise the quality of your essays or experience descriptions in order to submit early.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:19:03 PM)
bobby, you can submit anytime after July 1.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:19:15 PM)
June 1, bobby.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:19:25 PM)
I'm sorry, getting ahead of myself -- yes, June 1.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:19:42 PM)
Dr. Chief, you should definitely be descriptive. You don't all have say, "I want to be a doctor, because...."

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:20:07 PM)
Some of you may want to write about your reasons for pursuing medicine, but others can write fascinating essays about something else that is important in their lives.

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:20:10 PM)
Thanks, Linda.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:20:24 PM)
At the same time, those other essays should reveal the qualities I mentioned when we first started.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:20:38 PM)
You're welcome, stadams.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:20:54 PM)
Thanks, Linda.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:21:23 PM)
Lisa, that depends on the theme of your essay and whether research is a major part of your life to date or whether you want to make it a major part of your life in the future. Don't feel compelled to write about research if you don't like it.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:21:53 PM)
Drchief, the AAMC says, "Medical schools review candidates qualifications in four areas: personal qualifications, academic qualifications, communication skills, and motivation . . . Integrity and responsibility assume major importance . . . Medical schools also look for evidence of other traits such as leadership, social maturity, purpose, motivation, initiative, curiosity, common sense, perseverance, and breadth of interests." You can do this through many different stories, whether they're overtly about your desire to practice medicine or not. The topics are almost less important than what you reveal about yourself through the topic.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:21:53 PM)
If you love research and you want to go into academic medicine, then it might make a great topic for your personal statement.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:22:01 PM)
So basically what you are saying is that our essay should be descriptive and at the same time linked to what qualities we posses.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:22:15 PM)
Dr. Chief. absolutely!

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:22:32 PM)
Thanks, I am considering an academic career (in combination with a clinical practice) so I think I am going to keep it in.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:22:44 PM)
Sounds good, Lisa.

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:22:51 PM)
I am in my fifties, so a non-traditional applicant. I was told that I'm wasting my time. Is this process so hyper-competitive that someone with a non-traditional background should walk away?

medschoolchat (May 27, 2003 9:22:52 PM)
? On a scale of 1-10, how important is the AMCAS essay compared to the rest of the application?

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:22:53 PM)
Thanks, Linda.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:23:00 PM)
I'm going to repost the last of the five points I made earlier, because I think it's relevant:

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:23:02 PM)
5) Let you essays be a balance of description and analysis. The description as noted above should inform the reader of important details that you can't include in the rest of the AMCAS application. The analysis should reveal why these details are important enough to include and reveal much about you, your values, and personality.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:23:34 PM)
Make sure your discussion of your research also discusses its non-clichd appeal to you.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:23:41 PM)
stadams, your desire to start medicine at this point could make a great story!

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:24:15 PM)
It's definitely an unusual step to take at this point in your life, and you will stand out for that fact alone.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:24:20 PM)
And if you choose, Dr. Chief, to write about something not clearly related to medicine -- running a marathon, for example -- then make sure the reader can connect that essay to your values and to qualities important to medicine.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:24:42 PM)
Thanks, Linda.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:25:17 PM)
medschoolchat, the AMCAS essay is a real differentiator -- I would say a 10 -- once your have qualified in terms of grades and MCAT. It is a 0, if you don't have the numbers.

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:25:32 PM)
? I am an engineering major (honors in Biomedical engineering), and so many of my medical school requirements have been fulfilled by AP credits- I read that many places don't always accept AP credits and I am not sure what to do. Could my bioengineering classes count as upper-level classes, thus fulfilling the general biology, chemistry requirement (those are the 2 I am concerned about).

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:25:38 PM)
Thanks, Cyd! I've been in science, really miss doing the research. Now that I have the chance, I'd like to take things further.

medschoolchat (May 27, 2003 9:25:44 PM)
Thanks, Linda.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:26:25 PM)
Lisa, I don't know the answer to that question. Check with your pre-med advisor at school. Sorry.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:26:46 PM)
stadams, you will need to respond to obvious questions about why you want to get into this crazy world when other people are in established careers, raising kids, etc.

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:27:12 PM)
Ok, it's just that I've been getting mixed feedback - thanks, anyway.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:27:23 PM)
? My question is how can help with our essays

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:27:31 PM)
You should also try to translate your existing skills that you've acquired in research to a medical career.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:27:33 PM)
Stadams, there is also a site called They have many older applicants. Check there and see if others in your age range have succeeded.

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:27:40 PM)
OK, they'll want to know that right off, so just be up front and address the issue directly.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:28:04 PM)
? what I mean is, what do you have to offer?

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:28:13 PM)
Lisa, that's a question you need an authoritative answer on. As I said, I'm not sure of the answer, but don't just go by what you hear. Ask the pre-med advisor or AMCAS.

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:28:23 PM)
Thanks so much Linda!

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:28:40 PM)
Dr. Chief, I'm glad you asked that question! :-)

medschoolchat (May 27, 2003 9:28:51 PM)
?Would you recommend using the AMCAS essay as a way to explain why, for example, your grades were poor, or do you think it's a bad idea?

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:29:39 PM)
We offer professional editing of the AMCAS and secondary essays. None of our editors are college students or amateurs. They are experienced writers and many, like Paul, have been editing and advising med school applicants for years. Cyd joined us a couple of years ago, and she had previous experience working in a fellowship office.

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:29:53 PM)
? Do schools differentiate between the level of difficulty between majors and universities when looking at the GPA?

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:30:03 PM)
So when you hire to help with your essays, you are hiring a coach, a critic, an admissions professional, and an editor.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:30:42 PM)
medschoolchat, it depends on how bad the grades were and what the explanation is, but you are going to get a qualified "yes" to that one.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:30:42 PM)
? How much is it to hire with this process

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:31:28 PM)
Drchief, we have different services, which are all described at .

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:31:42 PM)
Thanks, Linda that was very helpful.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:32:01 PM)
The prices also differ, so those interested in our services should visit there later. Now, let's discuss the AMCAS essay.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:32:06 PM)
Lisa, yes.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:32:07 PM)
Lisa, they do try to take your undergrad school into account -- still, Cs and Ds from anywhere are not going to look good. MCAT scores are supposed to help level the playing field.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:32:59 PM)
Are any of the participants tonight reapplying to med school?

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:33:18 PM)

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:33:42 PM)
Stadams, you may also want to review the older applicant article at, which BTW, Cyd wrote.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:34:19 PM)
Drchief, are you submitting a different AMCAS essay?

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:34:26 PM)
What have you been doing since you last applied?

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:36:01 PM)
I'm not sure if Drchief is writing a lengthy reply or having computer problems.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:36:04 PM)
I have never applied. Yet.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:36:16 PM)

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:36:22 PM)
Then this is your year!

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:36:27 PM)
Have you all drafted your AMCAS essay?

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:37:00 PM)
No, not yet, and I am not sure whether I am going to apply this summer or next, most likely next.

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:37:06 PM)
Yes, I have a rough draft, but I think that it might be too clichd, as you described above.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:37:25 PM)
Drchief, are you currently a junior in college?

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:37:33 PM)
But I basically have an idea about what I want to write about.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:37:38 PM)
Lisa, we'd be happy to review it for you.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:37:47 PM)
No, I am getting a masters degree.

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:38:02 PM)
Thanks, Linda, I saw that article, it was quite helpful. Just checking out now.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:38:09 PM)

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:38:21 PM)
Drchief, what do you want to write about?

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:38:30 PM)
Lisa, you might also want to look at the sample articles on the site.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:38:38 PM)
Sample essays.

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:38:51 PM)
I'm just starting my AMCAS essay now.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:38:58 PM)
I'm really having trouble thinking and typing tonight -- sorry!

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:39:08 PM)
I think about some personal experiences that I have encountered in my life.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:39:16 PM)
It's pretty hard to distill a life time of experiences into a one-page essay.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:39:46 PM)
There are actually two which stand out the most to me.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:39:56 PM)
Do you mind telling us what they are?

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:40:55 PM)
I start out talking about all the cancer patients I saw when I was working at a cancer research institute, and wanting to do something to improve the situation.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:40:55 PM)
One is when one of my best friends had a stroke and died right in front on me, and the other one had to deal with my uncle dying from cancer a couple years back.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:41:32 PM)
Cancer takes top billing this evening, I guess.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:41:58 PM)
stadams, are you coming from a research background?

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:42:06 PM)
So many issues on public health, diet, nutrition, aging motivate me. I would like to weigh in but ...

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:42:43 PM)
Why do they motivate you? That's what the admissions committee needs to know.

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:42:44 PM)
biophysics Ph.D., postodocs, biochemistry lab, etc.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:42:47 PM)
Either of these two topics could become a good AMCAS essay. It depends on what you do with them, naturally.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:43:22 PM)
I agree that these topics (from Drchief) could be good essays, but they are really common topics.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:44:16 PM)
Not saying that's a reason to avoid them, just be aware of that and really make your essay stand out.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:45:06 PM)
Cyd, do you want to weigh in on how Drchief can make the essay stand out?

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:45:15 PM)
I have to say both had a huge effect on me personally, as well as academically. So they both impacted my life a lot.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:45:34 PM)
Talk about the effects they had on you -- and what you learned about yourself.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:45:44 PM)
Be sure to show how they affected you. Not just emotionally, but in terms of action.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:47:03 PM)
Again there's that balance between description and analysis.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:47:15 PM)
Tie this into the traits that med schools look for -- curiosity, determination, perseverance.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:47:41 PM)
Ok, thanks. I get it.

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:47:57 PM)
Do we have to focus on only one significant event? My draft discusses a few life experiences and/or research projects that led to my decision to pursue medicine.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:47:57 PM)
This has been a lot of help, I really appreciate it.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:48:07 PM)
Those are some of the substantive things that can help your essay. There's also the issue of writing style, which we haven't talked about.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:48:11 PM)
Lisa, you don't have to focus on one event. But if you tell me you are talking about more than 3, I'm going to be concerned that your essay will lack depth and be more of a survey.

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:48:27 PM)
Do most Medical Schools favor in-state residents? Applying out-of-state would be a problem?

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:49:00 PM)
Drchief, I'm glad.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:49:04 PM)
"Showing" what you've done is much more effective (i.e., makes you seem more like a real person) than telling the adcomm about something that you've done.

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:49:06 PM)
Ditto here, most helpful to me and very timely.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:49:25 PM)
stadams, many, many public med schools strongly favor in-state residents.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:49:47 PM)
Thanks, stadams. We appreciate the feedback.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:50:07 PM)
Do you know the difference between telling and showing?

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:50:35 PM)
I am sorry, but I have to go now. Thank you, Linda and Cyd, and I hope we can do this again soon. Thanks again for all of your help and I hope to talk to you again soon.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:50:46 PM)
Thanks for coming Drchief.

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:50:47 PM)
Thanks, Linda. I'll apply out of state to my public former Ph.D. institution and stay in-state otherwise.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:51:00 PM)
stadams, some schools have reciprocal arrangements with other states that don't have med schools -- for example, residents of Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska and Montana are all considered "in-state" at Washington.

Drchief (May 27, 2003 9:51:07 PM)
You're welcome. Anytime.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:51:21 PM)
I think also U of Texas is more open than most to out-of-state residents.

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:51:25 PM)
My draft mostly discusses 1 life experience (and both my parents are doctors, so I mentioned some things about that), and then 1 paragraph about my research and experiences ... do you think that's too much/ not enough depth can be achieved?

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:51:26 PM)
Good luck, Dr Chief!

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:52:13 PM)
Lisa, it's obviously difficult to say without seeing the essay, but if it's one experience and the paragraph about research and the two are linked thematically, then it's probably OK. If they are disconnected, you will need to connect them or your essay will seem disjointed and poorly written.

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:53:04 PM)
Ok, I understand what you mean.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:53:05 PM)
Lisa, also remember that you have secondary essays that will help flesh out your story. If you can't write in depth about your research here, just mention it as a post-secondary experience and talk about it in your later essays.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:53:40 PM)
Good point, Cyd.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:53:57 PM)
The research oriented schools tend to ask about research in secondary questions.

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:54:05 PM)
In general, do the secondary essays seem to be on the same topic of "motivation towards medicine"?

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:54:23 PM)
No, they are usually more focused than the AMCAS essay.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:54:49 PM)
It depends -- some secondary essays are open ended -- "is there anything else you would like us to know" -- whereas others are very specific.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:54:53 PM)
Some may ask about motivation, but they usually will ask about why this school, what do you do for recreation, or specific research or clinical interests.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:55:15 PM)
Whatever they ask, you don't want to just repeat or even paraphrase what you have in the AMCAS essay. You always want to supplement and complement.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:55:45 PM)
And "compliment" when they ask "why this school"!

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:55:56 PM)
Right, I agree....The reason why I wanted to mention the research is because I am very interested in a career in academia and I thought that my research at the NIH might be something that stands out more that some of my other activities.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:55:56 PM)
Good one, Cyd.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:56:31 PM)
Lisa, it is very impressive and distinctive, and it may very well be something that you should highlight in your AMCAS essay, especially given your goals and interests.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:56:47 PM)
It is hard for us to be more specific because we don't know much about you.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 9:57:20 PM)
As Linda mentioned, if you can tie it in thematically then it's absolutely appropriate to discuss in your AMCAS essay.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:57:37 PM)
And we haven't read your essay.

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:57:38 PM)
I understand it's difficult, but I do appreciate your comments.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:57:49 PM)
Any other questions?

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:58:50 PM)
? How much emphasis is placed on the writing sample of the MCAT?

stadams (May 27, 2003 9:59:12 PM)
Thanks, everyone. This has been most informative.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:59:15 PM)
Lisa, relatively little, unless you really can't write.

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:59:25 PM)
You're very welcome, Stadams. Good luck!

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:59:30 PM)
Thank you again to Cyd and Paul for their help this evening. Please check the Web site regularly for future chats or send an e-mail to and you will be added the pre-med chat announcement list.

Lisa (May 27, 2003 9:59:44 PM)
Ok, thank you!

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 9:59:54 PM)
Have a very good evening! Good luck with your applications!

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 10:00:07 PM)
Best of luck to you all!!

stadams (May 27, 2003 10:00:22 PM)
Will a transcript of this evening be available soon?

Linda Abraham (May 27, 2003 10:00:34 PM)
stadams, it should be posted early next week.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 10:00:45 PM)
Email me if you have any other questions -- I'm available on the Application section of MedSchoolChat.

Cyd Foote (May 27, 2003 10:01:15 PM)
Good night!

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