Letters of Recommendation
The medical school application process begins in the summer and is completed in the Spring for candidates selected to be admitted into medical school in the Fall. Applications are managed through a central application service which verifies and submits the application to the medical schools identified in your application. Each medical school has an admission committee that includes faculty from basic and clinical sciences, community physicians and medical students. Applicants are screened according to criteria established by the admission committee, so it is important to review each school's requirements prior to applying. Being honest and accurate avoids delays in the verification and notification process.
Before you begin
It is very important to review the two-part application process prior to starting it. If you do this late in your sophomore year or early in your junior year, you will have time to prepare for what lies ahead, here is a summary of the types of things you’ll need to do:
- Order official transcripts from every institution (undergraduate, graduate, community colleges) from which you have taken classes to be delivered to the application services and obtain a copy for yourself.
- Finalize with faculty / employers the letter of recommendation process and request them to begin their writing.
- Generate descriptions of your service, leadership and health-related experiences.
- Finalize your personal statement.
- Select and make a list of all the medical schools that interest you. For an updated list of all Allopathic (M.D.) schools refer to Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) at Association of American Medical Colleges. For an updated list of all Osteopathic (D.O.) schools refer to Osteopathic Medical College Information Book at American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. Not sure what a D.O. is? Refer to this great resource for pre-med students, A Brief Guide to Osteopathic Medicine, For Students, By Students.
Application to medical school consists of two parts:
The first part of your application to medical school, the Primary Application, is comprised of: MCAT Score report, Letters of Recommendation, Academic Record, Personal Statement, and Application Services.
- The second part of your application, the Secondary Application, varies in content, deadline, etc. and is initiated by the medical school.
The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) publishes an annual instruction booklet. The sooner you read this this comprehensive and detailed book, the better. Your pre-professional advisor will expect that you have read this before meeting with you to discuss your application.
The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
The MCAT is a standardized examination designed to assist medical school admission committees in assessing applicants' academic preparation, achievement in science, and written communication skills and in predicting which applicants will perform adequately in a rigorous medical school curriculum. The MCAT consists of multiple choice questions and a writing assessment administered as a computerized examination. The MCAT provides admission committees with standardized measures of performance for all examinees. The test content outline was developed with input from medical school admissions officers, pre-medical faculty, medical educators, practicing physicians and Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) staff. For more information about the MCAT, visit www.aamc.org/mcat.
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) consists of four sections.
- Physical Sciences (Physics and General Chemistry) See Physical Sciences Content Outline
- Biological Sciences (Biology and Organic Chemistry) See Biological Sciences Content Outline
- Verbal Reasoning
- Writing Samples (2)
The average MCAT score and scores for those accepted to medical school differ every year and vary by institution. The highest possible score one can get on the first three sections of the MCAT is 45, 15 points for each section. The writing sample score is a letter score for the two essays ranging from J (lowest) - T (highest).
The average MCAT scores on each section based on statistical data is as follows:
- Physical Sciences - 10
- Biological Sciences - 10
- Verbal Reasoning - 9
- Writing Sample - Q
- Total: 29Q
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are an important part of your application to medical school. Medical schools rely on letters of recommendation to learn about important aspects of your potential as a medical student that they cannot glean from your GPA and MCAT score: in particular, your communication skills, interpersonal skills, and intellectual curiosity.
It is essential that you develop good relationships with your professors if you want to obtain strong letters of recommendation. Ask questions in class, go talk with them during their office hours, and ask them about their research interests. Developing relationships with your professors is an important part of your intellectual growth. If you have learned a lot from a professor and enjoyed his or her teaching style, consider taking a second class with the same professor. The better you come to know your professors, the more relevant and important their letters of recommendation will be. Choose your recommenders wisely and request recommendations from them early. Ask them soon after completing their class, rather than months later when your contributions are forgotten. Giving all your recommenders a detailed statement about yourself which includes your goal (getting into medical school) and a resume` will help them write a more effective letter. Make sure you have at least two natural science faculty members in your list of recommenders. The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) now accepts letters of recommendation directly via their website for participating schools. For more information on this service, go to the AMCAS website.
If you are applying to DO schools, American Association of Colleges of Osteopatic Medicine (AACOMAS) uses Interfolio as a centralized letter of recommendation source. Go to the Interfolio website for more information.
You will need to send an official transcript, which is a record of your coursework, to the application service(s). You must send all post-secondary school transcripts from which you took the courses required by medical schools. Click for more information on how to obtain your official Cleveland State transcript.
Your personal statement is the gateway to securing admission at a medical school. Since this is the hardest and most time-consuming piece of your application, it is highly recommended that you start working on it as early as possible. Be sure to have your statement reviewed by several individuals who know you well: your advisors, mentors, employers, friends and family. Don't take any of the feedback to heart, but instead gather all the reviews and craft another draft. Repeat this process of revision and review until it is the best it can be.
Reading Personal Statements published by the Cleveland State Writing Center is an excellent place to start. They can help you with this intimidating process from start to finish. The American Medical Student Association Career Development Program has a document entitled "Charting a Course to Medical School" that offers helpful tips on preparing your personal statement.
M.D. (Allopathic) American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS)
Candidates applying to allopathic schools have two options: The Early Decision Program or Regular Application.
The Early Decision Program offered by certain medical schools informs candidates of the outcome of their application by October 1. This affords sufficient time, if necessary, to apply to other schools through the regular application process. The decision to apply via the Early Decision Program is challenging because of its requirements. It not only requires candidates to have excellent credentials, but also allows them to apply to only one US medical school. For complete guidelines including this year’s deadline, about the early decision program visit AAMC's guidelines to the Early Decision Program
Each year AMCAS is available to begin the application process in the Spring. Check the AAMC's website for the date the application service will be available. The AAMC website also provides many useful resources regarding the application process.
Deadlines vary by school, consult with each school to understand their application procedures and requirements. Applying to any school as early as possible is highly recommended.
D.O. (Osteopathic) American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service
Although the early decision program is not explicitly provided by AACOMAS, the application cycle begins May and applying early is highly recommended.
NOTE: Be sure to review and understand the AMCAS and/or AACOMAS Application Instruction Booklet contents of the information provided PRIOR to starting your application. This very important step will clarify application information in advance of any meeting you have with your pre-professional advisor.
Secondary Application (MD and DO schools)
Secondary Applications are sent to applicants by individual medical schools after they have received the primary application. Some medical schools send secondaries to all applicants while others send secondaries only to candidates who will most likely receive an interview. Some secondaries require more biographical information, while others require additional essays and still others require both. Completing secondaries in a timely fashion will move your application along to the interview selection process.
Medical School Admission Interview
After a medical school reviews applications, those applicants given serious consideration for admission are invited for an interview. Applicants will be expected to discuss their motivation for medicine, their personal and professional goals, and their assessment of current health issues. Interviewing formats vary and can either be one-on-one or in a small group. It behooves you to do some research about the interviewing process at the school to which you’ve been invited. Applicants are usually provided with information about the school’s interviewing process. Most interviewees will meet with current students, take a campus tour and discuss financing options. Practice interviews are offered through pre-professional advising, watch for announcements. Cleveland State Career Services also assists students who want to hone their interviewing skills.
Ohio Allopathic Medical School Applicant Data
For a summary of current data for applicants to Ohio Allopathic schools, click here.