Filling Out Your Application

AMCAS, AACOMAS, AADSAS, and VMCAS, are central application services for allopathic (MD) medical schools, osteopathic (DO) medical schools, dental schools, and veterinary schools, respectively. Because most schools subscribe to their specific application service (e.g., 136 allopathic medical  schools belong to AMCAS and 9 allopathic medical schools belong to TMDSAS) and since the only way to apply to a school that participates in the service is through that service (with the exception of a few vet schools), you will almost certainly be interacting with one of the common application services.

Refer to the appropriate web sites for access to the applications themselves.

Application Service Information

AMCAS (American Medical Colleges Application Service): MD (Allopathic medical)

TMDSAS (Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service): Some MD, DO, Dental programs in Texas

AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service): DO (Osteopathic medical)

AADSAS (Associated American Dental Schools Application Service): Dental

PharmCAS (Pharmacy College Application Service): Pharmacy

VMCAS (Veterinary Medical College Application Service): Veterinary

CASPA (Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants): Physician Assistant

AMCAS stands for American Medical Colleges Application Service. The Primary Application is an online application to most allopathic medical schools. The Texas public medical schools have their own centralized application service (TMDSAS). AMCAS is a not-for-profit application service that simplifies your Primary Application in four ways.

AMCAS:

  1. Centrally collects your information in a standard format so that you only have to complete one application for admission to any U.S. or Canadian medical school
  2. Collects all your transcripts from every post-high school you attended
  3. Verifies these records and calculates your certified “AMCAS GPA”, thus providing medical schools with a common comparison across all applicants; and then
  4. Attaches, for your designated schools, your MCAT scores.

When you submit your Primary Application, you pay an application fee to AMCAS to cover the cost of these services.

What AMCAS does is very important, but you also need to understand what AMCAS does not do. It does not screen applications or make admissions decisions.  And it is not involved in the secondary application process. Decisions are made solely by the medical schools based on individual school criteria and processes. Use this link to find the schools that participate in AMCAS.

Study Abroad and Foreign Transcripts

The application services are not equipped to evaluate foreign transcripts. They will not accept transcripts from foreign institutions in which you were enrolled. If, however, you participated in a study abroad program through a domestic institution other than Duke (e.g., New York University), you will be required to submit a transcript from the sponsoring domestic institution (e.g., New York University). Duke study abroad students who participate in a “Duke in” program (e.g., Duke in Spain), will have those courses (and grades) listed directly on their Duke transcript and these courses will be calculated into your AMCAS GPA. 

Non-AMCAS Schools

The University of Texas system has developed its own common application service. It covers all the Texas allopathic and osteopathic medical schools as well as the dental schools in Texas. However, Baylor College of Medicine does not participate in TMDSAS; instead, Baylor College of Medicine uses AMCAS. See http://www.utsystem.edu/tmdsas for further details about TMDSAS.

The information below is based on the 2017 application:

On May 2, 2017, the AMCAS application will be posted to http://www.aamc.org. The application will then be available for you to begin entering your information. You can work through it in multiple sessions, doing however much you want and then saving the information you have entered.  AMCAS will "go live" for you to submit your completed application form on June 6, 2017. 

There are 9 sections in the application. In general, you can work on them out of order, but in some cases you must complete one section before moving to another. The sections are:

  1. Identifying Information
  2. Schools Attended
  3. Biographical Information
  4. Course Work
  5. Work and Activities
  6. Letters of Evaluation
  7. Medical Schools
  8. Essay(s)
  9. Standardized Tests

You will need to submit to AMCAS, AADSAS, AACOMAS, and VMCAS an official transcript from each institution at which you attempted any college level work, even if you took the course pass/fail, audited it or withdrew from it.

In order for your transcript to be official, it must be sent directly from the Registrar’s Office of the college or university where you took your class(es).  Please note that the HPA does not send your transcripts to the application services. The sending/receiving of transcripts can be the source of frustration and delay in the application process. But it does not have to be if you would please heed two very important pieces of advice:

  • Deal with transcripts as early as possible. Order a copy of each of your transcripts for your own use from Duke and any other school where you have done college level work. Make sure they are correct. Have updated transcripts at hand when you complete the applications. In this way you will see exactly what the application services/schools see on your transcript. Note that you should use your Duke transcript and NOT an academic history as printed from ACES. There are some difference that may cause problems.
  • Use the transcript request form provided by AMCAS as part of the application. In order to access this form, you will need to first complete the “identifying information” section and the “schools attended” section of the application. Doing so will pre-populate the transcript request form with information on the school (e.g., Duke), including the mailing address of the Registrar’s Office and your AAMC ID number. The Registrar’s Office will attach the transcript request form to the transcript that they send to AMCAS. The form will be used to help match the transcript with your application, reducing the chance for transcripts to be lost and avoiding delays in processing.

Although AMCAS will not begin to process applications before the submission date (June 6, 2017), it will accept transcripts beginning May 2, 2017 and you can have the transcript sent before you submit your application. For transcripts that are complete (e.g., from a school at which you previously took a course or courses), you can go ahead and have them sent after May 2, 2017. If you are a 2017 graduate or a rising senior, you should have your transcript sent as soon as your spring 2017 grades are posted on the transcript. An exception to this is if you are taking a course(s) in the first session of summer school. In that case you may decide that you want the grade(s) from that course(s) included on the transcript that you have submitted to schools, and so you will need to wait to submit your transcript and your application until after that grade(s) is reported and posted. We do not suggest waiting for grades from second summer session. You can always send an updated transcript directly to schools at a later date. (Updated transcripts, however, cannot be uploaded to AMCAS.)

After you submit your web-based application, AMCAS will “verify” it. They will be compare your application with the transcript or transcripts that you have submitted. If there are discrepancies you will be notified and the processing of your application will be delayed. To prevent such discrepancies, you should use a copy of each of your transcripts to complete the AMCAS academic record section.  If, after your application has been verified, you find discrepancies or you disagree with changes made during the verification process, you may submit an Academic Change Request to be reviewed by AMCAS.  After the review, the request can either be granted or denied. 

The application services and the schools themselves will be communicating with you primarily through E-mail. You must be accessible to them at all times in case there are problems with your application (as well as to receive communications directly from schools later in the process).

As part of your AMCAS application, you will designate the medical schools to which you are applying.  AMCAS will forward your application electronically to the medical schools that you designate on your application.

After AMCAS sends your application to the medical schools you designate, medical schools then contact you if they would like for you to complete a “supplemental” or “secondary” application. Schools generally charge an additional application fee for completing a supplemental application. Some schools invite all applicants to complete a supplemental application. Some conduct an initial screen of applicants and invite only a portion of the applicants to complete a supplemental application. Some state-supported schools invite all applicants who are residents of the state in which the school is located to complete a supplemental application. Most supplemental applications are now web-based rather than hard copy.

If you are applying to any schools that do not use the common application service, you will need to work with them directly either through their own web-based application or whatever system they have developed.

After AMCAS sends your Primary Application to your designated medical schools, most medical schools generally request supplemental information. This constitutes the Secondary Application. Check the medical schools to which you are applying to identify their Secondary Application practices. As the Secondary Application gets underway, each medical school will have a distinctive process, but generally it involves three deliverables by you.

  1. Application fee
  2. School specific questions and essays
  3. Request to transmit your letters of recommendation

General Procedures

  • Some schools send invitations to all students applying to their school, other schools only send invitations after reviewing the primary application (4 to 6 weeks after submission) and some schools do not use a secondary application.
  • There is usually an additional application fee for the secondary application. If there is one, and you received a fee waiver from AMCAS, you may be granted a waiver for your secondary application; ask.
  • The secondary application will require you to complete a set of additional questions and several shorter essays specific to their school; be prepared to spend a significant amount of time on your secondary applications.
  • When you receive a request in the secondary application to transmit your letters, contact HPA and ask us to transmit your letter packet.
  • It is essential to keep your contact information with AMCAS current and to be available (especially via email) throughout the application process.

Application Fee

  • Most schools require an application fee when completing the secondary application.
  • If requested, some schools will waive this fee.
  • For students who received a fee waiver for the centralized application (AMCAS, etc), schools may waive the secondary application fee as well.
  • Please plan carefully; the application process can be very expensive depending on the number of schools to which you are applying. Costs include primary application, secondary application, travel for interviews (transportation, lodging), etc.

School Specific Questions and Essays

Each medical school will have a unique set of personal essay questions for you to write and submit. The types of questions you might expect may be general, for example, "What medical specialty do you intend to pursue?" Or specific, like "Why are you interested in applying to our school?" Focus on writing effective, concise essays and check carefully your grammar and spelling. Pay attention to deadlines.

Request to Transmit Letters

Follow the steps below to initiate the process of transmitting your letters of evaluation.

Submit the following items along with your request to transmit your Letter Packet to the Office of Health Professions Advising:

  1. Verified (processed) primary application (as a PDF) 
  2. Application Identification Number(s) (AMCAS/AACOMAS/TMDSAS/AADSAS/VMCAS/etc.)
  3. AMCAS Letter ID Number
  4. List of AACOMAS schools (if applicable)

Do not request that your letters be transmitted unless all your letters have been received by our office. You can easily check the status of your letters on your myHPA.

Once we have received your request, we will upload your letter packet to Virtual Evals (or the AMCAS Letter Service) and make it available to all schools currently listed on your application. Once your letter packet has been transmitted, you will receive an email confirmation from VE (or AMCAS if using the AMCAS Letters Service) with a list of schools that received your packet. If a school on your list does not use Virtual Evals, we will send your letter packet via the AMCAS Letter Service or postal mail*.

*UCSF will not accept evaluation letter packets until specifically requested. If you have applied to UCSF but have not yet received a request for a secondary application, please let us know (if we send your letter packet before it is requested, UCSF will not retain your letters).

Please remember, if you add schools to your application after requesting to have your letters transmitted, you must send us an email at  with a listing of any additional schools. If you do not notify us, we will not know to add any schools to your Virtual Evals account and any additional schools will not receive your letter packet.

Note:
Only one letter packet will be sent to all schools. If after requesting to have your letters sent you decide to include an additional evaluation letter(s), any new letter(s) will need to be sent by the evaluator directly to the medical schools.

Good judgment, honesty, and integrity are important qualities of prospective health care professionals. For that reason the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) includes the following question on their application (additional questions may also be found on other applications).

Felony Convictions

“Have you ever been convicted of, or pleaded guilty or no contest to, a Felony crime, excluding 1) any offense for which you were adjudicated as a juvenile, or 2) convictions which have been expunged or sealed by a court (in states where applicable)?”

You need NOT disclose any instance where you:

  • were arrested but not charged;
  • were arrested and charged, but the charges were dropped;
  • were arrested and charged, but found not guilty by a judge or jury;
  • were arrested and found guilty by a judge or jury, but the conviction was overturned on appeal; or
  • received an executive pardon.

Misdemeanor Conviction

"Have you ever been convicted of, or pleaded guilty or no contest to, a Misdemeanor crime, excluding 1) any offense for which you were adjudicated as a juvenile, 2) any convictions which have been expunged or sealed by a court, or 3) any misdemeanor convictions for which any probation has been completed and the case dismissed by the court (in states where applicable)?"

You need NOT disclose any instance where you:

  • were arrested, but not charged;
  • were arrested and charged, but the charges were dropped;
  • were arrested and charged, but found not guilty by a judge or jury;
  • were arrested and found guilty by a judge or jury, but the conviction was overturned on appeal; or
  • received an executive pardon.

Additional Question

“Were you ever the recipient of any action (e.g., dismissal, disqualification, suspension, etc.) by any college or medical school for unacceptable academic performance or conduct violations?”

By use of the term “any action” it is understood that schools intend for you to report any sanction (the only exception being an “admonition” in which there was no subsequent violation of policy) handed out by the Undergraduate Conduct Board or as the result of an administrative hearing with a dean from Student Conduct. This includes, but is not limited to, disciplinary probation, suspension or probation, housing license revoked or placed in imminent jeopardy, etc. If you are in doubt as to whether an offense and its aftermath is reportable, it is imperative that you see a health professions advisor to discuss the particulars.

Remember, it is always better to report and explain an incident than to fail to report it and risk a school learning of the offense and concluding that your failure to report it is a sign of dishonesty rather than non-intentional omission. The advisors are in a position to help you understand how to present your infraction honestly and appropriately.

Please be aware that poor judgment in your undergraduate years may seriously affect your admission to a health professions school. While it is best not to have any infractions to report, depending upon the seriousness of the infraction, it need not be the end of your dream. But health professions schools will want to know that you take responsibility for your mistakes and that you have learned from your lapse in judgment.

It should not be necessary to state that falsification of any information on your application to medical schools (or in the information you provide to the HPA or one of the advisors) may jeopardize your dreams of becoming a health care professional.  Several years ago we had a case of a student who falsified information and was discovered. He was told by the medical school at which he was planning to matriculate that his acceptance would be rescinded and he therefore withdrew from the medical school before that happened (less than two weeks before the start of classes). We hope this will never again happen with a Duke applicant, but the HPA Office has an obligation to the medical schools (and future patients) to report dishonesty should we become aware of it—and, chances are we would eventually find out.

Your BCPM/science GPA includes all Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Math courses taken as an undergraduate. Because there are many sub-disciplines in these areas, courses listed in other disciplines may be counted as part of the BCPM. On the primary application for medical school (the AMCAS), you will have the opportunity to classify your courses in one of 20 categories. These include:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Behavioral & Social Sciences
  • Business
  • Communications
  • Computer Science & Technology
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • English Language & Literature
  • Fine Arts
  • Foreign Languages, Linguistics, & Literature
  • Government, Political Science, & Law
  • Health Sciences
  • History
  • Natural & Physical Sciences
  • Other
  • Philosophy & Religion
  • Special Studies

To see the sub-disciplines included in each area, go to the AMCAS Application Course Classification Guide. The rule of thumb to decide if your course should be classified in one of the BCPM categories is: If the course content, for example a biomedical engineering course, is 50% or more “Biology” content, then you should classify the course as “Biology” rather than “Engineering”. You should be prepared to provide AMCAS with a syllabus, lecture topics and/or catalog description if you are challenged on your classification during the verification process.

The grades from your undergraduate transcripts will be evaluated in 2 ways: the cumulative GPA and the BCPM GPA. We have listed the courses normally included in the calculation of the BCPM GPA and will update this list as needed.

  • Biochemistry—BIOCHEM
  • Biology—BIOLOGY
  • Biomedical Engineering—BME 158L;  260L; 244L; 253L, 271 (Math category); 354L(Physics category); 301; 307; 560; 512L; 566; 550;  561L;
  • Cell Biology—CELLBIO
  • Chemistry—CHEM
  • Evolutionary Anthropology—EVANTH
  • Immunology—IMMUNOL
  • Mathematics—MATH
  • Mechanical Engineering 221L (Physics category)
  • Molecular Genetics and Microbiology—MGM
  • Neurobiology—NEUROBIO
  • Neuroscience—NEUROSCIENCE
  • Pathology—PATHOL
  • Pharmacology—PHARM
  • Physics—PHYSICS
  • Psychology—; Basically, any Psychology course with a NS designation will be included in your science GPA.  These include, but are probably not limited to:PSY 101 (when it has an NS classification); 106; 251; 257; 277; 273; 274; 258; 275; 276; 451S; 280; 372S; 301; 371S; 461S; 499S; 681S; 682S; 477S; 667S; 672S; 685S
  • Statistics—STA
  • University Program in Genetics and Genomics—UPGEN