Applicant Workshop – Completing amcas

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Applicant Workshop – Completing AMCAS

Lowell House Premedical Committee

AMCAS application = primary application for medical school.
Data in an AMCAS application includes:

  1. Your grades and MCAT scores.

  2. List of extracurricular activities and 3-4 sentence descriptions.

  3. Personal Statement

  4. List of Schools

  5. “List” of letters of recommendation

Find the AMCAS application at the following website:
I. Timing
The AMCAS application will become available in early May.
Aim to have a complete draft (including personal statement and activities) submitted to your premed tutor by June 15.
Submit AMCAS by July 1.
Early and well-written is best.

Later and well-written is better than early and poorly-written.

(But later shouldn’t go much beyond July 15!)
Plan ahead! This is going to take you a minimum of 2.5 weeks assuming you’re well-organized and a great writer! The average student spends 4-5 weeks from start to final submission.
Once you submit AMCAS, it’s final. No changes possible.
II. Biographical Information


Comment re: Disadvantaged status - Answer yes if appropriate BUT if you write something here, it’s fair game for your interviews, so don’t enter anything (here or elsewhere ) that you’re not comfortable discussing with strangers.
III. Grades

Harvard courses don’t fit well into the AMCAS course entry matrix.

Each Harvard class counts for 4 credits, regardless of lab.

For questions about specific course (how they count, how to enter them, how to categorize them, ESPECIALLY MATH, please see the OCS AMCAS application workshop PDF and FAQ:

or email OCS at Unfortunately your premed tutors can’t answer these kinds of specific questions.
Some AMCAS Course FAQs (see OCS website for more):

-What counts as a science course?

Biology, Chemistry, Math (including Statistics) & Physics.

-How do I categorize my cross-disciplinary seminar “SOC ANTHRO3472 Literary

Analysis of Butterflies of Rural China”? Can this count as science?

See above: contact OCS and use your judgment (mine says NO)

-Does Engineering count as science?

Amazingly, NO. See the OCS handout for specific exceptions.

-Does Psychology count as science? NO

-Who decides what counts as science?

The AMCAS office will review your AMCAS application in combination with your transcript. They make the decisions and will correct your application if necessary. This could affect your science GPA if you categorized class as science which are deemed to be non-science by AMCAS. They can only base this decision on their judgment of the primary material, and the only info they have is the course number and title. NB: neither your premed tutors nor OCS advisors make the actual decision here. In general, use your best judgment and email OCS if unsure.
IV. MCAT Scores
AMCAS and the MCAT are administered by the same organization. They get your scores automatically. Scores from every MCAT you’ve taken will show up on AMCAS; there’s no score choice.
V. Activities
For each activity you enter:

Name of Organization

Number of hrs/week (in an average week)

Contact person (highly recommended but not required)

Descriptive blurb
Descriptive blurb should include:

*Name of Organization (yes, again!)

What the Organization does

Your role

Any leadership roles

Group/personal accomplishments (increased membership, special projects)


  1. Ideal length: 3-6 sentences.

  2. Spell out acronyms.

  3. Be specific! Especially when describing research or clinical experience. Name the Doctor or Principal Investigator, Name the Instition (and department, if relevant).

  4. Okay to use bullet points or pararaph style.

  5. Please keep these descriptions factual. Avoid flowery descriptions and philosophical reflections.

  6. Use professional language.

  7. Remember that medical school admissions committees/faculty interviewers are not Harvard student, so you’ll need to explain/define your student groups. Examples: PRISE, HARMONY, PBHA, Project HEALTH (and its successor group), Weissman fellowships, Rockefeller fellowships, Hoopes Prizes, House Committee, etc.

  8. Publications should be cited with proper formatting (New England Journal of Medicine style is a good choice since it includes the paper title.)

  9. If you have too many activities, and you have some similar things you did briefly, you can group them into a single entry. This also works for awards or publications or poster presentations. See example B & C.

  10. Do not include high school activities – AMCAS should start with the summer after your senior year of high school, nothing earlier. If you did something in high school and then continued it during college (eg. Emergency room candystriping during high school continued during sophomores summer), then it’s okay to include the real high school start date, but otherwise leave it out.

  11. Include your hobbies! If you play squash or flute or write short fiction but it’s just you alone, outside of any formal organization, that’s just fine.

  12. Proofread!

VI. Real Examples of Activities Blurbs
Good example A (campus activity, longer example):

Harvard First-year Outdoor Program (FOP) is Harvard's largest and oldest pre-orientation program for incoming first-years. The goal of the program is to provide group adventure-based experiences that promote the development of social support and self-awareness for first-year students, as well as provide a leadership development opportunity for members of the Harvard community. By teaching cooperation, initiative, and endurance in a wilderness setting, FOP serves as a support system for these students, many of whom are away from home for the first time. I participated in the program as a first-year and applied to be a leader the following year. Throughout the spring and summer of that year, I trained in outdoor leadership and became certified in Wilderness First Aid and CPR. In my junior and senior years, I led groups of ten first-years on weeklong backpacking trips in the White Mountains, giving them my perspective of the Harvard experience along the way and answering their questions about Harvard and college life in general.
Good example B (campus activity, shorter example):

Let's Go Publications is a budget travel guide maker run entirely by Harvard students. During the spring and summer following my first year at Harvard, I edited two travel guidebooks, Let's Go: Roadtripping USA and Let's Go: Hawaii. I directly managed three travel writers, developing their itineraries before they traveled and managing their travel routes while they were on the road. I edited copy, wrote content, and organized chapters for the two guidebooks (1500 total pages), which were subsequently published.
Good example C: (another campus activity):

The Harvard Undergraduate Biological Sciences Society (HUBSS) is a student organization dedicated to advancing the study of biology and building a support network for those interested in the biological sciences. HUBSS provides advising and mentoring opportunities for undergrads, creates a forum of exchange between students, and applaud the work of both faculty and students while stimulating interest among younger students and the public. As President and former Director of Special Events, I manage and organize social events and faculty talks to encourage interdisciplinary discussion and mentorship opportunities. In my capacity as President, we initiated new collaborations with other student organizations and Harvard University Offices and Departments to plan and co-host national and regional events. In addition to organizing numerous science-inspired study breaks and faculty involvement throughout the year, I also serve as informal peer advisor for topics ranging from laboratory research to academics. This past year, we doubled membership thanks to rigorous recruiting during the yearly activities fair.
Good example D (research):

Professor Joyce Kitzinger’s Lab for Vascular Research studies the potential of blood-derived endothelial progenitors to repair cardiovascular defects using tissue engineering approaches. I initiated a 4-month collaborative venture between the Kitzinger and Malroney labs (using the Herchel Smith Fellowship summer funding) to characterize and compare the angiogenic potential of endothelial progenitors differentially isolated from human cord blood. I tested each endothelial cell subpopulation for variances in proliferation, functionality, and cytokine and marker expression using a variety of molecular biology approaches to ultimately determine differences in cell response after exposure to controlled 3D environmental cues (chemical and mechanical). As part of the collaboration, I attended both the Kitzinger and Malroney labs' weekly group meetings and presented my own research in addition to reporting individually to both professors. [Note that this blurb does NOT list laboratory techniques!]
Good example E (clinical):

I completed a summer internship at the Mid-America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. Half of my time was spent as a Cardiovascular Research Intern, studying the effects of gestational diabetes mellitus on heart disease. I became familiar with reading and analyzing scientific literature, and was first exposed to the clinical research process. Outside of the research, I gained experience in the clinic by shadowing physicians in different areas of the hospital, including the coronary care unit, the catheterization lab, the ICU, and surgery. I made rounds with the physicians on service and observed stent and pacemaker implantation procedures in the catheterization lab. My most memorable experience was scrubbing into a triple bypass surgery, where I observed the procedure as the surgeon explained the anatomy of the patient's beating heart.
Good example F (service):

The Vernon Hall Nursing Home Program is under the Elderly Affairs Committee of Phillips Brooks House, the biggest student-run public service/social action organization at Harvard College. The program supports Vernon Hall Nursing Home in Cambridge, where volunteers host bingo games every Saturday as an introduction to lively interaction with the residents. I joined Vernon Hall sophomore year as a volunteer and went every Saturday to invite residents to play bingo with us. As a volunteer, I assist in setting up the premises, gather the residents in the activities room, call the numbers and assist residents during the game. At the end of 2 hours, we wheel residents back to the common room or their private quarters where we engage in individual conversations. Over the summer between sophomore and junior years, I served as Program Co-Director and increased attendance by 30%. My responsibilities were the same as those volunteering, with the added task of coordinating activities with the nursing home activities director and volunteers.
Good example G (work):

Let's Go Publications is a budget travel guide maker run entirely by Harvard students. During the spring and summer following my first year at Harvard, I edited two travel guidebooks, Let's Go: Roadtripping USA and Let's Go: Hawaii. I directly managed three travel writers, developing their itineraries before they traveled and managing their travel routes while they were on the road. I edited copy, wrote content, and organized chapters for the two guidebooks (1500 total pages), which were both subsequently published.
Bad example 1 (not enough info):

I was a member of this organization for three years. We did a lot of things with the residents including playing bingo. I like interacting with older people.
Bad example 2 (not enough info):

(Imagine that the person typed “JV Baseball” “20 hours/week” and “Coach Smith” into the title line and then left the description section entirely blank.)

Bad example 3 (inappropriate tone/info):

WHRB is a student-run radio station at Harvard that broadcasts to the greater Boston area. As a DJ in the rock department, I got to play my favorite tunes. Kinda like spinning in a club, only not. It was totally awesome even if no one was out there listening to my random records in the middle of the night. Sometimes some dude would call the station and then I’d ask him to get me on the list when his band next plays in Central Square. That was great.
Bad example 4 (assuming too much, not defining what and who the blurb describes):

I was selected for PRISE for my junior summer. It allowed me to work in lab without paying for housing. I finished my honors thesis research project that summer, and I got good advice about my experiments from the students who were in PRISE with me. I enjoyed presenting my research to other Harvard students at the end of the summer.
Bad example 5 (overly generic/immature research description)

I worked in this lab 40 hours a week in the summer. I worked with a post-doc who helped me analyze my data. Occasionally I got to present my data to the PI. I appreciate the time spent in this laboratory because I got to learn how to do PCR, cell culture, and Southern Blotting, which I could use in a future laboratory research experience.
VIII. AMCAS Letters of Recommendation
The ONLY Letter of Recommendation you should list here is the “Lowell House Premedical Committee Dean’s Letter”.

The contact person for this letter is “Resident Dean Brett Flehinger”

Address is “Lowell House Office, 10 Holyoke Place, Cambridge, MA 02138”
Do NOT list your individual recommenders or your premed tutor.
You’ll need to print out the AMCAS letters page, sign and mail/deliver it to the Lowell House Office for Brett’s signature.
IX. Schools
Topic of a separate workshop!
Recap: 15-20 schools, include a range of safety/in-range/reach schools, +your state!

AMCAS includes a set number of schools in the base price; after that you pay an additional fee per school, so choose wisely!

Note: There are 5 medical schools that do not participate in the AMCAS Letters Program (Duke, Uniformed Services University of the Health Science, Puerto Rico, Ponce, and Universidad Central Del Caribe). If you are applying to any of these schools, the premed committee will mail your letters there directly; no need to add the Committee Letter through AMCAS.

X .What to do when you have questions
First, check the OCS website:
Second, check the AMCAS application instructions and FAQ:

If your question relates to coursework, email

Contact your premed tutor if you can’t find an answer at the sources above.

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