2024 AMCAS® Application Update Overview
• The self-reported "Disadvantaged Status" question has been replaced with "Other Impactful Experiences" with new corresponding help text.
• The Work/Activities section has a new experience type called "Social Justice/Advocacy."
• A drop-down has been added within the Institutional Action question to include categories for "Conduct" and "Academic" or “Both.”
• An optional field has been added to indicate an upcoming AAMC PREview® exam registration date.
• The "Other" labels for pronoun and gender identity have been updated.
• Additional text was added to the essay prompts and certification statement to clarify language around essay submissions.
Self-Reported Disadvantaged Status Question Update
The self-reported disadvantaged status (SRD) question in the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) application was created over a decade ago. The question was designed to provide medical school applicants an opportunity to describe aspects of their background and experiences that may not be easily presented in other parts of the application. It was also intended to provide admissions committees with information to better understand the context of an applicant’s journey and to assist with mission alignment through holistic review.
In 2019, the AAMC became aware of research highlighting some limitations of the question (e.g., unclear guidance, negative reactions to the term “disadvantaged”). As a result, a working group comprised of AAMC staff and admissions leaders from MD-granting medical schools explored the appropriateness of the current wording and of the guidance provided for the question itself in the AMCAS application to determine whether it should be revised.
Between spring 2020 and winter 2021, this group used qualitative (i.e., interviews with medical school applicants and admissions officers) and quantitative (i.e., years of AMCAS applicant data) methods to examine how applicants interpreted and responded to the SRD question in the AMCAS application. Results confirmed that many applicants were confused by the instructions, typically wrote about financial aspects of disadvantage only, and that many felt demeaned by the term “disadvantaged.” However, admissions officers and applicants also saw value in the intent behind the question and the opportunity for it to provide rich contextual information about an applicant’s journey and how their lived experiences align with schools’ missions and/or the communities they serve.
As such, the working group recommended the question be retained but revised to use updated terminology and to improve instructions and guidance to applicants. Similar versions of the final updated SRD question were piloted with the Summer Health Professions Education Program and in the supplemental Electronic Residency Application Service® (ERAS®) application, which both received generally positive feedback from applicants and decision makers.
Social Justice/Advocacy Experience Type Update
Early in 2020, several admissions deans contacted the GSA Committee on Admissions (COA) to request a community conversation about the role of social justice, advocacy, and civic engagement in medical school admissions processes.
In response to evident interest from the admissions community, COA conducted a survey of admissions officers in the fall of 2020 in which the majority of respondents supported adding “Social Justice/Advocacy” experiences as a categorical option within the Work/Activities section of the AMCAS application. COA shared these results with the AMCAS Advisory Committee (AAC).
After a workshop at the 2021 AAMC GSA-OSR Spring Meeting, an ad hoc working group of U.S. medical school admissions and diversity deans formed the Social Justice in Medical School Admissions Working Group. The working group was convened to further explore the value medical schools place on advocacy and social justice and how this is ascertained and assessed during the admissions process.
The group explored a perceived need by admissions officers for improved/explicit opportunities for applicants to describe these activities and experiences in the AMCAS application, especially as they relate to social justice issues in our society.
Working Group Outcomes and Recommendations
An initial objective of the working group involved developing an AAMC-supported document to assist admissions officers and committee members with creating opportunities for applicants to share how they have helped to address systemic societal inequities and injustice in the secondary application and/or interviews.
The working group then set out to determine if medical school applicants and/or first year medical students shared a similar interest as admissions officers in improving how they share information about their activities and life experiences. Six schools – ranging in class size, institution type, and location – participated in soliciting this information and had significant agreement among the students who were surveyed about adding “Social Justice” as a new activity category to the AMCAS application.
The group supported the AAMC providing explicit opportunities for applicants to share activities and life experiences related to advocacy and social justice in the application. These findings and final recommendations were presented to the AMCAS Advisory Committee, and the committee endorsed adding “Social Justice/Advocacy” as a new categorical experience type to the Work/Activities section of the AMCAS application.
Medical schools are continuing to assess their admissions policies and processes in recruiting a future physician workforce who will help to further address these complex and complicated issues and solutions within their communities.
Self-reported Disadvantaged Status Question Update
How will the question be updated in the AMCAS application?
Beginning in the 2024 AMCAS application cycle, the self-reported disadvantaged status question will be replaced with a question, Other Impactful Experiences (see complete question and corresponding help text). Revisions to the question were guided by research and include:
- Updated terminology to avoid unintentionally offensive language (e.g., removing “disadvantaged”)
- Improved instructions and examples to improve clarity for applicants and to assist them with providing information that is valuable to admissions officers (e.g., responding “yes” and providing an essay are optional, a more explicit definition, and examples of prior experiences that are relevant)
How should medical schools use the question?
The Other Impactful Experiences question in the AMCAS application is designed to help promote holistic review by providing admissions officers with a snapshot of applicants’ lived experiences. It will help contextualize other aspects of the applicant’s experiences and/or identify applicants whose lived experiences align with the school’s mission and/or the communities they serve.
Is there guidance for applicants about if or how they should answer this question?
This question is designed to give applicants the opportunity to provide additional context about the challenges they may have experienced during their lives.
This question is intended for those applicants who have had impactful life experiences and who have faced or overcome challenges in a variety of areas such as family background, financial background, community setting, education, religion, or other life experiences. The experiences described can be from any point in an applicant’s lifetime and do not need to be related to the field of medicine or health care. Medical schools do not expect all applicants to answer “yes” to this question and providing an essay to this question is optional. Some applicants may not have experiences that are relevant to this question. Other applicants may not feel comfortable sharing this level of personal information in their application.
How does information gathered from this question compare to information collected elsewhere in the application?
There is no particular way to prepare responses to this question compared to information collected elsewhere in the application. For some applicants, their impactful experience(s) may be core to their personal and professional goals, so they may want to weave it into other parts of their application. For other applicants, their impactful experience may provide important contextual information but is not central to their professional goals, so they may want to emphasize other information in their personal statements or other parts of the main AMCAS application while still answering this question.