Demonstrating Competence in an Unconventional Application Year

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The AAMC offers tips to applicants who are concerned about demonstrating competencies, obtaining letters of recommendation, and participating in clinical experiences as a result of COVID-19.

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Even in the best of times, applying to medical school can feel stressful, but the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many new obstacles into the paths of thousands of aspiring doctors. Many applicants worry how COVID-19 will alter their ability to participate in clinical experiences, obtain letters of recommendation, sit for the MCAT exam, and more. To address some of these concerns, the AAMC hosted a live webinar titled Demonstrating Competence During an Unconventional Application Year.  

The webinar panelists included AAMC staff, a first-year medical student from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and two admissions faculty members from McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine. Throughout the program, the panelists emphasized two key messages:

  • Medical schools are aware of the challenges facing applicants due to COVID-19, and they will keep this in mind when reviewing applications. 
  • Most medical schools take a holistic approach to reviewing applications, and students can leverage the experiences they already have to demonstrate many of the core competencies for entering medical school students. 

Applicants were encouraged to use the Anatomy of An Applicant website, which shows how accepted medical students have demonstrated the core competencies in their applications, as a resource.
LaTanya Love, MD, associate dean for admissions and student affairs at McGovern School of Medicine, suggested students shift their perspective and consider how they can use this time to their advantage. Some ideas included: 

  • Spending time on your personal statement.
  • Using the extra time to study if you are experiencing an MCAT testing delay. 
  • Considering how to engage with professors virtually. 
  • Learning a new skill or hobby to demonstrate adaptability and resilience. 
  • Using online learning resources to enhance your knowledge about medicine.
  • Practicing your interview skills. 
  • Thinking about ways in which you are still being of service, such as helping a neighbor or a loved one. 

Another common concern among applicants was the cancellation of clinical experiences. During the webinar, presenters raised the following points: 

  • You can enter an experience that has been rescheduled on your AMCAS application. For example, you can enter an experience with a future date to let the admissions team know you are still planning to complete the experience.  
  • Many medical schools will have a question on their secondary applications about COVID-19 and how it has impacted you.   
  • Many competencies can be demonstrated by nonclinical experiences. For example, empathy could be demonstrated by assisting an elderly neighbor with running errands or buying groceries during the pandemic. 

To hear more tips and advice for applicants affected by COVID-19, watch the full webinar. To learn which medical schools have adjusted their admissions policies, visit the Medical School Admission Requirements™ (MSAR®) website

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