Expectations of professionalism during the medical school admissions process

New section

You may be unaware, but there are a set of principles in place to help students, advisors, and medical school admissions staff ensure fairness and professionalism throughout the medical school process. Understanding the Application and Acceptance Protocols are important as you apply to medical school.

New section

New section


Did you know that a set of guidelines exist to help students, advisors, and medical school admissions staff ensure fairness and professionalism during the acceptance and enrollment process?

The Application and Acceptance Protocols (informally known as “traffic rules”) were designed as guidelines for the types of professional interactions expected of prospective MD and MD-PhD students, their advisors, and medical school personnel. Developed by members of the admissions community, the protocols help ensure that applicants receive timely notification about the status of their applications and help schools and programs ensure they fill all open positions in their entering classes. These protocols are not intended to supersede the policies, timelines, or discretion of the individual schools.

The protocols are periodically reviewed by the AAMC’s Committee on Admissions and approved by the AAMC’s Council of Deans. This year, the AAMC’s and the Group on Student Affairs’ Committee on Admissions reviewed the protocols, along with other aspects of the admissions process, and identified opportunities to define high standards, ethical behavior, and professionalism in the application process for applicants and medical schools alike. Following the recommended protocols helps admissions policies and practices be applied equitably across the entire admissions process.

The most recent version was approved on May 7, 2018, and you can read it here.

What is my responsibility?

Bottomline: Your actions during the admissions process should be conducted in the spirit of professionalism and ethics expected of a future physician.

As a prospective medical student, you are responsible for ensuring that you are honest throughout the admissions process. It is important that you understand how the admissions and enrollment process works for each medical school to which you apply. Each institution has its own published admissions policies that outline expectations and requirements for admission and matriculation. Follow all institution-specific deadlines and provide accurate and truthful information in all aspects of your application.

In addition, prompt communication about your admissions decisions is important. Using the “Plan to Enroll” and “Commit to Enroll” actions within the American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®) Choose Your Medical School (CYMS) tool allows you to support the medical school enrollment process by giving admissions offices a better idea of how many seats they need to fill. This helps other applicants receive timely notification about the outcome of their applications and ensures that medical schools will not have unfilled positions in their entering classes. Please note that the CYMS tool is not being used in the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS) application service.

Every medical school is different, so before taking action within the AMCAS CYMS tool, be sure to review school-specific instructions, policies, and expectations for using this tool during the application process. Review the Medical School Admissions Requirements or medical schools’ websites to learn more about their policies.

Why is it so important to follow the protocols?

While applicants anxiously await notifications, admissions committees are diligently working to build the next medical school class. Demonstrating your commitment to a career in medicine is part of the application process. Applicants must understand the goal for all patients and communities to have a diverse, committed, and competent physician workforce. Each applicant should assume responsibility for helping to create an honest dialogue with schools by being informed of each school’s specific mission and policies for accepting and admitting their future physician class. As a medical school applicant, you are encouraged to pursue programs that are consistent with your personal mission. This creates the best-case scenario for the fulfillment of your career goals at your chosen medical education program.

Ultimately, these rules help ensure that everyone does their best to make timely, ethical, and fair decisions during the matriculation process. The medical profession and doctor-patient relationship is grounded in honesty, integrity, and trust. As applicants, it is critical to model the professionalism and ethics expected of a future medical practitioner. Adhering to the admissions protocols demonstrates that you acknowledge that your decisions affect the choices of other applicants and schools that are also in the midst of making acceptance and admission decisions.

Authored by the AAMC Group on Student Affairs (GSA) Committee on Admissions

New section