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Steps To Take

You will be providing materials to both the MCAC, and to the application service you are working with. The MCAC does NOT send materials to the application service on your behalf, except for letters of recommendation. Please make sure you provide each entity with the information and materials it needs in a timely manner. The steps for you to take are as follows:

With MCAC:

Make Appointment with Chair

At a point roughly 16-18 months out from the anticipated start of classes at med school (beginning of spring semester, junior or senior year), make an appointment to see the Chair of the Med Careers Advisory Committee for advising, and to discuss your preparedness for the process, and the steps to be taken. To set up an appointment, email Dr. Norvell at norvell@tcnj.edu.

Open a File

After the appointment with Dr. Norvell, visit Ms. Kull in the Biology Office, Rm 202, in order to “open a med careers file.” We’ll collect basic information about you for the file, and give you a packet of materials to guide you in the process. The file will then be used throughout the application cycle to assemble the materials needed for the Committee to support your application.

Request Letters of Recommendation to be sent to MCAC

Make appointments with the people you have identified as potential recommenders, and politely ask each of them if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf to support your application to medical/dental school. If they agree, provide them with the MCAC’s Recommendation Letter Request Form, and point out to them the portions of the form they must complete. You might also provide a resume, your transcript, and a date by which the letter of rec should ideally be completed and sent to the MCAC (end of June is good). If they are unsure of what is expected in a letter of recommendation, you can also suggest that they read the AAMC’s Guidelines for a Letter of Recommendation.

Provide Admissions Test score when it has been received (MCAT, DAT, OAT)

You will need to register to take the MCAT if you have not done so already. The AAMC supplies a lot of helpful information about preparing for and registering for the exam. Be sure to check that information out!

Again, we suggest that you take the MCAT when you are really ready for it. Ideally, if you can schedule it for some time before mid-June, then the scores will be ready by mid-July. When you receive your score, please send us a copy of it.

At that point, if the rest of your application with AMCAS  is completed, you’ll be in good shape. If your file with MCAC is also complete, it will allow the MCAC to review your file, and submit letters of support on your behalf before the fall semester begins.

Provide Unofficial Transcript

The MCAC will need an UNOFFICIAL copy of your transcript, which you can download as a pdf from PAWS, and email to us. Wait until the end of the spring semester to do this, so that the grades are the most up-to-date.

Please remember that you will need to request an OFFICIAL transcript to be sent by TCNJ Records and Registration to the application service (AMCAS, etc), so that they can compare (verify) the grades that you enter into your application with the grades that the school has on record on your transcript.

Provide a Copy of Your Completed Application

We will need a copy (pdf or print-out) of your competed application, whether it is through amcas, aacomas, aadsas or other. Since the portals for these applications don’t generally open until May or later, that obviously means that you won’t be able to complete the application until sometime after that date, depending on how long it takes you to complete the application (which is time-consuming).

Don’t rush the completion of the application! Make sure you have included all the relevant activities and pertinent information about yourself, have proof-read everything several times, and have written an honest personal statement about your interest in a medical career. This document is what the admissions committees will be reading, and you want to be sure that it accurately represents you, and that it’s clear and error-free!

Letter Request Form or link

The application service will ask you to create a form/link for your letters of recommendation to be sent/uploaded to their secure site, so that the admissions committees can read what your evaluators have to say about you. Different application services do this differently. (See the information under “What You Will Need”).

With application service:

The online instructions for each application service are quite detailed, and thus it is unnecessary for us to reiterate the information here. The tasks to be done include: 

    • Open your online application portal
    • Request an OFFICIAL transcript to be sent from R&R to application service
    • Enter biographical data
    • Enter courses and grades
    • Enter activities, honors, experiences, etc
    • Write, edit, proofread Personal Statement
    • Do whatever else is expected!
What Happens Next

With the MCAC – Letters of Recommendation to Support Your Application

When the file is complete, it is reviewed by the committee in order to determine whether the committee will prepare a committee (also called “composite”) letter of recommendation, which provides an overall assessment of potential, and “stamp of approval” by the committee for the applicant. A committee letter is strongly recommended for those students applying to MD, DO, veterinary, optometry, podiatry and dental school.

As will the medical schools, the committee looks for a strong GPA, a high MCAT score, and service and experience in clinically-related volunteer work: in a hospital, shadowing a physician, or with an EMS squad, for example. The ideal minimal qualifications for the committee to write a composite letter are a score of 510/511 or above on the MCAT, and a 3.5/3.6 or above for the GPA – but those numbers can vary slightly based on a number of factors and issues, including the types of schools to which the student is applying, whether the school is in-state or not, the specific degree program, or perhaps a slight, relative imbalance of GPA and MCAT (ie, perhaps a slightly low MCAT score with a very high GPA to offset). The committee clearly wants to help as many of our students as possible to gain admission to medical school, and so will err on the side of writing letters when there is one of these borderline situations.

The committee letter pulls together the exact comments and reflections offered by each of the references, and adds to those observations introductory and closing remarks pertaining to the student, their interest in science and medicine, and the committee’s sense of their potential for success in medical school. It is a significant piece of the applicant’s package, and assists the respective medical admissions committees in making their determinations, by virtue of both the specific candidate information, and the history of credibility established between the medical schools and the individual medical advisory committees.

However, all is not lost if the committee declines to write a committee letter of recommendation! Students in this situation are encouraged to meet with the chair of the committee, and to consider a variety of options, including whether the student would still like to apply without a committee letter, or whether it would be best for the student to work to improve their credentials (ie, re-take the MCAT) in order to apply at a later date. The chair will make specific recommendations for improving a student’s chance for success in the future. If, for whatever reason, a committee letter is not approved, the MCAC is still able to make copies of all individual, original letters of recommendation it has received on the student’s behalf, and to forward them as a “Letter Packet” to the admissions committees of the medical schools of choice. This is a viable path to acceptance as well, and should not be overlooked.

Once your file is complete, and it has been determined that a committee letter will be written, it generally takes about two weeks for that letter to be written, reviewed and uploaded; however, it can take up to 4 weeks or longer, depending on the seasonal work load and the work schedules of the committee members.

English Requirements

At some point a while after you have submitted your application, the Admissions Department at one or more schools may ask you to demonstrate that you have fulfilled the “English requirement” for admission.

Some schools require that you take an undergraduate English course; however, most are perfectly willing to accept TCNJ’s Liberal Learning requirement for all undergrads to complete three “Writing Intensive” courses as evidence of fulfilling the med school’s English requirement.

If you receive a notification like this, please let us know. We have a form letter which explains the Liberal Learning requirements at TCNJ, and also provides a list of the “writing intensive” courses you completed (and the grade you received) in fulfillment of those requirements. We will send that letter to the email or street address that you provide for us.

A few schools do actually require an English course – English Literature or something – and so be aware when you select your med schools that you may need to take an unexpected course or two.

Patience! (re Interviews, and Offers, and Waitlists)

Once you have submitted everything, it’s a long wait! While the “first wave” of applicants may have everything submitted before the fall semester begins, others will still be submitting materials. The Admissions Committees at med schools will begin looking at candidates during the fall semester, but the process continues through the winter. Interviews are scheduled and conducted at each school, and additional selection processes winnow down the thousands of applicants to a few hundred. Some acceptances will be offered, but many more will be offered in the early spring. Additional acceptance offers may be made after April 30th, the date by which applicants must select one offer from among multiple offers, thereby freeing up additional seats. Offers to students on waitlists may be made as late as June and July. So be patient!

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