An AMCAS Application workshop is held every spring for current applicants (see the schedule). The PowerPoint presentations for AMCAS 2015 (for matriculants in Fall 2015), tips and advice from recent Harvard applicants, and FAQs are provided below:
Q: How do I classify a course in AMCAS?
A: Many Harvard courses do not fit perfectly into AMCAS course classifications so you will need to use your best judgment. Classify according to the primary content or disciplinary approach of the course. So, biostatistics would be classified as math/stats, not biology. For further explanation, please see page 42 of the AMCAS Instruction Book. Oona and Sirinya cannot make this determination for you; AMCAS is the final arbiter of all course classifications.
Your Science (“BCPM”) GPA is made up of your Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math (Statistics = Math) grades. To learn more about the BCPM GPA, click on the HELP button at the top of the AMCAS application web page. Open the "Course work Classification" section under "Course Work." Scroll down to find a list of courses. Any course classification followed by "BCPM" will be included in your BCPM GPA.
If AMCAS changes a classification you made, and you disagree with the change, you can appeal the change via Academic Change request option (available within the AMCAS application). Note that you only have a limited time to do so.
Q: I am not Advanced Standing but want to indicate to med schools that I have taken AP Calculus. How do I do this in the coursework section?
A: List AP Calculus as a course under Harvard but leave the credit hours and grade fields blank. Also, make sure not to click the “AP” box for special course type. This is more of a heads up to med schools, not a “course” that you are asking AMCAS to verify. The Harvard Registrar will not validate the APs but you may be asked at some point to have the official AP score sent from the testing service to particular medical schools.
Q: Do I have to list future coursework?
A: No. Some applicants may want to indicate to med schools that they plan to, say, take more science courses. But most applicants do not fill this out. You are not under any obligation to enroll in courses you indicate you plan to take.
Q: What should I list as the Course Number?
A: Course number is NOT the Harvard numerical code on your transcript. It is generally the department with the course number (e.g., Chemistry 17, Math 21a, etc.). If the department is not intuitive (e.g., FRSEMR), you can modify it so it makes sense to someone outside of Harvard.
Q: Should I list the Course Name exactly as it appears on my transcript? (e.g., "Frank Lloyd Wright and the")
A: What you list for Course Name does not need to correspond exactly to what is listed on your transcript. But make sure it is similar enough, so that AMCAS can easily match up your course with the one on your transcript. Med schools need to be able easily to discern what kind of course it was. It is fine to abbreviate course names.
Q: For a SAT/UNSAT course, do I select “Pass/Fail” for course type?
A: Yes, AMCAS only has one option for pass/fail, so you select this regardless of whether the course was required pass/fail or optional pass/fail. The grade you enter should be the grade that appears on your transcript (e.g., “SAT”).
Q: If I did a Harvard Summer School (HSS) abroad program, do I indicate that this was a study abroad program in AMCAS?
A. You may need to. Please consult with AMCAS directly via the applicant phone helpline. In the past, Harvard applicants have been told to list HSS abroad courses like you would other courses you have taken during the academic year at Harvard (because it is listed on your transcript in the same way as other courses). However, in recent application cycles, AMCAS has instructed some Harvard applicants to indicate Harvard Summer School abroad courses as study abroad courses. If you have taken HSS courses abroad and are unsure which of these options is right for you, please call the AMCAS helpline for assistance.
For all Study Abroad related questions about course work and institutions attended: first see slide #56 of Completing the AMCAS 2015 (PowerPoint | For Printing), and the “Foreign Coursework” and other relevant sections of the AMCAS Instruction Book. If your question is not answered by these instructions, please contact the AMCAS Help Line at 202-828-0600.
Q: I took organic chemistry, Chem S-20, in the Harvard Summer School. / Q: I took an intensive semester-long language course (e.g., French Bab), for which I received a full year’s worth of Harvard credit (1.00 credits). >> How do I indicate that these courses were equivalent to a full year’s worth of credits? How do I make sure that the full weight of these grades is entered into my GPA calculation?
A: You do not need to list credit hours for summer courses, year-long courses, double-credit semester courses, etc. Your transcript will indicate the amount of credit you received. But do make sure that you double check that these courses were coded and calculated correctly when your verified AMCAS is returned to you.
If you do choose to list the number of credits for these types of courses, summer school courses (e.g., Chem S-20ab) and semester-long intensive language courses (e.g., French Bab) for which your transcript shows 1.00 Harvard credits are equivalent to 8 credit hours. Do not code these courses as “Full Year” courses. For all summer courses, assign the upcoming year’s status (e.g., courses between FR & SO year will be listed as SO status). For an intensive term-long 1.00 credit course, assign the term’s status (e.g., for junior year spring, JR/ 2011/ S2)
Q: I received an “X” next to each Harvard course on my verified AMCAS application. Is this okay?
A: Yes. The “X” indicates that a course has been verified with correction. This will occur when you leave the credit hours field blank and is not something that requires follow-up. Make sure though to review your verified AMCAS carefully to see if any errors were made. Submit a change request if this is the case.
Q: In the description section, is it better to write full sentences or in resume form? (e.g. "I volunteered at the Red Cross for four years” versus "Volunteered at the Red Cross for four years")
A: Either way is fine, but be sure to use a consistent format across all entries. Your objective is to convey to med schools what you did in clear, concrete terms (i.e., roles, responsibilities, accomplishments, etc.). If you have a lot of information to share, bulleting items like you would on a resume can make it easier to read. Starting with a verb is perfectly fine; these descriptions do not need to be phrased as complete sentences. Again, be sure to use a consistent sentence syntax for within and across all entries in this section.
Q: Should I say only what I did or also what I got out of the experience (i.e., should I reflect on what the experience meant to me)?
A: We think that keeping your “Experience Descriptions” (700 or fewer characters) brief and to the point makes sense. Med schools will glance over your activities very quickly, and you want to make sure they are able easily to pick out the main points.
For the three activities you select as your “most meaningful experiences,” you have an additional 1325 characters of space to write about the experience. See the instructions that go with this additional “Experience Summary.” Remember that you also have your personal statement for additional reflection on any experience described in the “Activities” section you feel merits more attention.
Q: I was the director (or a member) of a student-run volunteer group, and there is no supervisor who can verify my role and responsibilities for this activity. Who do I enter as the “Contact” for the organization?
A: Supervisor contact information must be provided. If the activity was organized by a student group, list a faculty advisor or another administrator who can verify your experience, if possible. You may can use a student director as contact if there are no administrators who can validate the activity.
Q: Should I fill up all 15 slots for activities and/or go right up to the word limit?
A: Probably not. The vast majority of applicants will not have 15 substantive activities that they can list. Also, most activities will not require using all the space allotted to you in the description section. Be concise and to the point.
Q: If I was involved with an organization for an entire summer but only sporadically during the year, what do I fill in for hours per week, dates, etc.?
A: You can enter up to four separate date ranges, including future end dates up to the start of the matriculation year (up to August 2015). Specify the total hours spent on this activity for each date range.
Q: Can I consolidate activities and awards under one entry?
A: Yes, feel free to be flexible. If you have been involved in three different service activities but do not have a lot to say about each one individually, perhaps list them as one activity and call it “Various service activities.” If you have received a fellowship for an internship, you can mention the fellowship in the description section of the internship; it does not require own entry. If you have little to say about an activity or award, this is probably an indication that you can fold it into another entry or leave it out. You want to make understanding how you have been involved as easy as possible for the reader, and consolidating activities, awards, etc., can help you do this.
Q: Is it appropriate to include activities in which I participated for only a year (e.g., freshman year), or for short period of time only, etc.?
A: Any activities you list are fair game for questions during interviews, so list only those activities that were significant and that you know you would be enthusiastic to talk about.
Q: How many letters do I need to "add" in AMCAS?
A: You will only enter one "committee letter" in the Letters of Evaluation section. This "committee letter" consists of the committee ("House") letter written by your House, as well as your individual letters of support. For “Letter title,” enter “Harvard Committee Letter.” For primary contact, use your Resident Dean’s name (or simply “Resident Dean”).
Q: Will AMCAS process my application before my House letter is uploaded?
A: Yes, these processes are completely separate. Plan to submit AMCAS by mid-June. Your letters of recommendation will be sent to AMCAS by your House by mid-August.
Q: What is the AMCAS Letters program and what do I need to do?
A: For most medical schools, AMCAS is going to serve as a central repository for applicants' recommendation letters. Letters will be sent to AMCAS and then AMCAS will make them available to each of the medical schools on your list. There are three things that you will need to do in order to ensure the successful delivery of your recommendation letters through AMCAS.
- Within the AMCAS application, you will need to “add” a committee letter to let AMCAS know about the letters they are going to receive from your House Office.
- You need to send the Letter Request Form ID to your House Office. (This number is automatically generated when “adding” a committee letter in AMCAS.)
- You need to assign the committee letter to each of the schools that participate in the AMCAS Letters program to which you are applying. Please see Completing the AMCAS 2015 Application (PowerPoint | For Printing) on the OCS website for more detailed instructions.
Q: I created multiple AMCAS Letter IDs rather than just the one that I was supposed to do. What do I do?
A: If you have created multiple Letter IDs (the IDs that get generated in AMCAS when applicants "add" letters that will be sent on their behalf), keep one Letter ID to indicate the Committee Letter coming from your House Resident Dean. Send this number to your House Office. Be sure to request in AMCAS that the others no longer be sent.
Q: Do I need to let my House know to which schools I am applying?
A: Yes, your House will need both your list of schools as well as the Letter ID that gets generated in the Letters of Evaluation section of the AMCAS. Your House needs to know where to send your letters. It is very important that you keep them up to date if your list changes or you add additional schools.Q: What is VirtualEvals and how does this interact with the AMCAS Letters program?
A: VirtualEvals is a service that each House uses to electronically send medical school recommendation letters to medical schools. Since VirtualEvals is only accessible by staff and administrators, applicants will not interface with VirtualEvals. For a school that uses the AMCAS Letter Service program, your letters will be sent by your House using VirtualEvals; AMCAS will then know to download your letters from VirtualEvals. As long as you complete the AMCAS correctly and meet your House deadlines for turning in their materials (e.g., list of medical schools, individual rec letters turned in, which letters to send, etc.), your letters will be successfully transmitted to medical schools in August. For a school that does not use the AMCAS Letter Service Program, your letters will be sent by your House using VirtualEvals directly to those medical schools, bypassing AMCAS. Only two of the 143 MD programs in the United States do not participate in the AMCAS Letter Service, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine in Shreveport and the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine. See www.aamc.org/aboutamcasletters for more information.
Q: Can I customize the group of letters I send from medical school to medical school?
A: No, all medical schools will receive a single PDF from your House Office containing the committee letter from your House and the individual recommendation letters that you choose to include. (MD/PhD applicants: see below.)
Q: I am an MD/PhD applicant. Does the process change for me?
A: The letter transmission process is the same for an MD/PhD applicant as it is for an MD applicant. The one difference is that VirtualEvals allows for two different sets of recommendation letters to be uploaded for MD/PhD applicants. For example, you may want to include three to five letters for MD-only programs and four to six research-focused letters for MD/PhD programs. Your House will be able to transmit two different PDFs, one for each type of program.
Q: Do I need to list Additional Authors under the Committee Letter details in the AMCAS?
A: No, you may leave these fields blank. However, make sure to fill out the Primary Author fields with the name of your "Resident Dean" (per the instructions in Completing the AMCAS 2015 Application (PowerPoint | For Printing)).
Q: Will I be notified when my letters have been transmitted to medical schools?
A: Yes, when your PDF committee letter is uploaded to VirtualEvals, you will receive an email confirming that your letters have been sent. This will not happen until August when letters are sent.
Q: Can I send in a letter that came in late, after my letters were already sent?
A: Letters arriving to your House after the House letter packet has been sent will need to be mailed separately. This is highly discouraged and should happen only in the rarest of circumstances. Please use the AMCAS letter service to send any additional letters.
Q: When will my House letters be sent?
A: Houses will transmit letters to medical schools by mid-August if the applicant abides by House deadlines. This timeline is similar for all of our peer institutions; the timing of sending your letters will not place you at a disadvantage in the admissions process.
Q: I took Chem 15 to satisfy the inorganic chemistry requirement. When I list this on my secondary, will the medical school know that this course satisfies both semesters?
A: Medical schools have been notified about Chemistry 15 and have agreed to consider it as satisfying both semesters of the inorganic chemistry requirement. If you are asked on your secondary application to list both chemistry courses, it is fine to list just Chemistry 15. You may choose to explain this in the additional information section if you prefer. Schools may ask for more clarification about this, but this will happen much later in the process and is not something to worry about now.
Q: Washington University's supplemental application requires that I have a Dean's Certification signed by Harvard saying whether I have ever been the subject of disciplinary action. Should I give this to my Resident Dean to fill out?
A: Yes, your Resident Dean’s Office will be able to complete this form and send it to WashU.
Q: Washington University (or another medical school) has a math requirement and on their secondary application say they accept AP Calculus but only if it appears on a transcript. What should I tell them? Will this hurt my chances for admission?
A: WashU's secondary application asks you to list which courses satisfy their year-long math requirement and, if an AP is used, that it should appear on the transcript. As you know, APs do not show up on the Harvard transcript. If you did not take math at Harvard and would like to use your AP Calc scores to satisfy this requirement, please list the AP on your Wash U secondary.
In the additional information section, you should explain that you would like to petition that the AP be counted in place of coursework. Each House has access to a letter from the Math Department explaining the equivalence between an AP Calculus score and math courses offered at the College. For now, list your AP on the WashU secondary and explain the situation briefly in the additional information section.
You should not require this letter until later in the process, if at all, and you should ask this to be sent to WashU (or another medical school) only if they explicitly request it. Please be aware that not all medical schools with this policy will accept this letter and, therefore, your AP tests. In most circumstances, whether or not you have already verified that you satisfy a school's math requirement will not affect your chances of being admitted or admissions status.
Q: What questions have medical schools asked within their secondary applications?
A: Download and read the Examples of Secondary Application Questions (PDF) that medical schools have asked applicants on their secondary applications. Keep in mind that next year’s questions may be different and the specific questions vary from school to school.
For help with secondary application questions about “Fit” – “Why this med school?” – read the Medical School Evaluations for in-depth information and commentary about individual medical schools, obtained every year from our survey of Harvard alumni currently in medical school (Harvard PIN login required – alumni, please use the login name and PIN you had while an undergraduate).
For instructions about how to obtain your official Harvard transcript, please see the FAS Registrar’s Office instructions. Transcripts can only be ordered online.
Q: Do I need to include the AMCAS release form with my transcript request?
If your question is still not answered please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of the Registrar's Office Team will answer you as soon as possible.
A: No, you no longer need to scan and upload an electronic copy of the AMCAS release form in the National Student Clearinghouse system, as Harvard University is now an approved eTranscripts sender to AMCAS. Simply provide your AMCAS account number and AMCAS transcript ID number in the “Educational Organization Recipient” section, and your transcript will be sent via Electronic Exchange (ETX) to AMCAS.
Our office is not equipped to answer questions related to this topic, as the definitions and requirements of residency vary from state to state, and within states, and sometimes from one medical school in the state to another. Also, residency is often defined differently for different purposes. Please contact state medical school/s directly for all questions related to how to validate, establish, or re-establish state residency in a particular state.
Remember that the quickest answer to many questions can often be obtained by contacting AMCAS directly:
If you are graduating this spring, please be sure to re-subscribe to the OCS Premed & Health Careers Listserv emails using your post.harvard.edu email address. During the application cycle, we will be sending periodic updates with important information for applicants over this list.If you still have questions that are not answered in the resources posted above or in these FAQs, you are welcome to attend the premed drop-in hours or online chat (schedule) or email us at email@example.com.