COVID-19: Adjusting to the new normal in medical school and residency applications

While we continue to await definitive news on how COVID-19 will impact the 2020 and 2021 application cycles, one thing’s for certain: the process, as we know it, will be very different than years past. Though the AAMC is still hedging its bets with a “wait and see” approach, we can all reasonably assume that many, perhaps most, deadlines and processes will accommodate widespread education, business, and social fallout.

The majority of applicants will face a litany of unprecedented issues:

  • final term grades converted to pass/fail
  • MCAT exams cancelled or postponed
  • volunteer, shadowing, or internship positions cancelled
  • delays in obtaining letters of recommendation
  • delays in obtaining transcripts
  • fallout from job insecurity or being placed on furlough
  • drastic changes in financial status

In short, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Most applicants will face some major complicating factors. The AAMC already realizes it will have to make BIG adjustments. Sit tight, remain calm, and get ready for a fun ride.

Bottom line: if you are adaptable—which you should be if you want to be a great physician—this could be your year. We predict that the total price tag for the application process will be significantly reduced. It is likely that most/all interviews will move to a virtual format, equating to HUGE SAVINGS for applicants. For perhaps the first time ever, you don’t have to be hamstrung by a tight interview travel budget. Broadening your geographical range can be a major asset in the admissions game!

Here are a few tips and resources as you prepare for an adjusted medical school and residency application season:

  • Get started early. Yes, we mean it. Get started early. Use any new gaps in your schedule to not only finish course work, but also get a jump on the application.
  • Source and obtain your references now. University, clinical, and research personnel are facing their own challenges due to the pandemic. The sooner you get your LoR on their radar, the more likely you are to actually collect those letters. Again, use it to your advantage that some people have extra time on their hands.
  • Investigate whether your transcripts may be delayed and how they need to be delivered. Electronic is always preferred, but if your school relies on paper format, you’ll need even more time to procure.
  • Start mapping your revised MCAT plan. The MCAT has been cancelled globally through May 21, 2020. What does your schedule look like after that? Start preparing for potential makeup dates.
  • Write your personal statement. Compose your experiences descriptions. Get some feedback.

2020 hasn’t been the easiest on anyone, but you can make the challenges work in your favor. Applicants who persevere through life disruptions may realize unprecedented advantages. Best of luck!

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