Primary Application

Most health professions schools in the United States require a primary application to be completed through a central application service. The primary application (AMCAS, AACOMAS, AADSAS, VMCAS, etc.) is broad and covers general information about your preparation and motivation for becoming a physician, dentist, veterinarian, etc.  

The primary application services make the application process easier, since they allow applicants to fill out one online set of forms, and an application is then processed and sent to all the schools that the applicant wishes to apply to.

Applicants must have their official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended sent to the application service. Each service has a set fee; please check the website for each to determine the cost.

The primary application is easy to navigate and straightforward, but it takes considerable time to complete. You should not, nor need to, complete the application all at once; you are able to save it online and log on repeatedly to review, add, and edit what you have already saved.  

The primary application asks for a variety of information relating to your biographical data, courses and grades, awards and honors, extracurricular activities, employment, volunteer work and clinical experiences related to your chosen field, personal statement, and letters of recommendation.

You do not need to completely fill up all available space; being active in fewer activities more consistently over longer period of time and articulating the value, meaning, and impact behind these activities is preferred to having a long list of activities done without purpose or intention.

Having clinical experience is essential, so plan on gaining that during your college years prior to applying. Activities that demonstrate caring for and compassion toward  others and ability to work well as part of a team are also very significant.  

Before you submit your primary application, finalize your personal statement and make sure that it conforms to the requirements (prompt, character limit).

If you have gone through the HPEC process, your committee letter (HPEC letter + individual letters of recommendation) will be uploaded directly to the primary application service by the pre-health advisor, and once uploaded, will become part of your primary application.  

DentistryAADSAS typically opens in early May, with submissions opening at the beginning of June.

Medicine, D.O. - AACOMAS  generally open in early May and submissions open in late May or early June (dates vary slightly from year to year).  

Medicine, M.D. - AMCAS  generally open in early May and submissions open in late May or early June (dates vary slightly from year to year).  

Optometry - OptomCAS typically opens in June.

Pharmacy - PharmCAS typically opens in July.

Physician Assistant - CASPA opens in late April and applicants should aim to complete their applications by June. 

Podiatry - AACPMAS opens in early summer (usually around June) and applicants should complete their applications by October to remain competitive.

Veterinary medicine - VMCAS opens in late winter and applicants work on specific sections before the entire application opens in May. Applicants should complete the primary application by end of July. 

Applications are on a yearly cycle with rolling admissions.

The central application services typically open in late spring or early summer of the year prior to when one would start school, approximately 14 months before starting classes.

Applicants who apply late are at a disadvantage. Applying during fall for matriculation the following fall is often considered too late for competitive programs, and applicants should plan to work on their primary application as soon as it opens and plan to submit it no later than July.

Additionally, individual schools may have their own application deadlines, so familiarize yourself with schools’ individual websites and make note of approaching deadlines.

To maximize your chance of success, you’ll want to submit your primary application early in the summer, and work expeditiously through your secondary/supplemental applications. 

After you submit your primary application, it will be verified by its corresponding application service, and then released to individual schools. The verification process can take several weeks, so plan accordingly.  

Secondary Application

Many health profession programs require additional information submitted through a secondary, or supplemental, application.  

Almost every medical school and some dental schools requires a secondary application. Some send secondaries as soon as the primary application has been received, while others do a preliminary review of your transcript, standardized exam scores, and primary application to determine whether you meet the minimum benchmarks.

Secondary applications often involve at least one essay question, and often involve an additional fee.  

Expect to spend significant time writing secondary application essays in late June, July, and August. You should aim to complete your secondary applications within two weeks of receiving them, so plan on having ample time and reliable access to the Internet about 1-2 months after you submit your primary application.

Schools date stamp everything in your file, and if you take longer than two weeks, it can cause concern that you’re either not that interested in the school, or that you’re managing your time poorly in the application cycle. Of course, better to take a little bit longer and feel satisfied in your answer, so do your best to balance timing and quality of responses.  

Note that your application is not considered complete until the secondary application and fee have been received, and you will not be considered for an interview until then.    

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