Applying to Medical School

Students should start the process of applying to medical school during Interim or early in spring semester of their junior year if they want to attend medical school directly after graduation from St. Olaf. Members of the Health Professions Committee (HPC) will interview each applicant and a member will write a composite letter of evaluation.


If possible, students should take the MCAT in the spring of their junior or senior year, depending on if you are planning on a gap year (or more). Prepare, prepare, prepare! Treat preparation (time allocated and length of preparation) for the MCAT similar to a full semester course at St. Olaf. If possible, take only 3 courses during the spring semester, allowing at least 9-12 hours per week for focused MCAT preparation.  Do not take the test without preparing or to see how you will do – you will regret it! Consent to release your MCAT scores to your institution’s pre-health adviser (the HPC) so we can properly prepare your evaluation. There are many ways to prepare and members of the HPC can be contacted for advice for MCAT preparation.10 Tips for Your MCAT Test Day 10 Tips for Your MCAT Test Day

AMCAS Application

A majority of medical schools uses the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), which is an on-line application. The application is usually initiated in May and submitted as soon as possible. Students should fill the application form out very carefully and accurately. The Personal Essay component is very important and it should reflect the student and why he/she has come to this point in his/her life. The Piper Center and the Writing Center can help you to prepare your essay. Students should ask friends, mentors, faculty, etc., to review a draft of their essay. AMCAS will also require an up-to-date official transcript. Students will be asked to designate the medical schools to which they want to apply. Most students apply to 10-14 schools. The application process is expensive and time consuming, so be realistic and selective. You may want to buy a $25/year subscription to the MSAR guide to med schools from AAMC. In your primary application, indicate that you will be applying with a committee letter, with Dr. Crisp as the contact person. Medical schools set their own application deadlines, and these vary from one application cycle to the next. Although the deadlines range from August 1 to December 31, most medical schools review applications as they are submitted on a rolling basis. This means that seats are filling (especially at private schools) even before the deadline arrives. Once you submit your application, it will take 2-4 weeks for AMCAS to process it.

Medical School Secondary Application

Based on your AMCAS application and MCAT, a medical school may send a secondary application. The student should complete the application in a timely manner (two weeks is a good target). The medical school will require a completed application, MCAT scores, a college transcript, and letters of recommendation including the HPC evaluation. Students should contact Karen Renneke and submit a list of schools needing their HPC evaluation dossier. Contact faculty, physician and other individuals to fill out the additional recommendation letters or forms requested by the medical school. Make an effort to meet with your recommenders to discuss your motivation for applying to medical school. Provide them with aa copy of your personal statement and other materials (like a resume) that will help them write for you. Give the recommenders an addressed, stamped envelope; allow a reasonable period of time to complete the recommendation and then check to determine if the letter has been sent. Recommenders should be sent an appropriate thank you note, and students should check with the medical schools to make sure your file is complete. You will use the AMCAS Letter Writer service for most of these letters.

Medical School Interview

Once the file is complete, most medical schools will act on your file. They may request an interview – if invited, schedule the interview and prepare appropriately. Mock interviews can be arranged through the Piper Center. Some medical schools use a multiple mini-interview format or a format in which the interviewers ask you prescribed questions bu have been trained not to react to your responses. Check with the programs to which you’ll be applying to find out what to expect from the interview. Attire for interviews (including practice interviews) should be conservative, tasteful, and neat.


For most schools, students will hear about the committee’s decision a few weeks after the interview; some schools, however, will be silent for months. Most schools will either accept, place the student in a holding “acceptable” group, or not accept. If accepted, the student will have a designated time period in which to make a decision. Students in the holding category may not hear anything until late spring. At that time, the student may be accepted, rejected, or put on the alternate list (an “ordered” list). Alternates may not hear about their status until summer.


Students should consider the possibility of non-acceptance early in their undergraduate years and have a Plan B or C. Plan B and C are not alternatives, but options. If the student intends to reapply, he/she should contact medical schools at the appropriate time and request an appointment to discuss is needed to improve their chances. Medical schools encourage these sessions. Students should not plan to reapply without making changes or exploring how their application can be enhanced. Students who have already interviewed with the HPC do not need to re-interview in orer to reapply in most circumstances. Instead, they contact Dr. Crisp and request a “supplemental” letter that will be added to their HPC evaluation dossier. This supplemental letter will serve as an update informing the medical schools about how you have enhanced your profile in the year(s) since your HPC interview. These students are responsible for informing Dr. Crisp about all of the significant changes in their profile (medical exposure, patient experience, research experience, academic enhancement, volunteer work, employment) since their HPC interview. A student’s HPC file will remain at St. Olaf as a permanent file and the dossier can be requested at any time in the future.

Johnson Family Opportunity Fund
The Johnson Family Opportunity Fund can help pay for med school application costs and other expenses if you qualify.