Notes from AAMC Live Pre-Med Forum Regarding 2020-2021 Cycle

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The AAMC held a webinar earlier today to address some concerns for applicants applying this cycle. The webinar was recorded and will be available in one week. I think they're also going to update their FAQs. For applicants like me who need to make decisions ASAP and want to know what was covered, I took notes which covers most of the questions the panelists were asked. I hope these notes are helpful as we continue to navigate through this wacky application cycle together!

Also if there are discrepancies, please post them as I would want everyone to have the correct information-- was typing as fast as I could, lol.

AAMC Live Pre-Med Forum Webinar
May 14th, 2020. 1:00pm-2:00pm

- 64,000 MCAT exams scheduled on the 1st day of MCAT registration (May 7th). Highest number in previous cycles was 17,000 exams, with apologies issued for registration issues
- AAMC recognizes the uncertainty for applicants-- "We are certain of this uncertainty and that this is unsettling and very hard for you", but provide reassurances of support through this unprecedented application cycle
- MSAR is/will be updated to reflect COVID-19 policies for medical schools

AAMC has advised medical schools to:
1. be flexible with admission policies for this cycle
2. have open and transparent conversations with the pre-med community
3. be aware of the challenges faced by applicants during this cycle

Regarding rolling admissions: does it matter if applications are submitted early, before July 10th?
Check with specific schools to determine this. Applications are queued for verification process in the order AMCAS receives them-- process takes 6 weeks. Those applications submitted and verified will be transmitted on July 10th to schools.

How are schools reviewing incomplete applications, like those without a currently available MCAT score?
The advice given was to have all documents ready so that your application can be completed and verified. MCAT score comes in directly from the MCAT team, so applications can still be verified without a score as there are daily uploads of data with other such updates.

From an admissions perspective, be aware of policies from different schools. They may have different policies; for example, one AAMC representative/previous admissions person said he wanted to see all LORs before recommending an application move forward to committee for screening-- others may not wait for all LORs especially given this COVID-19 situation. Due to school differences with application review, be as informed as possible as you make your decisions.

Will this cycle be a competitive cycle overall?

It is too early to tell... yes, we did see an increase of AMCAS applications on that first day on May 4th and that continued for 3 days. We're still slightly ahead from last year, but we tend to have that level off over the course of an application cycle, so we cannot know if it's necessarily more competitive, but we are currently just slightly ahead of last year.

Why did AAMC decide on shortened MCAT and different times?
Considerations were made about keeping us safe and increasing testing capacity to make up for cancelled dates and to provide flexibility for site closures.

Since the MCAT exam was postponed for 2 months, will schools be more lenient with applications submitted later?
Yes. They recognize applicants have been impacted in multiple ways, and not only in taking the MCAT (e.g., difficulty with completing volunteer experiences, research, etc.) so we think schools will be more lenient. A specific example given by AAMC board and Dean of Medical College of Wisconsin, Joe Kerschner: School is rolling admissions, but even if you submit application on first day, adcoms will start inviting people in Sept so that a MCAT score can be updated-- that data will be updated on your application.

Students with accommodations are having a hard time scheduling their MCAT exams. How are they being helped?
Seats are set aside for each exam date for those who need accommodations, and are reserved only for these applicants with approved accommodations.

How are interviews affected for the 2020-2021 cycle?

Interviews will likely be virtual/online.

Why was additional server capacity not addressed in preparation for May 7th? What needs to be addressed by AAMC to improve this year's application cycle website?
They recognized the frustration from applicants and apologize for it. Prior tests on the site were performed, but they did not experience challenges on the day of registration. In short, they were trying to prepare, but had more concurrent users than expected on the site, and they had a limit on the number of people who can view schedules. There were also concerns with server issues-- thus, the maintenance time and waiting room many applicants experienced that day.

Is there a hard deadline for application verification? For example, what if you submit your application when you get MCAT score in September? Or in that situation, do you suggest waiting until next cycle instead of submitting this cycle?
Many schools have their own internal deadlines so it is encouraged to reach out to the specific school, then make an educated decision.

It seems strange that the AAMC recommends all interviews be virtual this year, yet the MCAT is still required to be an in-person exam... why?
One of the things unique about the MCAT exam (as opposed to other standardized tests) is that the scientific content often is communicated in words and through complex graphs, figures, equations, etc. An accurate and high resolution display of this info. is critical in demonstrating knowledge, and it really is a center-based exam. Test centers remain committed to protecting test-takers' health. Masks will be required for everyone. Gloves will be offered. Frequent cleanings of surfaces will occur, and test-takers will be seated 6 feet apart from each other.

Is a reapplicant viewed more favorably compared to a first-time applicant?
It depends on the strength of an applicant and the application. What a school wants to see is if you did something differently the second time you apply. If you are not successful the first time, talk to someone from the school (e.g., student affairs dean), and they can meet with you over phone/Zoom to talk about their perception of your application and will provide sound and cogent advice on your application.

Will adcoms view scores the same way for both the full-length and shortened MCAT exam? How will scoring be standardized?
Those who take the shortened MCAT exam will still be scored in same manner as those who take the full-length exam. These scores will have the same confidence bands, so schools will consider the scores the same way.

Will scores from the shortened MCAT still be useful past the 2021 app cycle?
Depends on the school but generally yes, the scores are intended to have a future life outside of the 2020-2021 application cycle.
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