How to survive medical school

The American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®) is the AAMC’s centralized medical school application processing service. Most U.S. medical schools use AMCAS as the primary application method for their first-year entering classes.

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How to survive medical school

2022 AMCAS® Updates and FAQs

2022 Cycle Update

The AAMC has been working closely with the medical school admissions and pre-health advisor communities to consider the impacts on applicants due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Medical schools are aware of the many challenges applicants are facing and understand the need to be flexible in their admissions approach during this application cycle. Please review the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) and Participating Medical Schools and Deadlines for updates provided by medical schools. We encourage you to check directly with the medical schools where you are applying for their most current information.


AMCAS only accepts official transcripts mailed by your registrar or electronically submitted by our approved vendors, National Student Clearinghouse and Parchment. Transcripts will not be accepted via email or fax. Please review transcript processing timelines and the transcript FAQs below for more information.

Application Verification

The verification process may take six to eight weeks once your application reaches “Ready for Review.” Your application is “Ready for Review” once your applications is submitted and all required transcripts have been processed. We recommend checking transcript processing timelines and the transcript processing tool for the status of your transcript, as well as our website, for updates on application processing timing.

American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®)

The American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®) is the AAMC’s centralized medical school application processing service.

How to Apply to Medical School with AMCAS®

These pages outline the sections of the AMCAS® application. Full details can be found in the 2022 AMCAS® Applicant Guide. Visit the FAQ page for answers to your questions.

Participating Medical Schools and Deadlines

Use the AAMC American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®) Medical Schools and Deadlines search tool to find application deadlines at participating regular MD programs.


Frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS®) application process. For more detailed FAQs on the AMCAS Letter of Evaluation process including information for letter authors please visit the AMCAS How to Apply section of the site.

AMCAS® Tools and Tutorials

The AAMC American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®) resources, tools, and tutorials for premed students preparing to apply to medical schools.

AMCAS® Application Policies

The American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®) application policies are established protocols for applicants and admission officers.

These are the hardest parts of medical school. Learn about them so that you can prepare and become a successful and efficient medical student.

How to survive medical school

Many users of Brainscape’s popular MCAT app often come to us with the same question: How hard is medical school? Well we hate to say it, but the answer is that medical school is a massive challenge.

It’s an experience that’s meant to weed out those who can’t handle the pressure and responsibility that it takes to have people’s lives in their hands.

But with hard work and the right preparation (especially using Brainscape’s med school flashcards), you can get through it. In the spirit of preparation, we reached out to some current medical school students, doctors, and educational forums to bring together a list of the hardest parts of medical school.

This article will help you not only answer whether medical school is hard, but also which parts students struggle with the most.

The 6 hardest parts of medical school

1. Achieving balance

One theme that comes up, again and again, is that balance is exceptionally difficult to achieve as a med school student. Med school is something you could compare with a marathon that keeps going and going. Every hour that you don’t spend studying could be a big hit to your ability to keep up with the material. Saying goodbye to unstructured free time is a big issue, and even maintaining simple good habits like exercise and proper diet for brain health can be tough.

2. Time management

A similar issue that many med school students and doctors speak out about is time management. Many med school students have a great deal of work to do just to stay on top of things. One poster on wrote that the hardest thing about med school is “accepting the fact that you can do your absolute very best and study your tail off only to barely break the class average on exams.” Another wrote that one of the challenges is accepting the fact that you’ll never cross everything off your to-do list.

How to survive medical school

3. Life outside of medical school

Another common issue is social isolation. Free time often becomes a thing of the past when you start med school, so relationships can suffer. If you’re used to getting a lot of social support, having plenty of time to hang out with friends and family, and attending lots of parties and functions, you’ll probably miss that after starting school. Medical students also have to deal with a lot of change and uncertainty. Often, going to med school involves moving to a new city. Then, just a few years later, residencies mean moving again (and again, and again). It’s not a good formula for a life of uninterrupted stability.

4. The board exams

The board exams to become a certified medical doctor are universally regarded as one of the most difficult parts of medical school. The first exam, the USMLE Step 1, is one of the hardest. Luckily, your knowledge of basic medical science will be about as good as it’s ever going to be at this point. You’ll have the ability to pass the test if you’ve studied hard, and be able to move on. The Step 2 exam (usually taken during the 3rd or 4th year) and the Step 3 final exam (usually taken during the 4th year or after graduation) will provide serious challenges as well.

Brainscape, the world’s most effective flashcards app, has flashcards on thousands of subjects, including (you guessed it) the USMLE prep flashcards. Brainscape uses a system that teaches bite-sized concepts as fast as possible using spaced repetition, a technique proven by cognitive science your learn much more efficiently.

5. Starting clinical

The third year is a big transition for most medical school students, since you’ll likely be transitioning to being a working student, and you’ll be interacting with patients extensively for the first time. This brings a whole new set of challenges around communication, professionalism, and workplace relationships. It’s almost certain that 3rd year will be a humbling experience in which you spend a lot of time listening to and learning from those who are older and more experienced than you are.

This video from students at Albert Einstein College of Medicine is a good introduction to this subject:

6. Memorization

The amount of knowledge that one is supposed to learn in medical school is huge. Many classes will come with 1,000 pages (or more) of material that you’re supposed to memorize. Taking in that amount of information has been described as trying to drink out of a fire hose. If you’re not careful, it will blow you away. To many students, the simple problem of memorizing and retaining information is among the most difficult parts of medical school.

That’s why Brainscape is a great companion for med school students. It’s the best flexible web and mobile flashcard app that helps you memorize and master material faster.

We not only have a great marketplace of course-specific medical flashcards created by top students & educators, but you can also create your OWN digital flashcards from any device, in a way that helps you develop the most important habit in medical school.

AND if you’re getting ready to take the MCAT to apply to medical schools, Brainscape also offers an MCAT study app that will help you review the key MCAT science concepts more efficiently than any other method.

Medical school is hard—hang in there

Is medical school hard? Absolutely.

But it’s also very doable. If you got into medical school, you’re smart: you got good grades in your first degree, you wrote a great MCAT, and you were accepted. You’ve definitely got what it takes.

Now you just have to prepare yourself for the next marathon. Create your good study habits, develop a good school-life balance, and find study tools that work for you. If you do these things, you can make it through medical school.

This Comparison Tool allows you to compare to four different Med Schools side-by-side.

It allows you to compare:

  • Course structure – is it traditional or integrated? Does it focus have a problem-based learning teaching style?
  • The ratio of applications to students accepted (offers made) each year, and the success rate of candidates
  • Which Med Schools have Graduate Entry programmes
  • The entry requirements for GCSE, A-Level, Scottish Highers and IB.
  • Which universities require UCAT or BMAT
  • Which interview style is used
  • How international fees vary

How does the Med School Comparison Tool work?

  1. Select up to four universities from the drop-down list
  2. Click the orange ‘compare’ button
  3. Review the information side-by-side

Please keep in mind that we review and update this multiple times each year – but you should always double-check with each Med School before you apply.

Start comparing Medical Schools now

Choice 1 Choice 2 Choice 3 Choice 4
Phone (Medical School Direct Line)
E-mail (Medical School)
Course Structure (Traditional / Integrated / PBL / CBL)
Applications pa
Accepted pa
Success Ratio
Graduate Entry Available (Y/N)
Foundation / Access Courses Available (Y/N)
Intercalated BSc (Compulsory/ Selective/ None)
GCSE Subjects Required
A-Level Subjects Required
A-Level Grades Required
Scottish Highers Subjects Required
Scottish Higher Grades Required
Scottish Advanced Highers Subjects Required
Scottish Advanced Highers Grades Required
IB Subjects Required
IB Grades Required
UCAT Required (Y/N)
How is UCAT used?
BMAT Required (Y/N)
How is BMAT used?
Interview Style (Traditional / MMI)
Fees (Home students)
Fees (International Students)

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