Putting together a med school application is complicated. There are a lot of things to get right and there’s a temptation to cut corners. Especially when it comes to detailing your contacts and references!
So, do med schools actually call your contacts?
No, med schools don’t call every contact listed on every application. Doing so would be too time intensive and only extend the selection process. Contacts that stand out for their significance (a possible friend or person well known to admissions committees) may be called however. And there’s always a chance a contact will be called at random.
Putting a false contact then, in lieu of that answer, is 100% not worth it when it comes to your med school application!
But there’s also a lot more to look out for on the topic of contacts too. Here we’ll cover:
- Why you shouldn’t put false contacts on your med school application
- Why reliable contacts are important
- When contacts are most likely to be called
- What types of contacts are best
As a med student who’s gone through the whole process myself, I know how much of a headache applications can be. Hopefully this article can help dispel some of the myths!
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
Why you shouldn’t exaggerate/lie about contacts on your med school application
Although you can’t be sure the contact you put on an application will definitely be called, you’ll need someone to vouch for you just in case.
The consequences of false information (and being caught out) will immediately disqualify you from the selection process.
But here’s why else it’s a bad idea:
- Some med schools will ban you from applying ever again
- Random application vetting can lead to your degree being revoked (even years into study)
- It could encourage you to exaggerate/falsify other areas of your application
That last point could ring especially true in terms of the activities and extracurriculars you list.
It’s simply not worth the risk!
Why reliable contacts are important for your med school application
Listing a contact on your application and not clearing it with them first is also dangerous practice.
Say you shadowed a physician, had a good working relationship and assumed (without asking) they’d provide positive feedback on you in an application. There’s no actual rule on them having to do so. It might even irritate the person in question that they’re being called unprepared and seemingly out of the blue.
You want to ensure any contact you list is reliable and consents to being contacted.
Doing otherwise could backfire. Especially if you catch the contact in question on a bad day.
Your character reference is probably not exactly going to be glowing as a result!
What types of contacts are best?
Here’s what you’ll typically need to list contacts for on a med school application:
- Shadowing hours
- Research hours
- Any important extracurriculars
- Employer references
- Academic/undergrad references
Having a solid group of contacts who can verify and confirm that you’ve done what you state you’ve done on your application is massively important.
Although they’re not compelled to give detailed character references, it’s generally a good idea to be on professional terms with all the individuals you list as contacts.
Those that have a certain amount of prestige; possible specialists in their field or research leads for example, can add extra gravitas to an application when detailed as contacts.
But otherwise. anybody who’s seen you commit, long-term, to the usual responsibilities of a strong med school applicant, can prove useful contacts.
Even if they’re not a big or famous name.
When will med schools call?
It’s impossible to know when exactly med schools might call the contacts on your application. 9 times out of 10 however, it’ll be during the admissions process. And usually after interviews when applicants are closer to being offered acceptance.
It’s generally thought to be less common that a school will call contacts after you’ve been admitted or once you begin your medical studies.
But don’t bank on it!
Things that could increase the likelihood of them calling contacts could include:
- When something look suspicious on your application (too many shadowing hours or a rare academic feat etc.)
- A letter of recommendation (LOR) that’s overly enthusiastic or insincere sounding
- When a contact sounds too prestigious or well-known to be listed
- If your social media accounts throw into question any other aspect of your med school application
Most ADCOMS’ won’t publically state their admissions process and how/when they’ll decide to call or email contacts. But it is generally accepted, especially among med school forums and communities, that many schools have random spot checks in place.
So don’t think – just because you don’t match the criteria above – you’ll definitely avoid the situation.
What stops med schools from calling?
As previously mentioned, the sheer volume of applications and the length of the process makes following up with every contact a near impossible task. Most schools just don’t have the time or resources to do that.
Of course they probably won’t call if other aspects of your application aren’t up to par.
If your GPA or MCAT scores are less than competitive, or your hobbies or extracurriculars add nothing to present you as a good candidate, you’re a lot less likely to get to the stage where ADCOMS would consider calling or reaching out to contacts.
Does the AAMC call your contacts?
The AAMC will only call your contacts if there is some discrepancy between you and a med school and you feel your application is being brought into disrepute.
If you’ve falsified or exaggerated claims on your application you won’t want things to get to this point.
It’s always best to be as honest as possible when a med school questions anything on your application.
Do medical schools fact check?
Similar to the dilemma ADCOMS face reaching out to every applicants contacts, it’s incredibly difficult for them to fact check every statement of a med school application too.
There’s simply too much detail and too many applicants to ensure everything can be verified.
The exceptions to this of course are when the selection process is further along and schools are considering who to send offers of admission to.
In these circumstances you can bet every fact of your application will be thoroughly checked and verified to ensure your representation of yourself is a genuine one.
Accepting students without doing such due diligence would be damaging to a school’s reputation.
Do med schools talk to each other about your application?
According to guidelines published in 2019 by the AAMC, med schools are not allowed to communicate with each other about applicants (Source).
The truth here however is that it’s hard for the AAMC to ensure independent members of committees don’t talk.
Due to networking connections and many years experience in the healthcare profession and education sector, individual committee members often cross paths.
It’s not entirely inconcievable to think they may accidentally talk about aspects of their decision making process as well as particular individuals going through the application process.
For further insight into what actually happens during the admissions process (and what happens from a Dean’s perspective), the following video provides lots of great information…
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.