This page outlines how to request a committee letter from the HPAC and the timeline for applying to AMCAS, AACOMAS, and similar centralized application services.
These application services do not make admission decisions. They collect and verify your information then provide it in a standardized format to the schools to which you applied that participate in their service. You complete a primary application to the service, then interested medical schools invite you to supply a secondary application that includes additional information.
Information you need to know before applying
The personal statement section is a very important part of your medical school application. You should be thinking about your essay well before any application deadlines. See section 8 (personal essay) in the AMCAS Instruction Manual for a list of questions to consider as you craft your essay. The CLS can review your essay with you.
HPAC Letter Request Forms 1 & 2
If you are applying or reapplying to medical (or dental, vet, DO, PT, OT, etc.) school for matriculation in the 2021–22 academic year (applications submitted summer/fall 2020), and your program accepts a committee letter, your deadline for submitting HPAC Form 1 is 11:59 p.m. on April 5, 2020. Then during the summer when you complete your primary application, you will also need to submit HPAC Form 2, giving the HPAC at least four weeks to prepare a committee letter. See the Timeline below for more details about both forms.
If you have any problems with the online forms please contact: Erika Jack, 641-269-3172.
Applying as a Graduate of Grinnell College
Grinnell College alums may receive committee letters, just as current students do. Since most medical schools restrict the number of individual letters if you elect to use a committee letter, generally we think you are better off with individual letters (that can also reflect your post-Grinnell work) after about five years post-graduation. If you want a committee letter, you must fill out the Form 1, by the April deadline, even if you have previously filled out a Form 1. That way we can assure that we have sufficient responses (and solicit additional responses if needed) from faculty and staff prior to preparation of the letter in the summer.
- Complete required courses
- Get relevant experience (prepare to "make your case")
- Attend HPAC meeting, talk to HPAC members
- Choose target medical schools (including in your state of residence)
Spring of your third year (or 18 months before you want to matriculate):
Study and register for MCAT exam. Lookup application deadlines.
Qualified students can apply to the AAMC Fee Assistance Program, which can help you with the costs of MCAT preparation, MCAT exam fees, and AMCAS application fees. Benefits are never retroactive (cannot be applied to fees you need to pay before you are approved for assistance), so check their guidelines carefully.
Students should also be working on develping their personal statement or essay. This should be a representation of yourself and why you are interested in pursuing the field that you are applying for. Your personal statement is an important part of your application, so please don't hesitate to have someone from the CLS or a member of HPAC take a look at your statement and give you feedback.
Double check and know what the application deadlines are for the programs you are interested in applying to.
Each spring we hold a mandatory meeting to review the application process. In addition, please reach out at any time to a member of HPAC to discuss questions about preparing for or applying to medical school.
Fill out HPAC Form 1 "Request to Prepare a Committee Letter of Recommendation" before the deadline. This allows us to gather information (recommendation, comments, and character ratings) from all your instructors and other members of the College community that you indicate have been important to your undergraduate experience. You will provide details about your extracurricular activities and a personal essay, to help the committee when it's time to write an evaluation letter.
If you plan to delay applying to medical school for a year or two after graduation, fill out Form 1 the spring before you graduate so that we can begin collecting information from your professors while you are fresh in their minds.
Alums that wish to apply or reapply will also need to fill out Form 1 (by the deadline), letting us know about new research positions, course work, or health-related experiences you have had after graduation. Please submit Form 1 before submitting Form 2 so that new information can be included in your committee letter.
Take the MCAT exam. The MCAT is given on about 20 to 30 different testing dates throughout the year. Most students take the MCAT exam on one of the test dates in April through July. Taking the exam in August of the year you are submitting applications may cause a delay in processing your application. However you may have valid reasons for taking the exam at other times of the year. Students planning a gap year(s) may take it in the senior year or later. Your MCAT scores are valid for a two to three year period depending on the school. If you are planning to delay applying, you may want to check with schools or programs that you are interested in to make sure that the MCAT will still be valid at the time you will be applying.
Most medical schools admit students on a rolling admission basis. Therefore, it is important that you begin the application process early. The AMCAS application is typically available for viewing in May, and available for entering information in early June. If you are requesting a committee letter, the following two items must be completed for us to submit your letter.
- Fill out AMCAS primary application online. AMCAS will send your application to the schools you indicate (students usually apply to six to ten schools.) As part of this process you will need to request from the Registrar that official transcripts be sent from Grinnell, including a request for the "biology genetics letter." You will also need to indicate that Grinnell College will be submitting a "committee letter" on your behalf; the associated Letter Request should be directed to Erika Jack. However, sending this request to Erika at this point does NOT mean that your committee letter will be sent by us. That requires HPAC Form 2, described in the next paragraph.
- Fill out and submit HPAC Form 2 "Authorization to Send Committee Letter of Recommendation", which prompts the committee to begin the letter writing process. Check with AMCAS to find out if the schools you're applying to are "AMCAS participating schools" (most will be); for these schools we will send our letter electronically to AMCAS (given that you've provided us with the Letter Request) and AMCAS will send it on to the schools. For these AMCAS participating schools, just write AMCAS on your Form 2 under the institution name, you need not list the individual schools. You must, however, list any schools NOT participating with AMCAS, plus the school due date and mailing address or electronic submission address. It is easier for us if you submit a completed Form 2 with all schools indicated. However, if necessary, you may add schools to the list via email once a copy of Form 2 is on file with the Health Professions Advisory Committee. The HPAC requires at least four weeks to prepare a committee letter. Submitting our Form 2 at the same time that you complete your AMCAS application usually gives the committee enough time for the writing and revision process before your first school deadlines.
If a medical school chooses to take further action on your application, you will be sent a secondary application invitation, which typically occurs four to six weeks after submitting your primary application to AMCAS. You may be asked to submit additional writing samples and pay an additional application fee to the school.
Most of the committee letters are in the process of being written during this time. It is important that you know your deadlines and let us know if you have a secondary application invitations.
You may also want to re-take the MCAT during this time if you feel that you can do better than your previous attempt.
Medical schools will extend invitations for interviews. Don't show up unprepared! Talk to the CLS about mock interview resources.
After October 1 early decisions acceptances occur and after October 15, rolling admission decisions begin.