Advice for Premeds

A blog about the medical school admissions process

What are the new AAMC (MD) Acceptance Protocols? Understanding “Plan to Enroll” vs “Commit to Enroll.”

by Featured Author in Acceptance, Featured No Comments
Advice for Premeds: Plan vs Commit?

Written by our Advisor Jen in consultation with admissions officers

Perhaps you have heard the words “Acceptance Protocols,” “Choose your Medical School Tools,” or “Traffic Rules” during your interview day at various medical schools and are trying to figure out what it means! Because the system you use to notify a medical school that you have decided to matriculate there has changed in 2019, do not rely on outdated information from your premed grapevine or the SDN (Student Doctor) website to understand the current school selection and notification process.

Medical schools have a strict imperative to matriculate a precise number of students, so they have to be careful as the 2019 cycle concludes. Medical school admissions officers are perhaps even more concerned than applicants by these new rules. They fear they may, in the end, under-admit their next class of medical students in order to avoid the worse problem (for them) of over-admitting, which could violate federal regulations on how many students they are allowed to train.

On February 19, 2019, the “Choose Your Medical School” option will become available to applicants in AMCAS. After this date until April 29, 2019, applicants will have the option and the opportunity to select the Plan to Enroll option for the medical school they are considering to attend, while continuing to interview, receive acceptances, and remain on waitlists.

On April 30, 2019, another option will become available: Commit to Enroll. These words indicate that you have made your final decision and plan to matriculate at that medical school. It is then your responsibility to contact all of the other medical schools that have interviewed you or scheduled a future interview with you, and withdraw your application from consideration. This includes acceptances and waitlist or alternate list positions. Each school will have its own rules on when you must select the Commit to Enroll option or risk losing your acceptance.

Making Your Final School Choice

While applicants may select Plan to Enroll for only one medical school, you may, between February 19, 2019 and April 29, 2019 continue to hold multiple acceptances and multiple waitlists. Medical schools will not be able to see or to know your holdings. When you indicate your Plan to Enroll selection, you help the medical schools; it has no personal benefit to you. It neither hurts nor helps any individual applicant in any way. It’s optional on the part of the applicant to even be counted in the Plan to Enroll polling. Plan to Enroll provides anonymous, aggregate data to help schools manage enrollment and strategize waitlist movement.

If you want to self-disclose in an update letter that you listed a particular school as Plan to Enroll, the admissions office will appreciate you for that, and have a reasonable, not absolute expectation that you are going to take your seat at that school. Remember: Plan to Enroll means you most definitely can hold places at other schools and waitlists (until April 30, 2019).

Do not promise the admissions officer or even imply in a subsequent update letter that you are really more in the Commit to Enroll category, unless it’s absolutely true, and you have selected that option in the AMCAS application and withdrawn to the extent explained above. If it’s not true, that would be seen as you confusing Commit to Enroll with Plan to Enroll. Some admissions officers have publicly stated they would see a premature or false letter of intent as unprofessional behavior at best and dishonest at worst, and it could really hurt you.

Underlying the new rules is an intent on the part of the AAMC to return to the schools more discretion about acceptance rules. Thus, when a school detects and concludes that your selections are not in accord with the AAMC defined meaning of Commit to Enroll and Plan to Enroll, it could lead to you having your offer of admission rescinded. Yes, they reserve the right to do that. We are sorry to convey this terrifying information, but you need to know this. Knowledge is power.

Traffic Rules Case Study

Nevertheless, just because the schools hint that certain actions on the applicants’ parts represent unprofessional behavior does not mean it is. Here’s a scenario to help you get your mind around these rules and guidelines: You could indicate Commit to Enroll in full faith at School A on March 1st, thinking your cycle is over, but not get around to withdrawing (as the rules dictate), from School B, “just to see what happens.” Many schools now have this language––commit vs plan––in their own portals when you accept the acceptance, so in your mind you are not selecting the Commit to Enroll designation in your AMCAS application, just in the school’s portal. Thus you think you haven’t really committed to enroll in the absolute sense, in the strictest meaning of the term.

Then on the next day, March 2nd, you could get an unexpected interview invite at School B, which you cannot turn down because it’s been your dream school from the start. You feel guilty, but also responsive to the dream, and you go forward with the interview. Then you could get accepted at B with a full scholarship, which you cannot turn down. School A and School B have the right to call this action on your part––to go to the interview and choose School B after committing to enroll at School A in its portal––as unprofessional behavior, and should they find out, both schools have the right and the prerogative to withdraw their acceptance offers.

Further, they are likely to find this out when you withdraw from School A and its admissions office demands an explanation––because you just under-enrolled their class. This is why you need to fully understand all the nuances and avoid being judged unfairly (or judged fairly, if you lied) by a school’s admissions office.

Financial Aid Repercussions

The worst part of these new rules from the applicant perspective is that financial aid at medical schools is in no way tied to these protocols. Financial aid packages are awarded on each school’s varying and even mystifying timelines. Since each school has its own system for awarding financial aid, the best you can do is to proactively and directly inquire about their timeline and internal deadlines. Find out what information they need from you so you can maximize your chances of receiving a timely offer. It’s so important to select your school when you know and can weigh any financial aid offer you receive.

If you have no acceptances, but you are on waitlists or alternate lists, none of these rules apply to you. And take heart, because as you can see, spots do open April 30th. Prepare for this by updating schools in March and April.

Acceptance Protocol Timeline

Beginning February 19, 2019, applicants are asked, not required to report to the AAMC, where they Plan to Enroll. This is strictly for the school’s benefit and it’s kind of you to do that for them: no obligation.

After April 15, 2019, applicants are strongly urged, and instructed that they, in the AAMC’s view, should not continue to hold more than three acceptances to medical school. Waitlists are not restricted.

On April 30, 2019, applicants are permitted to select either Plan to Enroll or Commit to Enroll for the medical school at which they choose to hold an acceptance. At this time, medical schools will be able to see detailed information regarding only those applicants they have accepted into their medical program.

For applicants who select Plan to Enroll at a particular medical school on April 30, 2019, you are permitted to hold only one acceptance at this point. You will need to withdraw all other acceptance offers, but you are permitted to interview, receive acceptances, and remain on waitlists and alternate lists.

For applicants who select Commit to Enroll on or after April 30, 2019, you are committing to that particular medical school and MUST withdraw all of your other applications, including those alternate list positions.

Specific Rules for Each School

At this point, each medical school can make its own rules. Many medical schools may require applicants to select the Commit to Enroll option 21 days prior to the start of their orientation program. If applicants do not do this, they may find that the medical school may withdraw or rescind its offer of admission. This should be communicated to you by the medical school(s) at which you have been accepted. Remember that communication is not perfect, so you should proactively find out the date by asking the admissions office unless you have received a notification from them on this matter. It could come verbally during an info session on interview day, so listen for it and ask if you do not hear about it.

The most important items to remember are:

  • Pay close attention to the specific procedures for each medical school to which you have been accepted or placed on an alternate list.
  • Key dates are February 19, 2019, and April 30, 2019.
  • Hold no more than three acceptances by April 15, 2019.
  • Hold only one acceptance by April 30, 2019.
  • Once you have selected Commit to Enroll, you MUST withdraw all remaining applications.

“Choose Your Medical School” (CYMS) is a new tool created by the AAMC. Medical schools will be learning to use this tool along with you, so please try to be patient with them! If ever you have questions, you should always ask and be as transparent about your plans as you can. Congratulations on having an acceptance in medical school! Having these problems puts you in a very select group.

Photo by Carlos Alberto Gómez Iñiguez on Unsplash

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