When Should I Apply to Medical School?

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3 min read

Deciding to apply to medical school can be stressful and time-consuming. However, with careful planning, you can successfully manage this process—as well as your classes, extracurricular activities, MCAT prep, and social responsibilities. You must: meet with your school’s pre-medical adviser, sit for the MCAT, request letters of recommendation (LORs), and complete the application itself. This consists of the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) system, secondary applications, and interviews. The below timeline references your junior year of college, and it assumes that you plan to attend medical school immediately after graduation.

Create a calendar

Print a month-by-month calendar on several sheets of paper, and annotate it with important deadlines. You may also wish to include “proximity alerts,” which remind you of upcoming dates. Place the calendar in a highly visible location—above your computer is an excellent choice. Remember to print a physical calendar! While your deadlines will not change, you do not want to click or tap several times to view a date. Additionally, little feels as wonderful as crossing out a task that you have completed. You may also want to check out these tips on how to decide which medical school is right for you.

Meet with your adviser in the fall

Most schools have a pre-health, pre-medical, or pre-professional adviser. Advisers become extremely busy during the spring semester, so schedule an appointment with him or her in the early fall. If your adviser understands your situation, it will be much easier for him or her to answer a brief question for you in the spring.

Ask for letters of recommendation in early spring

Approach professors who know you well in one of two ways: if you had a pleasant experience with a professor, but you do not plan on continuing your interaction, ask for a letter of recommendation immediately after the class ends. If this is likely to be an ongoing relationship (i.e. a professor in a small department that concerns your major, or one with whom you will do research), ask between January and March. Recognize that professors are not always available. Is your favorite professor going on sabbatical? Inquire, and note their dates of availability on your calendar. Here are some great tips for asking for a medical school letter of recommendation.

Sit for the MCAT and submit your application in late spring/early summer

Complete the MCAT between April and June. This way, if you must retake it, you can devote one to three months to preparing. Be realistic about the amount of time you require to review, as well as whether you need an MCAT tutor. It is possible to improve your score, but it involves time and hard work. 

Certain programs utilize rolling admissions, so apply to medical school early! AMCAS opens during the first week of May. Submit your biographical information, coursework, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and test scores in June. Secondary applications are issued by individual medical schools. These require several short essays in response to specific prompts. Write down any deadlines associated with secondary applications on your calendar.

Attend interviews and commit to a school in your senior year

Certain programs grant interviews as early as August. However, most will do so in the fall and winter months. In general, schedule them as early as possible. Keep in mind that you may find it wise to begin with those schools that are not your first choice, in order to practice.

If you receive an acceptance letter, make your decision carefully. By mid-spring of your senior year, you must accept one medical school’s offer. If you are waitlisted, notify the school of changes to your application (i.e. an improved MCAT score).

As you may realize, there is a great deal to do, as well as a deceptively long time in which to do it. Applying to medical school early may improve your chance of success, so submit your materials in June. This is the first step in a lifetime of work that is not possible without excellent time management, so give yourself plenty of leeway, follow your handwritten schedule, and you will be surprised at how much less stressful this year can be.