By McGreggor, IvyWise Medical School Admissions Counselor
Is applying to medical school on your agenda for this year? Much like undergraduate admissions, the medical school application process is multifaceted and comprehensive, so we always encourage applicants to prepare well in advance.
Many prospective medical school students may be a bit unsure about how to begin their applications or what dates and deadlines they need to prioritize. To streamline your journey and help you feel confident throughout the process, we’ve created a timeline to guide medical school applicants.
If you are planning to apply to medical school, make today the beginning of your admissions process. Keep reading for our breakdown of what students should be prioritizing throughout the year to make the most of their medical school admissions journey.
January-April: Lay the Groundwork
One of the most important steps medical school applicants can take is creating a list of their best-fit schools. To do this, students must take a step back and reflect on their interests, goals, and academic priorities. Ask yourself what you enjoyed most about your pre-medical studies in college, what you see yourself specializing in down the line, and what kind of research opportunities excite you most.
Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses and consider how your application will be read by an admissions committee. Review the admitted students’ profile at the medical schools you are considering to get a sense of what kind of MCAT scores you need to aim for and the GPA range that will make you a competitive candidate.
Medical school students also need to get a jumpstart on their letters of recommendation. You will need multiple letters of recommendation from professors and advisors throughout your undergraduate years. Make sure you ask for these letters around January of your application year to give your writers plenty of time. Similarly, students need to request their transcripts from their undergraduate institution (and post-baccalaureate program if applicable) well before the AMCAS submission deadline in May.
January-April: Take the MCAT
If you haven’t already taken the MCAT, make sure that is on your radar. In order to prepare for the MCAT you need to have taken the appropriate prerequisite undergraduate courses and commit to actively studying for the MCAT, which can include MCAT test prep. The MCAT has a three-year lifespan, meaning that a students’ score on the test will be good for up to three years after they take the exam. Taking the MCAT is a critical piece of your medical school admissions plan, as it is a big part over your overall medical school application. You can’t prepare for this exam overnight. Medical school applicants should prepare for this exam months in advance and take multiple practice tests to find areas that need improvement.
Here is an overview of the MCAT and what medical school applicants need to know on how to study for the MCAT.
April-May: Focus on the AMCAS and School List
Start to create a list of best-fit medical schools in April of application year. This list needs to be finalized by the time the submission window for the AMCAS opens – which is at the end of May of the application year. I encourage applicants to consider the end of May a “hard deadline” for the AMCAS as applicants are at a disadvantage if they do not submit the AMCAS as early as possible to schools. You can still amend your AMCAS at a later date to add more schools if needed. Applicants should spend the months of April and May ensuring that they have everything needed to complete their AMCAS in a timely manner. Set aside time each week to review your application progress to make sure you stay on track.
June-September: Get Ready for Secondary Applications
Once a student submits their primary AMCAS application to medical school, it will go for an initial round of review. After this initial review, a certain subset of applicants to a medical school will be offered a secondary application, which is essentially a whole new application that is specific to that medical school. Secondaries tend to start arriving in early summer, but can arrive in your inbox even as late as the fall. The secondary can be very brief and essentially require a signature and an application fee, or it can be almost a dozen mini essay questions that can sometimes be 500 to 850 words in length. It’s critical for applicants to complete the secondary application as quickly as possible and to make responses as school-specific as possible.
September-February: It’s Time for Interviews
After you’ve submitted your secondary applications, be prepared for interviews. Typically, students will be invited to campus any time between early fall and winter to interview with various medical schools. Interviews can take place at any time once a secondary is submitted, but most schools will wait until the fall semester begins so that applicants have the chance to interact with current medical students. To feel your best on interview day, make sure you review each school thoroughly, practice sample interview questions with a friend, and arrive at the interview location (or Zoom call!) early to give yourself time to prepare and get in the right mindset.
During the fall and winter of the application year, medical school admissions committees will start making decisions on applicants which can be either an acceptance, rejection, or waitlist decision. Many medical schools will offer programming for admitted students in the spring in order to help them decide where to enroll. Applicants need to notify the AMCAS of their enrollment decision by May 15. If you were waitlisted, you’ll learn of your waitlist decisions anywhere from May-August, but most medical schools will try to finalize their incoming classes by June.
The medical school admissions process can be complicated, and an understanding of the timeline is critical to developing your most impactful strategy. At IvyWise, we work with medical school applicants through every stage of their journey, from preparing for the MCAT to compiling your list of best-fit schools. The earlier you are able to start your applications, the better, so get in touch with us today if you’re interested in learning more about how IvyWise can help you reach your medical school admissions goals.