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When Should You Apply to Medical School?

The saying “the early bird gets the worm” certainly applies to medical school applications.

The longer you wait to send it in, the less of a chance you have to get into that dream medical school.

But there is no need to worry. In this post, we’ll give you actionable steps you can take to make sure you’re ready to submit that application as soon as possible.

WHEN SHOULD I APPLY AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

The AMCAS (the application for medical school) generally opens on May 1st and the first day you can submit the application is the end of May or beginning of June depending on the year (May 30th in 2019).

You should submit your application on the first day if you can, the year before you plan on attending medical school. (For example, if you had planned on starting medical school in the Fall of 2018, you would have applied in the the spring of 2017.)

Why?

It’s simple. Let’s say you have a medical school with 200 spots to fill.

Submitting the AMCAS on May 30th (or the first day AMCAS opens for submission in a given year) gets your application to your medical school faster. You will be on top of the stack. Admissions is looking at you with fresh eyes, and you are competing for 1 of those 200 spots.

However, if you were to submit it in September, you are at the back of the line.

Admissions has already looked at hundreds, possibly thousands, of applications by the time they get to yours. At that point, the applications start to blend together, making yours less likely to stand out. Not only that, but you are now competing for fewer spots.

So we can obviously see the benefits of getting that application in early. But with all the things you need to get done before you submit, it can be a little overwhelming.

That’s why the rest of this post provides a plan to keep you ready and organized to get that application in early.

KEEP YOUR SCHEDULE CLEAR FROM JANUARY TO THE END OF MAY

This is where it all goes down for med school applicants. For most, this time period will be the second semester of your junior year.

You are going to be doing a lot, so you’ll want to avoid harder classes. The best way to do this is to frontload them your freshman and sophomore year. Ask around to find out which required classes are the most challenging. Your pre-med advisor, older pre-meds and professors are all good people to ask.

You should also use this time to talk to as many professors as possible. Go to office hours, get to know them and show them how much you care about your education (this will help with recommendation letters later).

If it is too late to frontload, and you have unavoidable hard classes to take during your second-semester junior year, it is okay. You may just have to work a little harder.

MCAT, RECOMMENDATION LETTERS, AND PERSONAL STATEMENT

Remember when we said you will be doing a lot? These three requirements are why.

You’ll need to have taken your MCAT, acquired your recommendation letters and have your personal statement written before you submit.

It is best to start to think about this at the beginning of your junior year (or the September before you apply) because they all take some time.

PREPARING FOR THE MCAT

You want to take the MCAT mid-April.

If you take it later you will not receive your scores to get your application in as soon as possible or you may not have your scores at the time you submit your application. While taking it in mid-May will still ensure an early application, you will not have as much flexibility if you require a re-take. A mid-April date positions you well to have your score before AMCAS opens and allow you a retake if you end up needing one.

RECOMMENDATION LETTERS

All those office hour schmoozing sessions are about to pay off.

You will want to ask your professors for recommendation letters early. This will give your professors time to write them. A good time to ask is the February before you apply.

If you want more in-depth information, we have a post about it here.

PERSONAL STATEMENT

Start drafting your personal statement in January as well. This will give you plenty of time to write, receive edits, and rewrite.

We also have a couple of posts if you are having trouble starting your personal statement or struggling to make it the best it can be.

MAY 1ST

On May 1st, the AMCAS opens. If you are taking the MCAT, you should probably push it off until after you are done. But you will want to at least start it so you can request your official transcripts from your school.

When you are done taking the MCAT, finish that application as soon as possible. That way, if you have any issues, you won’t be scrambling to solve them.

At this point, you will be done with the MCAT, your letters of recommendation will be in and your personal statement will be perfected. Carefully fill out your AMCAS and submit it May 30th.

Your work is not done. You have to start preparing for secondary applications and your interview. But take a deep breath. Getting to this point is hard work!

OH NO! IT’S PAST MAY 31ST AND MY APPLICATION IS NOT IN!

It is not the end of the world.

If you are a competitive prospect for whatever medical school you apply to, you will always have a shot.

Just get to work and get it done as soon as possible. Then you can plan for the next steps in the cycle.