Ready to apply to medical school but don’t know where to begin? Our straightforward guide makes the med school application process clear and understandable.
Depending on the type of program you’re applying to and where those programs are located, you’ll use either the AMCAS (MD programs), AACOMAS (DO programs), or TMDSAS (all medical programs in Texas) system.
These take the information you submit in your application and distribute it to every school you wish to attend. That’s why it’s important to understand the entire submission process.
The steps for applying to medical school are:
1. Write a personal statement
2. Acquire letters of recommendation
3. Take the MCAT
4. Take the Casper Exam or AAMC PREview (required by certain schools)
5. Research medical schools
6. Submit a primary application
7. Submit secondary applications (if requested)
8. Interview at schools (if scheduled)
When should I start applying for medical school? The application cycle takes over a year, so you should begin preparing your application 16 months before the first day of class. For current pre-med students who aren’t taking a gap year, this means preparing to apply in the spring of junior year to attend med school in the fall after graduation.
The exact med school application deadlines change every year. Major dates in the 2024/25 medical school application timeline are:
|May 2, 2024||AMCAS application system opens (submissions not yet accepted)|
|May 4, 2024||AACOMAS application system opens and applications may be submitted|
|May 15, 2024||TMDSAS application system opens and applications may be submitted|
|May 30, 2024||First date to submit AMCAS application|
|June 27, 2024||Final advised MCAT date to avoid delays|
|July 1, 2024||AMCAS begins releasing processed applications to medical schools|
|August 1, 2024||AMCAS and TMDSAS Early Decision Program (EDP) deadlines|
By May 1st, you should have already gotten your letters of recommendation, written your personal statement, and ideally taken the MCAT. This way, you’ll be ready to fill out your application come May 2nd. AMCAS gives you multiple weeks in May to polish your application before submitting it, while the other two systems accept applications right away.
The application deadline varies from school to school, usually falling between Oct. 1-Dec. 1. However, med schools use a rolling admissions method, so the earlier you apply, the better. If you apply late, there might not be a spot left for you.
MedSchoolCoach students DOUBLE their chances at being accepted to medical school. With fewer than 50% of applicants accepted to a medical program each year, that boost can make all the difference.
Let’s take a look at each of the major parts of your medical school application for how to give your application the best chance at being accepted.
Writing a personal statement is a major component of the med school admissions process. A hefty portion of your chance of acceptance rests on this essay, so you want to write the best medical school personal statement that you can.
What do you write about in your personal statement? Explain why you want to pursue medical education, and not just because you want to “help people.” Use this essay to show the admission committees who you are as an individual and what drives you to become a medical student.
I find that the best personal statements are just that — personal. A deep dive into a real story that inspired your desired medical career will go a long way with admissions committees. The committees I served on frequently considered applicants with lower-than-average scores based on a compelling personal statement alone.
Your response should clearly convey your best qualities, so get feedback and editing from advisors at MedSchoolCoach to make the most of your personal statement. After all, this is one of the only chances you get to stand out regardless of your GPA or MCAT score.
Gather 4-5 letters from a combination of undergraduate professors, extracurricular activity leaders, and clinical proctors. Letters of recommendation are not initially required in your AMCAS application, but many med schools ask for them with your secondary application materials.
So why is it wise to gather letters of recommendation early in the application cycle? Because you want to give potential recommenders plenty of time to write a great message.
These letters are meant to show enrollment officers who you are from someone else’s perspective — request letters from leaders who have a good relationship with you and have seen you grow as a person, overcome obstacles, and convey passion for your work.
Choose your letter writers wisely. Admissions committees take these letters very seriously, and it’s easy to spot a disingenuous recommendation when we read hundreds or thousands of them each year.
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized exam that tests your science knowledge and reasoning skills. The goal of this exam is to ensure students have the requisite knowledge and skills to successfully complete medical school.
Ideally, you should take the MCAT by no later than the end of June (but preferably May) to submit your medical school applications early.
The 7.5-hour testing session covers subjects like biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics, psychology, and sociology. Since the exam is passage-based, you will also need good reading comprehension and verbal reasoning skills to score well.
Admissions boards use MCAT test scores to make admissions decisions and send interview invitations. You can’t get into medical school without taking the MCAT.
What is a good MCAT score? It depends on what schools and programs you’re applying to. For matriculants to MD programs in 2022, the average MCAT score was 512. Matriculants to DO schools, on the other hand, had an average MCAT score of 505. Meanwhile, the average MCAT score for all test-takers during the same period was 502.
The bottom line is that in order to be a competitive applicant for either MD or DO programs, you should aim to score higher than 502 but, if at all possible, 510 or higher.
Tutoring students at MedSchoolCoach increase their MCAT score by 12 points on average. Could you use an extra 12 points?
Although they aren’t required by every medical program, situational judgment tests (SJTs) are becoming more popular every year. These tests examine your ability to handle complex situations that are likely to mirror those that arise in your medical career.
Unlike other assessments, these exams don’t test book knowledge. Situational judgment tests measure how you can function in social functions, allowing you to show your problem-solving, negotiation, and cultural awareness skills.
Questions asked on these tests often involve how you would communicate with a patient, friend, or colleague who puts you in a compromising situation or asks a question that requires you to balance ethics with patient autonomy.
The Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics (Casper) is a situational judgment test that rates your professionalism, ethics, and people skills in comparison to other applicants. The two-hour Casper test involves written responses and recorded video responses to situational prompts and open-ended questions.
Like the MCAT, the Casper exam is a computer-based assessment that is scored according to a percentile scale. Each of your Casper responses receives a score, and these are used to calculate your overall percentile ranking as compared to other test-takers.
However, unlike the MCAT, you won’t ever get to see your Casper percentile rank. You will only receive a quartile rank that indicates roughly how well you compare to other test-takers. A good Casper score is a fourth-quartile score because it means you responded better than 75-100% of your peers.
Not every school requires you to take the Casper, but more schools are using this assessment every year. You’ll need to have your score distributed to prospective institutions before submitting your application. Prepare for the Casper test by taking practice tests, learning about the exam format, and talking to advisors.
The AAMC PREview exam, or Professional Readiness Exam™, is a situational judgment test (SJT) designed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to evaluate the professional readiness of prospective medical students.
The PREview exam augments academic metrics by assessing how well students can respond to hypothetical medical scenarios, focusing on competencies essential for successful medical practice.
The exam evaluates 8 core pre-professional competencies including:
This helps medical schools gauge your soft skills alongside your academic achievements.
You can and should apply to more than one medical program when you apply to medical school. Application systems are designed to distribute your application to multiple schools of medicine, so have a list of institutions you prefer.
Applying to more schools will increase your chance of getting into a program. Because most medical programs extend offers to potential students on a rolling basis, you should have multiple backup institutions in mind in case your top preferences fall through. Most pre-med students apply to 15-20 med schools.
There are over 170 medical schools in the U.S. and Canada. You can find a list of current American med programs; or read the MedSchoolCoach list of the best med schools in the U.S. It’s worth doing some research here to figure out what programs will be a good fit for you.
As you research potential programs, be sure to check out their medical school admission requirements using MSAR. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) created this guide to outline major requirements like prerequisite coursework, GPA scores, and clinical experience.
The easiest medical schools to get into are the ones that have the lowest GPA and MCAT score requirements, low tuition costs, good financial aid options, flexible acceptance stipulations, and high acceptance rates.
To attend medical school in the US, you will submit your primary application through a centralized system.
AMCAS: You’ll use the American Medical College Application Service to apply to MD, or allopathic, programs.
AACOMAS: You’ll use the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service to apply to DO, or osteopathic, programs.
TMDSAS: Most med schools in Texas will require you to use Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service.
Each of these applications will require your:
The application service will route your application to medical schools to perform an initial screening. Applicants who meet the minimum requirements for individual schools will then be sent a secondary application for that school.
What is the application fee for medical school? Each application service has its own pricing system. As of 2024:
Here’s what you should know when applying to medical school:
American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS)
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS)
Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS)
When do you use it?
Applying to most U.S. MD-granting programs
Applying to U.S. DO-granting programs
Applying to most med schools in Texas
When do applications open for 2024?
May 2, 2024; submissions begin May 30
May 4, 2024
May 15, 2024
Other major deadlines
Applications begin releasing to schools: July 1
Early Decision Program deadline: August 1
Applications begin releasing to schools: June 15
Early Decision Program deadline: August 1
Application deadline: November 1
$175 for the first school; $45 for each additional school
$198 for the first school; $55 for each additional school
$215 flat fee for all schools
If a medical program finds that you meet their minimum requirements, you’ll likely receive a secondary application from that school.
A secondary application is sent directly to the school of medicine rather than through a third-party application service. It’s specially tailored to what the admissions committee wants to see and contains prompts specific to that school. You’ll provide additional insight beyond what you included in your primary application in the form of written essays.
It’s wise to promptly complete any secondary application requests you receive to keep your options open. Just be aware that secondary applications may charge their own processing fees.
Want to prepare early for the secondaries at schools you’re most eager to attend? Check out Prospective Doctor’s Secondary Prompts Database.
If your secondary application was a hit with the committee, you’ll be asked to conduct a medical school interview. These usually take place between October and January with an individual or group of admissions officers.
You may not get an interview request immediately, but that doesn’t mean you’ve been rejected. It is true that the bulk of interview invitations go out between October and January. However, some students get interview requests as late as March. There is no official interview timeline, so it’s best to remain patient.
Prepare for the medical school interview by researching the school’s interview method, knowing the program, and performing mock interviews with an advisor. You can get an idea of each school’s interview process here. Some schools use MMI interview formats, while others still stick to a more traditional format.
We recommend finding out in advance if the interviews will be in-person or virtual, as this will impact the cost and the expectations for interview day.
Not sure you’re prepared for a full interview with an admissions committee? Get ready for medical school interviews with Interview Preparation Coaching.
Some schools of medicine require particular pre-health coursework that you may not have completed yet. Don’t worry. You still have time to complete your schooling at your undergraduate institution before med school begins. Strive for good grades even if you’ve been offered a slot in an MD or DO program; graduate institutions will still be monitoring your final GPA.
You’ve done all you can to apply to medical school; now it’s time to wait for each board’s decision. Depending on the outcome, here’s what you should do:
If you want the best chance of making it into medical school the first time, schedule a meeting with a member of our enrollment team. We can help you navigate the medical school application process,so you can become a physician as quickly as possible.
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