As you complete your final pre-med year, it’s important to understand the admissions process for your best chance at being accepted to your medical school of choice.
Most medical schools require you to apply via the centralized application processing service by the American Medical College Application Service(AMCAS).
Let’s take a look at the process from start to finish.
Here’s how the medical school application process< works:
Application cycles for medical school admissions open in May each year. The admissions cycle generally runs from May to March of the following year, although you should begin preparing before May of your cycle year.
There are 3 main applications for United States-based medical schools: the AMCAS application, the AACOMAS application, and the TMDSAS application.
While there are 3 different applications and many students may fill out all 3, you don’t have to.
Begin filling out your primary application as soon as possible when it opens in May. Each school sets its own (very strict) deadline for submitting applications (usually in early fall), but we recommend submitting as early as you can in June. This will give you the best chance at acceptance.
Here is everything you’ll put in this application before submitting:
Primary application deadlines will vary by individual school of medicine, but they typically fall between mid-October and early November.
However, we don’t recommend waiting that long. As you’ll see, matriculation may depend on applying early — especially for schools that accept students on a rolling basis.
When should I get letters of recommendation? You can collect letters of recommendation, or letters of evaluation, at any point before submitting your secondaries, but it’s best to collect them and submit them with your primary application. Schools won’t evaluate your secondary application without these letters. Request individual and/or committee letters well in advance so the individuals writing them have time to provide thoughtful recommendations.
Medical school application verification takes between 1 to 6 weeks after submitting.
Once your application is submitted, it goes through a verification process to compare your information to transcripts from your undergraduate institution before being sent to the medical schools on your list.
The longer you wait, the longer this verification will take. That’s why submitting your primary application as soon as you can is key — the earlier you start, the earlier your application will be reviewed. This increases your chances of getting accepted to medical school.
Do you apply to med school junior or senior year? Aspiring medical students typically apply in the spring/summer of their junior year. If you plan to take a gap year, you can apply at the end of your senior year.
Do your best to submit all secondary applications by no later than the end of July during the application cycle.
After verification, medical schools will start to receive your application. The earliest this typically happens is mid-to-late June. Medical schools won’t actually review applications at this point, but send over secondary applications to students who pass their minimum requirements.
Secondary or supplemental applications consist of up to 5 essays — some required, some optional — and they often require an application fee. Similar to the AMCAS, you may request a waiver if the fee isn’t financially feasible for you.
Check out this prompts database to get started writing right after submitting your primary application.
Once you’ve submitted secondaries, the admissions committees can start evaluating your applications. The earliest an admissions office would evaluate an application would be mid-July.
During this evaluation of your application materials, medical schools will drop you into one of 3 categories:
Is a hold the same thing as a waitlist? No, being on hold means the admissions committee needs more time or information to make a decision. A waitlist has more to do with available seats in the entering class. There’s just not enough room to accept everyone, so schools have to wait until some accepted students decline their offer before accepting other suitable candidates.
If you’re selected for an interview, you’ll move on to the next step in the medical school application process.
Between September and March, you’ll attend medical school interviews with each school interested in you as a candidate.
Interviews may be in-person or virtual. While virtual interviews have become more common, in-person interviews also remain popular and provide an opportunity to get to know your interviewer on a more personal level.
Regardless, preparing for these interviews takes quite a bit of time because they’re such an important part of the process. That’s why we’ve put together several resources to help you along the way:
Depending on the school, acceptance decisions may be made at any point between September and March of your admissions cycle.
Some schools send acceptance letters within a few weeks of your interview day (known as rolling admissions). Others wait to make final decisions until March, after all candidates have been interviewed. Even if you interview in September, schools in the second category won’t get back to you for several months.
How long does it take schools to evaluate applications? Medical schools evaluate applications in mid-to-late July at the earliest. Some schools may have a more extended timeline — they may not even look at your application until August. Some schools want to get a batch of applications before they start looking at them.
Because your medical education is so important, admissions teams carefully comb through your application. They want to make sure you’ve done your prerequisite coursework, participated in good extracurricular activities, and that you have the support of mentors.
Beyond that, schools must determine if your goals, personality, and demeanor align with their organization. Ultimately, they have to decide if you’re a good fit for their program. This process takes time.
Early decision programs can position you for a faster acceptance — with an offer by October 1st — but they also have some drawbacks (primarily that you can’t apply anywhere else until a decision is made). The deadline for all application materials at AAMC participating schools this cycle is August 1st, 2024. EDPs may also have additional admission requirements.
You can check out AAMC participating schools’ admission requirements using the MSAR database.
If you apply to a school’s EDP, you cannot apply to any other school until you’ve been formally released from the EDP commitment, or after October 1st. That means if you aren’t accepted, you’ll have plenty of time to apply to other schools, but you’ll be applying late in the game, which can put you at a disadvantage.
If you’re looking to apply to medical school in 2024, aim to have your ducks in a row by May. It’s almost a year-long process, so you’ve got to have some patience.
When you start filling out your application, keep in mind that you might not reap the benefits until March of next year. But the payoff to step nearer to your dream of being a physician makes the wait well worth it!
Dr. Alice Zheng is a entrepreneur, physician, public health activist and MBA! She received her MBA from Harvard University and MD[...]
If you want a career in healthcare, it’s never too early to start looking at your options for college. There[...]
Thinking about applying to medical school? Discover what high school students need to know about obtaining a career in medicine.Download
Get ready for the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 with this free guide to study planning and resource utilization.Download
Taking the MCAT? These 100 tips and tricks will help you ace the MCAT.Download