Medical School Application Process 2024: How to Prepare

The Medical School Application Process Explained [Timeline & Prep]

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Posted in: Applying to Medical School

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.

The Medical School Application Timeline

Here’s how the medical school application process< works:

  1. Fill out your primary application (AMCAS, AACOMAS, and/or TMDSAS), which requires several steps (outlined below), and submit by early June.
  2. Wait 1-6 weeks for verification, at which point schools will send you secondary applications.
  3. Complete your secondaries and submit by mid-July. Plan your secondary essay responses well in advance, as this will require a quick turnaround if your verification is on the long side.
  4. Interview at each school that requests one between September and March.
  5. Await acceptance letters after your interview, which may arrive from a few weeks after your interview to the end of their interview cycle in March.

A visual look at when important events happen in the medical school admissions timeline

Step 1: Primary Applications

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.

  • AMCAS (opens May 2, 2024): You’ll use the American Medical College Application Service to apply to MD programs (allopathic medicine). The AMCAS system opens on May 2 but doesn’t accept submissions until May 30, 2024.
  • AACOMAS (opens May 4, 2024): Use to apply to DO programs (osteopathic medicine).
  • TMDSAS (opens May 15, 2024): Texas medical schools have their own application system, so you’ll only use this one if you’re interested in a med school in Texas.

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.

We can help you ace your application to get into the pre-med program of your choice. Students who work with MedSchoolCoach have DOUBLE the chance of getting accepted than the average student!

Here is everything you’ll put in this application before submitting:

  • Background information: Enter your basic background information, including demographics, person details, and ethnicity information. You can fill this out as soon as applications are open.
  • Extracurriculars: Include a maximum of 15 entries of work experience, extracurricular activities, and awards you have received. You’ll also be asked to choose up to 3 “most meaningful experiences” to describe in more detail. In 2024, the AMCAS application includes a new activity type for “Social Justice/Advocacy,” so take advantage of this section if it applies to you. These sections are named differently depending on which primary application you use:
    • AMCAS — Work & Activities
    • AACOMAS — Experiences and Achievements
    • TMDSAS — Personal Biography & Activities
  • Letters of evaluation*: Collect 4-5 letters of recommendation via the AMCAS Letter Request form (or the equivalent) and submit them with your primary applications. You’ll need the letters themselves as well as information about the writers. These are not required as part of your primaries, but since they will be required with your secondaries, it’s a good idea to request and submit them early.
  • Medical schools to receive your application: Choose which schools you’re applying to — and it’s important to choose wisely! Our free Med School Explorer can help you choose the right schools for your academic and personal goals. Note: The TMDSAS application offers you the opportunity to participate in their match process, which is an added part of this step compared to the other applications.
  • Personal statement (personal comments essay): Craft a well-written personal statement, as this often determines whether or not you’ll get an interview from schools reviewing your application. Review plenty of examples and consider having your personal statement professionally edited for your best chance of success.
  • MCAT score: Ace the exam. How you score on your medical college admissions test (MCAT) will determine your chances of being accepted to certain schools. Choose an MCAT test date with a score release date of no later than July 31. For the 2024/25 cycle, that means you should take the MCAT on or before June 27, 2024.
  • Casper exam or AAMC PREview results: Many schools now require you to take situational judgment tests like Casper or AAMC PREview. If you’re taking one of these exams, submit these results with your primary application (even if your preferred school doesn’t require it). Take it no later than the end of June.

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.

Step 2: Application Verification

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.

Want your AMCAS application to stand out? Our Physician Advisors have worked with thousands of students to help them successfully secure an acceptance.

Step 3: Secondary Applications

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.

Download our Complete Guide to Approaching Medical School Secondary Applications

 

During this evaluation of your application materials, medical schools will drop you into one of 3 categories:

  • Interview: You’ll get an interview invitation to meet with the medical school admissions committee. These interviews typically occur between September and March. Depending on the school, this may be in the MMI format (short, one-on-one interactions with several committee members) or a traditional interview where you meet with a few members of the institution’s admissions committee.
  • On hold: In some cases, a school may not be immediately ready to move forward but not ready to reject your application. Most med schools will notify you by email if you have been placed on hold.
  • Rejection: When a school decides you aren’t the right fit for their program, you’ll get a message to let you know you’ve been rejected.

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.

READ NEXT: The Principles of Biomedical Ethics & Medical Morality

Step 4: Medical School Interviews

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:

Step 5: Admissions Decisions

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.

What about early decision programs?

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.

Bottom Line

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!

Want one-on-one support as you prepare for your interviews? Students who have 3 or more practice interviews with a Physician Advisor enjoy a 96% med school acceptance rate!
Sahil Mehta MD

Sahil Mehta MD

Dr. Mehta is the founder of MedSchoolCoach and has guided thousands of successful medical school applicants. He is also a practicing physician in Boston where he specializes in vascular and interventional radiology.

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