Timeline for Applying to Medical School

Planning the Junior and Senior Years of your Undergraduate Program

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Although many students succeed in college despite waiting until the last minute to write papers and cram for exams, applying to medical school requires a great deal of time and an early start. The medical school admissions process is a marathon rather than a sprint. If you really want to win a spot in medical school you must plan ahead and carefully monitor your progress. The timeline below is a guide.

Be sure to discuss your aspirations with your academic advisor and another faculty of your undergraduate program to ensure that you are on the right track given your unique circumstances.

First Semester, Junior Year: Researching Medical Schools and Preparing for Exams

As you enter the first semester of junior year in your undergraduate program, you should seriously begin considering if medical school is the right choice for you. Completing your graduate degree and residency programs are going to require a lot of time, concentration, motivation, and dedication to the craft so you should be absolutely certain this is the career path you want to pursue before investing the money and time in applying to medical school. 

Once you've determined that you do want to pursue medicine, you should then determine what a successful application entails. Review course requirements and ensure that your transcript satisfies these minimums.

You should focus on gaining clinical, community and volunteer experience to boost your application as these will set you apart from other applicants.

During this time, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the application process and review the resources at the Association of American Medical Colleges site to gather information about medical schools.

You should also find out how your school handles writing recommendation letters for medical school as well as how to obtain one. For instance, some programs provide a committee letter written by several faculty members who collectively evaluate your potential for a career in medicine. 

Finally, you should prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The MCAT is critical to your application, testing your knowledge of science and basic principles of medicine. Learn about its content and how it is administered.by studying material in biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry and physics and by investing in MCAT prep books. You may also want to take practice exams that can help you determine your strengths and weaknesses. Remember to register early if you plan to take the first test in January.

Second Semester, Junior Year: Exams and Letters of Evaluation

As early as January of your junior year, you can take the MCAT and finish off one portion of your application process. Fortunately, you may retake the test through the summer, but as always remember to register early because seats fill quickly. It's advisable that you take the MCAT in Spring, early enough to allow you to retake it if needed.

 

During the second semester, you should also request letters of evaluation either through a committee letter or a specific faculty who will write a personalized letter of recommendation. You may need to prepare materials for their evaluation such as your course load, resumé and extracurricular involvement on and off campus. 

By the end of the semester, you should finalize these letters and your list of medical schools you hope to apply to. Request a copy of your transcript to ensure that there are no errors and that you have taken the range of courses required by all the programs you've chosen. During the summer, you should begin working on the AMCAS application. It may be submitted as early as June with the first application deadline August 1 and application deadlines continuing through December.

Make sure that you know the deadline dates for the schools you choose.

First Semester, Senior Year: Completing Applications and Interviews

You will only have a few more opportunities to retake the MCAT as you enter the senior year of your undergraduate degree. Once you have a score you're satisfied with, you should complete the AMCAS application and await follow-up from the institutions where you've applied to attend.

If medical schools are interested in your application, they send secondary applications that contain additional questions. Again, take time writing your essays and seek feedback then submit your secondary applications. Also, don't forget to send thank you notes to faculty who wrote on your behalf to thank them but also to subtly remind them of your journey and need of their support. 

Medical school interviews may begin as early as August but usually take place later in September and continue into early spring. Prepare for interviews by considering what you may be asked and determining your own questions. As you get ready for this portion of the application process, it may be helpful to have friends or colleagues give you mock interviews. This will allow you a stress-free (relatively) test of how you might handle the real thing. 

Second Semester, Senior Year: Acceptance or Rejection

Schools will begin notifying applicants of their application status beginning in mid-October and continuing through spring, depending largely on whether or not you have had or will have an interview yet. If you are accepted, you can breathe a sigh of relief as you narrow your choices of schools that accepted you to the one school you will attend. 

However, if you are waitlisted, you should update schools about new accomplishments. It is important during this time to check in on the status a few times throughout the end of the semester and especially in the summer. If on the other hand you are not accepted to medical school, learn from your experience and consider your options and whether to apply again next year.

As the semester and your degree program draw to a close, take a moment to relish in your accomplishments, pat yourself on the back and then select the one school that you want to attend. Then, it's time to enjoy the summer — classes begin as early as August.