Medical school applications are submitted in May or June the year before a student actually matriculates. It is best to start preparing for the medical school application process in January or February of the year you plan to apply. Why? As you will see, there are many parts to a medical school application. Therefore, the sooner you start working on your medical school personal statement, gathering letters of reference, figuring out timing of coursework and the MCAT exam, the less rushed and stressed you will be.
Applying to medical school can be a daunting process. It is important to stay organized throughout the application process and to understand the general medical school application timeline. For example, a student applying to medical school in June of 2020, will actually matriculate in August of 2021. Ideally, students should map out an application to medical school timeline to set goals and stay on track.
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In the primary medical school application you will enter all biographical data, coursework, background information, personal statement, experience descriptions, and other relevant data about your candidacy. The primary application, which is sent to all of the medical schools you apply to, is similar to the Common App for college.
When applying to medical school, there are three primary application systems you should know about.
AMCAS is the central application service for allopathic (MD) medical schools. This detailed, comprehensive application includes a biographical information section where you will give lots of background and personal information, space for you to describe up to 15 experiences and to write short essays about 3 of your most meaningful ones, and space for your personal statement. You will also list all of your coursework and your letter writers and choose which medical schools you want this application forwarded to, once verified.
We recommend reading the Applicant Guide prior to beginning work and to allow 1-2 months to complete your application. You will pay a $170 fee which includes one school. Each additional school is $39.
For osteopathic medical school, students apply through AACOMAS which is the central application service for osteopathic (DO) schools. This detailed application asks for background/personal information and all coursework. You will also write a personal statement and list and describe all of your experiences which includes extracurriculars, clinical exposure, research projects, teaching roles, service or outreach, achievements and hobbies. You will select which osteopathic schools you would like to receive this application.
We recommend reviewing the Quick Start Guide prior to beginning work on your application and to allow 1-2 months to complete it. The application fee is $195 which includes 1 school. Each additional school is $45.
Finally, all Texas public allopathic and osteopathic medical schools use this Texas specific, central application service. TMDSAS asks for detailed background information, all coursework, your personal statement, a personal characteristics short essay and an optional essay (giving a broader picture of who you are as an applicant). You will also list and describe all of your activities/experiences.
We recommend reading the TMDSAS application handbook for the most up to date information. The TMDSAS fee is $165. Once you submit your TMDSAS, secondary applications are available on the TMDSAS site. Note: This is different than how secondaries are received in the 2 other application systems (AMCAS and AACOMAS). The other big difference is after interview(s), Texas schools use a match system.
Every medical school application system requires the applicant compose a personal statement. While the character limits vary slightly between application systems, the primary goal of the personal statement is the same for each of the three application systems. The personal statement answers the question “why do you want to go to medical school and be a physician?” in the context of your personal story.
The best statements are personal! You must share background information about your inspirations and motivations for medicine, your education to date, and activities that are instrumental to you AND the practice of medicine. Students choose to highlight key activities from these areas: work positions, clinical experiences, research projects, teaching roles, service or outreach in communities that are important to you or significant hobbies (ex. sports/music).
Secondary applications are “school specific” applications. About 2/3 of schools automatically invite you to complete their secondary while 1/3 of schools do a cursory review, usually numbers (GPA and MCAT) based, to make sure you have met their minimum admissions criteria. These secondary applications range from 1 question to 5+ and take time and thought to complete.
Cost to submit a secondary is around $100/school. Your application is not complete until you have submitted the secondary and LOIs are received. The secondary shows your interest in that school specifically – it is the place to talk about connections you have to that school such as parents or siblings who attended, the location, and specific curricular offerings or programs that are of interest to you.
Many secondary applications require applicants to compose several essays of varying lengths. The topics will give you clues to the culture of the medical school. As you research each school to apply to, begin to make notes about what draws you to that school so you can use these thoughts in your secondary essays. You can prepare for these in advance by organizing notes in these areas: my accomplishments, obstacles I have overcome, challenges I have had and how I’ve handled these, why I want to attend this school, what kind of physician I want to be, what activities I’ve been most intimately involved with and what have I learned.
After your application is reviewed, you will hopefully be invited for a medical school interview. The interview day is an opportunity for you to see the school and for the school to see what you are like interpersonally and gauge if you are a fit. Medical schools invite students who have the academic foundation (GPA and MCAT) to be successful in their curriculum and who have shown evidence of the competencies they value.
There are several types of interview formats from conversational 1:1 encounters with faculty members and sometimes 4th year medical students, to the multiple mini interview (MMI) format where interviewees rotate through stations and have brief, more structured encounters. Sometimes interview days are a hybrid of both traditional and MMI. You will be asked to talk about yourself, how you became interested in medicine, activities that have reinforced your passion for medicine, your career goals, and more.
You should dress professionally for your medical school interview day. Often you will do quite a bit of walking so comfortable shoes are also important. You will want to feel your best so you can be at your best, so dressing in a way that feels comfortable and authentic to you is also important. Students typically wear suits and for women, both pant suits and skirt suits are appropriate. You are interviewing for a profession where you will be taking care of others and where cleanliness is essential to high quality patient care, so appearing well groomed from hair to nails is also important!
Application to Medical School: Timeline
Below is a general timeline for applying to medical school. The medical school application timeline below starts in January of the year you will apply to medical school.
January-May: Create or update your CV, begin conversations with letter writers and/or follow your school’s letter of evaluation process and familiarize yourself with the application service you will be using by reading online guides and manuals; also, research schools using Medical Schools Admissions Requirements (MSAR) on the AAMC website. Work on your medical school personal statement(s), application entries, and complete the application information as soon as systems open which is usually in early May.
June: Submit your AMCAS or AACOMAS* or TMDSAS*
*TMDSAS can be submitted earlier and AACOMAS later but June is a good target. Applying to medical school late can decrease your chances of acceptance significantly.
July: Once your application is verified, you will receive invitations to complete secondary applications and essays.
August: Aim for completed applications (primary, secondaries, LOEs). You may start to receive interview invitations as early as August.
September – March: Go on medical school interviews. Send updates to schools to boost chances for interview invitations as you have something new to report. Consider sending a letter of intent to your top choice medical school.
April: If holding multiple acceptances, choose one school by April 30th and communicate your decisions following each school’s protocols; you can remain on alternate lists; pay deposit to secure spot.
April – July: if on alternate lists, stay in touch with schools, write a letter of intent, work with advisors and your network to secure a seat at a medical school; complete all financial aid information and forms.
July/August: Matriculate into medical school!
It is not uncommon to be rejected from medical school the first time you apply and to become a re-applicant. The key to a successful reapplication is addressing weaknesses and showing growth and change in the next application. Sometimes, this can take a year or two! We advise students to “fix’ whatever they need to improve upon so applying to medical school multiple times does not become an issue.
While taking the MCAT once is ideal, taking it a second time and scoring at least three points higher shows improvement. Gaining additional experiences in your areas of interest is also critically important. Sometimes additional education is necessary to demonstrate readiness for the rigors of medical school. Sometimes, leaving the educational environment and showing responsibility in a job is the right step. It all begins with analyzing your application and learning from it.
MedEdits helps students get admitted to medical school and residency programs. Our consultants have years of experience serving on medical school admissions committees, and as faculty members at the top medical schools in the country.
Need Help With Your Application Materials?
Schedule a Free 15 Minute Consultation with a MedEdits expert.