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medical school application process and timeline

Discover the ideal medical school application timeline for 2020 – 2021 and how to stand out when applying to medical school.

We understand that applying to medical school and figuring out an ideal medical school application timeline are daunting tasks. The start of the process can be overwhelming. However, if you know everything you need to accomplish such as completing medical school requirements, taking the MCAT, and requesting medical school letters of recommendation, you can create a timeline for completing those tasks and make the process much more manageable. Whether you are applying through AMCAS, AACOMAS, or TMDSAS, we will answer your most pressing questions about applying to medical school so your medical school admissions process will be a success. We will also propose two common medical school application timelines. Based on my experience as a physician, medical school faculty and admission member, and my more than 20 years of experience in medical school admissions, I will outline what you need to do to be a success!

Letters of Recommendation: Medical School Admissions Consulting

Premedical Timeline Without a Gap Year

If you are planning to applying to medical school at the end of your junior year of college, this is a sample medical school application timeline to follow so you stay on track!

Read: Medical School Requirements

Year 1:

  • Fall/Spring: Pursue medically related meaningful activities that won’t distract from academic focus
  • Fall: Chemistry 1, Biology 1, Meet with premed advisor
  • Spring: Chemistry 2, Biology 2
  • Summer: Research, Clinical Exposure, Community Service

Year 2: 

  • Fall/Spring: Pursue medically related meaningful activities that won’t distract from academic focus.
  • Fall: Organic Chemistry 1, Psychology, Meet with premed advisor
  • Spring: Organic Chemistry 2, Sociology
  • Summer: Summer: Research, Clinical Exposure, Community Service, consider starting MCAT prep

Year 3 (Read Medical School Application Timeline 2020 – 2021 below): 

  • Fall/Spring: Pursue medically related meaningful activities that won’t distract from academic focus. Meet with premed advisor.
  • Fall: Physics 1, Biochemistry, Start MCAT Prep.
  • Learn about the different application systems – AMCAS, AACOMAS, TMDSAS.
  • Winter: Start working on personal statement, work and activity write ups
  • Spring: Physics 2, MCAT Prep, Request letters of reference
  • By May/June: Take MCAT
  • June: Submit medical school applications.
  • Summer: Research, Clinical Exposure, Community Service

Year 4:

  • Fall/Spring: Pursue medically related meaningful activities that won’t distract from academic focus. Meet with premed advisor
  • Fall: Upper level science courses, medical school interviews
  • Spring: Upper level science courses, decide where to go to medical school
  • Summer: Have FUN!!!!

START MEDICAL SCHOOL!

Premedical Timeline With a Gap Year

An increasingly popular option among premedical students is to apply to medical school at the end of the senior year of college and take one gap year during the application year itself. For many students, this option allows for more flexibility, greater success, and less stress in the medical school application process.

Read: Medical School Requirements

Year 1:

  • Fall/Spring: Pursue medically related meaningful activities that won’t distract from academic focus
  • Fall: Chemistry 1, Biology 1, Meet with premed advisor
  • Spring: Chemistry 2, Biology 2
  • Summer: Research, Clinical Exposure, Community Service

Year 2: 

  • Fall/Spring: Pursue medically related meaningful activities that won’t distract from academic focus
  • Fall: Organic Chemistry 1, Psychology, Meet with premed advisor.
  • Spring: Organic Chemistry 2, Sociology
  • Summer: Summer: Research, Clinical Exposure, Community Service, consider starting MCAT prep

Year 3:

  • Fall/Spring: Pursue medically related meaningful activities that won’t distract from academic focus
  • Fall: Physics 1, Biochemistry, Start MCAT Prep, Meet with premed advisor
  • Spring: Physics 2, MCAT Prep
  • Summer: Research, Clinical Exposure, Community Service

Year 4 (Read Medical School Application Timeline 2020-2021 below):

  • Fall/Spring: Pursue medically related meaningful activities that won’t distract from academic focus. Meet with premed advisor
  • Fall: Upper level science courses, MCAT prep, start exploring gap year options.
  • Learn about the different application systems – AMCAS, AACOMAS, TMDSAS.
  • Winter/Spring: Request letters of reference
  • By May/June: Take MCAT
  • Winter: Start working on personal statement, application entry write ups
  • Spring: Upper level science courses, decide on gap year experience, complete medical school applications
  • June: Apply to medical school

Year 5:

  • Gap year medically-related experience or academic enhancement if needed
  • Interview for medical school
  • Start medical school!

Getting into a medical school has never been more competitive. Let the experts at MedEdits help you with your medical school application materials. We’ve worked with more than 5,000 students and 94% have been admitted to medical school.

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Best Medical School Application Timeline 2020-2021

Below is a suggested medical school application timeline for applying to medical school in 2020-2021. The medical school application timeline below starts in January – May. I will then discuss all of the application systems and components.

Link: The MedEdits Guide to Medical School Admissions by Jessica Freedman, M.D.

January-May 2020:

  • Create or update your CV. Most of your letter writers will ask for a copy so you want to make sure you have one ready to go!

Read: Medical School Letter of Recommendation: The Ultimate Guide

  • Make an appointment with your premed office or advisor.
  • Begin conversations with letter writers and/or follow your school’s letter of evaluation process.
  • Familiarize yourself with the application service you will be using (AMCAS, AACOMAS, or TMDSAS) 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 and biographical information as soon as systems open in early May.

Read: 7 Steps to Write a Great Medical School Personal Statement

Read: AMCAS Activity and Most Meaningful Entries

Read: Applying to medical schools in Texas? TMDSAS 2020-2021 Guide

Read: DO vs MD: Which is Better and the Biggest Differences

  • Make sure you request transcripts as soon as application systems open.
  • Request that letters of reference are submitted early.
  • If you have time, start prewriting secondary essays although this is not necessary to be successful in the process.

Read: How To: The Medical School Secondary Application

  • Finalize essays and application entries for AMCAS, AACOMAS and TMDAS.
  • Create your medical school school list and determine for which schools you are most competitive.

Read: Where to Apply to Medical School & Easiest Medical Schools to get Into

Read: Medical School Admissions Statistics and Acceptance Rates

May 2020:

  • Submit your AACOMAS* or TMDSAS* application(s)
  • Release MCAT scores.
  • Nudge letter writers to submit letters of reference, if necessary.
  • Send in transcript request forms if not done already.
  • Finalize AMCAS personal statement and work and activities entries.
  • Finalize medical school list.

June 2020:

  • Submit your AMCAS application.
  • Take your final MCAT by June.
  • Register for CASPer.
  • Start working on secondary essays as soon as you submit your primary application(s).
  • Check to make sure transcripts and letters of reference have been received.

*TMDSAS  and AACOMAS can be submitted in May. AMCAS can be submitted in early June. Submitting all of your applications in early June is a good goal. Submitting your application as early as possible is a crucial part of your success since medical school interviews are offering on a rolling basis.Applying to medical school late can decrease your chances of acceptance significantly.

Read: The Medical School Personal Statement Definitive Guide

Read: AMCAS Work and Activities: The Ultimate Guide

July 2020:

  • Once your application is verified, you will receive invitations to complete secondary applications and essays.
  • Complete secondary essays.
  • Start preparing for medical school interviews.

August 2020:

  • You may start to receive medical school interview invitations as early as August.
  • Continue working on secondary essays.
  • Continue preparing for medical school interviews.

Link: The MedEdits Guide to The Medical School Interview by Jessica Freedman, M.D.

Read: The Medical School Interview Ultimate Guide

Read: The Medical School MMI Interview

September 2020:

  • Aim to complete all applications (primary, secondaries, letters of recommendation) by Labor Day.

October 15th, 2020:

  • For medical schools with rolling admissions, this is the earliest date you can receive acceptances.
  • Consider sending any updates you might have to medical schools.

September 2020 – March 2021:

  • 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 if you are waitlisted.

Read: Medical School Letters of Intent Tips

February 2021:

  • If you don’t have any medical school acceptances by February, start strategizing for a reapplication.

March 2021:

  • For medical schools without rolling admissions, acceptances are extended in March.

April 2021:

  • 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 2021:

  • If on alternate or wait 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.
  • Attend second look visits.

July/August 2021:

  • Matriculate into medical school!

Medical School Application Dates and Deadlines 2020-2021

AMCAS Application 2020-2021 Dates and Deadlines

  • May 4th, 2020: AMCAS opens at 9:30 AM
  • May 28th, 2020: AMCAS Application open for submission at 9:30 AM
  • June 26th, 2020: Processed AMCAS Applications sent to medical schools

AACOMAS Application 2020-2021 Dates and Deadlines

  • Dates for 2020- 2021 have not yet been released.

TMDSAS Application 2020-2021 Dates and Deadlines

  • May 1st, 2020: TMDSAS opens and application can be submitted.
  • October 1st, 2020: TMDSAS application deadline

Frequently Asked Questions

If I am applying in 2020-2021, what is the latest possible date I can take the MCAT?

I always answer questions like this based on the ideal scenario and then offer options. In the ideal world, it is best if you take your MCAT or MCAT reattempt by April 25th with a score release date of May 27th. I suggest this because this would then offer you the entire month of May to work on your medical school application(s) and it would allow you to make create a school list by the time AMCAS opens based on what you earn on the MCAT.

However, we work with many successful applicants who take the MCAT in June of the year they apply to medical school. So, the latest date I would recommend would be June 20th, 2020 with an MCAT score release date of June 21st. However, if you take the MCAT in June, please do your best to work on your application materials in May so you can submit your application in early May (for TMDSAS and AACOMAS) and early June (for AMCAS). As soon as you take your MCAT, start working on secondary essays.

In other words, taking the MCAT in May or June will put a little more pressure on your to complete your application materials in a timely fashion, but, assuming you do well, a May or June test date will have no negative impact on your admissions chances.

When do I apply to medical school?

You will submit your application to medical schools in May or June the year before you actually matriculate. For example, if you plan to start medical school in August of 2023 you will submit your applications in May of 2022. 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 timeline. 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.

Many applicants are now applying to medical school at the end of senior year of college or later simply because it is challenging to fit in all you have to do by the end of your junior year of college. It is important to stay organized throughout the application process and to understand the general medical school application timeline.  Ideally, students should map out an application to medical school timeline to set goals and stay on track.

What are medical school course prerequisites?

So, what are the medical school prerequisites? On the surface, this seems like a pretty straight forward question. However, some medical school admissions committees no longer require absolute prerequisite courses and are instead requiring students to be “competent” in certain academic disciplines such as biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, mathematics, humanities, and social and behavioral sciences . Since the majority of medical schools in the United States still require absolute prerequisites, we advise students take “traditional” premedical prerequisites which will satisfy both types of medical schools – those that have “competency-based” admissions criteria and those that have required prerequisite courses.

The following are required prerequisite courses for most medical schools in the United States and we also recommend taking these courses before taking the MCAT:

  • General Chemistry 1 (with lab)
  • General Chemistry 2 (with lab)
  • Organic Chemistry 1 (with lab)
  • Organic Chemistry 2 (with lab)
  • Biology 1 (with lab)
  • Biology 2 (with lab)
  • Physics 1 (with lab)
  • Physics 2 (with lab)

The following courses are required prerequisites by some medical schools:

  • Math (2 semesters)
  • English (2 semesters)
  • *Psychology
  • *Sociology
  • *Biochemistry

*Psychology, sociology and biochemistry are all covered on the MCAT exam so we recommend taking these courses before taking the MCAT.

Also recommended by MedEdits:

Now that we’ve covered what you are required to take from an academic standpoint, it’s important to understand what else will prepare you for medical school admissions process and position you to be the strongest applicant.

Upper level science classes

Medical schools value expertise in the sciences and earning great grades in upper level science classes will prove your ability to excel in a rigorous scientifically-based curriculum.
To find our the official requirements for each medical school, consult the Medical School Admission Requirements from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

What GPA do I need to get in to medical school?

The target GPA required for medical school is a 3.5 or higher overall with highest grades in math and science courses and an upward trend in college. If you underperform while in college, consider academic enhancement after graduating.

The Ultimate Guide Getting into Medical School ebook

What MCAT do I need for medical school?

As you likely know, every med school applicants needs a competitive MCAT score is necessary for medical school admissions. The minimum target score one needs to be competitive for medical school is a 510. However, a 516 or higher will put you in a much more competitive position. For the most competitive medical schools, a 518 or higher is ideal.

What extracurricular activities do I need to apply to medical school?

Regardless of the extracurricular activities you pursue, we recommend making an impact and contribution in whatever is most important to you. The majority of successful applicants have experience in the following:

1) Research

Whether you have basic science or clinical research, this is an important component of any medical school application. While some applicants do valuable research at a university of medical school over one to three years, others complete summer programs at prestigious institutions.

2) Clinical Exposure

The vast majority of medical school applicants have doctor shadowing or EMT experience. Others have volunteered in a clinical setting (free clinic or hospice) while others have worked as scribes or medical assistants.

3) Community Service

Almost all medical school applicant have community service and this can be in a variety of setting whether that is tutoring, running health fairs, or volunteering in a clinical setting. Again, what you do is less important than the contributions you make through your involvement.

4) Teaching

As a doctor, you will always be teaching whether that be your patients, staff, medical students or residents. While not considered a prerequisite for our students, it’s great to have some teaching or tutoring experience in your background when applying to medical school.

5) Leadership

Rather than seek out experiences that satisfy the “leadership” category, we encourage students to take on leadership opportunities within meaningful experiences. It is best when leadership experiences evolve organically as a natural progression of a specific interest, deep involvement, and demonstrated commitment of an existing experience. Maybe you become a supervising teacher’s assistant in your senior year or take on more responsibility at the lab in which you work. What is key is not to take on leadership roles simply for the purposes of doing so.

6) Other distinguishing interests

Explore your other interests and do something that you enjoy. These outside interests don’t have to be related to medicine, either! Do you have a particular interest in dance, sports, cooking, public health, art history or global health? Medical schools love to have diverse classes full of interesting people.

You ask, “how in the world will I fit all of these activities in and do well in my courses?” With planning, consideration and flexibility, you can, and will, accomplish everything that is necessary to get in to medical school.

RELATED ARTICLE: Medical School Requirements: The Ultimate Guide

What letters of recommendation do I need when applying to medical school?

Your most important letters of recommendation will come from professors who know you well. We recommend at least two science letters (three is ideal). If you have done research, a letter from your principal investigator should be a goal. One letter from a liberal arts professor will also round out your application.

RELATED ARTICLE: Medical School Letter of Recommendation: The Ultimate Guide

Can you summarize everything I need to accomplish in my premed years?

  • 
Meet with your premed advisor regularly. Find out the specific recommended premed courses and medically related opportunities at your school and the surrounding community. You want him or her to be your advocate, to know who you are, and to advise you.
  • Keep in mind academic success is your TOP priority above everything else. No one will even read about what you have done if your “metrics” (GPA and MCAT) don’t meet thresholds.
  • 
Keep a journal. Write down interesting observations, insights, and stories about your experiences. This will all be very useful when it is time to write your medical school personal statement, application, and secondary essays.
  • Nurture relationships with professors, principal investigators, and leaders at your college/university. You will need these people as letter writers and advocates.
  • 
Explore research, medically-related, community service/volunteer, teaching, and leadership opportunities. Try to stay away from ‘filler’ activities through which you won’t learn much.
  • 
Don’t be discouraged by a poor grade, less than stellar MCAT score or other disappointment. Instead, figure out what you need to do to improve your candidacy and recover.
  • Explore other interests unrelated to medicine.
  • Remain positive! Like a career in medicine, applying to medical school requires a “marathon” mentality. It’s not a sprint.

What are the AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS primary applications?

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. Like the college application service, AMCAS does offer an early decision option for medical school admissions, but, we rarely recommend this for students.

Application Types

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.


Why is the medical school personal statement so important?

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).

What are medical school secondary applications?

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.

Secondary Essays

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.

What are medical school interviews like?

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.

What Should I Wear for a Medical School Interview?

Interview Attire

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!

What if I am not accepted to 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.

About MedEdits

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.

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