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Medical School Admissions Guide

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Becoming a medical doctor is no small feat. But whether you’re just beginning to research medical schools or you’re looking for a second opinion on information you already have, this guide will help you navigate your next steps.

Without a doubt, the competition to get into medical school is intense, and for good reason. We expect the highest levels of knowledge and support from our doctors, and should only want the most knowledgeable, focused, and committed students graduating from medical school. 

This guide breaks down everything you need to know to be prepared for your first year of medical school. From wrapping up your undergraduate studies to receiving your first letter of acceptance, this month-by-month approach guides you through two years of medical school preparation.

How To Prepare For Med School: A Month-By-Month Guide

The formal application process for medical school begins in May of your junior year, though many who have always known they wanted to end up in a health profession begin to prepare on Day 1 of their freshman year.

It’s okay if that isn’t you. While you want to be strategic about getting into med school, you can wait until one or two years before receiving your bachelor’s to start planning, providing you have focused on your studies during your freshman and sophomore years, made connections, sought out internship opportunities, and – most importantly – kept your GPA high. 

Your junior year is truly the time to buckle down on preparing for med school admission.

Check out the GPAs of those admitted to U.S. medical schools between 2018 and 2024.

August To December (Junior Year)

Health profession advisors advise students to first identify a target start date for medical school and then build their timeline back from that date. If you plan to enroll in med school immediately following undergrad, your two-year timeline starts now.

This is when you should start working with a health profession advisor (if you haven’t already) to build a plan and make sure you are on track to meet your goals. This includes making sure you have the requisite science and pre-med courses in your course schedule. If not, you may be able to squeeze them in during fall term, but it’s better to know that now versus later.

This is also the time to start studying for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT for short). The MCAT is offered almost each month of the year (January and March through September), and can be taken up to seven times. Pay attention to the timing of when colleges need your test results and consider testing early enough that you have time to re-test if needed. If you’re unsure when you should test, ask yourself these three questions.

January Through March (Junior Year)

If you haven’t already started studying for the MCAT, this is the time to start. MCAT scores are often the first factor reviewed by med schools. Keep in mind that med school applications typically open in May, and it takes at least 30 days for schools to receive your official scores, which means you’ll need to take the MCAT no later than March.

Mid-way through your junior year is also when you should evaluate your experiences in community research or clinical internships. You absolutely need one or the other (both is best) to demonstrate your exposure to the medical field, hands-on experience in the industry, and participation in extracurricular activities. If you can swing it during the school year, many clinics offer ongoing internship opportunities; otherwise, focus on opportunities available during the summer. Just keep in mind summer internships are more competitive because far more students have the same idea.

April through May (Junior Year)

Now is the time to reach out to the people you hope will write a letter of recommendation for you. I strongly recommend reaching out at least one month prior to when your letters are due, but two months is better. At a minimum, extend them the courtesy of asking if they’ll write a letter on your behalf before sharing their name with the official application servicer.

Like all graduate programs, medical schools typically ask for two or three letters of recommendation, and you should strive to obtain letters from a variety of recommenders. For example, you might reach out to a current or past science professor, a non-science professor, and a supervisor from your clinical internship. Overall, you want to identify the people who can best speak to your character, interests, and work ethic.

June Through August (Between Junior and Senior Year)

Once your application is submitted, it will be reviewed and verified by the university, a process that typically spans several weeks. If you aren’t already familiar with the med school application process, let me help you out: there are typically two application processes for each school.

The primary application is submitted through one of three online application systems – AMCAS, TMDSAS, or AACOMAS – which shares your transcripts, MCAT scores, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and other helpful information about your academic and extracurricular background. Schools use this information to run an initial screening of applicants.

If a school you applied to is interested in you, they will then send you a secondary application to fill out and return. Secondary applications include essay prompts on an array of topics, such as describing a recent leadership role you held or one of your greatest academic achievements. These questions are intended to reveal additional information about you that will be used to identify how well you match with the school’s program.

Which Application Service Is Right For You?

Most medical schools in the U.S. participate in the AMCAS but depending on which school(s) you apply to, you may want to be aware of the other existing services.

AMCAS

TMDSAS

AACOMAS

American Medical College Application Service

Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service

Best For

Those pursuing most allopathic medical programs.

Those pursuing medical, dental, and veterinary programs in Texas.

Those pursuing most osteopathic programs.

Deadlines

May 2: Service opens, begins accepting transcripts.

June 1: Begins accepting application submissions.

June 30: Sends 1st wave of processed applications to med schools.

August 1: Submission deadline for Early Decision programs.

May 1: Service opens.

August 1: Submission deadline for Early Decision programs.

September 29: 

Application submission deadline for All programs.

May 1: Service opens. All other deadlines vary by college; students are encouraged to check with each school they apply to.

Cost

  • $160 for 1st school
  • $38 for each additional school.
  • $150 flat fee for all schools, regardless of number applied to.
  • $195 for 1st school
  • $40 for each additional school.

September through May (Senior Year)

Regardless of which application service you use, be sure to submit your documents in a timely manner. This goes for returning any secondary applications, too, because you’ll start to hear back from schools about applicant interviews as early as fall term.

Schools will begin sharing their admissions decisions in late fall, and because many schools admit on a rolling basis, this process will continue into the following spring. Keep in mind that schools have many applications (and materials) to sort through, so patience is key during this time.

The interesting thing about medical school admissions is that you can accept more than one offer – but only until May, and the April 30th cutoff date for accepting an offer comes quickly. I repeat: Applicants must formally choose their school by April 30th. Once you officially accept an offer on AMCAS, all other offers will be withdrawn. 

After this point, schools will begin accepting students on their waitlists. If you already have your acceptance in-hand, now is the time to prepare for the start of your first year of med school. But don’t skip the celebration – it’s been a long and rigorous process, and it’s important that you take time to recognize your accomplishment. 

Medical School Admissions: Putting It All Together

As you see, preparing for medical school is easily a two-year affair. But by following this guide, breaking the process into bite-sized pieces, creating a timeline that works for you, and staying persistent throughout the process, you’ll be well on your way to your first year of med school.

To improve your chances of success, I recommend surrounding yourself with peers who have the same goals and limit distractions outside of your studies. And if you ever need extra motivation, consider these tips to help you survive the pre-med path. Then take a few minutes to move your body, drink cold water, and refocus on the path ahead. Best of luck!

Editor: Colin Graves

Reviewed by: Robert Farrington

The post Medical School Admissions Guide appeared first on The College Investor.

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