The medical school admissions timeline — of all of the elements that you will have to work out as you prepare to apply and be accepted into medical school, none is more strategically important, and, at the same time, more insidiously subtle than the application timeline.
Why Is the Application Timeline Strategically Important?
The majority of your fellow students (and worthy competitors) are going to follow a “default” timeline that will be built on one or more faulty assumptions. Take a look at this crucial sentence:
- The AMCAS (primary) application deadline is October 1st.
Many students will look at this and figure out that, since the deadline for their medical school application is October 1st, they can build out the rest of their application process backwards from there — when to send in transcripts, when to ask for letters of rec, when to take the MCAT.
And it will all — ALL! — be wrong. Why? Because medical schools admissions committees (adcoms) don’t want to wait until October 1st to start evaluating applicants for the coming year. Adcoms are made up of very busy people with very full calendars and a huge workload, so anything that they can do to make things easier over the summer …well, wouldn’t you?
So that means that adcoms are highly motivated to start evaluating you as soon as your application — ahem, COMPLETED application — arrives at their doorstep. Said simply, this early phase of the admissions process is “first come, first served.”
You are very wise to submit your COMPLETED application as early as possible, so that adcoms can evaluate you early and offer you a delicious interview spot in August, possibly even in July.
Compare that to what the majority of students experience. Their applications come in to med schools late summer or early fall; they wait a long, long time to get any feedback at all from med schools, and if an interview invite comes, it’s December, January or even later. Not great. You can be smart about it and do better.
Why is it insidiously important?
I use the word ‘insidiously’ deliberately. Let’s define it so you know exactly what I’m talking about.
- Insidious – operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect.
Sure, when you first look at that Oct. 1st deadline, it might seem harmless to turn in your application close to that date. In fact, most pre-meds probably do not give it too much thought. After all, you’re used to delivering content on the deadline, and if you want to turn an assignment in early, well that means a day or two in advance of the deadline, right?
However, this has grave ramifications towards your chances of getting in.
The timeline is also subtle because all the different parts of your application feel completely separate, but they’re not — transcripts come from the registrar, but letters of rec come from individual professors — just these two items alone require different timing and you have to anticipate and plan so that they come together (on an admissions officer’s desk) at very nearly the same time.
Same goes for your personal statement and the rest of the AMCAS — there’s no single place that you go to get all the disparate parts of your complete medical school application all figured out. It’s disjointed and disconnected, so most students do it unevenly and just get it done at different times, and some have their apps completed early in summer, while it takes some students much longer.
It’s only when you picture the whole process as an accumulation of documents into one imaginary file folder on an admissions officer’s desk that you see what’s really happening. The admissions officer has a checklist s/he goes through to make sure your application is complete BEFORE s/he sends your application off to committee to be evaluated for interview or acceptance. Therefore, it crucial that you get ALL of the required elements submitted as early as possible — not in pieces, not one-by-one, but it ALL needs to be done.
The Ideal Timeline
The key is to get your application in as early as possible to put you first in line. You want to be among the first students whose app is reviewed by the admissions committee because they have greater latitude at this time of year. In other words, you are more likely to get in if you apply early.
You heard right: you are statistically more likely to receive a secondary application and interview if you apply early.
How to Apply As Early as Possible
Here is the run-down with all the important dates.
- June 1st is the first day you can submit. This means your AMCAS app (make sure your personal statement is in top shape), letters of rec, and transcript need to be done before June 1st. Start writing your essay as early as May 1st. Give recommenders 60 or 90 days to put together a letter of recommendation, which means you are asking for recommenders 90 days earlier than June 1st … end of February at the latest.
- Medical schools will not see all this info until around June 25th. However, they are informed as early as June 5th that you have applied to them, and they may send you your secondary application before they even see your primary.
- Complete your secondary application as quickly as possible; if you use this system, you’ll get a load of secondaries around June 15th; plan to return them in three days or so. You want the secondaries to be at the medical school at the same time (or before) they receive your AMCAS application from the AAMC. That way your file will be “complete” and you’ll be among the first people the adcoms review.
If you submit everything you need during the first week of June, you can expect to be invited for an interview as early as July and be accepted by November! What an amazing, early Christmas present!