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Early, early, early, EARLY, EARLY, EARLY, EARLY, EARLY !!!!!

One of the most important aspects of your application relates to timing. You can talk with many applicants who applied late because they took the MCAT late (August) or they just procrastinated their applications. You will hear loud and clear that they would recommend applying as early as possible. I strongly agree. Applying as early as possible, interviewing on the first day possible, etc. gives you a huge advantage.

As already mentioned, as time passes with a rolling admissions process, your chance of gaining admission decreases due to more and more spots being filled with students and more applicants still arriving to be considered. Besides this factor of increasing competition, there is also peace of mind when you have received an offer early. Let's consider each step of the application process in detail now, in light of timing.

Early MCAT (by May 1st)

You should take the MCAT by May 1st so you can get your scores back around June 1st , which is the first day you can submit your AMCAS medical school application. Taking the MCAT later during the summer will put you behind in the application process. Many applicants have already received interview invitations and some have already been extended offers as the admission cycle progresses. Most medical schools will not consider your application and do not offer interview invitations until your MCAT scores are received, so timing your MCAT is essential for timing your application.

Early Applications

Make sure you start working on your AMCAS (MD) and/or AACOMAS (DO) applications right after the MCAT is out of the way if you didn't have time for this before you took the MCAT. It takes a few months to get the applications put together, so you should ideally start about two months before June 1st to fill out the applications or at least gather the required information and start working on your personal statement. The online applications are made available online sometime around May 1st each year, although they cannot be submitted until June 1st at the earliest. It is recommended to submit your completed applications (AMCAS and AACOMAS) within the first week after you receive your MCAT scores. That would be roughly the week following June 1st. It is critical to submit your applications as early as possible.


Early Secondaries

Fill out all secondary applications received from the medical schools immediately and try to return them within less than 7 days, ideally within 2 days along with the money and other information they require you to submit. Turn these around as fast as possible. Some secondaries are more involved than others and all cost money. Don't procrastinate. To obtain early interviews, turning these around quickly is a must!

Early Interviews

If you have done the previous 3 steps very speedily (April MCAT, early application, fast turn-around of secondaries), you will have interview invitations very early and will have the opportunity to interview during the first few weeks of the interview cycle, maybe the first week or even the first day interviews begin. Try to pick the earliest day for interviewing the school offers. Ideally, you want the first day available on their schedule to interview.

Early Offers

Most medical schools extend offers within 2-3 weeks. However, the notification time varies greatly from school to school.
For example, Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine took 3-4 days in the 2005 admissions cycle. Medical College of Wisconsin took about 10 days. University of Utah and University of Washington took up to 4-6 months (March notification).

Why the hurry?

You should know the answer to this question by now. If not, re-read this section again from the beginning! Do yourself a favor and do things early. It's the one factor of your application you have complete control over - and it really pays off!

I know applicants who either took the MCAT late, in August, or took way too long submitting their applications, secondaries, etc. They were still interviewing well into March and did not hear back until the end of the entire interview season. On the other hand, some students have already received multiple offers by Oct. 15th. Also, as already explained, less spots are available as the medical schools tend to have rolling admissions. At the beginning, really all of the spots are free and the schools try to fill them more aggressively. So, people who are equally qualified have less of a chance to get in during January through April than if they had interviewed during October (or earlier if possible).

Waiting Around

I know applicants who either took the August MCAT or took way too long submitting their applications, secondaries, etc. They were still interviewing well into March and did not hear back until the end of the entire interview season (I had 3 offers by Oct. 15th). Also, as already explained, less spots are available as the medical schools tend to have rolling admissions. At the beginning, really all of the spots are free and the schools try to fill them more aggressively. So, people who are equally qualified have less of a chance to get in during January through April than if they had interviewed during October (or earlier if possible).

"Early Decision Program" (EDP)

Don't confuse the "Early Decision Program" program with "applying early" - this is a separate admissions program and not really part of the regular admission process. Not all medical schools offer the Early Admissions Program.

So, this is how it works:
You can only apply to ONE medical school's early decision program. The medical school has to make a decision by October 1st and must notify you of acceptance or rejection. If you are accepted to the school, you are obligated to attend that particular medical school and cannot participate in the regular application cycle at any other medical schools for that application cycle. So, you have to be sure the medical school you apply to with this program is really the school you want to attend since there is no changing your mind later.

There are also some huge draw-backs to the early decision program, as you might have already guessed, since you can only apply to ONE medical school. If you are not accepted, you have wasted valuable time to get your application submitted to the other medical schools.

You cannot start applying to other medical schools until you have received a rejection letter from your EDP school by October 1st. That's 2 - 3 months late in the application cycle! You are essentially in the same spot as if you had taken the MCAT late.

Note that if you were rejected during the Early Decision Program, you can still apply to the same medical school through the regular admissions process again - and you will be considered for regular admission independently from the EDP decision. You may even get a spot in the class that way if you were rejected for EDP admission.

The early decision program can be useful for very strong (exceptional) applicants or for candidates who have specifically been encouraged by the school to compete for early admissions. Generally speaking, if you are a strong enough applicant for a spot through the Early Admission Program, you will also get a spot in the class through the regular process.

Drawbacks in summary:
Personally, I think the Early Decision Program only limits your choices and is not very useful. Especially if you apply early (not through the Early Decision Program), you can also get offers by the middle of October. Also, the timing issue is a HUGE disadvantage - putting you way behind in the admission process if you are rejected.

You can check the medical school statistics section for the medical schools which offer the EDP.


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