What to do each month of your application year to ensure that your materials are in on time, of the highest quality, and help maximize your odds of getting accepted
One of the rare pieces of medical school admissions advice that all of us can agree on is that the sooner you submit your applications, the better. That way, you can take full advantage of the rolling admissions process and maximize your odds of getting in.
However, “apply early” doesn’t address the all-important questions of when you should aim to have each component of your application—personal statement, Work and Activities section, secondary essays—completed, or when you should collect required materials like recommendation letters.
Therefore, we developed a recommended timeline to help ensure that you not only submit your applications early, but that you do so with the highest quality and least anxiety. Our timeline does not include general advice like, “Save money for your applications” or “Keep working hard in classes and extracurricular activities” or “Attend medical school admissions fairs.” Rather, it exclusively focuses on when you should complete various pieces of your applications.
Of course, everyone’s situation is different, so it’s important to be flexible with your timeline. If you begin your application process sooner (for example, some of our students begin working on their personal statement as early as the November before their application year), you’ll have more time to tackle each component and can therefore spread your work out. You may even be able to pre-write a significant number of secondary applications. Conversely, if you start working on your applications later than we recommend, you’ll have to move things along more quickly.
The latter point is very important to keep in mind. Just because you may start your application process later than we recommend doesn’t mean all is lost; far from it! Just make sure to work diligently, and never submit less than your best work just to get things in “early” (more on what “early” and “late” mean in the FAQ section at the end of this article). At the end of the day, quality always trumps speed.
For specific application deadline dates, we encourage you to visit the AMCAS (MD schools), AACOMAS (DO schools), and TMDSAS (Texas public schools) websites. We also encourage you to learn more about MD vs. DO admissions.
Without further ado, here’s our recommended timeline:
January - April of Your Application Year
Register with your school’s pre-health advising committee (if one exists)
Request and obtain recommendation letters
(Suggested reading: Medical School Letters of Recommendation: The Definitive Guide)
(Suggested reading: How to Write Your Own Letter of Recommendation for Medical School)
Take your final MCAT
(Suggested reading: What MCAT score do you need to get into medical school?)
Consult MSAR to confirm each medical school’s specific requirements
(Suggested reading: Average GPA and MCAT score for every medical school)
Brainstorm, outline, and write your personal statement(s) (you’ll need separate, though mostly similar, versions for MD and DO schools)
(Suggested reading: Medical School Personal Statement: The Ultimate Guide)
Brainstorm, outline, and write your Work and Activities section
Brainstorm, outline, and write your TMDSAS essays (if you plan to apply to Texas public schools)
(Suggested reading: Texas Medical School Application: Overview and Sample Essays [TMDSAS])
Brainstorm, outline, and write your MD-PhD essay (if you plan to apply to MD-PhD programs)
(Suggested reading: MD-PhD Application: Overview, Tips, and Sample Essays)
May of Your Application Year
Submit AACOMAS and TMDSAS
Complete AMCAS demographic and academics sections
Release MCAT scores to various application systems
Remind recommendation letter writers to send in their work if they haven’t already
Finalize your personal statement and Work and Activities section by May 15
Order official transcripts from every college and university you have attended
(Suggested reading: AMCAS’s transcript FAQ page)
Register for the CASPer Test
(Suggested reading: How to Prepare for the CASPer Test to Get Into Medical School)
Begin to pre-write secondary application essays immediately after you finalize your primary applications
(Suggested reading: Tacking Medical School Secondary Application Essays)
(Suggested reading: Medical School Secondary Essay Prompts)
Finalize your school list
(Suggested reading: Where to Apply to Medical School to Maximize Admissions Odds)
(Suggested reading: MD vs. DO Admissions: What are the Differences?)
(Suggested reading: California Medical Schools: How to Get In)
(Suggested reading: Do Medical School Rankings Matter?)
June of Your Application Year
Submit AMCAS (as early as possible in the month, and without sacrificing quality)
Ensure that recommendation letters and transcripts have been received by AMCAS and other application systems (do not assume your application is complete unless you receive an email or other notice informing you that it is)
Continue pre-writing secondary application essays
July - August of Your Application Year
Submit secondary applications (as soon as possible after receiving them, and without sacrificing quality)
Begin to prepare for medical school admissions interviews
(Suggested reading: How to Ace Your Medical School Interviews)
September - March or April of Your Application Year
Continue preparing for interviews
Send letters of interest, with updates, prior to receiving interviews, if accepted and appropriate (i.e., if you have significant updates to share and at least a month has passed since submitting your secondary)
Send letters of interest/intent after completing interviews/getting placed on the wait list, if accepted and appropriate (a letter of interest communicates fit and interest to attend the school if admitted, whereas a letter of intent communicates fit and intention to attend if admitted)
(Suggested reading: How to Write a Great Medical School Letter of Intent or Letter of Interest)
October - May of Your Application Year
Review admission and financial aid offers
Negotiate financial aid offers
Attend second look and admit weekend activities
(Note: While most admissions decisions are sent out by the end of May, schools may admit students off the wait list or otherwise up until classes begin, but usually by the end of June)
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: When is the absolute last month I can take my MCAT and still be competitive for the current/upcoming admissions cycle?
Answer: As mentioned above, we recommend that you take your final MCAT no later than in April. That way, you can devote some of April, all of May, and all of June to essay writing. Of course, if you complete your MCAT earlier, you can begin writing earlier.
Nevertheless, you won’t be “late” if you take the MCAT in May because you’ll receive your score in June. However, taking the MCAT in May will translate to less time for pre-writing essays, meaning you’ll have to work under more pressure to ensure that applications get in at the right times. One way to mitigate this time pressure is to begin writing your essays earlier in the year and devoting March, April, and some of May to MCAT studying. Then, once you complete the MCAT, you can return to writing.
If you take the MCAT in June, you can still be competitive for medical school during that year’s admissions cycle. However, the time pressure to submit your applications in a timely manner will increase dramatically.
Question: When is my application considered late?
Before we answer the lateness question, we should mention the following two key points:
AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS do not send your primary application to the schools on your list until your essays, official transcript(s), and MCAT score(s) are in, and your transcript(s) has been verified (verification is completed in the order of applications and transcripts received and the length of time it takes—usually between one and four weeks—depends on how many applications are ahead of yours). You will not receive secondary applications from schools until they receive your primary application. (Note: Primary applications will be sent to schools even if all of your recommendation letters have not yet been submitted)
Medical schools will not comprehensively review your application until you submit your secondary. (A small minority of schools review your primaries to make a decision on whether to send you a secondary) For example, if you submit AMCAS on June 1 yet do not submit your secondary to Harvard Medical School until September 1, Harvard will begin reviewing your application sometime after September 1.
Many medical school applicants focus on submitting their primaries as early as possible after the application system allows, yet do not work on their secondaries with the same diligence. We strongly recommend that you begin working on your secondary essays immediately after you finish writing your primaries, and aim to submit all your secondaries as soon as possible, ideally no later than the end of August.