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10 Reasons to Apply Early to Med School

The early bird gets the worm. You snooze, you lose. Day late and a dollar short. There are a dozen different ways to say the same thing: don’t procrastinate! This tried and true advice holds up in almost everything, but it is especially important for MCAT prep and med school applications! 

Whether you’re going MD or DO, we’ve all heard the advice to submit applications early. In fact, a good chunk of students submit their application the same day that it opens. Keep on reading below to find out why applying early is so commonly suggested, and how it can help your application cycle go smoothly!

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10 Reasons to Apply Early To Med School

1. The AAMC Takes Forever

Now I know we all tend to give the AAMC a hard time every once in a while, but this one (mostly) isn’t their fault!

Between verifying grades and transcripts, double-checking volunteer hours, and the myriad of other things that go into your AMCAS, it can take between four and six weeks for the AAMC to review your application and check for errors. That means that the application you submitted in August actually isn’t getting seen by schools until September at the earliest.

2. Mistakes Happen

Remember when we mentioned above that the AAMC double-checks your application for errors? Yeah, if they find a mistake they reject your application, send it back, wait for you to fix and re-submit it. Then they re-review it. Those four to six weeks from above? Let’s go ahead and potentially double that.

Application mistakes could be the difference between a relatively early application that gets accepted and a late one that has to fight for its spot at a school.

3. Admissions Committees Are Made up of Regular People

There are no robes, and certainly no secret meetings. Often they’re instructors at the school you’re applying to who volunteer (or are volun-told) to sort through applications in their spare time.

While a good chunk of students tend to apply early, there’s always a massive flood of applicants at the tail end of the cycle. This means that if you’re one of the many applications trying to squeeze in at the end, your application might get lost in the flood and not receive as much time or attention from the person reviewing it!

4. Letters of Recommendation Take Time

If you’re applying early (May/June), you should’ve already been thinking about your letters of recommendation for the past few months (January to April) and potentially already asked a few professors to write one for you.

This is very, very considerate of your professors. Like the admissions committee members above, professors are people too. They remember the students who made an effort and asked for a letter early instead of the dozens of students who will ask them before the semester ends.

Applying later in the cycle means you might be prepping your application over summer break when it’s much more difficult to get letters from faculty.

5. Two words: Rolling Admissions

Let’s talk a little bit about the med schools themselves. Med school admissions are considered “rolling,” which means “first come, first served.”

The longer you wait to apply, the fewer seats are left at med schools, which means more selective admissions committees.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical: A med school has 100 open seats for new students.

  • Student 1 has a moderate to above average GPA, has decent MCAT scores, applies as early as possible, and is accepted.
  • Student 2 has the exact same stats/application as Student 1. However, now it’s late August and our hypothetical med school only has a handful of available seats for new students.
  • Suddenly, Student Y is being judged much more harshly and is in a much more competitive situation due to the high demand for fewer spots.
  • Student 2 doesn’t get into medical school.

Don’t be like Student 2. Apply early.

6. Secondary Applications Take Time

Did you know that after you finish hours of writing your AMCAS application, you get the privilege of writing a secondary application for each school? Wooo!

In all seriousness, there are two things to keep in mind. First, almost everyone receives a secondary application invite. Don’t get too excited and think you’re basically in. You still have to impress the admissions committee.

Secondly, if you apply early, you will get those invitations for secondary applications early too! This means you’ll have even more time to edit, revise, and rewrite those secondaries over and over until they’re ready to submit.

7. Two More Words: Rolling Interviews

Early applications mean early secondaries, which means early medical school interviews!

Similar to rolling admissions, interview slots for schools fill up quickly on a first-come, first-served basis. If you’re late to the party, then many of the best dates and times will be taken. You might have to settle with whatever is left. This means less flexibility for other things in your life like jobs or family, or going outside once in a while. Remember what that was like?

Plus, you need to budget in time to prep for interviews! This means going through common medical school interview questions like those in our free “Guide to the 50 Medical School Interview Questions You Should Prepare For.”

8. First Impressions Matter

Speaking of interviews, most will take place sometime between August and April. Assuming that you landed an interview even after submitting your application late, it’s important to remember that at this point the people conducting your interview have seen hundreds of students and will be comparing you against all of them. It’s hard to make a first impression if you’re not first! Get in there early, dazzle the admissions committee with your brilliance, and get your white coat!

9. Applying Late Is Stressful

This one is a little bit of a mental health/stress check. Not only are there fewer seats available later on in the cycle, but if you do snag an interview after applying late, it’ll most likely be under stressful conditions. This could be from non-ideal travel times, rushed personal statements, a rushed MCAT test date, and everything else that can cause your blood pressure to rise in high-pressure situations. Treat yourself with kindness, be proactive, and don’t put yourself through that!

10. You Might Have To Retake the MCAT

Applying early lets you plan for “worst-case scenarios.” If you plan on applying in May/June, that most likely means that you took the MCAT sometime between January and March (or even late in the previous year). This gives you the opportunity to retake the MCAT if things go wrong on test day and you aren’t happy with the score you receive.

If you’re applying late, chances are you spent the summer studying and taking the exam between July and September. If you don’t hit your score goal at that point, you’ll have to wait until January to retake the exam and possibly push your timelines back an entire year.

Medical School Application Timeline

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