Return to MCAT® Blog Homepage

A Simple Medical School Admissions Timeline

It’s no secret that the journey to medical school is long. Aside from internships, volunteering, and other extracurriculars in the medical field, you also have to make sure you take the required and recommended courses in college or jump into the pre-med track. Then there’s a little exam called the MCAT that’s totally a walk-in-the-park (with the right MCAT prep).

All this culminates in actually applying to medical school, a feat that doesn’t have universal deadlines, but rather better times than others to apply. Unlike applying to undergrad, some people want help applying to med school because it can be a confusing process filled with multiple applications and interviews. Below is a general overview of the medical school admission process and what you should be doing month by month.

The Primary and Secondary Applications

Before we jump into the medical school admissions timeline, it’s important to look at the two applications you will need to complete at a minimum. The primary application is the first one you will submit between June and December of your application year. For example, if you’re applying to begin school in Fall 2020, then the latest you should apply is December 2019. 

Most medical schools in the U.S. use the American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®), which is the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) medical school application processing service, and it allows you to apply to multiple medical schools with one primary application. Components of the application include official transcripts/GPA, resume of activities, personal statement, letters of evaluation (sent by your referrers or undergraduate institution), and questions regarding any past criminal activity. If you’re applying to a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) school, you would use the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS)

The secondary application will be sent to you by the schools you applied to and, in most cases, whether they reviewed your primary app or not. These applications are unique to the individual school you received it from and will generally ask you to explain why you’re interested in their school/program, amongst other questions. After you’ve submitted your secondary applications, the schools decide if they want to invite you to interview, and then they will make their final admissions decisions.

Your Application Year

January-March

1. Start prepping for the MCAT. In order to do well on the MCAT, you’ll need to dedicate time to studying for it every day for a few months. If you’d rather prep on your own, a self-paced online MCAT course will work for you. If you need more specialized guidance (especially if you’re retaking the MCAT), a private MCAT tutor could help you get to your goal score! Regardless, no MCAT study schedule is complete without taking scheduled practice MCAT exams.

2. Take the MCAT, if you haven’t already. It’s best to take the MCAT at the beginning of the year (no later than June) to get your scores in time unless you took it last year and are using those scores.

3. Check the Medical School Admission Requirement (for future MDs) or the College Information Book (for future DOs) to confirm you’ve completed or are on track to complete all your course requirements.

4. Start requesting letters of recommendation.

5. Begin brainstorming and writing personal statements and other primary application essays.

Sign up to get expert tips and exclusive invites to free MCAT classes and medical school admissions workshops!

April-June

1. AMCAS officially opens up in May so you can begin working on primary applications, but you cannot submit them until the beginning of June or late May.

2. TMDSAS (Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service) and AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service) also open the first week of May and can be completed as soon as they are available.

3. Order your official transcripts from every college and university you’ve attended and submit to your application service(s).

4. Release MCAT scores to various application systems.

5. Confirm deadlines for schools, AMCAS, TMDSAS, and AACOMAS.

6. Start sending letters of recommendation, or remind the people you’ve asked.

7. Keep a diligent eye on your inbox and watch out for emails that confirm your submitted apps are complete or incomplete. Fix any errors or submit missing items as soon as you can.

8. Register for and take the Casper test. The Casper (Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) test is a situational judgment test (SJT) that aims to measure traits like professionalism, ethics, communication, and empathy. The Casper is administered by Altus Assessments, which also manages Duet, a questionnaire that helps gauge how well you fit with the values of medical schools. Some medical schools require both and your application won’t be considered complete without it.

9. Take or at least schedule your AAMC PREview Assessment. The PREview Assessment tests qualities that go beyond academic readiness, such as service orientation, teamwork, resilience, and reliability. This remote test opens in March and has test dates through October. Medical schools may choose to utilize the PREview Assessment; check your school’s requirements to find out whether it’s mandatory for you.

July-August

1. Once you’ve submitted your primary applications, begin researching and prewriting the questions found on your secondary applications. Complete and send secondary apps as soon as you receive them.

2. AMCAS notifies applicants of verified primary applications or problems with verification.

3. If you haven’t submitted your primary application, do so now.

4. Start checking your application status on the websites of medical schools you applied to.

The End of Your Application Year-The Begining of Your Matriculation Year

September-March

1. Start preparing for interviews you have been invited to. Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to med school interviews. Conduct mock interviews alone, or with a friend and begin crafting genuine answers to common interview questions.

2. Send update letters prior to receiving interviews, if accepted and appropriate.

3. Continue completing and submitting secondary applications.

4. Continue checking your application status on the medical schools’ websites.

5. Admissions decisions start rolling out after mid-October for MD applicants. DO applicants may have already heard back.

6. Send update letters and letters of intent/interest after completing interviews/getting placed on the waitlist, if accepted and appropriate.

7. Review admissions and financial aid decisions. Negotiate financial aid packages.

8. Attend second look and admit weekend activities.

April

1. You must tell AMCAS of your decision to attend a school you’ve been offered admission to by April 30.

Because most medical schools have rolling admissions, it’s always better to apply sooner rather than later. Organization and preparation are key to a successful and (moderately) unstressful application season. The medical school admissions process is undoubtedly complicated. If you’re unsure where to start, be it at the MCAT prep level or once you think you’re ready to apply to med school, Blueprint MCAT can guide you every step of the way.

MCAT is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which is not affiliated with Blueprint.