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Should I Apply Early to Medical School?

  • by Fehbe Meza
  • May 29, 2020
  • MCAT Blog, Med School Admissions

Written By: Christine Crispen, medical school admissions consultant and a member of the Blueprint MCAT Pre-Med Advisory Council

Note: This article discusses what it means to submit your AMCAS application early, not applying Early Admission to schools.

Before I answer the question of applying early to medical school, let me give you an overview of the application process from the time you submit until the application reaches the schools so the context of early or late makes sense.

When you apply, you will need your transcripts, activities, personal statement, and all demographic information. Once you submit your application, it takes approximately four to six weeks to verify. In a non-COVID application cycle, AMCAS would transmit your application to the medical schools at the end of June. However, in this cycle, they are not transmitting applications until two weeks later, July 10. At that point, the schools begin their review/secondary invitation process.

Medical school applicants always believe they have to hit the submit button on their application on the day AMCAS opens for submission or they will never be accepted. They believe that applying to medical school early is the only way for their application to be reviewed. However, what does “early” really mean?

Applying early to medical school generally means submitting your application between the end of May and the end of June. This cycle, you could add two weeks and still be considered early if you apply in early July. Remember, the AMCAS verification turn around is four to six weeks, so that means the schools would have your application at earliest on July 10 and latest by mid-August. This is a great timeline to apply.

Should you apply to medical school early?

In general, yes, you should apply as soon as possible. In general, when you apply early, all of the components of your application should be ready: grades, MCAT test scheduled, if not taken, activities, personal statement, and letters of recommendation. NOW is the time to request letters of recommendation and give them a deadline of June 30. NOW is the time to request official transcripts sent to AMCAS and yourself. NOW is the time to prepare your activities and personal statement and get your readers/editors lined up.

What is considered applying late and what happens if you do?

In my opinion, a very late application is submitted to AMCAS in mid-August or later; this rarely sees positive results. By the time mid-August rolls around, if you’re just submitting your application to AMCAS, you still have to factor in four to six weeks of verification, which means the schools won’t receive it until mid-late September.

This timing is so detrimental because, by then, many interview invitations have gone out. Once the schools receive your application, they will scan and/or automatically issue secondary invitations with a general two-week turnaround. Once all application parts are available in AMCAS—including secondaries—the schools will begin reviewing for interview selections.

Interview season runs somewhere between August and March/April. If your application doesn’t reach the school until September, you’ve missed the first wave of actual interviews and probably just as many interview spots. The later you apply, the harder it becomes to earn a coveted interview spot.

When should I take the MCAT to apply to medical school?

Many students wonder when is the latest they can take the MCAT and apply. We highly suggest to prep for the MCAT before you apply. Blueprint Prep offers MCAT online course prep and we have one-on-one MCAT tutors that work directly with you and your schedule. This year, AMCAS is releasing MCAT scores two weeks after the test date for exams taken June-August 1; the normal turnaround time is four weeks. What this means is that if you get a test date during this time frame, you should be fine. The best time to take your exam would is by August 1. The schools will have your scores by mid-August and they can proceed to make decisions regarding your application. However, in non-COVID times, I would never suggest anyone take the MCAT this late.

To summarize, applying the first day the application is open is not necessary; however, applying at the end of the cycle is strongly not recommended either. July is a safe month to apply. The best advice I can give you is to have a complete and well-written application and don’t worry about applying on opening day if you still have work to do to make it perfect.

Good luck to all of you as you embark on this journey!

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