To Delay Or Not Delay: Submitting Med School Applications

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • It is really hard to have a perfect medical school application. There is so much that goes into it (grades, MCAT scores, and extracurriculars, to name a few), so almost all students have a “weakness” in their application. I once had a prospective student say that applying to medical school felt like a dream where you show up to school on the first day with everything ready to go: new backpack, fresh collared shirt, and all the supplies you need.except you forgot to wear pants and it’s the only thing anyone notices.

    So the question becomes “should I delay submitting my med school application to improve a weakness?”

    The answer, save very few exceptions, is no!

    The overwhelming majority of medical schools are on a rolling admissions process, meaning acceptances are handed out to qualified applicants on a first come first serve basis. I’ve seen the admissions committee at my medical school reject some extremely qualified applicants because the class was already full.

    Also, keep in mind that your application will still need to be verified by the AMCAS. If you submit early, the process may only take a week or so. However, as the cycle rolls on, the queue becomes backlogged and verification can take up to a month. This means even a slight delay in submitting your application can turn into a big one, so even if that second MCAT score comes back as a 42, if the class is full you are out of luck.

    Submit your application as early as possible, but keep these things in mind as you frantically try to put on your pants (so to speak):

    1. Admissions committees rarely “reject” an applicant the first time they review an application. Early in the cycle, as they sift through applications, the ones that aren’t given interviews to go back in the pool. That means even if your first MCAT score is poor, your application likely won’t be rejected until that second one comes back.
    2. When you do get your second set of scores back or that great semester of summer class grades, send a letter to the admissions committee letting them know! This will remind them of your application and may inspire them to take a second look at your new and improved application.
    3. If you are currently enrolled in coursework to improve your grades or signed up for a second pass of the MCAT, make sure you include that on your application! Committee members will tend to give you the benefit of the doubt and hold off on passing judgement knowing that you have the chance to improve.
    4. The AMCAS also has an open-response section in which you can describe any holes in your application.  If you had a poor semester or a low MCAT and have a good reason why, explain it, and then explain what you are doing to fix it!

    Ultimately, a late application will hurt your chances at an interview more than a less-than-ideal score.  Submit your application early and follow the above steps to minimize its effect.

    In short, this is one of the few instances in your life where it is better to show up to school with no pants on then not show up at all.

    If you’re looking for help with your med school application, contact us today.