Timing: The Number One Downfall

If I could only give one single tip to every pre-med, it would be: Submit your application the day it becomes available for submission. Timing is one of my main pillars of advice because it can provide the leg-up for an average applicant or can prove the downfall of the ideal applicant. I have advised many students who showed me their personal statements and their scores which were frankly better than mine, but who hadn’t been accepted to a single school. After reviewing each aspect of their application (and assessing their personal skills), their only problem: they turned in the application in July rather than early June.

AMCAS (Allopathic/MD Schools) Timing:

AMCAS application available: ~May 1st

AMCAS open for submission: ~June 1st

Applications delivered to Allopathic Medical schools: ~July 1st

NOTE: TMDSAS for Texas schools is open for submission May 1st and they heavily favor early applicants

1. Track your progress as soon as you become a pre-med (or as soon as you can thereafter) with a spreadsheet, journal, etc. Do this even if you’re “late” to the game

2. Begin MCAT prep. There are some different timing options here, but generally, most students start within September-December and study up until test day

3. Start picking schools through MSAR. Use GPA, projected MCAT score, location, personal ties, cost, and reputation to make an initial list of around 30. You’ll adjust later.

4. Begin drafting Personal Statement. Start your first draft between January-March“Final” draft by the first week of MayMore time and more drafts, the better

5. Activities section. Start drafting around March-AprilFinish mid-May

Take MCAT. The latest date advised is June 1st. Your score will update automatically

6. Submit application June 1st. The latest date advised (historically) is around June 4th. AMCAS usually takes around 2 weeks to review early applications your information and process your application. If you submit later than the 4th, your application may take 4-8 weeks to processSchools are unable to see your application until it is processed. If you submitted June 7th and it takes AMCAS 4 weeks to process your application, the medical schools won’t see your application until July 7th. By July 7th, every school has thousands of applications already in line for review before yours. Every day that goes by, hundreds of other applicants are being reviewed and considered fully before you.

7. Submit your letters of recommendation to AMCAS. Starting ~May 1st (when application opens)You can submit your Primary Application before you have all your letters uploadedSchools only look at your letters after you’ve submitted a secondary application (unless the school doesn’t require a secondary, obviously)Get your primary application in no matter what by June 1st. You can submit your letters afterward, as long as it’s before your secondary application goes in

8. Start preparing secondary essays. During June, you’ll have submitted your application, but a wave of secondary essays will flood into your inbox around July 1st-7th. Typically, secondary essays don’t change that much over the years, so use June to get ahead and start writing impressive drafts of secondary essaysGoogle “medical school secondary essay prompts”

9. Submit secondary essays starting the 1st week of July. For your favorite schools, a turn-around time from receiving a secondary invite to submitting the application should be around 3-7 days. For other schools, before 10-14 days is a good goal. The school will usually tell you its preference. The earlier, the better. Balance speed with essay quality.

10. Get interview invites. If you followed the application timeline as outlined above, you’ll probably start getting invites August-October

11. Go on interviews. The earlier, the better. They start accepting people (not publicly but in their own system) soon after interviews start, so you’re competing for fewer and fewer spots as time goes on. There are some schools who are an exception to this, those who wait until one final date to consider and accept all applicants. These schools review applications on a “non-rolling” basis.

12. Get acceptances. ~October 15th is the earliest a school can inform you of an acceptance, schools are not allowed to inform you of acceptance until then. You might be accepted, but you can’t know until October 15th. This doesn’t apply to Early-decision programs. Acceptances can come anywhere from 1 day later (as with one of my students who I coached through the interview process) to 9 months later (getting off a waitlist in April or May)

13. Second look days. Usually in April, accepted students will be invited to a day or two at the school to interact with classmates and faculty. It’s the last “we want you here!” effort by the school until school starts.

14. Inform all schools of your final decision. Around the end of April is the deadline to tell all schools of your final decision

15. Start medical school. Schools vary but usually start around July or August

My take:

Because I followed this timeline, I received virtually all of my secondaries before mid- August, I got my first interview invite July 19th, went on my first interview August 26th, finished all my interviews by the end of November, and got my 15th and final interview invite around December. Best of all, I received two acceptances on October 15th, the first day AMCAS schools are permitted to inform students of an acceptance.

While many of my friends and colleagues were stressed all the way up until the end of the cycle, or for months before their first interview invite, acceptance, etc. I felt 100% calm and confident for the entire year as more interviews and acceptances were rolling in. I was extremely (and illogically) worried that I wouldn’t be accepted to any medical school when I started out. Because of my timing, I never felt stressed that I might have missed opportunities by being a little bit late. I spent many months at ease knowing that I had multiple acceptances early on. Many students who submit their application late will never get an acceptance or never know what other schools might have accepted them had they turned in their application earlier.

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