The majority of premeds apply to medical school after their third or fourth years. But does it matter when you apply? Are there advantages of applying after fourth year instead of third year or vice versa? Here are some of the main benefits of either option.

The majority of premeds apply to medical school after their third or fourth years. Since the application process takes over a year, if an applicant applies after third year and is accepted, he or she will start medical school in the fall of the following year. And an applicant who applies after fourth year will ultimately be taking a full year off after graduation.

So does it matter when you apply? Are there advantages of applying after fourth year instead of third year or vice versa? Here are some of the main benefits of either option.

Advantages of applying after third year

1. Eliminating one more year of premed worry

This is probably the most important and practical advantage. Maintaining a high GPA, continuing extracurricular activities, and juggling a social life as a premed can be incredibly taxing. If you are accepted into medical school sometime during your fourth year, possibly as early October 15, then you can somewhat relax and “take it easy” for the rest of your college career.

||Read: Premed Myths||

2. Becoming a doctor faster

Some people want to become doctors as soon as they can. Life is short so why “waste” time on other things especially if you are absolutely sure that you want to become a doctor? If you are one of these people, instead of spending another year doing something you might not be really interested in, you can become a doctor one year earlier. A year off can become incredibly boring if you are stuck at a bland research job or if you are sitting at home watching television every day.

3. Answering less questions on some of your secondary applications

Many schools’ secondary applications include questions like, “If you have already graduated, briefly summarize your activities since graduation”. Not only do you have to write an additional essay for each school that asks this question (you can modify the same essay over and over again but regardless, it is additional work), but it is also implied that you must be doing something significant during your time off. If you want to avoid doing either, apply sooner rather than later.

||Read: Secondary Application Practical Advice||

Advantages of applying after fourth year

1. An extra year to mature, rest and strengthen your application

First, you will not be as rushed to squeeze in all your pre-med activities in your first three years; you can spread out them out over four. Often times, your extracurricular activities become the most significant and meaningful during your senior year. Therefore if you apply after your senior year, you can include them in your application. Also, you will have an additional year to improve your GPA (if you need to), engage in significant extracurricular activities, rest, and learn more about yourself and the world. You can make turn yourself from a relatively average applicant to a very competitive applicant in just one year. Lastly, you might also need a long break after four years of intense studying during college.

||Read: What To Do During Gap Year Before Medical School||

2. Taking the MCAT later

If you apply to medical school after your third year, you will have to study for and take the MCAT the summer after your second year (a time when you could be doing a summer research program or taking summer school to boost your GPA) or during your third year (meaning you will have to study while you are taking regular classes). Either of those options may not be ideal for you. Applying after fourth year gives you more time to prepare for the MCAT.

3. Not having to worry about interviewing while in school

Going to interview after interview while you are still in school can be incredibly exhausting. You may be interviewing on a Friday when you have a midterm that following Monday, a seemingly unnecessary extra burden. It is difficult to really enjoy the interview experience if you always need to go back to school right away. If you are interviewing during your year off, you could use the interviews as a well-warranted excuse to travel and explore the U.S. You tend to have more freedom and flexibility, especially if you are not working full time.

||Read: Weekly Weigh-in: Med School Interview Tips||

In retrospect, I’m extremely glad that I applied at the end of my fourth year. My fourth year was very valuable to my application. I boosted my GPA, wrote my senior research thesis, and became the president of a club all in my senior year. During my year off, I gained meaningful full time work/research experience and was able to use my interview process as a reason to travel without having to worry about school. There were times during the year when I wished I was in school already but the wait made me all the more excited and motivated.

At the end of the day, one option is not necessarily better than the other. Choosing when to apply depends on your personal preference, the strength of your application, and timing. Take these considerations into account when planning out your premed timeline, especially if you are an underclassman.

**This article was first posted on US News Education.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ProspectiveDoctor. Follow ProspectiveDoctor on Twitter @ProspectiveDr

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Edward Chang

Edward Chang is the Co-founder and Director of Operations of ProspectiveDoctor.com. He graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is currently a urology resident at the University of Washington. He also attended UCLA as an undergraduate, graduating with a major in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. If you are interested in contributing to ProspectiveDoctor.com, please contact him at edwardchang@prospectivedoctor.com. Follow him on Twitter @EdwardChangMD and Prospective Doctor @ProspectiveDr.

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