Applying to Medical School

The Medical School Application Process: Everything You Need to Apply

The application process for medical school is nothing like your college applications. To get into medical school, you’ll need to keep track of several steps over many months, including time-sensitive submissions. 

How long does the medical school application process take? The medical school application process, from submitting your AMCAS application to a decision, may take up to a year.

Most students apply to MD programs through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). DO program applicants will apply through AACOMAS, and if you want to attend a Texas medical school, you’ll apply through TMDSAS

From studying for the MCAT, writing your personal statement, submitting your secondaries, to nailing your interviews, we’ve got you covered. This guide provides everything you need to know for your best chances of getting that coveted “ACCEPTED!” from the program of your choice.

Important Dates and Deadlines for Applying to Med School

Once you make the decision to apply to medical school, immediately save all the dates and deadlines of the admissions cycle into your calendar or planner. Punctuality is taken very seriously by admissions committees, and missing a deadline is a surefire way to derail a successful application process. 

Here’s a timeline to help you stay on track (the years mentioned assume you are applying in the 2024-25 application cycle):

  • September-December 2023: This is prime prep time for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Register for your test date and develop an achievable study schedule.
  • January-May 2024: Most medical school applicants should take the exam in the spring, the year before they plan to start medical school. We recommend taking the MCAT in the spring of your junior year at your undergraduate institution, preferably by the end of April. This gives you enough time for MCAT results to come in and allows you the opportunity to retake the exam if you want to improve your score.
  • May-June 2024: The application window opens in May to early June for AMCAS for MD programs, AACOMAS for DO programs, and TMDSAS for Texas medical schools. You should submit your primary application by early June at the latest.
  • June-September 2024: Your primary application may take up to 6 weeks for verification. The earlier you submit your primary, the earlier verification will be complete.
  • July-October 2024: Once your application is verified, schools on your list for which you meet basic requirements (GPA, MCAT scores, etc.) will send you secondary applications. Plan to submit your secondary applications within 1-2 weeks of receipt. Remember, you’ll need to write answers to school-specific prompts — we maintain a database of secondary prompts for nearly every medical program to help you prepare.
  • September 2024-March 2025: The earliest interview invitations will be sent in August or September, but applicants can receive invitations well into the spring of the following year. Study sample interview questions and do mock interviews to prepare for your interview day.
  • October 2024-May 2025: Depending on the school, you may get an acceptance letter as early as October or have to wait until spring. Most schools accept on a rolling basis, sending letters to incoming medical students within several weeks of their interview, while others wait until all interviews are complete to send the results.

Part 1: Filling Out Your Primary Applications

Application cycles for prospective medical students open each May. Here are the dates for each specific primary application in the 2024-25 cycle year:

  • AMCAS applications open May 2, 2024
  • TMDSAS applications open May 15, 2024
  • AACOMAS applications open May 4, 2024

Start completing your primary application when it first opens in May. Schools each have very strict deadlines for submitting both primary and secondary applications, but you’ll have the best chance at getting accepted if you apply early.

When should I start the application process for medical school? You want to start the application process as early as possible, beginning with filling out the basic information on your primaries when they open in early May. You’ll also need to take the MCAT by the end of April to receive your score back in time to submit your primary application(s) by late May/early June.

Your primary application will include sections for:

  • College coursework and GPA
  • Your medical school personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Work and activities
  • MCAT scores
  • CASPer exam results
  • The list of medical schools to which you’re submitting the application

The primary application fee from AMCAS is $175, with each medical school designation after the first pick being an additional $45.

College Coursework & GPA

Admissions committees are looking for strong academic performance. Medical programs want to see a strong GPA and make sure you’ve completed all of the prerequisite courses they require (or will complete those courses by graduation).

To get started with this section, request your official transcripts from your university’s registrar’s office or admissions office. Use MedSchoolCoach’s extensive database of prerequisite courses by program to make sure you’ve taken or will take all of the classes that you need at your undergraduate institution.

Once you have all of this information, include your undergraduate coursework and GPA on your primary application. If you have graduate or post-bacc coursework, add this to the application, too. 

What GPA is needed to apply to medical school? A GPA of 3.0 is the minimum for most medical schools, but we advise you to strive for a 3.5 or higher. A competitive GPA will boost your chances at getting accepted.

Putting this into perspective: In 2022-2023, the mean science and overall GPA of matriculants were 3.68 and 3.75, respectively. The mean science and overall GPA of applicants were 3.52 and 3.68, respectively. 

What should I do if I have a low GPA? If you have a low GPA, it’s time to study hard for your MCAT and/or consider a post-baccalaureate program after your college graduation. A higher MCAT score or post-bacc can demonstrate your commitment to the academic success needed for a medical education.

Personal Statement

Your personal statement, or personal comments essay, is your chance to showcase who you are and why you have a passion for medicine. Use this as an opportunity to explain how your experiences have led you to pursue this field.

Unlike any other part of the primary application, your personal statement can help you stand out as a unique individual with a bright future career in medicine.

Spend time crafting a well-written essay that highlights your strengths, experiences, and motivations for becoming a physician. Show, don’t tell — use storytelling with a strong central theme to engage admissions committee members reading your statement.

Explore examples of great personal statements from former pre-med students who were accepted to medical school so that you can get a better idea of how to write your own.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation, or letters of evaluation, should be requested from professors, mentors, TAs, or supervisors who know you well and can speak to your strengths and qualifications. You may also request a committee letter from a pre-health advisor.

We continue to stress doing everything early, and requesting a letter of evaluation is no exception. Give your letter writers enough time to provide a thoughtful review of your character, academic abilities, and skills.

Ask your school’s career center where to store your letters. Many schools recommend using Interfolio or a similar letter storage service. 

Letters of recommendation aren’t required to be submitted with your primaries, but it is best to have them ready before submitting your secondaries. You can provide your letter writers with any materials that will assist them in writing a strong recommendation.

Work and Activities

Extracurricular activities, volunteer work, previous jobs, and research experiences demonstrate your dedication to the medical field and your ability to balance multiple responsibilities. 

You can include 15 entries with your application materials and up to 3 “most meaningful experiences.”

Use this opportunity to highlight experiences that have deepened or sparked your interest in the healthcare field. If your experience is not directly related to a medical setting, you may still use it to demonstrate your ability to thrive in a challenging environment. In some cases, a specific hobby might be relevant enough to include.

MCAT Scores

The MCAT is one of the most critical exams for an aspiring doctor. This exam measures your knowledge of the natural, behavioral, and social sciences, and your test score can make or break an admissions decision in your favor. 

We always advise taking the MCAT in September-December of your junior undergrad year if possible, but many applicants wait until spring before they plan to start medical school. Allow enough time for your results to come in or to retake the exam, if necessary.

Begin studying for the MCAT as early as you can. You’ll need about 300 study hours in preparation, which is easiest to spread over a 6-month period. It’s possible to cram the hours into as little as one month, but we don’t recommend it.

Casper Results

Casper is an online situational judgment test that medical schools may require as part of their admissions process. This exam evaluates soft skills such as professionalism, ethics, and communication skills.

Not every school requires the Casper exam. Check AcuityInsights to see if your list of preferred schools includes those that will need your Casper results.

Medical School List

A well-thought-out and realistic list of medical schools can take more time than you realize to prepare. Some students apply to only a handful of schools, and some apply to 15 to 20 schools to increase their chances of gaining interviews and acceptances.

For example: Adding NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine may not be the best choice if your numbers are nowhere near their average GPA of 3.9 and MCAT score of 520.

The Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) shows each school’s requirements to help you create a ranking list of schools. You can visit individual program websites to compare expectations or use our GPA and MCAT database to easily see if you’re near the average applicant.

Try the MedSchoolExplorer to manage a list of your target schools based on what’s a reach, target, or overshoot school based on your GPA, MCAT score, and more.

Remember: It costs $45 per extra school you submit to on the AMCAS application. Choose wisely.

Part 2: Medical School Application Verification Process

To maintain the integrity of the medical school admissions process, all applications are checked for accuracy and completeness. This verification takes between 1-6 weeks. In general, the earlier you submit your application, the shorter the wait time. 

If there are discrepancies between your application and real data, AMCAS may change your application. If you disagree with the changes, you must submit an Academic Change Request that AMCAS will then review.

Any changes made after the submission of your application must be re-certified, and your application needs to be officially updated.

If you are not yet in your senior year and still have courses to complete, there is a Current/Future Special Course Type section where you can include courses scheduled for upcoming semesters. There is no requirement to include these courses or a transcript for current/future courses. 

Part 3: Secondary Applications

The primary application is the same standard application for each medical school on your list. Once it’s verified, medical schools will begin to review your application. If you meet their minimum requirements, programs will send you a secondary application to complete.

Secondary applications are sent to students by each school. Each secondary application will be different. They may include messages, short answer questions, ask for your coursework again, and letters of recommendation.

The goal of the secondary application is to learn more about you, and why you are interested in their school.

Secondary application fees range from $30 to $250, with each school charging a fee for their application. If the fees are difficult to manage, request a waiver from AAMC’s Fee Assistance Program.

Part 4: Interviews for Medical School

Medical schools that are interested in your candidacy will invite you for an interview. Interviews typically take place from September to January, but may be scheduled as late as March of your senior year in undergrad. 

Rolling admissions means that there isn’t a cut-off day for interviews and then decisions; the spots are filled as candidates are found. This is why we stress over and over again the importance of being organized and getting all your applications submitted as early as possible instead of by the application deadline.

There are 2 types of interviews you may encounter: traditional and Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI). Traditional interviews are more one-on-one, whereas MMIs are a series of short stations where you address scenarios and answer questions. In some cases, schools will host virtual interviews.

Regardless of your interview type, remember to dress professionally, be courteous, and send your thank-you notes following the interview.

Part 5: Medical School Decisions

Some medical schools wait until March, after interviewing all candidates, to send out their decisions. Others will send them out shortly after the interview at any point between the fall and early spring.

Early Decision Program

Early Decision Programs (EDPs) are designed for highly qualified applicants who are confident that their top-choice medical school is the best fit for them. If you are certain you will be accepted to the school of your choice, you can commit to attending that school if you’re accepted.

If you are accepted through an EDP, you must withdraw all other applications. If you are not accepted, you can apply to other schools through the regular admissions process. The deadline for AMCAS Early Decision Program applications is August 1st.

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Medical schools may place qualified applicants who are not immediately accepted on an alternate list or waitlist. You still have a chance of being offered a spot in the incoming class if space becomes available. 

To improve your chances of being accepted from a waitlist, respond to any requests for additional information from the medical school as soon as you receive them. Boost your chances by sending a letter of intent to express your continued interest, and updating the school on any recent accomplishments. 

One Step Closer to Becoming a Physician

Staying organized and being punctual during the medical school application process is worth the effort. It’s never too early to start planning.

Our friends at MedSchoolCoach can help you boost your chances of enrollment into medical school.

Renee Marinelli MD

Renee graduated magna cum laude from California State University San Marcos with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. While attending school, she worked for a neurosurgeon where she led clinical trials. Renee attended the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine where she served on the admissions committee and interviewed many applicants. In medical school, Renee met her future husband, a military scholarship student. After medical school, both Renee and her husband attended family medicine residency in Hawaii where she also served on the residency admissions committee. She has mentored and assisted many students in the medical school admissions process and brings a wealth of experience serving on both medical school and residency admission committees. She is excited to continue to provide guidance to students while spending quality time with her son.

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