According to the AAMC, the Early Decision Program (EDP) enables you to obtain admissions to one EDP-participating school before October 1st. Schools vary on how quickly they make decisions. If you are rejected after you apply early decision, you still have enough time to submit more applications along the traditional timetable. Although the choice to apply early decision may sound enticing, there are drawbacks that should hinder most applicants from applying early decision.

The first and most important drawback to applying early is the EDP restrictions. To apply through the EDP, applicants must agree to these guidelines:

1. They must only apply to one U.S. medical school by the stated deadline (August 1 for schools participating in AMCAS). Both the primary and secondary application must be submitted by the deadline.

2. They will not submit additional applications to other schools until receipt of an EDP rejection, receipt of a formal release from the EDP commitment, or after the October 1st notification deadline.

3. They must attend the school that offers the EDP acceptance.

If the medical school admissions process were at all predictable, then the EDP would be a great option for a fair number of students. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There is nothing close to a formula to help predict admissions. The medical school admission process seems almost random at times especially because there is not such thing as a “safety school”. A lower ranked school can reject an applicant who is accepted to multiple top medical schools.

Since the medical school admissions process is unpredictable, most prospective medical students apply to as many schools as possible as early as possible. But if you apply through the EDP, you can only apply to one school until you are eligible to apply to more. If you are rejected via the EDP, you will submit your additional applications early October. This later submission means that your application, primary and secondary, will be complete mid to late October at the earliest. Since the majority of medical schools have rolling admissions, submitting such a late application will put you at a tremendous disadvantage.

Given the facts stated above, most applicants should avoid applying early decision. Unless you are an extremely stellar applicant (3.9+ GPA, 40+ MCAT, and excellent works and activities) with a compelling reason for attending a specific school, it is not in your best interest to apply early decision. Even if you are a stellar applicant, it does not make much sense to apply via the EDP unless you have a very important reason why you want to attend one specific school. The AAMC states that since most participating schools only admit a small portion of their entering class through the program. Thus only applicants with an excellent chance of admission to a particular school should apply under this program.

It would be nice to be accepted into the program of your dreams early in the application cycle, but more often than not this is unlikely. The majority of applicants should prepare for a long war of attrition as they eagerly wait for acceptances after October 15th (the first day when schools can accept applicants). Do not be enticed simply by early security because your patience could be rewarded handsomely.

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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