Applying to Medical School

Apply Once, Apply Right – 5 Tips for the Med School Application Cycle

If you only want to apply once, apply right! Keep these 5 helpful tips for the medical school application cycle in mind as you put together your AMCAS this spring.

1. Apply Early

This cannot be emphasized enough – it will save you many unnecessary sleepless nights and moments of anxiety if you are able to submit your applications earlier in the cycle. Exactly how early is early? Preparing your primary app in advance and submitting it in on the first few days of the application opening (which is June 3rd this year) guarantees that you will likely have your transcripts marked and information ready to be sent to schools on the first day (June 27th, this year). You’ll also enjoy a well-deserved break for a few weeks before turning your attention to the secondary essays that will begin to inundate your inbox come June 27th.

Applying early shows admission committees that you are both proactive in your endeavors and excited about attending medical school. Furthermore, most schools interview and accept students on a rolling basis, meaning that if you apply earlier, there are more spots open in the incoming class. If those two points aren’t enough to convince you to apply early, just imagine being a month behind other applicants – waiting for your primary application to be verified while others are already submitting secondary applications, completing essays while others are already interviewing, and flying out to schools while others are already receiving acceptances. The immense pressure coupled with the weeks of waiting is enough to drive any applicant off the wall. Apply early, save yourself the unwarranted stress.

||Read: Apply Early, It Helps||

2. Apply Widely

Selecting the schools to send your application can be an intimidating task. Many applicants will wrangle with similar questions:

  • “Are my GPA and MCAT scores competitive for these schools? How many schools should I apply to?”
  • “In-state or out of state? East or west coast? What’s winter like in the Midwest?”
  • “How much will this cost me? $120 for a secondary, is that worth it? Where exactly is Emory University?”

Firstly, it’s better to err on the side of safety and apply to more schools – it might be an extra $100 or so for each additional secondary application, but chances are you’ll already have essays that you can recycle, and you never know whose eye you might catch at that school. Some may say that these couple extra application fees are “a drop in the bucket” compared to the expenses of medical school. Think of it as the first of many investments in your medical education.

Secondly, it’s important to make sure that you are not reaching too high or too low in determining your candidacy. An honest evaluation of your GPA and MCAT will allow you to compare your stats to the averages of each school to determine an accurate target range. The Medical School Admissions Requirements is an excellent resource available to applicants. ProspectiveDoctor is also currently developing a Chance Predictor to help guide medical school applicants as they begin to determine the range of schools that they should consider.

3. Stay Organized

A typical medical school applicant applies to an average of 12-15 schools, but it’s not uncommon to send your application to 25-30 schools. Remember that each school will have different secondary essay prompts, a different deadlines for their secondary application, and a unique website and username/password combination. Stay organized throughout the cycle with a spreadsheet that tracks your progress with every school. Use it as a checklist to mark when the secondary was received, when it was submitted, and if the secondary fee was paid. You can also collect all the school websites in the same place for quick access.

4. Divide and Conquer with Secondary Essays

Speaking of secondary applications, it’s good to spend some time planning out how to approach the dozens of essays you will be writing in the upcoming summer. As important as the personal statement is for medical school, the secondary essays are just as crucial, as they represent what each individual school wants to know about you. Some of the most universal questions asked on secondary prompts surround the ideas of diversity (what makes your unique?), adversity (what challenges have you overcome?), and university (why our medical school?).

||Read: Three Secondary Essays To Pre-Write||

If you have a particular experience or embody a personal characteristic that can be seamlessly woven into one of the three essay topics describe above, it may beneficial to save that for your secondary applications. Focus your personal statement on another aspect of your pre-medical journey to allow for adequate discussion of multiple aspects of your application package!

PDr’s Secondary Essay Prompts Database features essay prompts from the past two application cycles

5. Keep the interview season open

September through December are the busiest for medical school interviews, with some schools interviewing as late in the year as March. While some schools allow you to select an interview date that works best for your schedule, others may only provide a few options or simply assign you an interview day. Do your best to keep your schedule relatively flexible during the interview season. Most interviews occur on weekdays, so if you are still in school, try to keep Mondays or Friday classes to a minimum to free up larger blocks of time to account for flights and jet lag. If you are working or volunteering during your time off, discuss the possibilities of taking a few days off here and there with your supervisor to visit schools.

||Read: 5 Tips For Interview Day|| How To Prepare For a Medical School Interview ||

Evan Shih

Evan Shih is a writer for ProspectiveDoctor. He is currently an internal medicine resident at UCLA. He graduated from UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine and also graduated from UCLA undergrad in 2013 with a B.S. in Physiological Science. He hopes his efforts on PDr can provide the guidance and reassurance that readers seek along the medical journey. When he’s not studying, Evan likes to hike, swim, and spend time with his family in Orange County.

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