Welcome to application season! As the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) opens today (5/2), and you can begin actually inputting data into your application, the 2024 medical school application season is now open! Given this is just the start, I want to give you an idea of what you can expect over the next 18 months. If you haven't checked out my previous blog post about what you could expect up to this point, I suggest reading that to get up to speed! (Click here to check it out!) The medical school application season can be long and grueling so having an idea of what to expect and when these events could happen will go a long way. I will also preface this with the notion that there can be quite a bit of variability from applicant to applicant so this is a general timeline.
Summer months (May-August)
For the 2023-2024 application cycle, you are able to submit your application beginning on Tuesday, May 30th. While the goal should be to submit your application as soon as you can after this date, be sure that your application is ready before you submit because you won’t be able to change your application once submitted. If you are able to submit your application within one week of May 30th, you should still be in the first wave of the verification process.
After submission of your AMCAS application, it will generally take 3-5 weeks for your application to be “verified”. This means that you will have a few weeks to rest, catch up on tasks you have put off to get your application submitted, or to get started on the next steps of the application process. Some applicants use this time to take the CASPer exam, the AAMC Preview exam, the MCAT (although I would hope that you have already taken). One of the best ways to utilize this time is to start working on your secondary essays. Although you haven’t received any secondary essays at this point, you can find the prompts from previous years online and most schools don’t change their essays from year to year.
Once your application is verified (which will usually happen by early-mid July if you submit on time), you will start receiving secondary essay prompts from schools in July and throughout the following weeks. The goal should be to prepare and submit your essays within two weeks of receiving the correspondence from the school. Some schools will provide a definite deadline while others won’t so it is up to you to get the essays submitted within a reasonable time. The quicker you get the secondary essays back to the school, the sooner you can move through to the next step of the process, which is hopefully an interview.
Fall months (September-November)
This is hopefully the busiest time of your application season with many interviews and potentially some acceptances coming your way. If you submit your application at the end of May or beginning of June, you should have completed the secondary essays early and you will be in the first wave of interview invites, which usually start coming out in September. Depending on the school, once you interview, you could find out an admissions decision within days (but more likely weeks after your interview) depending on how quickly the admissions committee meets to discuss your file.
These months are also the time in which you might start receiving bad news regarding your application, that is, you may start receiving pre-interview rejections. While this can be very difficult at first, it is important not to dwell on these schools but rather focus on the ones that you are still in the running for at least an interview.
If there are any lingering secondary essays that you need to complete during this period, you may also need to be working on these, at least during September and early October. Remember, the earlier you get your secondary essays submitted, the higher likelihood that you will potentially receive an interview.
Winter months (December-February)
These months can be extremely long and difficult, especially if you have not received any interviews yet but in December and early January, there is still a good amount of time left in the application cycle. There are still definitely opportunities for interviews during this time period so keep this in mind if you are worried about not getting any invitations yet.
If you have not received an interview invitation from a school (and you haven’t received a rejection yet either) by December 1st, then December is a great time to update the school (if they allow these). While I cannot guarantee that you will automatically get an interview out of it, I know that it has worked for some individuals and it usually doesn’t hurt. For example, if you started a new job/volunteer/research experience after submitting your primary application, now would be a great time to write an update to the school and remind them that you started this new activity and to tell them a bit how it is going.
The medical school application process typically slows down around the holidays with most admissions committees taking some time off from meeting. This means that you might not have much in terms of correspondence until early-mid January after the holiday season. By February, the number of interview invites will dwindle quickly so if you haven’t received any interview invites by February, then you should start looking at re-application. If you did have some interviews, but are still waiting to hear back at this point, then you may still get an acceptance.
Spring months (March-April)
March is when things really wind down in the application process. At this point in the cycle, if you haven’t heard from a school yet, you may be placed on a waitlist or unfortunately receive a rejection. For example, if you applied to the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, they notify a large proportion of their entering class their admission decision the second week of March. This process is called the “Final Pool”. If you are placed in the “Final Pool” earlier in the cycle, then you will find out in March if you have been accepted, rejected, or placed on the waitlist.
During April, there typically isn’t a lot of updates to your application outside of two important dates: April 15th and April 30th. These dates are important because they designate the days in which students who are holding multiple acceptances must make some decisions about which school they will attend. The first important date, April 15th, is the day in which students holding on to more than three acceptances must choose which schools they want to keep in their top 3. April 30th is the day in which students holding more than one acceptance must choose which school they will attend. The reason that I mention these two days is not just for those students holding multiple acceptances but also for those students on waitlists as there can be some significant waitlist movement around these dates. Therefore, if you are sitting on waitlists, you may hear positive news in April when this waitlist movement happens.
If you are sitting in the unfortunate situation of having no acceptances at this point, I would start looking into gap year options and planning your re-application. While there are many opportunities for gap year activities, there is not a one-size-fits-all plan for everyone. Check out a future blog post about how to choose a gap year plan to maximize your chances of getting accepted upon re-application.
As we wind down the application cycle, these months can really be a test of patience and determination. If you have received an acceptance and you are headed to medical school in the fall, then you should enjoy these months and move to your new location, if needed. While some students travel during this time while others work to save some money for the years ahead, all I can say is to enjoy these months as it is the last summer you will have with less responsibilities. Some students want to try to study these months before medical school but I advise against this as there will be plenty of time to study in medical school.
If you have reached this part of the application cycle and are still sitting on waitlists, I am here to tell you that it isn’t completely over yet. There are still some students who will be accepted off of waitlists throughout the summer months. While the number of students accepted in the summer months is not high, it is still possible. While you are still waiting, I would finish your plans for your gap year and start your re-application.
As you can see, the application process can be a long and grueling process that can last over a year. There will be many ups and downs throughout the process so it is important to keep your eye on the end goal and keep persevering. If you have any questions regarding the application timeline, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next time!