Month-By-Month Guide to the Medical School Admissions Cycle

Cassie Kosarek
·5 min read

Like the undergraduate admissions cycle, the process of getting into medical school stretches over many months and involves keeping track of test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, additional school-specific material and more.

Before you open any medical school application, it is worth your time to educate yourself on what to expect over the course of your application year. Since the process is complex, here's a month-by-month breakdown so that you know what is coming your way and when.

May

Both the American Medical College Application Service, also known as AMCAS, and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service, also known as AACOMAS, open in May 2020 for medical school admission in fall 2021.

AMCAS is for those wishing to pursue an M.D. and AACOMAS is for those who hope to pursue a D.O. degree. This year, AMCAS opens on May 4 but submissions can't be made until May 28 while AACOMAS opens in mid-May.

[Read: The Difference Between D.O. and M.D. Degrees.]

It is wise to complete the Medical College Admission Test, also referred to as the MCAT, no later than May of your application year. Delaying your testing until June or later can result in an incomplete primary application that will not be evaluated by medical schools until later in the admissions cycle.

In addition, May is an ideal time to ensure you have submitted your letters of recommendation and official transcripts from every undergraduate institution you have attended.

It is to your advantage to get your application in front of admissions committees as soon as possible. Your chances of receiving interview invitations and admissions offers are higher when you submit a complete application early.

June

Once you have submitted your primary application, it undergoes a verification process that can take up to several weeks. While you are being verified, it is a good idea to finalize the list of medical schools to which you will apply.

Make sure you select the schools to which you will have your application submitted via AACOMAS or AMCAS. Programs will begin receiving primary applications for review through these services this month.

July

After they receive your primary applications, schools may elect to send you their specific secondary applications. These applications typically contain school-specific essays or short answer prompts. Your application at a school is not considered complete until you have submitted your secondary application to that program.

Though the deadlines for submitting secondary applications vary by school, it is to your advantage to submit them as early as possible. Interview offers are made on a rolling basis, and dates fill up quickly. Spend this month tackling any early secondary application requests you receive.

[READ: How Many Medical Schools Should You Apply To?]

August

Secondary applications are still being sent out in August, so continue completing them within a week or two of their receipt. Be sure to check the status of your application on each school's website to verify that it is complete.

If you are applying early decision to a medical school -- meaning that you apply to one school only and receive an admissions decision in midfall -- keep in mind that your completed AMCAS application is due at the beginning of August.

September Through March

After your secondary applications are completed and medical schools have received all of your information, they will extend interview invitations. Prepare for interviews early by practicing, answering key questions with a friend or family member. Make sure you are able to articulate why you would like to become a physician and what you are looking for in a medical school.

Additionally, if you have experienced any academic struggles on your way to med school -- like low grades or a leave of absence -- ensure you are able to talk about what happened and how you have grown since.

October Through May

Medical schools decide whether to admit, reject or offer a waitlist position to applicants on a rolling basis throughout the year. Though you may hold more than one acceptance until May, it is courteous to other applicants if you rescind acceptances to schools you have chosen not to attend. Do this as early as possible.

December and January

If you have any meaningful application updates that did not make it into your original application, such as grades from the fall semester, send this information to the programs to which you applied.

March Through May

Many medical schools host a "second look" weekend for accepted students during these months. These experiences can be key in helping you choose between schools.

[Read: How to Choose Which Medical School to Attend.]

Even if you have only one acceptance, attending a second look weekend at your future school can help you connect with new classmates, explore housing options and provide an opportunity to ask current students about their experiences.

Late April Through Early May

Through the "Choose Your Medical School" tool in AMCAS, applicants must formally choose a medical school on April 30. Once you commit, any other acceptances you hold are withdrawn.

Doctor of osteopathic medicine applicants may hold multiple acceptances until May 15, at which point programs receive a list of students holding acceptances at other institutions. If a school sees that one of its accepted applicants holds a seat at another school, it may choose to rescind its offer. Avoid this conundrum at osteopathic schools by committing to one school by mid-May.

May Through August

Medical schools may accept students off their waitlists until the day their incoming class begins its academic year. Most waitlist acceptances occur shortly after accepted students have committed to enroll, freeing up those spots held by applicants with multiple acceptances.

You may withdraw from a waitlist at any time during this period.

August and September

Classes begin for first-year students and the previous year's application cycle is formally concluded.