The process of applying to med school is stressful enough during “normal” times.
Add a global pandemic into the mix and, like everything else this past year, it became that much harder.
If there’s one thing we all learned from this unprecedented year, it’s to prepare for the unexpected. It’s impossible to predict what will happen next week, next month, or next year, but you can do your best to formulate a plan for your own future.
Don’t let the inevitability of uncertainty interfere with your goal to attend med school. Take control of what you can and start preparing for the years ahead.
A big thank you to Nivi Sriram for her contributions to this article!
Med School Preparation Timeline
Freshman-Sophomore Year of Undergrad
Want to put yourself in the best position to attend medical school straight out of college? Start taking pre-med classes during the fall of your freshman year.
If you wait until sophomore or junior year to start taking your prerequisites or pre-med classes, you‘ll be stuck doing a lot of catch-up. While that’s okay, keep in mind that you may need to take a gap year (or two) to be fully prepared for med school application.
Freshman and sophomore years are ideal times to take advantage of one-on-one tutoring. The benefits are twofold. First, subject tutoring can help you perform well in any class, and you’ll need a competitive GPA to be considered for medical school admission. Second, one-on-one tutoring can ensure that you understand the material you’re being taught. That comprehension is particularly important in your pre-med courses, because that curriculum is the foundation for your learning all the way through residency.
You may also consider working with an academic coach to get a headstart on resume building. Med schools typically require or prioritize extracurriculars like shadowing hours, research, and lab experience during undergrad. An academic coach can guide you through getting involved in the right extracurriculars to improve your candidacy down the road.
Sophomore-Junior Year of Undergrad
If you’re planning to attend med school directly after college, you’ll need to apply by the summer after your junior year.
It takes a full year to get everything in order for your application, so if you plan on enlisting the help of an admissions counselor, start that relationship in the summer after your sophomore year. If needed, you should also secure MCAT test preparation services around this time.
Applying to medical school consists of two applications, the primary application and the secondary application:
- Primary application (June-September of Junior Year). Most med schools use a common application, the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). This initial application includes biographic/demographic information, academic records, extracurriculars, and a personal statement. You may or may not have your MCAT score in time to include it in the primary application, but that’s okay. The purpose of the primary application is for med schools to get an initial impression of each applicant.
- Secondary application (June-September of Junior Year). A few weeks after submitting your primary application, many students are invited by each school to complete a secondary application. The secondary application is both time-consuming and time-sensitive. By this time, med school applications will have begun rolling, so the faster you can submit your secondary application, the better off you’ll be. The secondary application includes your MCAT score, additional essays, and letters of recommendation.
Senior Year of Undergrad
Once you’ve submitted your secondary application, the next step is to wait and see if the med schools you applied to invite you for an interview. Med schools are extremely selective about interviews and may only invite 10-15% of applicants to take this step.
A med school admissions consultant can help you prepare for these interviews so that you put your best foot forward when you’re face-to-face with faculty members.
What to Expect from the Med School Application Process Post-COVID
Many pre-med students are wondering what to expect from the med school applications process in the next couple years.
The short answer is: don’t expect too much variance compared to pre-COVID times.
As you can imagine, students applying to med school during the height of the pandemic had unexpected obstacles to face. MCAT exams were canceled in March and April 2020, which put many pre-med students in panic mode.
Although med schools opted not to make the MCAT optional during this time, they did afford applicants flexibility in submitting their scores. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) also temporarily shortened the exam from 7 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours and 45 minutes.
The pandemic impacted med school interviews as well. Instead of conducting interviews in person, schools permitted students to interview virtually.
While the AAMC and med schools did what was needed to adapt to unprecedented times, students should expect a return to business as usual in 2021 and beyond. The one exception may be the interview process. There are signs that medical schools will continue to offer virtual interviews as an option, saving students considerable time and expense during their application process.
When it comes to the med school application process, there are some elements that you may not be able to control. The best thing a student can do is to prepare for what is in their control. Starting early is crucial to reducing stress and feeling confident as you make your way through the medical school admissions process.
Applying to medical school is a lot of work, but you don’t have to do it alone. Whether you need subject tutoring for pre-med coursework, help preparing for a med school interview, or test prep before the MCAT, Signet is here to help.
Contact us today for a free consultation!