When is it Too Late To Apply To Medical School?

Padya Paramita

When is it Too Late To Apply To Medical School?

You’ve been preparing for the last few years, and you were well on your way to racking up extracurriculars, acing the MCAT, and getting As in your senior year classes. However, with the arrival of COVID-19, your plans to apply to medical school may have completely been thrown off. Not only did you have to adjust to a whole different learning environment, your MCAT sessions have gotten canceled, and you can no longer continue your shadowing or volunteering initiatives in the same way. Now that it’s June and most people have started submitting their AMCAS application, you’re left wondering, when is it too late to apply to medical school? 

You’ve probably heard this a thousand times: the earlier you submit your AMCAS application, the better your chances of success in the medical school application process. To guide you through understanding the timeline better — especially in a COVID-19 ridden world — I have elaborated more on the overall medical school timeline, how schools have shifted requirements due to the pandemic, and finally, answered the question of when is it too late to apply to medical school?

Medical School Timeline and Deadlines

All of the sections of the AMCAS application become open for submission in May. The earliest date for submitting the AMCAS application this year was May 28th, 2020. This date has obviously passed. Now, you may be wondering when is it too late to apply to medical school?

There are definite deadlines set by different medical programs. However, applications are read on a first-come first-serve basis. During peak periods from June to September, it will take approximately 6 weeks for AMCAS to process your application. The early decision program has an absolute deadline of August 1st for all medical schools. Regular primary application deadlines range from October to December. We usually advise our students to submit as early as possible. As schools read applications as they receive them on a rolling basis, the earlier you submit your application, the more spots will be open and available, and the greater chance you have to be accepted.

Usually, students who submit early, have their applications processed earlier as well. This ensures that they receive secondaries soon after submission, and can get started with those immediately. Ideally, you would want a two-week turnaround upon receiving the secondary prompts. The first secondaries are typically released in July, but you’ll receive them much later if you wait to submit the AMCAS.

A very small percentage of students are then interviewed. As interview slots start to fill up, so do the number of spots available at each program. So, the later you submit, the less likely your chances of receiving an interview invitation. 

Changes to the Medical School Application Process Due to COVID-19 

Understandably, with the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, MCAT sessions have been canceled as students would are unable  to maintain social distance at test centers. To accommodate these disruptions, many schools have  shifted MCAT score submission deadlines. Some examples are outlined below:

  • Harvard Medical School: HMS has encouraged students to submit their application without an MCAT score if they weren’t able to take the test due to COVID-19. Candidates will still be required to submit their MCAT results once they’ve taken it.
  • Ohio State University College of Medicine: Ohio State is also allowing candidates to submit their applications without MCAT scores — but they are expecting scores to be sent before admissions decisions are made.
  • UCLA Geffen School of Medicine: UCLA will accept applications from students who were unable to take the MCAT due to the virus as well as send out secondaries without the MCAT results. However, assuming conditions improve by October, the school will wait to receive MCAT scores before making final admissions decisions.
  • University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill School of Medicine: The latest date for MCAT score submission at UNC has been extended to September 12, 2020.
  • Vanderbilt School of Medicine: Vanderbilt encourages candidates to consider submitting their AMCAS application for verification without the MCAT, but affirms that no admissions decisions will be made without the MCAT.

        So, this year, you don’t need to wait to receive an MCAT score to apply to most programs. If you’re someone who’s asking “when is it too late to apply to medical school” due to MCAT disruptions, go ahead and submit your application as soon as possible and send an MCAT result as soon as you’re able to take the test. 

        As for students who’ve been graded differently this year, know that almost every medical school has also stated that they understand that colleges have moved to pass/fail grading — and will accept these even for prerequisite courses taken during spring and summer of 2020. 

        Due to COVID-19, the dates for AMCAS submission have shifted slightly for the 2020-21 cycle. There is a new date for AMCAS verification — July 10th. Even though all the applications this year will be transmitted by the AMCAS to medical schools on the 10th, you should ideally still aim to submit your application at least two weeks before the date so that you can remain on top of the pile as processing can take up to 2 weeks. 

        When Is It Too Late to Apply to Medical School?

        With all that said, do you still have time to apply to medical school during the 2020-21 cycle? The answer is yes, but you’ve got to work hard and bring your A-game. Thousands of candidates have already submitted their AMCAS applications — with more doing so before July 10th. If you believe you can still submit before the processing date, even if it is just a week prior, make sure you hurry up and get your materials together. However, if you believe you need a little more time — whether to put the final touches on your personal essay or to finish a certain number of hours in a new, remote extracurricular environment — you’re left wondering what your chances truly are. 

        Although June is ideal, submitting by mid-July should be safe, especially if you’ve got a strong application. Even though MCAT deadlines have been pushed to the fall, September is indeed too late to submit your medical school application because most schools would already choose their interviewees by then. August isn’t as extreme, but your chances may be a bit more narrow. If you absolutely can’t submit before August, make sure that you have incredibly strong grades, unique extracurriculars, and a highly compelling personal statement that helps you stand out in order to make up for the lost time. However, the odds are not in your favor, especially with the competitiveness of the admissions landscape.

        More than half of the total number of students who apply to medical school every year get denied and have to reapply to medical school. Even if you applied at the earliest possible time — with the intense level of competition — your chances would still be low. Pushing your deadline later than July isn’t the most ideal, especially if you believe you could prepare more this year, and wait until next year’s cycle to submit. 

        The medical school admissions process is far from easy, even for candidates with the most impressive of profiles who submit as early as possible. Students asking “when is it too late to apply to medical school” certainly have their work cut out for them. If you’re in this position, weigh your options to see if it’s better to apply next year. Regardless of what you decide, as sure you continue working on your application materials, try to finish everything as fast as possible so you can still submit before it’s too late. Good luck!

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