As a pharmacy student interested in a career in medicine, it's imperative that you have an appreciation for the medical school application cycle timeline! It's already hard balancing your pharmacy school obligations, so don't make it harder on yourself by skipping over this crucial timeline! If you know what's on the horizon, you can chart your journey and navigate your application to the promised land!
To begin, it's important to note that the medical school application process begins approximately 1 year ahead of your future matriculation date. In other words, you need to have your medical school application affairs in order at least one year prior to your anticipated start year. For example, if you want to matriculate into medical school in the summer of 2023 you will actually apply in the spring/summer of 2022!
You should ideally take this hefty exam prior to applying to medical school. Seems like common sense, but you can actually submit your application without a scored MCAT. This is designed for students who need a retake or those who wanted to wait for a more opportune time to test. As a pharmacy student/graduate, I would highly recommend that you take the exam prior to applying. Why commit to the application cycle, only to find out that your score was too low and you will likely have to reapply?
Your MCAT score is one of the primary metrics that medical schools use to determine if your application is worth reading into. This isn't to say that programs neglect the rest of your portfolio but a bad MCAT can sink even the sturdiest applications. Take the MCAT in the summer between your second professional year (PY2) and the start of your third professional year (PY3). This will give you ample time to prepare during the summer with limited distractions. Also, if you do poorly, you will have time to retake if needed! Don't take it any sooner because MCAT scores expire after 3 years.
Once you have your score and you are confident your metrics are strong enough to get your application some attention, you can strengthen up the accessory components that make for a well-rounded applicant (Extracurriculars, Shadowing, etc.).
For more information about the MCAT, check out our other featured articles.
The Primary Application (AMCAS):
The bread and butter of your application. Without going into too much detail, this is the center-piece of your entire application. The "Who You Are" component that adds personality and life experience to what are boring metrics/text. This is your opportunity to share what you've done with your time in pharmacy school and how you have changed the lives of your patients. Content in the primary application includes Demographics/Personal identifiers, Income/Education, Transcripts, MCAT Score Reports, Work & Activities, Letters of Recommendations, Your School List, and the dreaded Personal Statement.
It's important that you familiarize yourself with what is expected and I'd recommend you pre-write most (if not all) the content. Applying on-time is imperative to maximizing your chances of getting in. I can't stress this enough!
The Primary Application typically opens for previewing/uploading in May but can't be submitted until late May or early June. You ideally want to submit the first possible day that the cycle allows to make sure your application gets verified quickly! Faster verification means your application will get pushed out to medical schools to review sooner.
Keep in mind that you can always upload a new MCAT score, additional letters of recommendation, and add medical schools at a later date!
After your AMCAS has been verified, your application is now eligible to be sent out to medical schools. Medical schools can't receive your application until July 1st (these dates change every year but only vary by a day or so). This was added to account for application verification delays or for students who didn't submit their AMCAS in the first eligible week.
Once medical schools receive your application you will either automatically receive a secondary application or there will be a few weeks processing time. Most medical schools these days just send everyone a secondary because it's practically free cash for their programs. In my opinion, its rather unethical considering they charge poor students $100 minimum, despite the applicant having a zero-percent chance of getting in.
Secondary applications often involve generic questions that are supposed to extract a little more information from the applicant. It's essentially the medical school's opportunity to ask applicants personalized questions such as "why our medical school," or "what kind doctor do you want to be?"
Most secondary applications will have a timeline of when they are expected to be complete. The typical turnaround time is 2 weeks but I would advise that you finish each individual one within 3 days (time-permitting). If you pre-write a few generic questions and heavily research your favorite programs, you should be able to craft your prewritten content to fit most secondary prompts.
Students can expect to receive secondary applications from July all the way up to December (sometimes January). I personally received one in late December which I found somewhat comical. The program (considering rolling admissions) had likely already filled half their class seats but was trying to encourage me to send them some extra cash to "try my odds". Receiving a secondary application that late in the cycle often demonstrates a Medical School's interest in your wallet, and not your application. Don't fall for this trap!
Medical School Interviews:
Once you submit the majority of your secondary applications in July/August you will enter the "Limbo" stage of the application cycle. At this point you have broken away from the pack of other applicants and the remainder of the cycle will be completely unique for you!
You may receive 5 interviews by September or none at all until February! It's hard to predict how the cycle will turn out but you can typically use your competitiveness as an applicant to plan when you may have interviews. This can be helpful when you know your MCAT score/GPA when signing up for APPE rotations (taking an off-block during Interview Season).
For example, an applicant with a 520 MCAT Score, 4.0 Pharmacy GPA, and Nobel Peace Prize Recipient can expect to get interviews early in the cycle. Alternatively, having lower medical school statistics can cause your interview invites to gravitate towards the later half of the cycle. This isn't an exact science so take it for what it is!
You can also get an acceptance at any point after having an interview. If you are fortunate, you may garnish an acceptance within the first couple months and can sit back and relax. Alternatively, you may get "ghosted" for the entire cycle, only to get a last minute acceptance as late as June (the following year)! There are plenty of crazy stories like this on the internet but the majority of acceptances will come in November, December, January, and February.
This timeline discussed above is for standard applicants and doesn't include information about the Early Decision Program.
If you are interested in starting your journey into Medicine, check out our Blog Articles.
For more questions, review our article "6 Most Common Questions About Transitioning From Pharmacy to Medicine."
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