Have you decided to actually apply to your dream med school? Firstly, kudos to you for making this brave decision! While we know it may seem like a daunting task right now, we’re certain that it’ll all be worthwhile. Here’s one little piece of advice, from us to you: Remember that this is your own journey, and everyone’s path is different. What may work for you might not for someone else. So, if it takes you longer to reach your goals than someone else, it’s completely fine. Only you can decide your path.
So, let’s dive in to understand how you can make the most of your studies and choose the med school timeline that’s right for you. Also, we’ll share all you need to know about the key requirements and milestones that’ll be a part of your journey. Read on to take the next step in your path to becoming a healthcare professional.
Let’s talk about the admissions process timeline
The first question on any future med worker’s timeline is: “When does medical school start?” Med school typically starts right after a student completes their undergraduate studies, but there’s also a gap-year option that gives applicants more space and time to prepare. We’ll explain how all that works here.
To apply to a medical school, students must obtain their college degrees. Many aspiring healthcare professionals opt for a pre-med program, which covers various scientific topics—from biology to chemistry—that help them pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and prepare them for the first year of med school.
During the first year of your pre-med program (i.e., freshman year of undergrad), you should consider making a medical school enrollment plan. For example, if your college has an advisor, consider meeting them. Together, plan out what academic courses and extracurricular activities you’ll do over your four years of undergrad to transform yourself into an excellent med school candidate.
During your second (or sophomore) year, start making a list of your dream medical schools and familiarize yourself with their application deadlines and requirements. Look up a med school application example to understand what kind of information you’ll have to include.
In your third (or junior) year, it’s time to start prepping for the MCAT. Take a full-length practice exam to gauge where you stand and what subject matter you need to focus on to ace the real test. Toward the end of the school year, you should also start asking for recommendation letters and working on your personal statement for your med school applications. Try to take the MCAT before you get through the school year; if you can’t, take it in the summer before your senior year of college. That way, you’ll have your MCAT scores, recommendation letters and personal statement ready to go. Use this time to complete your American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) application, the centralized medical school application process that most schools deploy.
In your fourth and final year of college, you’ll be completing your coursework and sending in additional information (a secondary application) to colleges that are interested in you as a candidate. As a senior, you’ll start prepping for your medical school interviews by practicing your responses to grilling questions and working on tactics for staying calm and in the moment. Don’t forget to use your senior year to apply for scholarships or submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if you plan to seek financial aid.
Tips for applying to medical school
Getting into a medical school is a moment of pride for all aspirants. But before that, there’s a grueling application process. Every year, hundreds of smart, prepared and driven hopefuls fill out applications to get into their dream medical schools, which makes the whole process highly competitive. Remember to make the most of this opportunity by achieving the best results in your undergrad. Here are a few tips to stand out:
- Get clinical experience: Show medical schools how invested you are by getting a part-time job as an emergency medical technician (EMT) or shadowing a doctor.
- Do research projects: Get involved in a research project. This exhibits your interest in the field of medicine.
- Engage in volunteer work: Use your skills and empathy to make a change in a local organization. Caring for others is essential to your success as a doctor.
- Leverage your extracurriculars: Most medical school applicants have a science-heavy background, and if you have been a part of extracurricular activities like playing sports or instruments, that’s your chance to show off.
What about the MCAT?
Most medical schools require MCAT scores as a part of the application process. The exam helps medical school admissions committees determine a future student’s readiness.
Conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the exam is a standardized, multiple-choice, computer-based test that requires a lot of preparation, practice and stamina. The AAMC allows students to appear for the exam only three times a year, so you’ll have to plan your studies around your MCAT test date.
What’s a gap year?
A gap year is a period that some students take “off” between college and med school. But don’t let those quotation marks fool you; gap years are rarely vacations. Aspiring med school students are often quite busy during this time, using it to do research, work and apply to schools.
The med school application timeline with gap year is a bit longer, but it may be the right choice for students who want to get a competitive edge by studying longer for the MCAT (or taking it more times) or squeezing in some extra volunteer or paid work in the medical field. Medical students taking a gap year should make time for all this work just as their senior year begins, which means that they should plan to collect letters of recommendation, work on their personal statements and take the MCAT before the gap year.
In contrast, those who don’t take a gap year will go straight to medical school after finishing their undergrad studies (after what we hope will be a relaxing summer break, of course!). The journey to becoming a doctor—or any healthcare professional—is a long one, and aspiring candidates who don’t take this time off will be one year closer to achieving their goals.
That said, your career as a medical worker will be long and fruitful, and if taking a year off before continuing your studies helps you enter medical school better prepared and with less stress, consider the gap year time well spent!
We can’t wait to accompany you on your journey to becoming a doctor. Depend on us for advice like this, performance scrubs and comfortable loungewear that will help you relax after a long day of studying. And, if you wish to wear a pair of premium-quality scrubs during your part-time job, here’s a student discount for you!