When Should I Apply to Medical School?  Navigating Rolling Admissions and Deadlines

Applying to medical school can be a challenging and stressful experience.  Among many other critical questions, applicants must ask themselves, “When should I apply to medical school?”  Knowing when to submit your application can be just as critical as the data submitted.

Understanding Rolling Admissions

Most medical schools admit students on a rolling admissions basis, closing their class once they have filled it with qualified applicants.  In the competitive world of medical school admissions, applicants need to arm themselves with strategic knowledge, as well as a strong application.  Applicants often fall into two camps – those who apply the moment the cycle opens and those who squeak in right before the deadline closes.

Many applicants are under the impression that submitting their application on the first day the application cycle opens is in their best interest. This practice, however, does not always serve the applicant well. Think of your favorite day on a beach. Do you appreciate the ocean when the waves are furious and strong at high tide, or when they are gently stroking the shore?  As a general rule, it is in the best interest for a serious applicant to submit their application early in the process to ensure they are awarded a coveted seat in the class.  Submitting an application three or four weeks after the cycle opens, avoids the initial surge in applications  submitted, yet is still early enough in the process to remain highly competitive.  One must do all that is needed to ensure your application does not become a needle in a haystack.

Getting on the Radar

On the other end of the spectrum, are those applicants who apply right before the admissions cycle closes. This may be the result of required coursework in progress or taking a late MCAT exam. While select seats often open up at the last minute, this is an approach to be taken only by those who are risk takers. Again, applicants must do all that is necessary to make their application stand out.  An alternative approach, allowed by many schools, is to submit an application, and note coursework in progress or the anticipated date of one’s MCAT exam.  This method will put the applicant on the radar of the admissions office early in the cycle, demonstrate genuine interest in the program and keep the applicant competitive, while still providing an applicant with time to complete coursework or take a later MCAT.

With the competitive environment of applying to medical school increasing each year, it is important for applicants to demonstrate their ability to handle challenging coursework, show service to communities and display good judgement.  This is often shown through academic record, CV, and letters of recommendation. Finally, the strategic timing of submission of one’s application is also vital to the admissions process.


Written by: Beth A. Chesir  – MSIH Assistant Director, Admissions and External Affairs