The journey to medical school is not for the faint of heart. Medical school is grueling and there are many steps and sacrifices to get there. This timeline is designed to be a starting point in your research for medical school admissions and based upon a traditional path to medical school. Keep in mind that every student is different and each medical school’s admissions process may vary. There is also no right or wrong way to get to medical school and some students may decide to go to medical school later in life versus declaring pre-med their freshman year of college.
We know the process may be daunting. Med School Tutors is here to help you on your way. If at any time you need help with any step of the admissions process, please reach out to us.
Freshmen & Sophomore Year
Required Premed Coursework
Planning your curriculum each year is crucial for success. There are some courses you should take and others that we recommend you take to be successful on the MCAT as well as in medical school.
While you may not be able to get all of these in during your freshman and sophomore years, you should start to plan out when you will take them throughout college. Keep in mind that you should check when these courses are offered, any prerequisites, as well as your entire course load for each semester. Overall GPA and your science GPA are vital to med school admissions so while you should always push yourself to take as many credits as possible to ensure you graduate on time, you also don’t want to do poorly because you don’t have enough time to devote to a course.
Required Courses for Med School Applications:
- 1-Year Biology (Cell Biology, Genetics, Anatomy and Physiology, and Microbiology)
- 2-Years Chemistry (General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Biochemistry)
- 1-Year English
Strongly Recommended Courses for Med School Applications:
- Introductory Physics
Please note that the above required and recommended courses may be different for each medical school. Make sure to look up any specific requirements for schools that you are interested in.
We recommend that you have at minimum 150 hours of clinical research experience before applying to med school. Clinical research experience is designed for you to really learn if being a physician is right for you. It’s also to demonstrate your seriousness about medical school. This experience could be shadowing physicians, volunteering at a hospital, or working as an EMT. If you do shadow a physician, this should be extensive shadowing. It’s also highly recommended that you actually volunteer in an office.
Once again, you will not be able to get all of these hours in during your first two years of college. It’s more important that you start on these early so you don’t have to worry about cramming them all in during your senior year.
Premed Research Hours
You should have a minimum of 100 research hours by the time you apply to medical school. A lot of students will stay on campus and work in labs during the summer. This is also a great opportunity to work closely with your college professors who will most likely be writing your recommendations.
Keep in mind that if your field of study is outside of the natural sciences, scholarly work in other disciplines can count for this requirement, although those experiences are harder to obtain in college than working in a natural science lab.
We recommend that you have at least 150 hours of volunteer hours before applying to medical school. Volunteering is a great way to explore your interests and passions in and outside of medicine. To get started, begin with 1 to 2 low intensity activities at the start of college and then expand as you gain confidence in your academic skills and ability to manage your college workload.
Most students will prepare and take the MCAT during their junior year. If you wish to attend medical school immediately after college, you should as well. The most popular time of year that students take the MCAT is in April or May. Every student is different and some may find that taking the test earlier in January (after some serious studying during the holiday break) is better for their schedules.
The most important thing is to put together a study plan and prepare. In general, we recommend that most students prep for at least 3 to 4 months. This means taking practice tests, working through prep books, taking courses, or working with a private tutor. Studying and taking the MCAT is incredibly expensive, but doing well on the exam is critical for med school applications. You will need an MCAT score of at least 510 to have the best chance at acceptance.
Primary applications are usually submitted between June and December the year before you wish to attend medical school. While this means that you have a large window of time to submit these applications, it’s to your advantage to submit them earlier rather than later as this could mean early invitations to complete your secondary applications as well as interviews. Keep in mind that some schools use a rolling interview process which essentially means “first-come, first-served” which can put late applicants at a disadvantage.
For most medical schools, you can expect to submit your application via the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) though you should be aware that some medical schools may not use AMCAS and have their own medical school application system.
In order to submit your applications, you will need your official transcripts, GPA, personal statement, activities (including hours spent), and letters of recommendation. Applications do open in May so you can start working on them, but you won’t be able to submit your applications until June.
Most students find the personal statement portion to be quite challenging as it can be very difficult to write about yourself without falling into cliches about why you want to attend medical school. Make sure to give yourself extra time on this part as well as get feedback from trusted peers and advisors to make sure you are showing yourself in the best light possible.
Letters of recommendation can also be tricky. Keep in mind that most of your professors will have lots of students asking them to write letters of recommendation. When requesting a letter of recommendation, be sure to ask the writer if they feel they can write you a strong letter of recommendation--most professors will tell you if they have a reservation, allowing you to seek out a different letter writer and to have a stronger application. Ask early, provide as much information as possible (a CV or resume is super helpful here), and always send thank you notes once you receive your letters.
Continue Gaining Clinical Experience, Research, & Volunteer Hours
–If you haven’t reached those minimum hours that we recommended (or even if you have), keep going. Spending time shadowing doctors, volunteering in hospitals, and helping in your community is also going to make your medical school applications stronger. These experiences are also going to give you great material for medical school application essays as well talking points for your admissions interviews. Really try to soak in these opportunities and reflect upon what you are gaining from them. It may help to keep a journal, blog, or even just jot down a few notes somewhere with your thoughts.
Take the MCAT Again (If You Need To)
Didn’t get the MCAT score you wanted? Or want to try again for a higher score? You still have time to take the MCAT again. The MCAT is offered in August and September and typically these will be your last opportunities to take the MCAT and receive your score in time to submit them for this application cycle.
After you have submitted your primary applications, medical schools that are interested in you will send you their secondary applications to complete. Secondary applications will include additional questions and essays that you will need to complete. Once again, do not wait to complete these applications. Deadlines are incredibly important so make sure that you leave enough time to give each secondary application the time it deserves.
Med School Interviews
By early to late fall, you should start getting invited to interviews with medical schools that you have applied to. It’s incredibly important to practice your answers to interview questions. If you are interviewing remotely, treat these like you would if they were in-person. Dress professionally, make sure you are in a quiet space, and be over prepared.
Interviews are a great time to get to know the medical schools you applied to. You can learn a lot about the culture of a medical school as well as what they specialize in and offer their applicants. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just make sure you do your research so you are not asking questions that could easily be answered with some internet research.
Once you have finished with your med school interviews, it may be a good idea to pick your favorite school that you could truly matriculate in if you were to be accepted and send them a letter of intent. This letter is designed to really demonstrate why you want to go there. Be specific to the school and reference any new information or experience that really stuck out to you during the interview process.
Senior year is not the time to slack off. Keep in mind that schools are going to watch your grades as well as what you’re doing this year to prepare for medical school. Keep your GPA up and continue your clinical experience, volunteering, and research hours.
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! It’s decision time. By early winter and spring, you should start receiving acceptance letters from some of the medical schools you’ve applied to. While it may be disheartening to not get accepted everywhere you apply to or perhaps even one of your favorite schools, keep in mind that you may have not been the best fit for the school despite your best efforts. AMCAS requires you to report where you’re attending medical school by April 30th. Once again, don’t miss this deadline.
The journey to medical school may seem overwhelming. It’s definitely not easy, but Med School Tutors is here to help you along the way. Our med school admissions consultants can help you with any part of the med school admissions process with custom consulting packages designed for maximum flexibility and comprehensive support.
Looking for additional med school application resources? Check out our blog post on the five most important factors in applying to U.S. medical schools, whether or not you should delay your med school application, and eight tips for your primary application, as well as our free pre-med activity tracker.
Schedule a free consult today to learn how we can help you.