By: Alessandra Santiago

Welcome back, pre-meds! It’s a New Year, and that can only mean one thing: the countdown to the 2020 application cycle begins! Now is the time when focus is key, when both short- and long-term planning are required in spades, and when you have the chance to encapsulate all of your experiences into one salient, killer application.

And speaking of time, let’s take the opportunity to revisit a previous article wherein we explored the timelines for the application cycle. Here’s a deeper look into what to expect as you approach the submission timeline in May.

The opening date for AMCAS is on May 4th. This is when you can create an account and begin to enter your extracurricular activities and course information. On May 28th, students can submit their primary applications, and the first batch of completed applications will arrive to medical schools by June 26th at the earliest. That means that for the next five months, pre-meds will write their personal statement, compile their list of 15 extracurricular activities, wrangle their letters of recommendation writers, finish up the MCAT, and myriad other tasks before their applications are up to snuff.

Once the primary application is edited, polished, and submitted, the secondary applications start to roll in around early July after your application has been verified. For students who meet the minimum cut-off requirements, you’ll receive tens of essays to write and submit to schools in close succession. It is critical to complete secondaries as quickly as possible—within two weeks—as med schools view your timeliness as an indication of your interest in attending that school. In addition, many admissions officers will not review your application until you’ve submitted your secondaries.

In a future article, we will cover strategies for surviving the secondaries marathon, but for now, this simple rule applies: the earlier you submit, the better your chances. The earlier you submit your primary app, the sooner it can be verified and secondaries will be sent out. The earlier you submit your secondaries, the sooner interview requests will come in.

Interview requests will arrive around mid-August, at their absolute earliest. This obviously favors students who have been diligent with their essay writing and stayed on top of their submission timeframes. It is difficult to say what the average number of interview requests a student will receive, as it depends largely on your application strategy. Say, for instance, a student applies to 15-20 schools for which they are highly qualified. That student may receive  relatively high number of interviews (between 3-5); whereas a student who applies for 30-50 schools for which they fall outside of the median GPA/MCAT may receive 0-1 interview requests.

That is why, in January of your application cycle year, it is critical to start assembling a list of schools to which you will be applying. Yes, it is important to include ‘reach’ schools, but it is also critical to find those schools whose metrics you fit well. That way, you can start mentally drafting your responses to the very common prompts like: ‘Why do you want to attend our school?’ and ‘What will you contribute to our medical school?’.

Start thinking about your Personal Statement at the start of this year. You have several months before you must actually submit your primary application, but it’s a good idea to start making some bullet points about what you might write. In addition, January is a great time to reach out to your letter writers to confirm that they will write you a letter of recommendation.

Preparedness and discipline are key attributes in this phase. Knowing early what’s coming down the pike can allow you to succeed further down the road because you prepared early!

Assignment #10: If you haven’t already done so, sign up for the Medical School Admissions Requirements to find your ‘good fit’ and ‘reach schools’. Start filling in a table with relevant information about each desired school. Take a look at each medical school’s mission statements. Start thinking about your Personal Statement and come up with answers to the questions:  ‘Why do you want to attend our school?’ and ‘What will you contribute to our medical school?’.

Happy 2020, pre-meds! We’re thrilled to continue offering you useful information on your path to becoming M.D.’s. In our next article, we will cover how to compile and prepare your primary application materials.

If you want to learn more about navigating the Pre-Med journey, check out our Getting Into Med School: Tips and Tricks Blog.