Am I ready to apply to medical school? This is a question every premed should be asking themselves, especially when spring rolls around and the opening date to submit applications approaches. Applying before you’re ready is a costly mistake—one that leads to burnout, settling for lower-tier schools, fewer scholarship opportunities, and, in some cases, failing to earn an acceptance at all.
Planning to reapply next year if things don’t go well this year is not a good strategy. While many reapplicants do find success, it’s not an easy road, as you’ll need to prove to admissions committees that you have improved your application since the first time around. Plus, the process is draining enough to do once, let alone twice. By the time you reapply, you will be tired, stressed, and lacking the enthusiasm you had the first time.
There’s more to being ready to apply to medical school than checking off a few boxes and meeting deadlines. In order to excel during the application process, premeds must be in the right headspace, have a clear plan in place, and submit materials early. So, are you ready to apply to medical school? Let’s find out.
1 | Are You Able to Submit Your Application Early?
Submitting your application early is one of the most important strategies for getting into medical school. Submitting early means submitting your primary application soon after applications open in June.
Ignore all technical deadlines when it comes to applying to medical school. Deadline dates on the AMCAS website will tell you that you have until the end of the year to submit your application, but if you hope to be a competitive candidate, this is far from accurate.
Submit your primary application as soon as possible in June and no later than the end of the summer. Due to rolling admissions, your chances of acceptance continue to decrease the later you submit.
This strategy holds true throughout the entire application process. You must be ready to submit secondary applications 7-14 days after you receive them. You must also be able to schedule interviews in a timely manner before all of the slots are claimed by your fellow applicants and competitors.
If it’s getting close to the end of the summer and you haven’t submitted your application yet, you are better off waiting until the following application cycle.
Learn more in our article How Late Can You Submit Your Primary Application? (Without Consequence).
Follow our Medical School Application Timeline and Monthly Schedule, which includes a breakdown of what you should work on each month leading up to medical school.
2 | Are You in the Right Headspace?
Do not overlook the challenges of going through the medical school application process while in a suboptimal headspace. Applying to medical school is no easy feat. The medical school application process is to your time and energy what the Cookie Monster is to cookies.
Are you ready to dedicate most of your waking hours to the process? Does your lifestyle currently allow for this type of dedication? Do you have anything going on in your life personally or professionally that could hinder you from doing your best this application cycle?
The rest of the world does not stop for you to apply to medical school. Unfortunately, this can mean dealing with a number of personal issues as you navigate the application process. If you are dealing with any unfortunate circumstances, such as the death of a close family member or a personal illness, take extra care in considering whether or not you have the mental capacity to also take on applying to medical school.
We’re not saying these circumstances alone mean you should delay your application, but it’s something you should take into consideration.
As we continue to reiterate, going into the application process thinking if you don’t get in this year you’ll just apply again next year only makes things more difficult. If you have something going on in your life that you believe will prevent you from being able to put your best foot forward, you’re much better off waiting until next year to apply. In the meantime, you can plan ahead, gain more experience, and work to get yourself into the right headspace.
If you’re thinking of applying to medical school, you are probably already a fairly hard-working and dedicated student. Taking a year off to get yourself where you need to be is not a failure or a setback; instead, the opposite is true. Understanding your limitations and what you are and aren’t able to handle is a true asset—one that will continue to help you as you work your way through medical school and residency.
3 | Are You a Competitive Candidate?
Are you a competitive candidate? While there are a number of factors that come into play here, there are some very hard facts you can use to determine your competitiveness as a candidate.
MSAR, AAMC’s Medical School Admissions Requirements database, allows you to browse, search, sort, and compare medical schools based on GPA and MCAT averages. With this information, you can determine how you compare to other candidates and which medical schools you have a chance of getting into.
Not happy with your options? If you had hoped to get into different schools than your grades, MCAT score, and experience allows, you’ll need to make a decision. Do you adjust and apply to more safety schools and perhaps some lower-tier options you hadn’t considered before? Or do you delay your application in order to become a stronger candidate for the next application cycle?
There is no wrong answer here, and it mainly comes down to how badly you want to go to specific schools. Take time to do your research. You may find that you actually align quite well with schools you hadn’t considered before. Remember—prestige is not everything. There are many factors to consider when choosing which medical schools are the best fit for you.
What about going the Caribbean route? Many premeds consider Caribbean schools as an option when they find out they are not a competitive candidate for US schools. While this is an option, we usually recommend against it. We covered the pros and cons of Caribbean medical schools in a previous article. (Spoiler alert: there aren’t many upsides.)
Rather than going the Caribbean route, we advise most of our premed clients to work on strengthening their application. A lot can be accomplished in just one year if you delay your application and refocus your efforts.
For most students, we only recommend applying to Caribbean schools after one or more failed attempts applying to US allopathic and osteopathic medical schools.
4 | Do You Have the Experience and Materials You Need?
This consideration is nice and simple—do you have the experience and materials you need to apply to medical school?
Do you have a competitive (or at least adequate) GPA and MCAT score? Do you have a copy of your transcript available to reference as you fill out your application? Have you put in the time to write, edit, and refine your personal statement? Do you have 4-5 strong letters of recommendation? Do you have notable experiences to discuss in the Work and Activities section of your application?
In order to be a competitive candidate, each aspect of your application needs to be strong. If you have a weak area you’re already aware of, that’s okay, but it means you’ll need to make up for it by exceeding expectations on the other areas of your application.
Need help with a weak area of your application? Reach out to Med School Insiders. Our team of doctors has years of experience serving on admissions committees, so you’ll receive key insights from people who have been intimately involved with the selection process.
5 | Do You Have the Funds/Financial Resources?
The unfortunate truth about medical school is that it costs a whole lot of money. Going to medical school costs thousands of dollars every year in tuition, not to mention all of the costs that add up throughout the application process. Each application you submit costs money, secondary applications cost even more, and you’ll spend a significant amount of money traveling to schools for interviews.
Read our full breakdown: How Much Do Med School Applications Cost?
Do you have the financial resources to successfully pay for medical school applications and the cost of going to medical school?
Cost alone should not hold you back, but it is another factor to consider. If you are worried about any of the other questions we’ve raised in this article, such as the quality of your application or if you’ll be able to submit your application in time, financial stress is another heavy burden.
In order to gain financial aid and be eligible for scholarships, you need to be a top performing candidate, which is difficult to accomplish with a multitude of other unfavorable factors working against you. If you know you will need financial aid and must rely on scholarships to be able to pay for medical school, being a top performing candidate from the jump is a must.
6 | Do You Want to Take a Year Off?
Be honest with yourself. Do you want to take some time off before going to medical school? Don’t rush over this decision since this opportunity will not present itself again.
Medical school requires four years of study, including participating in clinical rotations and passing many tough examinations. Following medical school, you will need to complete four years of residency or more, depending on the specialty you choose to pursue.
If you feel strongly about being able to travel or accomplish anything else before medical school, consider the possibility of taking a year off first. You will not get this opportunity again, and having this regret lingering over you will only hinder your ability to succeed in medical school and beyond.
Bottom Line—Are You Ready to Apply to Medical School?
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether or not you are ready to apply to medical school. Take each factor into consideration when making your decision.
The more factors you have working against you, the lower your chances of acceptance are. If you have a weak area of your application, you can make up for it by ensuring every other aspect of your application is stellar. But at the same time, if you are worried about your finances and will not be ready to submit your application before the end of the summer, having this many factors working against you is a recipe for disaster.
It all adds up. Assess your progress, and don’t be afraid to delay your application if you believe you are falling behind or don’t have an application that can get you into the schools you want. As a reapplicant, you are at a disadvantage, so do everything you can to ensure you succeed the first time around.
That said, there will always be application jitters, and it’s very unlikely that you will feel 100% prepared and confident every step of the way. Trust yourself, assess your progress as you go, and continue to plan ahead as best you can. Adjust as needed, even if that means delaying your application. In the grand scheme of your long journey to becoming a doctor, taking an extra year is only a small bump in the road.
Med School Insiders can assess your readiness to ensure you have what it takes to get into your top choice schools. Our team provides one-on-one advising that will help you determine whether or not you are ready to apply to medical school and what you need to focus on in order to succeed.
Learn more about our Comprehensive Medical School Admissions Packages, which are designed to maximize your potential, and follow the MSI blog for the latest application news, guides, and resources. Our content library is filled with articles to help you prepare for every aspect of your application, transition into medical school, complete rotations, and succeed in your career.