6 Keys to Medical School Rolling Admissions

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One of the most important principles of medical school admissions is to apply early. If you solicit any recent applicants’ advice, one of the first things they will recommend is to apply early in the cycle. This is for good reason. First of all, it is a simple task. Now it may be challenging to have all the application materials together by the beginning of the submission season, and if so it might be prudent to wait a year and apply in the next cycle. However, if one plans far in advance and prepares all the necessary materials and documents, applying early is not complicated. It is low hanging fruit. The other reason that early application is the advice premeds receive most frequently is that it really is the smart way to go. It can truly benefit your chances of acceptance. So why is that?  

1| Important Dates

Before understanding the reasons behind early application, it is important to have some context. Here are the key dates relevant to the AMCAS and AACOMAS applications.  

AMCAS (MD Admissions)

May 2nd – primary application opens and can be filled out June 1st – first day primary application can be submitted June 29th – first day primary application is submitted by AMCAS to schools (after review) October 15th – first day schools can offer acceptances October to December – individual school application deadlines (majority in October and November)  

AACOMAS (DO Admissions)

May 3rd – primary application opens and can be filled out June 15th – schools begin receiving and reviewing application October to April – individual school application deadlines (majority in February and March; note only one school deadline is in October and next earliest is in January) Acceptances can be offered at any time after the interview  

2| What are Rolling Admissions?

The vast majority of medical schools, both MD and DO programs, employ rolling admissions. This means that from the start of the application season, applications are reviewed sequentially as they arrive. Secondaries are then sent out and again secondary responses are reviewed as they arrive. Finally interview invitations are sent and acceptances offered thereafter. Acceptance can occur any time during the admissions process for DO schools and any time after October 15th for MD schools, which is the mandated first day of possible acceptance. Thus, each school’s review process moves forward regardless of the application deadline and how many applications have been received. This system contrasts a more traditional, non-rolling system that many students are accustomed to from their undergraduate applications. The alternative system is that all applications are due by a certain deadline, after which they are reviewed; subsequently, all acceptances are sent on a certain date. Medical schools by and large do not follow this system.  

3| Does the Timing of My Application Really Matter?

Rolling admissions create a system in which application timing is paramount. We have reviewed the important application dates above. For the sake of example, we will consider AMCAS applications here. A large portion of students will submit their AMCAS primary app in June along with the first cohort of applicants. All these applications will be reviewed, and then secondaries will be sent in late June and early July. Again, students who submit secondaries sooner will be reviewed first and (if chosen) will get the first interview applications. As the season moves on, interview slots will be filled in this fashion. Each school has a limited number of interview slots they can offer. Now consider a student who sends their primary application in August or September. At this point, many and possibly even the majority of interview slots will be filled. Some students may have already completed interviews and will be on their way to acceptance. The student who applies later is now competing for an interview when there are a limited number of slots remaining. They are thus at a large disadvantage. There simply may not be an opportunity remaining for them. Therefore, applying early in the season provides the best chance of acceptance because interview slots are not yet filled, and everyone is competing on a level playing field.  

4| Med School Acceptance is Competitive

This sounds obvious, and it is. But it makes the timing of application even more important. Each year, there are over 50,000 applicants applying for about 20,000 MD spots and over 20,000 applicants for about 7,000 DO spots. As you all know, and as demonstrated by these numbers, med school admission is very competitive. So it only makes sense to optimize your chances with early application. Failing to heed this advice is essentially like starting a race after most of the runners have already taken off.   

5| Which Schools Use Rolling Admissions?

There is a small subset of schools which release their admissions on a designated day and thus may seem to employ the traditional, non-rolling system. But I would warn applicants against considering these schools non-rolling, as this is not truly the case. Even if all acceptances are sent at a later date, secondaries and interview invites will be sent as applications come (on a rolling basis), benefiting earlier applicants just the same as any other school. A late applicant will still be competing for fewer available interview slots, so will be fighting an uphill battle. Thus, these schools effectively have a rolling admissions process as well.   

6| Does Submitting in Early vs. Late June Matter?

The conventional wisdom for AMCAS applications goes as follows: “Apply on June 1st, or as close to it as possible.” While this is good advice to heed overall, there is a bit of nuance to the application timeline within June. One question many applicants may ask is “Does applying on June 1st provide any benefit over applying on June 15th. Does that waiting that extra two weeks hurt me?” In general, the answer to this is most likely no. AMCAS applications which are submitted in June are all processed during the month and then sent by AMCAS to schools on June 29th. So in theory, anyone who has their application processed by June 29th would have the same standing in terms of application status. AACOMAS applications can be filled out starting May 2nd, but schools do no review them until June 15th. So anyone applying by June 15th would be in the same boat. (Note that some schools automatically send secondaries to an applicants’ contact info prior to application processing and receipt in late June). As the application cycle goes on, processing can take longer at certain times based on application traffic. Most sources indicate that late July to early August is peak traffic time, with processing taking up to 2-4 weeks. Though there is no exact answer, in general there is probably not much difference in applying June 1st versus June 15th. With that said, the earlier the better to ensure that your application is processed in time to be batched out to schools on June 29th. And it is absolutely certain, without a question, that applying in June (or as early as possible) is better than applying in later months due to the rolling admissions process described above.  

Take-Home Points

Our strong advice is this: apply as early as you can with a complete, thorough, and well-crafted application. Ideally, submit your application by mid June. Our experienced and professional advisers can help you make these deadlines with ease while creating the strongest application possible. They can assist with any aspect of the primary application, including activities sections and the personal statement. They will help craft stellar secondary applications, prepare you thoroughly for the interview process, or all the above. Take advantage of these services early to ensure a high-quality application which is on time and ahead of the game!
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