If you’re submitting a late medical school application, you are not alone. While it’s an undeniable fact that the earlier you submit your application, the higher your chances of success, a late applicant can still have a chance at getting a coveted medical school interview! With the right analysis and strategy, you can save your late application and land yourself an interview invite at one of your chosen schools, even if you haven’t followed the “ideal” so far.
In this blog, you’ll learn about what you can do to save your late medical school application. We also explain how late is “too late”, and how to decide if you should postpone your application to the next cycle or not.
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Right off the bat, we want to emphasize that applying late to medical school is never a good approach. We always encourage students to prepare their application components and start their app preparations as early as possible. If you are applying in the United States, you should be ready to submit your primaries in June. If you are applying in Canada, your applications should be ready to be submitted as soon as the application system of each school and open. However, life is full of unpredictable events that can affect your preparations. If you are running late with your medical school applications and are still determined to apply, there are things you can do to increase your chances of getting interview invites.
The medical school admissions process is notoriously complicated, demanding, and expensive, involving numerous application components and a big expenditure of your time and effort. When we consider the work put in towards coursework, MCAT prep time, extracurricular activities, and so on, most students spend years in preparation leading up to the crucial submission date. Yet the AAMC data shows that less than half of applicants to med school actually receive 1 or more acceptances. And since majority of use , the earlier you apply, the more spots there are available and therefore the greater the possibility of getting an acceptance.
However, that does not mean that as a late applicant there’s no hope at all! Remember that a great application always has a chance to get an interview invite, though the number of spots available at that stage may be limited. To stand out from the crowd and secure your spot, you’ll definitely need a competitive application with good grades, impressive extracurriculars, a great , and so on.
If you’re in this boat, the most important thing is to be honest with yourself and reflect on your application. Ask yourself, what are my strengths and weaknesses? Are you a competitive applicant? Examine this from an objective point of view. Compare your own GPA, MCAT, and against the average accepted stats of the schools you’re applying to. You can check or the school websites to get this data. Also think about your overall suitability for the programs you’re applying to. How do your activities, experiences, and achievements align with the requirements and preferences of your choice of schools? Are you a desirable candidate based on your values, skills, academic history, personal story, background, and identity?
This analysis should help you understand your realistic chances of getting into medical school even with a late application submission.
Remember, there’s no point rushing through your application process if you’re facing overwhelming chances of . At the same time, don’t underestimate your strengths and what you can do to improve your chances, whether that’s strategic school selection or taking on expert help to make the most of the pending application components.
Would you like to learn more about the MSAR? Check out this infographic!
If you’re applying late, here’s what you can do to maximize your chances of getting an interview invite:
Strategic School Selection
We recommend ALL medical school applicants conduct a deep analysis of their strengths and weaknesses and only apply to schools where they have the best chances of success. But for late medical school applicants, facing fiercer competition, this analysis is even more crucial. You should ensure that you’re not wasting your time, money, and efforts applying to schools where you have very little chance of acceptance. Here are some factors to consider:
Applying in-state: Many state or public medical schools favor in-state applicants, with majority of the seats reserved for local residents. This means that, as a local applicant, even with a late medical school application, you have a competitive chance for getting an interview invite, provided you meet their admissions requirements and impress the admissions committee with your application. Conversely, as an out-of-state late applicant, avoid applying to schools that favor in-state applicants. Your chances of acceptance at this late stage are practically nil so it will just be a waste of money. For example, offer lower tuition and hence attract many applicants from across the US, but they have much higher in-state medical school acceptance rates as they prioritize the needs of local communities.
Applying to the : We always recommend that students should only apply to schools where they can at least match the average accepted GPA and MCAT. However, as a late stage applicant, it’s not enough to simply meet the minimum requirements or even be average – your statistics should be outstanding compared to the programs’ average acceptance statistics to give you the best chance of success. While no medical school is “easy” to get into, some do have lower than average GPA or MCAT requirements, or may have more flexible admissions policies that could suit you. You can check out our to see how your stats line up against the average accepted stats of schools you’re applying to.
Applying to DO schools: A common misconception amongst students is that are a great back-up option if you’re “too late” for MD school applications. This isn’t true, as DO schools, most of which use the portal, have the same medical school application timelines as MD schools. However, DO schools do have slightly higher acceptance rates than MD schools. More importantly, DO schools place a greater emphasis on essays, extracurriculars, and other “qualitative” application components that help to demonstrate the students’ commitment to the philosophy of osteopathic medicine. If you have an interest in osteopathy and can effectively demonstrate this in your application via your essays, list of activities, etc., you have a reasonable chance of getting an acceptance even at a late stage.
Schools with no rolling admissions: The “lateness” of your application is only relevant if you’re applying to schools with rolling admissions. There are some medical schools you can target that don’t have this admissions process. Instead, they have one single application deadline, usually sometime in October or November. This includes, for example, and most of the . Note that many schools that don’t use rolling admissions also have an Early Decision Program (EDP), which might make the regular admissions cycle naturally more competitive (since some spots are already filled). Additionally, when you submit your application could still impact your chances of getting an interview invite if the schools in question use rolling interviews i.e., they issue interview applications throughout the “open” application season. On the other hand, some choose to conduct interviews on a rolling basis but only take final admissions decisions after all interviews are completed. You should check the websites of the schools you’re targeting to understand how your late application affects your chances of success in schools with “regular admissions”.
If you are looking for more info on rolling admissions, check out this video:
How Can You Stand Out From the Crowd?
First of all, if you’ve selected your schools based on analysis, research, and strategy, then you already know exactly what the programs you’re applying to look for in their applicants. Use this knowledge to tailor your application to the specific requirements of these schools so you can make yourself stand out from the crowd.
For example, while you can’t make your school-specific, you can definitely use your section or Employment and Activities section to highlight the extracurriculars that you think the schools you’ve applied to will value more. For example, if you’re applying to schools that prioritize research, innovation, and creative thinking, then make sure your list of activities includes multiple “research” entries. If they value community engagement and volunteer work, your section should include significant volunteer work.
Overall, we recommend that along with having above average stats and meeting all the, a late medical school application should have at least one really strong feature. Whether it’s an impressive personal narrative supported by your essays/activities, or extraordinary extracurricular achievements such as nationally recognized awards, or 100th percentile academic results, there should be something unusual to catch the admissions committees’ eye.
There are times when students struggle with seeing their own full potential and what makes them unique. If this is your situation, consider taking on a to help you identify your strengths and work on the weakest areas of your application. These professionals can help you see your own journey in a new light. Something that may seem like a mundane event to you, may easily become the backbone of your personal statement.
Conversely, these professionals may help you speak about any gaps or setbacks of your application. For example, even the lateness of your application can be eloquently explained in your essays – something the admissions committee may wonder about. A medical school advisor can help you present your situation in a favorable light and answer any “red flags” the committee might have questions about.
Want to see some of our top tips for late med school applications summarized? Check out this infographic:
Even if your application is late, you might still get to submit your secondaries. This is your true chance to demonstrate your suitability for your chosen schools! So, don’t forget to use your to continue to build this narrative theme of your key strengths and suitability for the program. Since every medical school issues their own set of secondary essay prompts, you have the chance to directly address the schools and explain your activities, experiences, skills, and why they make you so well-suited for their program.
Some medical school secondary applications also include the option of adding “accommodation” essays, where you can explain extenuating circumstances related to your personal life or background that might have impacted your candidature and that you think the admissions committee should consider. Secondaries also sometimes include where you can discuss your unique profile, identity, background, etc., as well as where you can talk about the greatest obstacles you’ve faced and how you overcame them. If any such circumstances are applicable for your late application, you can consider using these essays to expand on them. If you have not discussed why your application was submitted late in your primary application, then the secondaries might be your chance to do just that.
However, remember that any essays discussing diversity, adversity, and obstacles should have a clear growth narrative. Admissions committees won’t really be impressed by an essay where you’re simply explaining that you left your application for the last minute because of disorganization and, in fact, this would certainly count against you. They want to know about unique adversities you might have faced – such as illness, family circumstances, economic or social issues, etc. – that held you back from having the same opportunities/performing to the same level as others. They want to know what you learnt from it and how you overcame that obstacle. If you’re addressing your late application in these essays, make sure you explain how you progressed beyond past obstacles to continue your commitment to medical school.
Also keep in mind that you should submit your within 2 weeks of getting them. Even if your primary application submission was delayed, make sure you submit your secondaries as fast as possible without sacrificing quality.
Submit Your Primary Application Even if Your Secondary Requirements Aren’t Ready Yet
Don’t wait to submit your primary application based on the status of requirements like the MCAT and letters of recommendation. These are two of the biggest sources of delay for students. AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS actually only need specific primary application components such as transcripts, essays, and contact/personal details, before they begin verifying your application. The verification process takes time, for instance, AMCAS can take 4 to 6 weeks to verify your transcripts, so get your primary application in as early as you can. Remember, the time taken to verify your application can also increase later in the season, as the volume of applicants increases.
Once verified, your primary application is sent to schools and only then will you start receiving secondary applications. Most schools don’t require MCAT scores or letters of recommendation before issuing secondaries. The exceptions are schools that use any of these components as part of their initial screening process.
The advantage of submitting your primary application earlier is that, while you wait for the AAMC to release MCAT results or your referees to work on your letters, you can simultaneously work on your secondary essays. As soon as you receive the pending items, you can submit your application. The few weeks you save in this process could be the difference between an acceptance and a rejection!
Looking for details on med school secondary essays? This video is for you!
Before I explain what is considered “too late” for a medical school application, let’s quickly go through the typical medical school application timeline. AMCAS applications open in May, and the earliest you can submit your primary application is early in June. Technically, the primary application deadline is sometime between October and December for most schools, with Early Decision Programs having a deadline of August 1. But if a school has rolling admissions, this technical deadline is only a formality – by the time October rolls around, many schools would have already filled up majority of their seats!
Ideally, you would submit your primary application by early to mid-June and secondary application by July. This includes your MCAT score – remember, the AAMC can take up to a month after you sit the exam to release the score to the school – as well as final letters of recommendation from your referees.
If you’re submitting your application in late June/July, you’re entering a more competitive zone, with thousands of presumably more prepared applicants having already submitted their application and possibly even received interview invites.
August is a borderline period – at this stage, you are “late” and every day is crucial. Yet you can’t afford to rush through your application and do a poor job with your essays or activity descriptions as there are fewer spots available and only the outstanding applicants will get them. Still, if you have a strong application and are a strategically well-suited candidate for the schools you’re targeting, you have a competitive chance to receive an interview invite in this period.
Remember that there is such a thing as “too late”. September and beyond is simply too late for your med school application, unless you are applying to a school without rolling admissions whose deadline is later in the season. Or you’ll need a truly exceptional application, with really unique achievements.
Of course, applications are still open for most programs until October, but there would be very, very few spots available at this stage. Moreover, at this point, you would have to rush through your secondary essays and may have to manage some application submissions alongside interview prep or even the actual interview days at other schools. This is not an ideal way to work through your application season and could lead to both poorer quality essays and a disappointing interview performance. Admissions committees won’t accept “ I have to manage my late applications” as an excuse for why you’re distracted or stressed in interviews or why your application has critical errors.
If you’re already in August or beyond, it’s a good idea to reach out to a to figure out what are your realistic chances of getting into medical school, and how much of a risk your late season application is. Consider if any of the strategies we outlined above could help you improve your application and make it really competitive. And if not – then maybe it’s best to wait until next year.
How Late is Too Late for the MCAT?
If the applications have opened and you haven’t completed your MCAT test yet, you might be wondering what’s the absolute last date you can sit your MCAT. While we recommend taking your MCAT exam sometime in April or early May, at the same time, we understand how challenging this exam is and how difficult it can be to prepare for. It’s not a good idea to take this exam before you are fully prepared. You don’t want to go through the hassle and additional cost of because of a poor initial score!
Having said that, you can’t push the exam date too late either. The latest you should aim to take it is July of your application year. The results take one month to be released, so that means your final application submission will be sometime in August, and in the meantime, you can focus on making sure the rest of your application is complete and as strong as possible.
Worried about the MCAT? Here are some great tips to help you get a good score!
Deciding whether or not you should go ahead with a late application or put it off until next year is one of the toughest decisions you’ll ever make. The key is to be realistic and consider all the relevant factors based on your circumstances. Consider all the pros and cons of pushing your application to next year.
Remember that the risk you’re facing with late applications isn’t just the heartbreak of rejections. It’s also a material loss of financial and time investments. Medical school applications are expensive, costing thousands of dollars in application fees alone, to which you need to add the , CASPer fees, and if you get any interview invites, the cost of travelling to interview destinations. Some expenses, such as MCAT costs, may not be required again next year, but the overall financial loss is still significant, and you should consider if the financial risk is worth it or if you should take a gap year instead.
Taking a can actually be very beneficial for a lot of students. You can focus on improving critical areas of your application and have a much better chance of acceptance next year. For example, you could take a to improve your grades or meet course requirements of more colleges. Or you can plan to take the MCAT again and get a better score. You can try to get significant volunteer, research, or clinical experience that will make your AMCAS Work and Activities section stand out. This can also help you write a more memorable, articulate, personal statement and essays based on significant personal experiences, and to gain critical skills and a better understanding of .
However, a gap year is not a feasible option for all students. For instance, socio-economically disadvantaged students who need to maintain a full-time job might find it difficult to fully utilize the gap year. There are many other personal circumstances that could limit your ability to take a gap year or make the best use of it – from your financial obligations to family commitments or health reasons.
So, before you make this decision, think carefully about the pros and cons of taking a gap year and weigh them against your chances of success in the late application season. If you think, with a little strategic planning and expert guidance, you can make your application competitive enough even for a late season submission, then it might be worth applying asap. On the other hand, if you think that a gap year can help you work on significantly improving your application and thus save you the costs of going through multiple application seasons, then maybe deferring your application is the better option.
Ultimately, a late medical school application, while not ideal, isn’t always doomed to failure. With the right strategy and guidance, you could still land that interview invite and get back on track.
1. How late is too late to apply to medical school?
Generally speaking, unless you have an outstanding application, we would not recommend applying to medical schools that have rolling admissions in September and beyond. By this time, most programs would have filled up the vast majority of their spots, greatly reducing your chances of getting an interview invite.
2. What can I do to maximize my chances of success as a late applicant?
To maximize your chances of success for your late medical school application, try to be strategic about which schools you’re applying to. Prioritize schools where you not only match, but ideally exceed the average stats, and look for other advantages you could have as a candidate. For example, you’ll have a better chance of getting into in-state medical schools that prioritize local residents. You can also consider applying to programs that are most likely to value your specific achievements and strengths, and overlook the weakest areas of your application. Finally, make sure all the written components of your application are excellent and that your application has at least one “outstanding” factor to attract the admissions committee’s attention.
3. Should I consider getting a medical school advisor?
Late medical school applicants could definitely benefit from a medical school advisor. At this stage, the most important thing is to be able to accurately assess your own application and determine your chances of acceptance. A medical school advisor, with their expertise and years of experience, can help you analyze your stats and form a realistic picture of your acceptance chances. They can also work with you to help you write high quality essays or focus on interview prep, so that you can ensure you’re putting your best foot forward despite the rushed timelines.
4. How do rolling admissions impact late applications?
Rolling admissions is a system of application review and admissions used by a lot of medical schools in the US. In this admissions process, application review begins as soon as the first applications are received and continues all through application season. As approved applicants are identified, interview invites are sent out, and admissions decisions are made. This means that the earlier you submit your application, the greater your chances of getting an acceptance. As it gets later and later in the application season, spots fill up, and late applicants are competing for fewer seats. That’s why it’s so important for late applicants to have a very strong application.
5. Do all medical schools use rolling admissions?
6. Is my MCAT score required to complete my application? Can I submit it later?
Most schools do not ask for the MCAT score as part of your primary application. However, your application will not be reviewed until the AAMC submits your score, even if all other application components have been submitted. You can submit your primary application without the MCAT score, but you should have it by the time you submit your secondaries. The exception to this rule are . Additionally, a few med schools may begin your application review before receiving your MCAT score but will hold off on making any final admissions decisions.
7. What about extracurriculars? Should I wait for a specific course/activity/event to be completed before submitting my application?
We recommend adding your past and on-going extracurriculars to your primary application and submitting it as early as possible. Don’t unduly delay your application in anticipation of some future achievement or experience. If you gain some truly impressive extracurriculars or awards at a later stage, you can opt to share the information with the school via updates or .
8. If I’m a late medical school applicant, should I just give up and wait until the next cycle?
It might be a good idea to wait until next year to apply, however, the answer to this question depends on you! Don’t make this decision based on fear of failure or under the pressure of deadlines. Instead, take a logical, structured approach, and start by analyzing your application. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. Compare your stats – i.e., your GPA, MCAT, extracurriculars – against the requirements of your top-choice medical schools. If you think you have a strong application with unique strengths that make you highly suitable for the programs you’re applying to, then you may still have a good chance of getting invited to an interview, and the “risk” of rejection might be minimal. You could also use the time you do have to work on short-term activities and strategies to improve your chances of acceptance. On the other hand, if you think there are too many “weaknesses” in your application, and you think you could make your application significantly stronger with a few extra months of work and planning, then a gap year could be right choice for you. Weigh the risk of investing your time, efforts, and money, against your realistic chances of success (either this year or next year) and make a final decision that plays to your strengths.