In this blog, we’ll give you some insights into the timeline for interview invitations in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., and offer some ideas for getting through this difficult period and using the waiting time wisely.
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The time in between submitting your medical school application and hearing back from medical schools for interviews can be stressful, to say the least. For many, this period can feel like a time of “hurry up and wait” – you’ve put so much time, effort, and care into your primary and secondary applications to get them just right and submitted promptly, only for everything to feel like it hits an absolute standstill, as the time between application and response crawls by. Compulsively refreshing your inbox may seem like the natural thing to do, and – depending on your location (i.e., the U.S., Canada, or the U.K.) – it may be difficult to get a clear answer when you try to figure out when you will hear back from medical schools for interviews, but we are here to help! Still have so far? Keep reading our blog to learn what you can do.
There’s no easy way to say it: with a large number of medical schools, a similarly substantial number of medical school applicants, and no truly universal timeline for application review, interview invitations, and acceptance offers, U.S. medical school applicants should anticipate a potentially-year-long application process. Regardless of whether you’ve applied through AMCAS, TMDSAS, or AACOMAS, the wait to hear back from medical schools for interviews may be a long one. You can review information available online to see if the schools to which you’ve applied make their general timeline public (this would be on the school’s admissions website, or on the AAMC’s Medical School Admissions Requirements [MSAR] ), but a concrete answer to the question “When do you hear back from medical schools for interviews?” may be elusive.
Overall, in the U.S., the majority of candidates hear back from medical schools for interviews between October and January, but there’s variation even in that wide spread of time. Here are some general parameters for the med school interview invitation timeline, but – again – these vary by school, and there is no standardized timeline for medical school interview invitations.
As the U.S. has the most variable application evaluation system, by far, and the longest time period during which interviews are conducted (as compared to Canada and the U.K.), it's worth taking a moment to discuss some important considerations to bear in mind, so that you can maintain perspective during this waiting period.
In the U.S., there are nearly 200 medical schools, to which upwards of 50,000 aspiring medical students apply each year, and – quite frankly – evaluating that many applicants just takes time. Consider the sheer volume of material you’ve had to submit as an applicant: your CV, transcripts, test scores, application essay(s), letters of recommendation, , and so on. Now, multiply that by 50k to get a grasp of the scope of the task application reviewers face! That’s a lot of information for the admissions committees to review, and it’s in your best interest to have it reviewed carefully and thoroughly. Trust that they’re getting through all that information as quickly as possible, while still giving everyone the evaluation they deserve.
The rolling admissions system in the U.S. can also factor into the medical school interview invitation timeline, to some extent. That is, in the U.S., those who apply first often have their applications reviewed earliest. So, if you are a highly competitive candidate and you apply early, submit your secondary applications promptly, and have demonstrated a clear alignment with the mission, vision, and values of the institution (that is, you’ve shown that you’re a “good fit” for the program in your primary and secondary application materials), it is possible that you may hear back earlier in the interview cycle. That said, each school has its own timeline for application review, too, and medical schools don’t always necessarily review applications as they come in, so you shouldn’t fret if you submitted your application on the earliest possible date and you haven’t received any interview invitations in the earliest months indicated above – it all just depends on the school.
That said, if you submitted your application at the earliest date possible and haven’t heard anything by December, it is possible that your application has been put in a category known as “pre-interview hold”. If this is the case, then the school has reviewed your application and found it competitive enough to keep in the proverbial pile, but not competitive enough to offer an interview immediately. However, they may still do so later in the cycle, after they’ve had the opportunity to compare it to the wider pool of applicants. Alas, there isn’t really any way for you to find out if this is the case, and you should not try to contact the school to ask about this status. It is expected that applicants will be patient and wait for the process to unfold, so contacting the school can reflect poorly on your patience and ability to manage stress (both of which are needed in the medical profession!). At the end of this post, we’ll discuss some ways to get through this time and make the most of it, so focus on that rather than obsessing over where your application is in the evaluation process (easier said than done, I know!).
If December rolls around and you haven’t received a secondary application, it’s unfortunately unlikely that you will receive one. At the end of this blog, we’ll have some tips and strategies for what to do at this point, so that you can take stock of what happened and put together a more competitive application for the following application cycle.
If, on the other hand, December arrives and you have submitted a secondary application, there are a couple of things you can do to try to make the case for your suitability for the program and profession. First, if you have a supporter who is an alumnus of the program to which you are applying, or who is otherwise able to speak to your fit with the school, you can ask them to call the admissions Dean on your behalf. This could even be one of your letter-writers, particularly if they are scholars or part of the academic establishment. Having a person of stature reach out directly on your behalf speaks to your capability and character, which could encourage the school to give your application another look. Another option is writing an update letter or letter of intent, which will be discussed at the end of this post.
While it’s certainly possible to get a medical school interview invitation after December, particularly for AMCAS and AACOMAS applicants, you will still want to start taking stock and doing a thorough and honest evaluation of your application if you haven’t heard back at this time. Again, refer to the end of this post for further discussion of how to strategize and move forward, if you find yourself anxious and waiting at this stage in the medical school interview invitation timeline.
Because Canada doesn’t have rolling admissions like the U.S., that means that most medical school interview invites tend to come out around the same time, and interviews happen over a much shorter span of time, as well. The good news is that this means much less uncertainty, which might result in less stress and turmoil. That said, it’s still going to be a considerable wait between application and interview invitation, as many Canadian medical schools have an early-October deadline for application submission.
In general, most of the interview invitations in Canada come out in January and February, with interviews taking place between February and April. The exact dates vary from school-to-school, with some having interviews spread out over a couple of months, and others holding a few big “interview weekends”, completing all interviews in the span of just a few weeks.
Note that while many medical schools in Canada follow this general timeline, you must verify dates with individual schools, as there is some variation, particularly in Quebec medical schools and those in the Maritimes. For example, Dalhousie generally has a late-July deadline for primary applications (with interview invites often coming out in October), and Quebec schools vary widely in their application due dates. These differences can impact the interview invitation timeline.
If mid-February rolls around and you haven’t received a medical school interview invitation, look into the suggestions at the end of this post to think through how best to move forward.
No interview invites? Check out our video to learn what to do next:
In the U.K., the majority of students apply to university through the UCAS application, which has a single, standardized due date for medical school applicants, usually in mid-October. Generally, UK schools do not have a rolling application process, so the wait is not nearly as arduous as it is for aspiring med students in the U.S., and there is a more straightforward timeline for interview invites and interviews.
For the most part, UK students will hear back from medical schools for interviews between November and March, with invitations usually coming out approximately 2 weeks before the interview. Many schools endeavor to send out invitations just before or after Christmas, though there are exceptions. For example, Buckingham has rolling interview invitations, and holds a few “Selection Days” each year, where MMIs take place. These generally take place in March/April, July, and September/October. Another exception is the University of Bristol, which sometimes begins sending medical school interview invitations a bit earlier, in mid-October. You can check with individual schools to see what their timeline for medical school interview invitations is, as these vary from institution to institution. The majority of students will know prior to the beginning of the new calendar year whether or not they have an interview.
If January 1st comes and you’ve not yet received a medical school interview invitation, you can begin planning and preparing to move forward using the suggestions that follow.
Regardless of where you’re applying, you’re going to be in for a wait in between applying and hearing back from medical schools for interviews. So, it is important to plan ahead and use this time wisely. First and foremost, expect the wait. If you’re one of the lucky few who gets an invitation at the very beginning of the process (especially in the U.S.), that’s awesome, but go ahead and prepare to settle in and wait it out. If you tell yourself that it’s unlikely that you’ll hear anything prior to, say, January 1 in the U.S. and U.K. or mid-February in Canada, then you’ll save yourself some sleepless nights in the interim (and if you do happen to hear before that time, then it’s a happy surprise!).
This is incredibly important, since you’ll likely still be completing part of your education, and you need to focus your efforts there (and if you’re on a or are applying after having graduated, then you’ve likely got other commitments that require your attention). If you’re distracted by the stress of waiting to hear back from medical schools for interviews, it’s going to impact your productivity, your performance, and your engagements with others in your volunteering, clinical work, and other valuable roles where you should be gaining experience and undergoing the process of professionalization.
What to Do Instead of Worrying
In the time between submitting the application and the early medical school interview invitation timeline, there really isn’t much you can do to impact your chances of getting that invitation. Most importantly, worrying about it simply isn’t going to help you – quite the opposite! So, here are some things you can do instead of worrying, at various stages of the med school interview invitation timeline.
Prior to medical school interview invitations through the early weeks/months of the medical school interview invitation timeline
This is likely going to be a stressful time, so use this as an opportunity to continue refining your stress management strategies. If you’re hoping to become a medical professional, you’re preparing to enter an inherently stressful line of work, so learning to compartmentalize stress and directing your efforts to where you can actually make an impact is crucial. One key thing you can do is focus on your own health and self-care. Prioritizing your physical and mental well-being is important for any professional, as it helps with overall performance and also the ability to manage stress. Equally important, if you take this time to work on your physical health through exercise, nutrition, and healthy habits, you’ll be at your physical best when an interview offer does come in!
You can also use some of this time to prioritize your mental well-being, taking time for your own self-enrichment, as well as your friends and family. This may mean travelling (if you want to and are able to), taking time for leisure activities of your choosing, enriching yourself by reading or taking on creative projects, having weekly meals with loved ones, or anything else that helps strengthen your interpersonal relationships and enhance your mental wellness. When you get into medical school and continue to residency and practice, time will be your most precious commodity, and there won’t be much to go around! So, while you have some time, prioritize those relationships and your own personal development. It will help you make good use of the time, and it’s great stress relief.
Finally, during this time you should keep up any volunteering, clinical work, shadowing, and other related activities, staying connected to medical community. Of course, this is great for professional development and continuing to refine your knowledge and experiences, but if you ultimately aren’t accepted to medical school this cycle, these experiences will help when you reapply. Maintaining these activities will help demonstrate your continued dedication, it will help you gain more experience, and it will make you an even more competitive applicant.
Around the mid-point of the medical school interview invitation timeline
At this stage of the process, you could consider sending a or update letter, especially if you have a specific connection with the school/program or feel you’re a particularly good fit. With such a letter, you can send copies of recent transcripts with any new grades, and include any new information about your work and activities since you submitted your application – new volunteer work, leadership opportunities, honors or accomplishments, awards, jobs, research activities, or anything else that hasn’t yet been conveyed in your primary or secondary applications. Clearly but briefly re-articulate your reasons for applying to this specific program and why you feel your mission, vision, and values align with theirs. For U.S. applicants, this could be done around December; for Canadian applicants, mid-February would be an appropriate time; for U.K. applicants, early January would be the earliest to consider such a move.
Note that if you have received any communication from the school that indicates that they do not welcome update letters or letters of intent, you should not take this step. This is pretty rare – most schools are open to receiving such information. However, it hopefully should go without saying that you shouldn’t do this if you’ve been specifically instructed not to.
Check out this video on how to write a medical school letter of intent:
As noted previously, another option is to ask an advocate (usually one of your letter-writers) to call the admissions Dean on your behalf. If you feel you are a particularly good fit for one particular program, having a person of stature in the academic community reach out to emphasize this can impact the evaluation of your application.
Late in the medical school interview invitation timeline
If the weeks and months have dragged on and you’ve received no interview invitations in the final weeks of the medical school interview invitation timeline, there’s really only one thing left to do: begin damage control and start preparing for next application cycle. As noted earlier, during this whole process, you should be maintaining or expanding your volunteering activities, clinical experiences, research, and other work related to your professionalization as an aspiring future physician. This keeps you connected to the medical community, but it also helps you continue building your CV, in the event that you are not accepted.
As well, at this late stage in the process, it’s time to start doing an honest and thorough evaluation of your application materials and your education, work, and activities to this point. If you didn’t get a medical school interview invitation, then that simply means that your application wasn’t as competitive as it needs to be or you didn't meet the. That doesn’t need to mean the end of your journey, however. In fact, since resilience and self-correction are key qualities needed for a future as a medical professional, it shouldn’t mean the end of your journey. Rather, it should instead prompt you to examine what went wrong and what you can do to submit a stronger application for the next cycle. Be sure you review our blog, , so you're ready to go next time around.
Reflect honestly on your MCAT score, particularly in terms of how it compares to the scores of last year’s matriculants at your schools of choice, unless you've applied to . This information is sometimes available on the school’s website, otherwise it can be found on the AAMC’s Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) . Is your score truly competitive? If not, you may want to consider taking it again and if so, review our blog to find out.
You should also compare your GPA to last year’s matriculants (this info is also generally available through the school’s website or MSAR). Might it be in your interest to take some extra courses to bump your score up a bit? Are there any modifications you can make to your current course load to help improve your GPA (if you’re still in school)? Would a post-baccalaureate program benefit you (follow this link to see a )? It can be incredibly difficult to make substantial increases to your GPA the further along you are in school, but sometimes additional courses, a post-bacc, or even graduate study can help offset less-than-ideal grades. Be sure you're aware of early on.
Date of Application and Applying Strategically
Next, look over the list of schools to which you applied. If you’re a U.S. applicant, did you apply early? If not, the rolling admissions process may have worked against you, as the earliest applications generally get first consideration. Regardless of whether you’re in the U.S., Canada, or U.K., the next question is, did you apply strategically, focusing only on those schools where you had the strongest chances of admission? Or, did you apply only to your “dream schools”, thinking about location, prestige, or other factors over realistically determining what your chances of admission were? Again, you can review admissions statistics on school websites or through MSAR, and you should apply first and foremost based on where you have realistic chances of getting in. As we’ve noted elsewhere, the answer to the question “” is another question: “How many medical schools could I realistically gain admission to?” Check out that blog for more tips on applying strategically to maximize your chances of interview invitation and admission.
Letters of Recommendation and Verifiers
Consider your letters of recommendation and/or verifiers next. While you generally won’t have access to your reference letters, and thus won’t know their content, you can think about who wrote for you and whether these were the best letter-writers for your application. Again, did you consider possible letter-writers strategically, or did you simply reach out to your favorite professors or whomever said “yes” the fastest? Similarly, did you choose the best verifiers for your work and activities (for those applications that require verifiers)? In particular, the process of choosing the best references takes a lot of planning and relationship-building and shouldn’t be rushed. You need to consider the potential strength of each individual letter and letter-writer, as well as the strength of your references as a group. Each individual should be able to speak to much more than just your academic performance; they need to be someone with whom you’ve interacted, who can speak to your strengths and qualities. As a group, your letters should complement each other, demonstrating different aspects of your personality, dedication, and suitability for the profession. You can refer to this blog to learn .
Check out this video on how to receive outstanding letters of recommendation for your med school application:
Volunteer and Work Experience
Look over your list of work and activities. Have you demonstrated clear and consistent dedication to the field of medicine and your own professional development? Or, have you done the bare minimum in terms of work, volunteering, shadowing, clinical experiences, research, and the like? Quite frankly, the bare minimum just isn’t enough for medical school. Schools want students who have demonstrated the capacity to go above and beyond, because that’s what is needed to become an effective physician. So, do an honest accounting for your time leading up to application, and take on some additional opportunities if you need to round out your application. This will also benefit you by giving you more opportunities to refine your skills and serve others, which will only make you a more competitive applicant.
Your Application Materials
Finally, consider your application itself, particularly your personal statement, secondaries, or other essays you had to write. Again, you need to be brutally honest – this isn’t the time for excuses, it’s the time for stark reality. Did you devote the time and effort needed to compose something truly great and reflective of your skills and dedication? Did you crank out a draft overnight and send it in, or did you conduct brainstorming and outlining, composing multiple drafts and re-writes, , reviewing for impeccable grammar and flow, crafting a shining gem of a document over days – if not weeks – of composition, review, and revision for each and every essay? It is not possible to understate the importance of these documents, and if you didn’t take those steps, then this is the most likely issue with your application (unless there’s something glaringly missing or below par in the other aspects listed above). In short, if your essays weren’t truly exceptional, then they likely didn’t grab the eye of the admissions committee, and if that doesn’t happen, the chances of being invited to interview are pretty much nil.
The period from application submission to hearing back from medical schools for interviews is a difficult and stressful time. Now, you have a better understanding of when to start becoming concerned and when to simply step back and let the process play out. While it may be impossible to completely get rid of the stress and anxiety of this time, there are ways to use that nervous energy productively, ensuring you’re at your best if an interview invitation does come, while also maintaining or increasing your competitiveness if you have to re-apply.
To your success,
Your friends at BeMo
BeMo Academic Consulting
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