The sooner you apply to medical school,
The better your chances of getting accepted.
This is how the rolling admissions process works for medical school acceptance.
But does this work if you don’t have your MCAT scores yet?
Can you apply to medical school before taking the MCAT?
While the short answer is yes,
It’s not that simple.
Let’s take a step back and evaluate the best way to handle the application timeline, given your specific situation.
Rolling Admissions vs Hard Deadline
There are 2 systems for medical schools to review applications.
1 – Hard Deadline
Canadian schools and a few US medical schools use a hard deadline system.
This means that, while students can apply throughout the cycle,
Applications are only reviewed after a specific cut-off date.
This hard deadline does not distinguish between applications that came in early vs applications that came in at the very last minute.
2 – Rolling Admissions
The majority of US medical schools operate on a rolling admissions basis.
This means that, once the application season opens, applications come rolling in for review.
And so the sooner you apply,
The sooner your application is reviewed,
The sooner you get secondaries,
The sooner you get an interview,
And hopefully the sooner you get an acceptance.
Admission becomes more difficult as more students are accepted due to the dwindling number of spots at any given school.
I discuss the complete application timeline here: Medical School Application Timeline
With medical school being so competitive,
The goal is to apply as early as possible.
If your application sits at the top of the pile,
You’re more likely to get an acceptance when 100% of seats are still available,
As opposed to applying at the last minute when just 10% of seats remain.
An early application means uploading your information to AMCAS or AACOMAS in May so that you’re ready to hit submit as soon as possible in early June.
(The Texas TMDSAS system follows a slightly earlier timeline.)
This is doable with proper advance planning. Simply follow what Dr Ryan Gray teaches in his book The Premed Playbook Guide to the Medical School Application Process. (Amazon referral link)
This plan works well enough,
IF you can have a complete application ready in time.
The hangup for most students is the MCAT.
Ideally, you test early enough for a timely application.
However, if you find that life didn’t quite go as planned,
And your MCAT prep is not progressing at the required rate,
I DO NOT recommend testing before you’re ready.
Let me repeat…
Do NOT Take The MCAT Before You’re Ready!
An earlier MCAT score that is NOT competitive simply means an earlier opportunity for rejection.
Why put yourself through that?
Not sure? See: Am I Ready For the MCAT? How to Evaluate
What do you do when you realize you need to delay your MCAT, but you don’t want to delay your application?
Can you apply to medical school before taking the MCAT?
First, let’s see why you shouldn’t.
Then, we’ll discuss a workaround to cut a few weeks off of your application timeline.
Pretend for a moment that you work at the medical school admissions committee.
Your school only has 100 seats.
Yet every year, you find yourself sorting through hundreds, if not thousands, of applications.
Some of them are amazing.
Others are pretty decent.
But without fail,
There are quite a few applications that have you scratching your head.
Students applying with sub-490 MCAT scores,
Students applying with sub-3.0 GPAs WITHOUT showing that they can handle med school coursework (for example, taking science classes or a post-bacc and scoring well above 3.0),
And students applying without an MCAT score.
Yes, they have clearly noted in their application ‘I plan to take the MCAT at this date.’
But you’ve seen this year after year.
Sure, some DO take the MCAT as they stated.
But others do not.
And their applications sit there to collect (digital) dust on your computer.
Given your limited time,
(Remember, you work at the school and this is something you do on the side),
Perhaps I can make better use of my time by simply IGNORING incomplete applications,
And when they finally DO submit an MCAT score,
I’ll go back and review their application.
But I can’t afford to waste my time before then, just in case they don’t wind up testing.
If you apply without an MCAT score,
No matter how promising the other parts of your application,
Would YOU ignore your application?
That’s my argument for NOT applying before your MCAT scores come in,
With a twist.
How to Shortcut the Timeline: Applying to Medical School BEFORE your MCAT
The one saving grace, often not accounted for in the application timeline,
Is the application verification process.
Your med school application is not immediately sent to your dream schools.
Instead, it goes through a rigorous verification process which can take anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks, depending on other factors.
This starts as soon as applications are transmitted to schools in June.
Jumping The Line
If the verification process takes a few weeks,
Why not get THAT part out of the way as quickly as possible?
The trick is to apply and get your application verified WITHOUT letting your target med schools see your application.
Applying to a Burn School
Review your list of target medical schools and pick one that, while still on your list, is really just a ‘last resort’ school for you.
It’s the one school that if NO ONE else accepts you,
You’ll still be happy to attend.
If you’re ok wasting application fees, then consider simply applying to a school you know you have no hopes of attending.
If you’re a ‘typical’ premed student with a 3.4 GPA aiming for a 508 MCAT,
You have a decent chance at many schools.
But you likely won’t get accepted to NYU with their 520+ average MCAT score.
Once the cycle is open,
Applying to even a single school is enough to start the application verification process.
As this takes place in the background,
You continue preparing for your MCAT.
Once you finally take the MCAT and confirm that you’re happy with your scores,
NOW you can apply to medical school.
Since your application has already been verified,
All you have to do is add your list of chosen schools and voila,
No waiting for weeks and weeks for your application to be verified.
Instead, schools instantly receive your application along with your MCAT scores,
Giving them no reason to consider your application incomplete.
Take one of my former Study Hall members as an example.
Originally from Puerto Rico,
She grew up in NY and hoped to attend medical school in the Northeast so that she would remain close enough to family.
3.6 GPA, hoping for a 512 MCAT score.
Her studying didn’t progress as planned and so she found herself choosing between testing too soon vs waiting and delaying her application.
Her school wishlist included all the NY/NJ medical schools,
From the DO schools NYCOM and TouroCOM,
To MD schools including SUNY (upstate and downstate), Stoneybrook, Hofstra, Rowan and more.
At the bottom of her list was Ponce Medical School (Puerto Rico) since she has extended family in the area.
Here’s the plan we devised in March of her application cycle:
Postpone the MCAT until she’s ready with the hope of testing by July (based on her number estimates – my specialty).
Design her MCAT Study Schedule to include a weekly 2-hour block to work on applications.
Input all of the application information over the month of May.
Hit submit as soon as both AMCAS and AACOMAS open in June.
Apply to Ponce on AMCAS and LECOM on AACOMAS to get the application verified right away.
Then sit back.
Focus 110% on the MCAT.
Her applications were verified in a matter of weeks.
And she wound up taking her MCAT in early July of that cycle for an early August MCAT score (510, not bad).
While it may sound like August is a very late application,
Keep in mind this was instant transmission.
Compare her situation to the following 2 scenarios.
The Early Applicant
- Student tests in April
- Scores and application ready in May
- Submissions in June
- Verification mid to late July
- Schools only see it in July
Is August that much later?
The Late Tester
- Student tests early July (like my student)
- Scores arrive in August
- Student confirms happy with scores and applies in August
- Application isn’t verified until September/October
Do you see how she cut at least a month off the timeline, compared to another student who tested exactly when she did?
And let’s not forget,
If she did test in April as originally planned,
Only to realize she didn’t like her scores,
We’d be looking at the following timeline.
- April MCAT
- May: low scores -> 5 stages of grief
- June: review and return to an MCAT prep mindset
- July/August: take the extra required study time
- Test in August or September
- apply very very VERY late
By initially postponing her MCAT, she wound up SAVING time and getting her application ahead of hundreds of students in similar situations.
And, what if you don’t like your MCAT scores?
If, after all of this waiting, your scores finally come back and you realize you didn’t do well,
At least you didn’t waste an application to all of your schools.
Remember that it’s okay,
That this is just a setback rather than a failure.
And that as long as you refuse to give up,
NOTHING will prevent you from getting accepted to medical school.
What about reapplicants?
The early verification process via burn school is even more important for students who are reapplying.
While you can apply to the same school more than once,
It’s a bit more difficult to get accepted as a reapplicant.
NOT impossible though. Many students sign up to work with me AFTER having tested, applied and been rejected (some more than one cycle), and we still get them in.
The last thing you want to do is show the medical school,
“I wasn’t good enough and you rejected me last year, and now I’m applying again but I’m not even prepared with a complete application.”
Instead, use the burn school method to get your application verified.
Then, ONLY apply to your full school list once you’ve received and feel happy about your new MCAT scores.
Now that you know how to shortcut the application timeline,
Let’s focus on your MCAT. And if this is your challenge, you’ve come to the right place.
I specialize in working with non-traditional students. Students who’ve taken an alternate path to med school due to life distractions, discovering their medical passion a bit later in their careers, or students who’ve faced challenges along the way that would scare the average pre-med advisor.
Let’s work together to ensure that the MCAT is no longer the biggest hurdle standing in your way. Full study hall program details on my website: join.mcatstudyhall.com
I want to hear from you.
Are you on track to test after applications open? If yes, what is your chosen burn school?
Let me know in the comments below.
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