Is My Application Already Late?: Details and Tips for Delayed Medical School Applications

As an applicant to medical school, you may have heard more than enough reasons to apply early in the admissions process. Applying early in the timeline has traditionally been and continues to be an important step in ensuring an applicant is as competitive as possible.

Ideally, students should be ready to apply to MD schools once the AMCAS opens for submission in early June.

But what if a student is unable to apply at that time? Does the timing of an application have as much of an impact since more and more schools have moved toward holistic admissions?

Deadlines for submission vary by institution but are typically towards the end of the fall with some schools allowing applications through November. So then what is considered late?

As with much of the admissions process, the answers to these questions depend on where you apply and why you haven't been able to submit.

In regards to the MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM), applying anytime through the month of August is best. Applications that come in September and October are considered late in context to the entire application pool. Our AMCAS application deadline is November 1st.

"We work on a rolling admissions basis, meaning you want to submit your application early rather than later," says Elizabeth Lyons, admissions counselor for the CHM Office of Admissions.

But while applying late isn't optimal, the important thing is to apply when ready. Ensuring your application is as competitive as can be should be the priority.

"You want to submit your best application. With that being said, some applicants have to be realistic when thinking about the timing of their application," Lyons says. 

When the calendar turns to September and October, there still is potential with schools like CHM who review applicants holistically, provided your academic record is strong and, most importantly, your fit aligns with the mission of the college.

CHM conducts interviews through February for the regular applicant pool and our admissions process is structured such that seats remain available for applicants who are reviewed and interviewed later in the application cycle.

While applying late can be risky, competitive applicants may still have a decent chance, depending on how competitive your application is compared to this cycle's applicant pool.

But not all schools are the same.

By September and even August in some cases, application committees have a large pool of qualified students who submitted their applications early​. With a limited number of interview invitations available, some schools may be more likely to reject late applicants for various reasons: lack of remaining interview spots, implicit bias against later applications, interpretive assumptions about late applications, and so on.

"If one is waiting on summer grades or an MCAT score to be submitted then they definitely can work on the application and be ready to submit as soon as they receive them," Lyons points out. But don't put this off any later than needed.

Many medical schools will not consider your application and do not offer interview invitations until your MCAT scores are received, so having timely MCAT results is essential.  

Beyond the MCAT scores, many schools do not allow updates of any kind. Some applicants will make the mistake of applying early with the assumption that they will later be able to submit additional supportive materials that they ultimately need or, at the very least, would have been really beneficial. Many medical schools, however, assume that you believe you are presenting your best application at the point of submission.

Potential applicants really need to consider when their application will be at its peak. Sometimes, that means considering the tough choice of sitting this cycle out and applying next year.

Lyons explains that, "Every applicant has a story and reasons to apply at different times. I would highly recommend applicants who are still attempting to gain a significant amount of clinical or community service before submitting the application to think about applying the following cycle."

With the amount of financial and emotional stress that goes into the application process, why risk applying if your application isn't ready?

If you still need some time before submitting your application, reviewing your potential schools can be very helpful in determining what each considers is late and how much that will affect your application.

In the end, Lyons insists, "The main takeaway is that you want to make sure that the application is your best, no matter when you apply. You don’t want to rush your application just for the sake of applying and not having to take a gap year."

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