Application Year Timeline

“The reason for focusing on a specific time frame is that it’s going to take us a considerable period of time to develop the new capabilities and processes that will be needed.”

– Stephen Cambone


White Coat Checklist Application Year Timeline

White Coat Checklist has worked with numerous candidates to fine-tune their application process for medical school. The single most important aspect of this complex process is the ability to multitask, since many aspect of the application remain ongoing even as new items are added to the task list on a regular basis. We offer this logistical outline here to assist candidates in structuring a comprehensive application strategy. 

A medical school applicant has plenty of advance opportunity to map out the entire year ahead as a New Year’s Resolution focused on closing the deal for medical school candidacy regardless of a past or pending primary application date. 

Pending Applicants

Enjoying the winter holidays with family and friends can provide valuable emotional support and encouragement which strengthens a medical school candidate’s resolve and focus. This is also a good time to make sure everyone in your social network is aware of your plans for the coming year and that they all understand invitations for vacation getaways and related activities may be difficult if not impossible to accept. Remember also to reach out to prior employment/volunteer/internship supervisors and professors to inquire regarding the possibility of letters of recommendation. The more highly regarded your potential recommenders are in their chosen field(s) of specialization, the more advance notice you will need in order to give them adequate notice to review and consider your thoughtful, respectful request. If and when you hear back from them, knowing what aspects of that experience they should emphasize on your behalf will be key to maximizing the value gained from their contributions. New incoming candidates during this period are often engaged in taking the MCAT exam, so that (hopefully) one item at least can be squared away in advance of the AMCAS and AACOMAS primary applications going live in the summer. 

In-Progress Applicants

Applicants who have already submitted AMCAS and AACOMAS applications during the prior summer are moving into Interview Phase II at this point in the process (defined as post-New Year’s until the following March). Ideally these are additional interviews beyond the Interview Phase I (the fall time frame until around Thanksgiving) which can be informed by those prior encounters with medical school AdCom (admissions committee) representatives. Understanding opportunities for improvement will be key to achieving measurable improvement. Also, some thought should be taken for potential ‘next steps’ in the unfortunate event no offer is received. Would it be appropriate to apply again immediately? If not, what specific identified weaknesses would need to be remedied? What would the appropriate course of action look like, and on what time table? 

The months leading up to the official start of the application cycle in early June can become a moment of truth for new and ongoing applicants alike. For pending applicants, timely advance preparation will allow rapid progress through the application cycle in the ever-evolving race for candidate exposure. Likewise, ongoing applicants need to make the best of this final interview window before all attention turns to the offer waitlists. 

Pending Applicants

Medical school applications involve a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy. This can be frustrating, difficult, and overly complicated – many applicants, especially first timers, can find themselves unintentionally dragging their feet or otherwise losing valuable time based on confusing and contradictory information. Perhaps the single most important step an applicant can take at this time is to begin to fill out the AMCAS and AACOMAS primary applications in early May so they are ready to submit by June 1st or as soon thereafter as possible. Similarly, the personal statement drafting process should start no later than April so there are weeks of time left for revisions and polishing before the June 1st target date. Just a day or two of delay in submitting your materials can lead to weeks of additional lost time until you are approved to receive your secondaries essays, while other contenders are already moving forward into the next stage of their application process. The key is to balance both speed and quality. If letters of recommendation are still outstanding at this point they really need to be done immediately (should already have been taken care of during the previous three-month interval, ideally during winter break especially for those candidates with a pre-med committee recommendation process). You will need to request official transcripts be sent directly to ACMAS, but you should also have the same transcripts sent to your home address at the same time so you can input your courses directly from your official record. This small yet prudent step ensures your academic verification submissions are 100% accurate and that you will not have any last minute surprises. Likewise, getting a professional headshot photograph (and NOT a hastily cropped Facebook profile image) now can save time later since approximately 75% of medical schools require one during the secondaries process. If you have any time left over from these other activities, you should invest it in pre-writing the secondaries essays topics online for your target schools available in the appropriate forums at SDN and reddit to avoid a massive surge in outstanding writing assignments after your primary application is processed. 

In-Progress Applicants

 Interview invitations and final strategy during Interview Phase III (April 1st – June 1st) are highly problematic. At this point in the interview process few if any direct offers remain in play (some few available slots are typically reserved for post-bacc candidates, further limiting already scarce opportunities). At best, candidates can most reasonably expect to receive a slot on a medical school program’s waitlist. A strong showing can still result in an occasional offer of admission if one can place reasonably high enough, but the challenge is one of timing and benchmarking. If you achieve a similar interview profile to a candidate of relatively equivalent GPA/MCAT and clinical experience, what is the compelling rationale for taking a later interviewee over the candidate who may have already been handpicked for consideration earlier in the cycle during Interview Phase I or II? Some candidates attempt to increase the odds in their favor with “update letters” or “letters of intent” reflecting recent professional and/or academic recognition. Please note that some programs specifically prohibit such correspondence, as is the case for University of Colorado School of Medicine. Even schools that don’t ban the practice outright still filter what they receive – for example, professed interest from a candidate known to have another AMCAS offer at a higher-ranked or peer institution can carry some weight, especially when communicating with in-state medical schools or DO programs. Otherwise such efforts from candidates without any outstanding offer can be generally disregarded. 

Logistical decisions made during the summer and early fall time frame can have a huge impact on a candidate’s ability to merit interview invitations, since the longer you take to complete each individual application secondaries set, the farther back in each individual queue you will end up. At a certain point, without a compelling reason, a candidate’s likelihood of opportunities for an interview invite will drop appreciably, even with impressively high GPA and MCAT statistics. 

In-Progress Applicants

Bear in mind that some schools will release secondaries almost immediately following the certification of your primary application. Studying the SDN and Reddit forums is key to understanding the past process in place at your target medical schools, so you know in advance which ones will automatically release the secondaries (in some cases before they have even reviewed your primary application). Even schools with similar topics often have dramatically different length requirements, and reusing essays multiple times can cause major version control issues. As with the primary applications, it’s important to make sure that you are responding in a timely fashion to this barrage of essay prompts while also ensuring that your writing is crisp, clear, and compelling. You’ll know if your essays and overall candidacy are really hitting home with your target medical schools if you are given the rare privilege of interviewing in the first few weeks of Interview Phase I during the fall. Perhaps the single most useful approach during this hectic time frame is to rotate your writing efforts across different essays and schools. Drafting and re-drafting the same content can yield dramatically improved quality rather than rushing to finish each individual section without editorial review. Separately, candidates should be rotating through a brief status checklist of all schools every three days: AMCAS submission received by school? application fee processed? secondaries essays submission received? application flagged as complete? Ongoing and meticulous review of your email spam folder is likewise highly recommended. Where April-May-June are hallmarked by active processes, July-August-September is a exercise in vigilance (and obsession). Now is also a good time frame to save up for the future, since the interview period is often considerably more expensive, even when considering the array of application fees paid by candidates to a few dozen programs. 

While a strong start is definitely key to a competitively-timed medical school application, the ‘long tail’ of medical school programs will keep coming in for months on end; thus, stamina is equally key to success, especially since writing admissions essays is highly likely to overlap with interview invitations for competitive candidates. A committed medical school applicant understands the value of choice and invests the same level of attention and energy across all target programs to maximize chances for admission. After the first few offers are received, only then should you be more selective regarding available options. 

In-Progress Applicants

As you move into the fall months the need for multi-tasking will become even more vital. While the first crush of secondaries comes in the first few weeks after the primary applications are completed, some medical schools (including some of the most selective programs) carefully review submitted materials before inviting a relatively few select candidates to complete the secondaries essays. This means that you can expect to be engaged in the essay drafting process for months on end (which can be exceedingly tedious) while also separately engaged in preparing for upcoming 1:1 and MMI medical school admissions materials. As with the writing process, rotating activities and focus across the full range of outstanding items rather than a focused process for each individual step is the best way to refine both your writing and speaking points for maximum effect. 

White Coat Checklist’s Member Resources section includes the free AppTrackR medical school dashboard to allow applicants to track their target schools in real-time, question prompts for composing a compelling personal statement, and real-life secondaries essays to learn from the mistakes of prior applicants who have successfully matriculated. Members are also eligible to Contact WCC to ask questions or request 1:1 Advising or Remote Editing Sessions for individual targeted support. 

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