“The best time to apply is when you are the strongest possible applicant.” That is a quotation from the HPA website at Princeton University, and in our view it should be a quote from all HPA websites, anywhere online that discusses the application process. F&M’s HPA office is always available to you for discussing your competitiveness as an applicant in order to make the best decision about timing your application. We encourage you to come into Drop-In Hours or make an appointment during the fall of junior year (or earlier) if you need to get a better sense of your potential success or want to talk about your plans for the near future and how they might affect when you apply.
Applicants who decide to begin health professional school directly after their undergraduate graduation should begin the application process in the middle of junior year. Those who plan a year off should begin the same process in their senior year. Alumni wishing to apply at any point after college should begin the process around January of the calendar year before they hope to matriculate.
Juniors whose academic credentials are not competitive need to wait to apply. It is important to know that 50% of F&M applicants to health professional school have graduated at the time they apply, taking one or more years off. One reason for this is an excellent senior year can greatly improve chances for admission: detailed, supportive recommendation letters from faculty and others who know you as a senior are very helpful, and F&M students’ senior grades are often their best. Also, some of the complications around timing the MCAT, DAT, etc are diminished when the student has the whole summer after junior year (or later) to prepare adequately and take the required test in an optimal way. Furthermore, you may want to do something with another year that will both help you grow as a person and make you a stronger candidate for admission at the same time—you might seek additional clinical experience, or work in a lab, or do any number of things that will be of interest to admissions committees. Lastly, it can be very advantageous for students with low science GPAs to complete a post-baccalaureate coursework before applying. Health Professions Advising can advise you about these options.
The average age of entering medical students nationwide is 24.5, not 22.
If you decide that you will apply well after graduation—let’s say, more than one year out—then you may want to gather a few letters of recommendation from F&M faculty before you go, to be used later alongside more current letters. We are happy to keep your letters at HPA in a file for you.
Generally, it is not wise to assume that you will be allowed to defer your acceptance to health professional school if you apply before you’re ready to go and ask that they hold a seat for you. Schools vary when it comes to deferral policies, and some do not allow deferrals at all. It is best to apply during the summer of the year before you intend to go, and no earlier.
Some medical schools participate in the Early Decision Program established by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Students file an application to one school, usually by August 1, and are guaranteed a decision regarding their application in October. When applying Early Decision, you may not apply to any other medical school prior to being informed of the school's decision, and, if offered admission, you must accept the offer. This option is beneficial only to extremely well-qualified applicants who have unique circumstances that have given them extraordinary knowledge of one particularly school.
Should you need to reapply after an unsuccessful attempt, it is important to know that the original committee letter and attached recommendations will be included. Most health professional schools require release of the undergraduate evaluation material even if alumni apply long after their first application.