Making the decision to apply to medical school is a serious one, and a goal that requires plenty of planning and preparation. If you are serious about attending medical school you simply cannot count on the process to be a success if you wait until the last minute. The requirements for most medical schools are stringent enough that you will need to begin building your qualifications and preparing for exams and applications at least two years in advance of beginning school. Let's take a look at what you should plan to do in those two years.
Two Years Before Medical School
Research Medical Schools and Application Requirements
Early in the year begin researching medical schools that you may be interested in attending and make your long list of target schools. Consider factors such as location, tuition, application requirements, graduation rate, faculty reputation, and medical board examination success rate of the graduates. The Association of American Medical Colleges offers good resources to help you decide which medical schools may be right for you. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the application requirements for each school you are interested in and check to make sure that your undergraduate courses and grades meet the minimum admissions requirements for medical school. If you are missing any required classes, you still have time to take them if you are still in college. Once you have all application requirements and have evaluated the strengths of each medical school on your long list, narrow down to the schools you want to apply to by early summer.
Prepare for and Take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
Begin studying for the MCAT as soon as possible after you decide that you definitely want to go to medical school. You can buy MCAT prep books to help you, or sign up for a preparatory course in person or online, or take advantage of software-based MCAT study guides and practice tests. Whatever prep method you choose, be sure to study often and consistently. You can take the MCAT anytime from January through summer, and it is recommended that you take the test early enough to give you enough time for further study and a second try if you need to retake it to raise your score.
Get Letters of Evaluation or Recommendation
Also check with your university (if you are still in college) about how you can obtain a recommendation letter on behalf of the college that signals your qualifications to be a medical student. If this is not possible (and in some cases, even if it is) decide which faculty at your college or others you may have worked with in a clinical part-time job or medical-related volunteer organization may be able to write you a letter of recommendation. Provide those people with information about the schools you plan to apply to, the required format for the letter, where to send it, and the deadline.
One Year Before Medical School
Prepare for Medical School Interviews
Some medical schools may grant an interview. If you are invited to an interview, definitely accept it, and spend some time with a pre-med faculty member at your college preparing for the interview with practice questions.
Submit Medical School Applications
Once all test results, recommendation letters, and application materials are completed, send in your medical school applications - preferably by fall. Notifications are usually made beginning in October through spring. When you receive your school decision, choose the school you want to attend (if you were accepted by more than one) or send new information, recommendations, new MCAT test scores, or new achievements (if applicable) to any schools that waitlisted you.
Follow Up with Recommendation Letter Writers
Be sure to notify all people who wrote evaluations or recommendations, or who helped provide feedback on your application or essays, about your admissions results and thank them for their time and efforts.