This page provides information about the application process to U.S. medical schools. While most of this information relates specifically to the application process for MD schools, the process and timeline are very similar for osteopathic medical schools (DO schools), dental schools, veterinary schools, and Texas medical programs. There will be more variation in the application process for other healthcare programs, like physician assistant, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, etc. Students should always stay in close contact with their pre-health advisor about their individual plans. Students should regularly consult application service websites and individual schools they might want to apply to in order to confirm all requirements and deadlines.
For general information as to what you should be doing throughout college to get to your application year, see the Roadmap.
When to Apply: Direct Entry or Gap Year?
The medical school application process takes more than a year. Students usually start attending medical school nearly 15 months after first submitting their application. Because of the time, effort, and expense of the application process, it’s important to ensure that you are fully prepared to apply and have done everything you can to develop a competitive application.
Some students will apply for direct entry, meaning they plan to graduate in the spring and then start medical school the following fall semester. These students will apply near the end of their junior year, and will need to have completed all necessary pre-health coursework, taken the relevant entrance exam (MCAT, DAT, GRE, etc.), and participated in a wide range of clinical and non-clinical activities.
More commonly, students opt to take one or more gap years. Nearly 70% of students starting medical school apply near the end of their senior year or later, giving them more time to complete all necessary pre-health coursework, take the relevant entrance exam (MCAT, DAT, GRE, etc.), and participate in a wide range of clinical and non-clinical activities.
Plan to Apply Early!
The application for medical schools and other health professions schools usually opens at the beginning of May every year. It’s essential to apply early, since medical schools practice rolling admissions, which means applications are reviewed as they are received. The later students apply, the more competitive the process.
Since the application process begins in May, students should not plan to use the summer of their application year to study for entrance exams or add significant experiences. While students should probably stay engaged in meaningful activities that summer, the primary components of the application—entrance exam, clinical experiences, community service, research, etc.—should be done or in progress by May of the application year.
MCAT or Other Exams
Students applying to medical school will need to take the MCAT. Other health professions schools will require different exams, such as the DAT for dental schools, the PACAT for some physician assistant programs, or the GRE for veterinary schools and other programs.
Since MCAT scores should be received by the time the application process begins in May, students should take the MCAT no later than mid-April of the year they plan to apply. Some students will take the MCAT earlier, perhaps in January, or even the summer prior to their application year.
Students should plan to take the MCAT only once, though it’s not uncommon for students to take the exam a second, or sometimes even a third, time. Please be aware that retaking the MCAT can sometimes mean postponing your application until the following year. That’s fine! It’s better to wait a year and have a strong, competitive application than to rush the process and apply with scores that don’t necessarily reflect your ability.
You should plan to spend 3-6 months studying for the MCAT, and you shouldn’t plan to take the MCAT before completing your required pre-health courses.
The Committee Letter
In the fall prior to each application year, the Pre-Health Advising office will make available the Intent to Apply form. Students should complete this form by December 1 of the year before they’re planning to apply.
In the following spring, students will be added to the Pre-Health Applicants Course on Canvas, which will help students and advisors track required forms and documents, including letters of recommendation.
Loyola University will offer students the opportunity to receive a committee letter packet for their application. This packet includes a letter from a member of the university’s Pre-Health Professions Committee (PHPC) that details the student’s abilities and accomplishments. The committee letter will be accompanied by up to 5 additional letters from professors, healthcare providers, and other community members with whom you have worked closely in recent years.
Click here to learn more about committee letter eligibility requirements.
Preparing to Apply
Spring semester before your application year:
• Meet with the Pre-Health Advisor to ensure that you are on track to have a competitive application and will meet the requirements for a committee letter. Plan to meet with the Pre-Health Advisor regularly as needed to guide your application process.
October-December before application submission:
• The Intent to Apply form will be available in October. You must submit this form if you intend to apply to medical or dental schools and wish to receive a Loyola committee letter. You should submit this form in the fall even if you are not entirely sure you are going to apply this year.
• MCAT dates open in two batches. Dates fill up quickly, so consider when you will want to take the exam and sign up. You can usually change your exam date for an additional fee. Most Loyola students take the exam no later than May 1 of the application year.
• Begin working on your personal statement. The Pre-Health Advisor can provide feedback on your essays in the spring, so it is a good idea to have a decent draft completed by February. As these essays often benefit from a lengthy writing process in which you take a break and go back later to improve your essay, it is better to get started on your statement sooner rather than later.
• Begin asking faculty members to write letters of recommendation on your behalf. It is best to ask them in person. Ask if they will be able to write you a strong letter.
• The Pre-Health Professions Committee (PHPC) notifies students of their decisions on committee letters. If you are denied a committee letter, you will be able to appeal the decision. If you are approved to receive a committee letter, the PHPC will request additional materials from you and ask that you schedule an interview with a member of the committee. Pay attention to deadlines and make sure that you submit everything that is required.
• If you haven’t already, begin preparing for the MCAT.
• Set up your interview with the PHPC faculty member assigned to you.
• Continue working on your personal statement.
• Application services open for you to begin preparing your application. Get started on this as soon as possible so that you can submit your application in early June when AMCAS opens for submission. You can submit your transcripts to AMCAS at this time. (Note: TMDSAS usually opens for submission in May.)
• Submit your primary application to AMCAS. (If applying to TMDSAS, pay attention to deadlines; it usually opens for submission in May.) The PHPC recommends submitting your primary application to AMCAS no later than mid-June. It takes about one month (sometimes longer) for AMCAS to verify your primary application and send it to the medical schools you indicate on your application.
• After individual medical schools receive and review your primary application, you will receive secondary applications from individual schools. Try to submit these within a week or two of receiving them. Generally, they will require additional essays, so try to work on those ahead of time, if possible. (You might be able to find past or current secondary essay prompts from particular schools online.)
• After your application is complete (including secondaries) your file will be evaluated and you might receive interview invitations from schools. Please be patient. If you don’t receive an interview in the fall, don’t panic! This is a long process and many medical schools continue to send out interview invitations in the spring. Remember, most medical schools will accept updates to your application, so keep working to improve it even after you’ve submitted it.
• Begin medical school in the fall!