Do you have a dream school, the one place where you’ve always wanted to study medicine, and no other place will do? Do you have a compelling reason for this one program, maybe a spouse whose job requires them to be in this location or your only living family member is in the area?
There are other reasons why someone might privilege one medical school over all others, including a traditionally higher rate of acceptance. These applicants often choose to apply through the Early Decision Program (EDP).
The requirements of the EDP are simple: Apply by August 1st (for schools participating in AMCAS) to a single school, and promise to attend that school if accepted.
But the disadvantages of the EDP are obvious: If you aren’t accepted to your chosen school (and you probably won’t know until October 1st), then your other applications will go out extremely late in the cycle. As many programs extend interview invitations and then acceptances on a rolling basis, the earlier you apply, the better. It’s for this reason that the AAMC cautions that you should only apply for EDP if you think you have an excellent chance of admission.
Another disadvantage is that, by focusing entirely on one program, you’re cutting yourself off from possible funding offers at other schools. Especially if your scores are high, you have a much better chance of finding a program willing to finance your education (not to mention, one that might be a better fit for you) if you spread your net more widely.
Clearly, early decision is not for everyone. But for those who can show they are the perfect fit for their dream school, it might be a chance you want to take.
By Cydney Foote, Accepted consultant and author of Write Your Way to Medical School, who has helped future physicians craft winning applications since 2001.