Sadly, the frustrating fact is that there’s no rule governing how much time a medical school has to respond to your application. However, we’ll try to answer some of the big questions on med school applicants’ minds, including:
- How long does a medical school have to invite an applicant to submit a secondary application?
- When to expect interview invitations for medical school (or a response of ‘thanks, but no thanks’?)
- Table: Final interview invite date and update letter policy by school.
I submitted my primary but haven’t received a secondary yet.
Many schools send out secondaries as soon as they receive your application. Others screen for secondaries. If it’s been 8 weeks since you applied to one of these latter schools, and you haven’t received a secondary, you should do three things:
- First, confirm that the school accepts communications and/or additional materials. Some programs are very clear about not wanting anything but the primary and secondary applications, and you should always follow their instructions.
- Second, check whether you fall within their range of accepted students. Are your GPA and MCAT scores above their lowest accepted scores? If not, then you’ve likely been screened out.
- If the medical school accepts communications from applicants and if you are within their range of matriculants, then consider sending a Letter of Interest. These are most effective when you have a strong connection to the school or its locale. Your reasons for approaching the program in this way might be a connection to an alumnus, a special fit with the program’s research efforts, familiarity with the locale, or even friends in the program who have raved about what they’re learning. Or it might simply be that X School of Medicine has always been your dream school and you want to give it your best shot. In any case, your Interest Letter should demonstrate an understanding of the program going beyond the ordinary (i.e., what’s on their admissions website) and show that you’ve done your research.
If you do a good job at showing your fit for a program and highlight your unique qualities in a way that might not have come across as admissions committee members ticked off boxes on their checklists, a Letter of Interest can give you the boost you need.
I’ve submitted my secondaries, but I’m waiting for an interview invites
If you’ve submitted your secondary and are waiting for an interview, the wait can seem interminable– especially when you’re constantly refreshing your email to see if they’ve contacted you. It’s even harder when others are receiving invitations and you haven’t heard anything. Although it might be tempting, don’t call the school to check on your status – this is sure to backfire on you. Trust that the admissions office is working through the applications as fast as they can.
There’s no uniform schedule for med school interviews. Many programs start sending out interview invitations shortly after the first secondary applications are received. Others seem to dole them out more gradually and their season can stretch well beyond the new year. However, the bulk of interview invites go out between September and January. The earliest tend to go to those who not only submitted secondaries early but who have (1) high stats and (2) very specific reasons for attending the program – this is where tailoring your secondary to each school is a huge advantage. There are always applicants who get later interviews, however, so don’t give up hope.
During this time, it’s more important than ever that you focus on other interests, especially things that you are passionate about. If you finally do get an interview and are asked about your recent activities, you’ll want to have more to say than “checking my email.”
Watch: If I don’t get an interview invitation by Thanksgiving does it mean I was rejected?
If you submitted your application early and haven’t heard anything by November, you might want to think about sending a Letter of Interest. Again, you should follow the steps above, and again, showing your genuine connection with or interest in the school is essential. Have you learned something new about the program that piqued your interest? Have you been in contact with alumni of the school?
Combining an LOI with an update letter can make it even more effective. Emphasize your new accomplishments as well as your strong fit and interest in that program.
Don’t limit yourself to a single LOI/update letter. Most programs want to know when you have substantial accomplishments to share, and it demonstrates your genuine interest in the program. Of course, don’t overwhelm them with letters and always follow the individual program’s instructions about additional materials.
Post-secondaries, pre-interview: Planning ahead
As the September-January period comes to a close, interviews tend to wind down. Some programs do continue to extend invitations late into the spring. However, if you still haven’t received an interview, you should start thinking about your game plan for the next year. Start by taking a good hard look at your application:
- Is your MCAT score competitive at your chosen programs? Are your grades strong? Would either be strengthened through additional coursework in a master’s or postbac course?
- Are you confident about how you presented yourself in your primary application? Did your personal statement help you stand out? Did your experiences and meaningful experiences reflect a well-rounded candidate? And did you apply as early as possible in the season?
- Were your secondary essays tailored with specific answers for each particular program, or did you “recycle” generic answers? Did you show your interest by turning your secondaries around within two weeks?
- Are your recommendations the very best you can get?
- Did you apply to schools where you were truly competitive? Did you apply to a wide range of schools, or were your applications weighted towards those with very low acceptance rates (Mayo, Georgetown, etc.) and out-of-state schools?
Don’t give up!
The medical school application season can be a long and nerve-wracking time. But if you’re serious about medicine and can show that in your application, you’ll make it.
Accepted's Medical School Interview Timeline
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with schools directly to verify policies and deadlines.***
Since 2001, Cydney Foote has advised hundreds of successful applicants for medical and dental education, residency and fellowship training, and other health-related degrees. Admissions consulting combines her many years of creating marketing content with five years on fellowship and research selection committees at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She’s also shared her strategy for impressing interviewers in a popular webinar and written three books and numerous articles on the admissions process. Want Cydney to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!\