We are often asked:
- How long does a medical school have to invite an applicant to submit a secondary application? (Go there)
- How long does a medical school have to respond and either invite the applicant to an interview, or say thanks, but no thanks? (Go there)
The fact is that there’s no rule governing how much time a medical school has to respond to your application.
When do medical schools start interviewing?
This question doesn’t have a single answer. Many med schools start sending out interview invitations in September, shortly after the first secondary applications are received. Some school have a quick turnaround, but others seem to drag on and on – especially when you’re constantly refreshing your email to see if they’ve contacted you.
Waiting is 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.
No news from med schools: When should you worry and what can you do about it?
Submitted my primary app, but haven’t received a secondary
If it’s been 6-8 weeks since you applied and you haven’t been invited to submit a secondary, you might consider sending a Letter of Interest (LOI) to the program. This strategy can be effective if 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 LOI 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.
Before contacting your chosen program(s), you should know 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. It’s very important that as you show your fit for the program, your LOI should also highlight your unique qualities in a way that might not have come across as admissions committee members ticked off boxes on their checklists.
Submitted my secondaries, but waiting for medical school interview invites
If you’ve submitted your secondary and are waiting for an interview, the wait can seem interminable. It’s important during this time to focus on other interests, especially things that you are passionate about. If you finally do get invited to interview, and are asked about your recent activities, you’ll want to have more to say than “checking my email.”
Watch: It’s after Thanksgiving and I didn’t get a med school interview invitation. Am I toast?
The bulk of interview invites (“IIs”) go out between October and January. The earliest IIs seem 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 IIs, however, so don’t give up hope.
If you submitted your application early and haven’t heard anything by November, you might want to think about sending an LOI. At this point, it’s truly a Hail Mary pass and really only works if you can show you have a genuine connection with or interest in the school. You’ll need to go beyond what you presented in your secondary; emphasize your new accomplishments as well as your strong fit and interest in that program.
Final interview invite date and update letter policy by school
Medical school When will final interview invites be sent? (2020-2021 application cycle) Are updates / LOI's accepted?
Baylor College of Medicine January Yes, materials can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boston University January Yes
Case Western Reserve University Late February to early March Yes. Please note that edits to application essays, as well as updated unofficial transcripts, will not be accepted.
Columbia University End of January Yes
Cornell University (Weill) Interviews begin in Sept and continue through early spring Duke University First week of February Yes
Emory University The interview season will end this year on February 26th. Yes (updates only, not LOIs)
Harvard University End of January Yes, but the admissions office does not guarantee adcom will view the additional materials.
Johns Hopkins University February Mayo Clinic School of Medicine (Alix) First week of January Yes
Northwestern University (Feinberg) Mid-January Yes, materials can be sent to email@example.com.
Ohio State University March Yes
University of Alabama–Birmingham Late February or early March Yes. Letters may be uploaded through your Applicant Portal and new recommendations through the AMCAS letter service.
University of California–Los Angeles (Geffen) January Yes, for applicants who have received a secondary application.
University of Chicago (Pritzker) Medical January Yes.
University of Colorado Interviews will continue through early March No
University of Maryland Late February or early March Yes. Upload updates through your Second Stage Application.
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor Early January Yes. Letters may be uploaded through your Applicant Portal and new recommendations through the AMCAS letter service.
University of Pittsburgh January Yes
University of Southern California (Keck) February No
University of Utah Interviews will continue through February No
University of Virginia Interviews will continue through early March Yes. Update letters may be added using the application portal.
University of Wisconsin–Madison Late December No
Washington University in St. Louis March Yes
* If you represent a medical school and want your school added to the list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Post-secondaries, pre-interview – planning ahead
As the October-January period comes to a close and you still haven’t received that interview invite and you’ve submitted an LOI to no avail, you may want to start thinking about your game plan for the next year. Start by taking a good hard look at your application:
- Is your MCAT competitive? Are your grades strong? Would either be strengthened through additional coursework? A master’s or postbac course could boost your chances next time.
- Are you confident about your personal statement? Were your secondary essays tailored with specific answers for each particular program, or did you “recycle” generic answers?
- Are your recommendations the best you can get?
- Did you apply as early as possible in the year?
- Did you submit enough applications? Did you apply to a wide range of schools, or are your applications weighted towards those with very low acceptance rates (Mayo, Georgetown, etc.)?
Don’t give up!
It’s not much consolation, but most years the AAMC reports a higher number of applicants than the previous year. Whether it’s because of recent health policy changes or the glamorous life of medicine depicted on television is anybody’s guess. But if you’re serious about medicine, and can show that in your application, you’ll make it.
If you need help arguing your case to the Dean, or if you want to make sure next year’s application is as strong as it can be, Accepted can help. Contact us at any stage of the application process.
A former fellowship admissions committee member and administrator at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Cydney Foote has successfully advised healthcare applicants, including those applying to medical school, dental school, nursing and PA programs, veterinary school, public health and hospital administration programs, post-baccalaureate medical programs, residencies and fellowships. Since 2001, she has brought her marketing and writing expertise to help science-focused students communicate their strengths. Want Cyd to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!