The best time to apply is when you are a strong enough applicant to reach your goals. Work with HPA to reflect on your preparedness for health professions school, based on your understanding of what it takes to be a successful applicant. If you know that there are aspects of your candidacy that you could improve dramatically, you may want to reassess your timeline of application. In most cases, it's better to devote time, energy, and money to strengthening your academic record, gaining health-related experience or otherwise becoming a stronger candidate rather than to an application process when you aren't at your strongest.
Do your metrics match your goal schools?
Buy access to the MSAR (or similar publication for your profession of interest) and research the GPA and standardized test scores for schools of interest. Grades tend to trend upward in the senior year, which can improve your candidacy.
Is your clinical experience convincing?
You will have to convince members of the profession that you have a realistic understanding of what you're getting yourself into, and that you've started developing the necessary competencies to care for patients from diverse backgrounds.
Do you have time to prepare for your standardized test by the end of the spring term?
Expect to spend about as much time as you would for a semester-long science course in order to prepare for the MCAT. Our applicants typically take a few weeks to learn new content and refresh past knowledge, then focus on practice problems and practice tests while refining knowledge. Expect to take about six to ten practice tests, with additonal time devoted to post-test analysis.
Will you have at least four strong, supportive letters of recommendation by the end of the spring term?
Letters are one of the most critical sources of information. They have the potential to bring an applicant alive as a person in ways that cannot be captured by how they present in their own application materials.
Do you have the time you need to dedicate to preparing your application this year?
Expect to spend many hours soul searching / reflecting; communicating with letter writers; researching schools of interest; writing application materials. Do not underestimate the time that it can take to prepare a strong application. The bulk of the time commitment will be in May through July.
Could your experiences in the coming year make you a much stronger applicant?
If there are gaps in your preparation, spending a year addressing them before applying could make a significant difference on potential outcomes.
Will you be ready to start professional school in the Fall?
Taking a glide year after graduation provides rich opportunity to expand your knowledge of health care, develop professionalism in a "real world" setting, and help you reenergize after the intense college experience before taking on medical school expectations. The "on ramp" in medical school is fast and you want to be ready to hit the ground running.
Additionally, it's best to apply for the year when you want to begin, rather than trying to apply, be admitted, and then ask for your admission to be deferred to a future year. Schools have varying policies on deferment; you are advised not to assume that you will be allowed to defer. If you have plans for something you’d like to pursue in the year or two before entering medical school you should consider postponing your application. If you are not sure what to do, consult with a HPA adviser.
Glide Year Considerations
Over 75% of Princeton applicants take time off between graduation and health professions school matriculation. We have compiled a list of "Ten Reasons to Consider a Glide Year" that outlines the many reasons that students may have for taking time between Princeton and health professions school, as well as a list of sample activities that students have undertaken during their time off, available on the Glide Year Opportunities page of our website.
Students who wish to take time off before beginning professional school may start the HPA application processes in their senior year or wait until after they’ve graduated. It can be helpful to gather letters of recommendation from Princeton faculty and staff prior to leaving campus.
Your age when you decide to apply does not bias medical schools against your application. The average age of matriculating medical students is 24, so taking a year or two off does not harm your chances.
As you decide when to apply, it's okay to start the preparation for your application -- it's much easier to start preparing and then postpone than to have to scramble at the last minute to pull an application together. Applying early in your chosen application year is to your advantage, since most schools are on a rolling admissions policy. You should plan to submit your application in June. HPA prepares students throughout the academic year to be ready to apply in June.