The med schools that offer Early Decision (ED) programs - and not all do - typically select 5-10 students by this means.
You would apply at the earliest moment possible in June and med schools are not obligated to notify applicants until October 1. Applying early is very risky because when you submit your initial AMCAS application you may indicate only that one school. If you aren't accepted and you only find out on October 1, you're late in the game to apply to other schools.
Please don't apply "ED" without checking with the med school about the competitiveness of their credentials and discussing your idea with advisers at HPA. A med school dean or director of admissions should be able to advise you on the competitiveness of your candidacy before you apply.
At Princeton we typically have 0-1 person apply ED each year, usually to their state school. They have spoken to us and to admissions people beforehand. For a vast majority of applicants, however, the risks of the ED option (delaying your application at other schools) outweigh the benefit of focusing on one school.
We want you to maximize your odds of getting interviews and acceptances, and based on our data and experience, we know that applying early can make a difference.
The med school common application can be submitted around the end of May/early June (with or without an MCAT score). Our advice is to submit the app within two weeks of that opening date (and to take the MCAT no later than June; mid-May if you want to know your score before you submit the application).
Here are some of the reasons:
- There is a significant lag time between the time that you submit your common application and the time that it arrives at schools (due to processing time that you can’t control). Applying earlier will reduce that lag time and give you the chance to get evaluated, interviewed, and accepted earlier.
- Many schools operate on rolling admissions policies. This means that they will start letting students in early and will continue to do so until they have filled their class. The earlier you’re in the applicant pool, the more shots you have at getting one of those acceptances.
- Schools that don’t operate on rolling admissions still offer interviews over a set range of dates with most interviews occurring between September and January. Based on our data from recent years, about 50% of interview invitations went out by October, and only about 20% in December and later. So if you submit your application in November, you’re vying for fewer interview slots than those who had applied earlier.
- Applying early reflects well on your professionalism: it can give the impression that you are well organized, punctual, managing your time well, and committed to the application process. Applying right at the deadline could give the impression, whether it’s true or not, that you were unsure of your candidacy or your interest in medicine, or otherwise unprepared to apply.
- Knowing you’ve done everything you can do to apply early can give you a sense of control in a process where you often don’t feel in control.
Of course, we can’t 100% predict who’s going to get into medical school in any given year. There are way too many schools and way too many factors at play. But applying early means you're less at risk of only getting considered when there are a couple of seats left to fill in the class.
We’ll talk more about this at our Applicant Info Session this fall!
Good question! Some students decide very early – freshman or sophomore year – and plan their premed-related activities and classes across all four years. Some students don’t decide until May or June when they're about to submit the application in the summer. It varies widely, but the most common time is late junior fall or early junior spring.
We go through all of the application logistics at our HPA Applicant Info Session in the fall semester and follow up with an “Evaluating Your Candidacy” workshop to help students reflect on their readiness for the application cycle. In consultation with advisers and others, many students may opt to take additional time in order to strengthen their candidacy before applying. Reasons can vary, and may include: a desire to improve academic metrics or improve relationships with potential writers of letters of recommendation; a need for more clinical experience; more time to study for MCAT; more time to save money to finance the application cycle; lack of clarity or confidence in career goals; or other priorities that will interfere with preparing the application this year.
Generally speaking, you'll maximize your results by waiting until senior spring because you'll have your grades, letters of rec, and experiences from senior year on your application for schools to consider.
Not all medical schools have deferral policies, and they vary considerably in terms of what they will accept as a plausible reason to defer. Some schools only accept deferral requests from individuals who have been accepted to internationally known programs like the Peace Corps or Teach For America, or have received a Rhodes or Marshall, or have a family emergency that prevents them from being able to matriculate in their intended class.
All of our application support can be done virtually, so if you're worried about being away from Princeton while applying, know that we'll be here for you virtually!
Glide/gap years are a relatively new phenomenon--the only applicants who took glide years when your parents were going through medical school were likely those who had "problems" with their applications (and it was a lot easier to get in back then!). It can be hard for families to appreciate the newer trends in medical school education and admissions.
Our handout, Ten Reasons to Consider a Glide Year, provides some talking points that may help you talk with them about this decision (you could ask them to read through it and then talk about it). If they have colleagues with ties to admissions, it may help to ask them to talk with their colleagues about trends in applicants that they see.
If more data helps, showing them MSAR age demographics for each medical school could help them understand the diversity in the cohort.
Sometimes a financial argument resonates with family: cost of attendance and medical student debt have increased faster than inflation--even if your family is helping you with tuition, an investment of time and energy to develop your candidacy and readiness for medical school on the front end could make the medical school investment more worthwhile in the long run: it could mean getting into a school you're more excited about, and you could enter more refreshed and ready to make the most of your medical education. Try to get to the root causes of your family members' concerns and we can try to help you shape your response.
You will always be eligible for HPA advising!
We recommend stopping by to meet with an HPA adviser before you graduate if you haven’t been in recently. We’ll add you to our database of potential applicants for a future year, and that way, we’ll be able to reach out to you when you should be starting the process for your chosen application year. We can also look over your candidacy as it stands and give you our analysis of strengths and areas you might address in your time off before applying.
Logistically, you may also want to ask for some of your letters of recommendation from Princeton faculty in person before you leave, since it is good professional form to ask in person, and it’ll be easier to track people down while you’re here. Guidelines for asking for and storing letters can be found on our website.
Enjoy your time away! Only about 20% of our applicants in recent years have been rising seniors, so more and more, we’re seeing students taking time to enhance their candidacies via one or two-year post-graduation opportunities.