Choosing When to Apply
You should apply to medical school when all relevant aspects of your application are strong, competitive, and you have a reasonable chance to be invited to interviews. This means that your MCAT scores must be competitive (see below), your BCPM GPA must be competitive (see below), you are confident in the range and quality of your references (see below), and you have a meaningful accumulation of medically-related experiences and volunteer work that speaks to your commitment to making a difference in the lives of others. Finally, you will see below three additional statements:
- You struggle with some of the basic questions, including “Why do you want to be a physician”?
- You don’t have time to focus on the preparations required to apply.
- You have no/limited experience with what working in medicine, and with patients, might entail.
What are some good reasons to delay applying until the next cycle?
All applicants are encouraged to only apply once to medical or other health professions school. That means that you must think carefully about the timing that will enable you to put your best foot forward. Here are some very good reasons to delay applying to make sure you are applying from a position of strength:
- Your MCAT scores are not yet competitive. We strongly encourage you to consult the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) to reference the 10th to 90th percentage MCAT range for your schools of interest. If your overall MCAT score falls below the 10th percentage MCAT range for a majority of your schools of interest, we strongly encourage you to retake the MCAT and, for most of you, this means delaying your application for one year.
- Your cumulative (CUM) and/or your combined Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Math (BCPM) GPAs are not yet competitive. Again, we strongly encourage you to consult the MSAR to reference the 10th to 90th percentage of the CUM and BCPM ranges for your schools of interest. If your overall CUM or BCPM GPA falls below the 10th percentage GPA range for a majority of your schools of interest, we strongly encourage you to delay applying a year to allow your senior year grades to impact your application. If you are a senior, you may want to look at academic record enhancer post-bac. programs or to complete additional science coursework to improve your GPA before applying.
- Your references will not be sufficiently strong. It is absolutely critical that you feel that your references are strong and are going to be an asset to your overall application. There is no doubt that it is difficult at a school like Johns Hopkins, with large lecture classes and team-taught courses, that it can be hard to get to know your professors. If you do not have solid relationships with at least a few faculty members going into the junior year, you should look at this as a sign that it might be best for you to delay a year in applying to medical school. Classes during the junior and senior year are always smaller and, if you put your mind to it, you will certainly be able to develop the type of relationships with your professors and others that will result in strong recommendations.
- You struggle with some of the basic questions, including “Why do you want to be a physician”? If you think you want to go into medicine because you “love science and the study of the human body,” and/or “want to help people,” that is fine but it is far from the level of introspection and depth that medical schools require in individuals about to enter such a dynamic field. Struggling with this question most often means that the student has not had sufficient exposure to work in the “helping professions” and has reflected upon his/her experiences.
- You don’t have time to focus on the preparations required to apply. You have essays to write, letters of recommendations to gather, standardized tests to study for, schools to research, as well as the rest of real life and figuring out what to do this summer. If you can’t spend the time you need on application prep now (and secondary essay writing this summer/fall for MD/DO applicants), it might be better to start getting organized this year, but focus on applying next year.
- You have no/limited experience with what working in medicine, and with patients, might entail. Without having participated in some activities that allow you to serve the community, and build the skills you need to be a physician, it will be hard to convince schools that you have a realistic understanding of what you’re about to undertake. If you are concerned that you lack significant clinical and/or volunteer experiences, it is important that you speak with a premed advisor in the Office.
There are several other reasons to delay applying, most notably, that you want to take a year or more to accomplish goals or pursue experiences prior to entering medical school. We have had many Hopkins alumni choose to pursue Peace Corps, Teach for America, HealthCorps, and other opportunities before applying to and starting medical school. Medical schools value the maturity and life experience gained after graduation and greatly respect students who engage in one of these types of activities may ultimately make you a more competitive applicant.
NOTE: Keep in mind that no matter when you choose to apply, you will always be able to access the services of our office and our support through the application process.