Building a List of Schools


Coming up with a list of schools is a time-consuming but essential process to gearing up to apply in the upcoming cycle. Being strategic about the schools you apply to can give you a great advantage during the process, and even improve your chances of getting in


  • The best way to begin making a list of schools is to start a google sheet of every school you are interested in, charting GPA, MCAT, applications they receive per year, OOS-friendly, etc. Then, start narrowing down until you get to the number you want!



  • Buy the MSAR! This will be your best investment all cycle, and it costs $28 for 1 year or $36 for 2 years
  • The best time to buy it is after you receive your MCAT scores and are ready to begin the application cycle
    • Without your MCAT score, the MSAR will not be as useful and it may also expire earlier in the interview cycle.
  • It is also helpful to have MSAR as long as possible in the school year to help you look up school information before interview days and making final decisions between acceptances (if you are thinking about only getting a one year subscription)


Distributing Your School List: 

  • If you are an average applicant, make sure you are not applying to mostly schools that are considered “safety” or “reach.” You want to distribute your list using MSAR where a majority of the schools you are applying to are “target” and then have a couple “safety” and “reach” schools.
  • “Safety” →  above 75%
  • Target” within 25-75% for GPA and MCAT
  • “Reach” below 25%



  • Most applicants apply to 20+ schools
  • Although sending in the primary application just requires ~$40 and a click of a button, completing each school’s secondaries can be a super expensive and tough process (~$70-$200 per secondary and several essays). 
  • Before you send your primary off to a school, ask yourself whether you will have the time and energy to complete the secondary. You may even want to do some brief research on what the secondary prompts have been in previous years (no guarantee they will repeat). Some schools have over a half a dozen essays, or a really long or odd prompt so you will not want to apply unless you are very invested in the school’s mission and program.



  • In-state schools are usually much cheaper (especially public medical schools
  • Some out of state (OOS) school’s will consider you an in-state resident (you’ll get to pay in-state tuition) after you’ve attended their institution for a year or two.
    • Check out school tuition policies to see if this could apply to you! 



  • More important than metrics, extracurriculars, letters, and essays — the schools that you target can have the greatest impact on your success in a given application cycle. 
  • Most students spend months cultivating the perfect school list: doing internet research, talking to current students, and seeing advisors.
  • Make sure that you would be willing to attend every school on your list. In all reality, you may only get into your last choice – would you be ready to go there? 



  • The first thing to consider is the geographical location of the school you will want to attend (Urban/Rural/Suburban, region of choice, etc.) 
  • Many MI medical schools, for example, are much more likely to interview and accept Michigan residents
    • If you are from the state of MI and want to stay here, the 6-7 schools in Michigan will be your best bet: focus your applications here.
  • Do your research if you’re applying to an out of state (OOS) school
    • Some OOS schools only accept applicants with strong ties to the school/region/state. 
    • Take a look at the map on MSAR to see what states the school typically takes students from. 
    • If a school shows a preference for in-state, think critically about if it’s worth spending time/money applying to that particular school. 



  • Look into how many applications that school receives each cycle. Some schools are notoriously “low-yield,” which means they receive much more applications (12,000+) or have much fewer spots (<50)  than the average school . 
    • Some examples: Drexel, George Washington, Georgetown, Temple, Boston University, Mayo, Jefferson, Tufts, etc …
  • This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just make sure your entire list aren’t only low-yields.


School Focus: 

  • Read school’s missions to find out what their focus is on: examples include:
    • Research (Cleveland, Stanford, Michigan…)
    • Comprehensive Patient-care (Central, OUWB…)
    • Public/global Health (George Washington, Emory…)
    • Community Service (Rush, MSU…)
  • Some schools are better for known for some specialties than other schools
    • IF you have an idea of what specialty you might want to go into, MSAR provides stats on what kinds of specialties their matriculants eventually go into → this is a great tool! 


Age of Applicant: 

  • Taking a gap year before medical school is more and more common these days. This puts anyone applying directly out of undergrad at a disadvantage when it comes to the application cycle. 
  • This is not to discourage those of you that feel ready for medical school after your junior year of college.
    • You can still maximize your chances by applying smart



Application season is quickly approaching and you know what that means… It is time to start thinking about rec letters, brainstorming ideas for your personal statement, and understanding what the next year is going to look like. In this updated, AMCAS timeline blog, we will be breaking down what each component of the medical school application is as well as the time frame associated with it so that you’re in a position to succeed.

The AMCAS application’s opening date has not yet been released for the 2021-2022 cycle. However, AMCAS tends to open near the start of May each year. For instance, for the 2020-2021 application cycle, the AMCAS application opened on May 4, 2020, and applicants were able to submit their AMCAS application beginning on May 28, 2020, at 9:30 am EST. The period between when the application opens and when submission becomes available is important, as this is when you will be inputting all the information into your primary application. This includes general demographics, your course history and grades, activities and descriptions, and your personal statement. It is helpful to have some of this written up during the winter semester so you do not get burned out in May!

January – March




August to March

April (2)

May (2)




January – March 

Attend workshops/advising hours to get all of your questions answered!

Newnan, Career Center, and multiple workshops go on throughout the month!

To find more out about them, subscribe to the Pre-Health Newsletter  through Newnan, and the Med-App Canvas Page !

Finalize a list of schools to apply to 

Get a subscription to MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirement) – the best resource for acceptance statistics. 

Check out-of-state schools to see if they have a preference for out-of-state/in-state applicants.

Ensure that all of the schools you’re applying to are ones that you are passionate about attending! 

Avoid too many reach schools! Be realistic, and choose schools that you have the best chance of getting into. The application process is stressful and expensive, so make the most out of your time, money, and energy!

Begin gathering application materials! 

Request Letters of Recommendation (LORs)

  Brainstorm who you will ask to write your letters of recommendation and keep these guidelines  in mind when doing so. Interfolio Dossier is a great resource that allows you to store all of your letters. This particular resource stores your letters for multiple years, allowing you to use the same letters for future cycles in addition to the upcoming one. 

Prepare Personal Statement (PS)

Start brainstorming ideas for your personal statement (you can start this at any time, it’s great to keep a record of any memorable experiences during shadowing, internships, jobs, etc). It is very likely that you will have to write several drafts.

Your PS should be personal to your own journey to medicine! Brainstorming hard and writing extra pages will never hurt you, because you will need this material and introspection during your interview trail and beyond.

Think about what 15 activities you’d like to include in your application, and which 3 you’ll pick for your most-meaningful activities. You will have to calculate hours and gather contacts—e.g. volunteer supervisors, presidents/advisors of student organizations, bosses at employment—and find emails/phone numbers for each one. 

It might also be beneficial to ask one or multiple of your contacts for these most-meaningful activities for a LOR.

Prepare for the MCAT

Ideally you’d like to have your score by the time the application opens, so the latest that many people recommend scheduling your test date is in early April (it takes a month for the scores to come in).

With that being said, you can take it later and submit your primaries without your MCAT score – if you’re confident that you did well on the test. 

If you are unsure about which range of schools you will be applying to, choose one “throwaway” school where you will apply regardless, to submit AMCAS and begin the verification process on the first submission day. After receiving your score, you can add schools to send your primary to (adding schools shouldn’t delay verification). 

(During 2021, this can be slightly delayed- the last cycle’s last date for accepted MCATs was June 20).


Request official transcripts as soon as you finish winter semester courses.

This can be done through wolverine access or in-person at your academic advising center. It is usually not beneficial to wait to apply until spring/summer semester courses are graded because this will delay your application.

Make sure you get transcripts from ALL of the institutions that you attended and all semesters! This includes community colleges you might have dual-enrolled at in highschool.

Final edits on personal statement and find new editors.

    Try to have at least 3 people read your personal statement: peers as well as adult mentors; many recommendation writers will ask you for a rough draft of your PS to learn more about you.

We do not recommend paying people to edit your PS because there are many resources available for free: including Sweetland and other pre-health students and mentors. You can also come in to our PMH peer advising hours if you want an extra person to look over it!

Learn More

Get chemistry exemption letters if you need them

Newnan states the following: “If you do not have A.P. credit, but you place directly into organic chemistry, you are entitled to a chemistry placement letter. Some schools may not accept this letter and instead will insist on courses taken on a college campus. It is also the case that some schools will not accept A.P. credit for chemistry.”.

Continue with Requesting Letters of Recommendation (LORs)

A general rule of thumb is to have:

  • 2 or more from science professors
  • 1 non-science professor
  • 2 extracurricular-based LORs
  • if possible, one from someone with a professional degree


Begin filling out your primary application

Input everything (demographics, activities, personal statement, etc) into your primary application

Release MCAT scores to various systems

AMCAS will open on May 4

Can begin submitting AMCAS on May 28

Take CASPer test  and submit it to schools that require it

Some DO schools have supplemental essays (secondaries) within AACOMAS while others will send a separate invitation after the submission of your primary application


Submit primary application (by the end of June) 

Verification takes 3-5 weeks

Applicants who submit their materials first will be reviewed first, get secondaries sooner, interviews sooner, etc.

That being said, it is not required that you submit the first day possible; just make sure you are within the first two-ish weeks to make it into the first verification batch.

Submitting on June 1 vs. June 15 shouldn’t make too much of a difference, but the earlier the better!

Verified applications won’t likely get sent to medical schools until the last Friday of June. Therefore, there is no real difference between clicking submit on the first day or a little bit later, especially if the quality of your writing will improve.

DO Schools begin receiving and processing application from AACOMAS in mid-June

Take the time to pre-write secondaries, especially if you have other summer plans! Most can be found online, here, or on reddit/sdn:

 Begin preparing for interviews


Probably the busiest time of the application cycle! 

Start to receive secondaries → best if you can submit secondaries within two weeks of when you receive. Some schools have hard deadlines, but others don’t care if you wait longer. However, submitting earlier demonstrates your interest in the school (as long as your essays are still high-quality).

Once you submit secondaries, relax! You’ve done all you can at this point.


                                               August – March 

Interview season commences! You can hear back anytime during these months, so don’t put yourself down if you don’t receive early interviews. Some schools, including Michigan, interview in-state applicants last so you may not hear back until winter semester. Post-interview decisions are usually made between one week to several months. If you placed on a waitlist or alternate list, you may not hear back until the very end of the cycle.

FAFSA opens in October! Fill it out early if possible because more funding is available at the beginning of the financial aid cycle. Start filling it out listing the schools which you’ve heard back from, because you can only have a maximum of 10 schools on FAFSA. You can also submit to one or two schools, and add more as applicable in later months.

Send updates to schools that you are still interested in later in the school if anything significant has changed on your application—new job, fall transcript, publications, etc. 

You can select “plan to enroll” for any school that you have been accepted to.



Apr 15: you must narrow down your “plan to enroll” to your top three schools.

Apr 30: you can begin to select “commit to enroll” for your top school, at which time all other schools that you have received an acceptance or waitlist offer are notified that you will not be attending (they will not know which school you have chosen instead, though).

Consult with pre-med advisors about a back-up plan if needed


Review admission and financial aid offers

Attend second look and Admit-weekend activities

At this time, you will tend to see the most movement on waitlists.

  • Medical schools may accept students off their waitlist until the day their incoming class begins its academic year → most waitlist acceptances occur shortly after accepted students have committed to enroll
  • You may withdraw from a waitlist at any time during this period.
    • It is generally considered that you should withdraw from any waitlists that you don’t plan on attending after you are accepted to your top choice school. This will open up more slots for people who are on those waitlists with you.



  • You will need to make a final decision about which school to attend.

This timeline is specifically for the 2020-2021 application cycle for regular decision applicants. Please keep in mind that dates may change slightly depending on the application year.  Aim for early at every stage!

AMCAS Timeline (MD)

AACOMAS Timeline (DO)