The pressure to submit your application to AMCAS on the very first day or soon thereafter can feel burdensome and confusing. Like most aspects of medical school admissions, your best action depends on many factors. The two most important questions to ask yourself first are:
- Is my primary application well-written and complete? Quality is more important than timing, but if you have planned well, these don’t have to be in conflict. Medical schools know this.
- What other factors might hold up my application and make it irrelevant that I submit as early as possible? These include MCAT score release and transcript receipt dates.
While most advisors cite the rolling admissions policy at medical schools as the chief reason to submit as early as you can, there are other important reasons. Rolling admissions means that, as one Dean memorably stated, “the last seat in the class is the hardest to get.” In fact, the rolling admissions at some medical schools is not the main driver for my advice to try to submit on the first day.
The AMCAS transcript verification queue is established and dependent on date of submission and receipt of transcripts. Verification lag time naturally gets extended as the season progresses. I have been to AAMC and seen how they manually verify transcripts. It is time consuming. You want to be in the front of that queue.
The other relevant queue is the one at many undergraduate and post-bac schools for writing committee letters for their applicants. Some schools queue up their letter writing based on AMCAS submission. Your application will not be complete at medical schools until letters are received and your AMCAS is verified, and other elements are done that I cover below.
Finally, many admissions officers and committees take the position that people who apply early are good time managers, which is a critical skill in medicine. It is well-documented that mistakes are more often made, and judgment is more often compromised by medical students and physicians whose organizational skills are lagging. Sometimes an applicant’s submission dates are aired at the committee level when deciding between candidates, as evidence that one is better organized than the other. It is important to know that the admissions committees differentiate elements of the application you can control, for which you can be held accountable, from those you cannot.
After the primary application is submitted, additional elements can hold up the review of your application. Chief among these is submission of your secondary application. You can find archived secondary questions online to guide you in prewriting your secondary responses, so you can have them done when the prompts are formally made available to you.
Another element of the complete application is the CASPer test, which is required by approximately 30 MD and DO schools in the 2018-2019 cycle. After schools recognize you as an applicant, they send you information on CASPer and require or recommend that you take it. You sign up for a seat, take the test, and three weeks later, the school receives your score. It’s wise to get the jump on this and sign up before you are invited in order to accelerate review of your application. You can learn more about this at my blog post on CASPer.