Medical school admissions timeline

As a traditional medical school applicant, you will prepare for and apply to medical school during college and enter a program directly upon graduation. In addition to your science-heavy course load, graduation requirements, and extracurriculars, you now must juggle (1) preparing for and taking the MCAT and (2) applying to medical schools.

We know it feels like you have a lot on your plate. Follow this schedule to stay on track with pre-med requirements, MCAT prep, and completing your med school applications. (We’ve got tips for non-traditional applicants, too!).

Keep in mind that the courses below represent only the minimum requirements for admission to most medical school programs. You can use this timeline as a general guide, but always double-check admission requirements for the schools you are considering.

First Year

  • One year of general chemistry
  • One year of calculus
  • One year of biology
  • One semester of English
  • Introductory major requirements (optional)
  • Explore all the various specialties of medical practice.
  • Begin a health care related volunteer program, job, or internship.
  • Research academic societies, pre-med clubs, and other student organizations and consider joining one.
  • Visit your school’s pre-med advisor, review course requirements, and create a pre-medical game plan.
  • Continue investigating medicine. Is it right for you? What are your personal and academic goals?
  • Build relationships with professors who can later serve as mentors, offer you the opportunity to participate in research, or write recommendations on your behalf.

Sophomore Year

  • One year of organic chemistry
  • One semester of psychology or sociology
  • Other introductory major requirements
  • Did you have a positive first-year experience? If so, continue with the same extracurricular activity.
  • If you didn’t enjoy it or were not sufficiently challenged, begin a new one immediately.
  • Toward the end of the year, begin researching medical school programs.
  • Continue seeking relationships with professors and begin a list of those who might write your recommendations.

Fall of Junior Year

  • One year of physics
  • One year of biochemistry
  • Begin upper division major course work.
  • Continue doing research to find schools that are a good fit for you. 
  • Identify and contact potential recommenders. It's a great idea to write a brief profile or bio about yourself to help your recommenders write the best letter possible.   
  • Start thinking MCAT. This high-stakes exam requires knowledge of biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. You must really prepare to do well. To gauge your performance, take a free online practice test.
  • Register for the MCAT at (The basic fee is $300, with additional charges for re-scheduling and other services.)

  • Make arrangements to prep for the test.    

NOTE: Timing is an important factor with the MCAT. The field of applicants grows more crowded as the admissions season advances. Therefore, the earlier you sit for the MCAT, the better off you'll be. Even if you complete the remainder of your application early, the vast majority of medical schools will not closely consider your candidacy until they have a copy of your MCAT scores.

Spring of Junior Year

  • Continue upper division major course work
Application Prep
  • Take the MCAT no later than mid-May to receive your scores in June.
  • If you are dissatisfied with your score, register for the next exam (while there is still time) and create a plan to get the score you need. 

Summer Before Senior Year

  • Finalize the list of schools you will apply to and complete the AMCAS application.
  • You may start the primary application process as early as April and, ideally, you should complete it by June or July. Regular deadlines stretch between now and December  (If you apply through the early decision program (EDP), the deadline is August 1).  If you want to be considered seriously for a position, you’ll want to submit all application materials no later than September. 
  • Research financial aid options.
  • Pre-meds who did not take the MCAT earlier or want to retake the exam should take the MCAT as early in the summer as possible.

Senior Year

  • Finish remaining premed requirements.
  • Finish remaining major/university requirements.
  • Take upper-division or graduate-level courses in medically related subjects such as physiology, histology, pharmacology, and anatomy, if you have time. This will allow you some breathing room during the first two years of medical school.
  • Do more comprehensive research about the medical schools to which you applied.
  • If a med school likes your candidacy, they will send you their own secondary application. You'll have some essays to write. Give yourself enough time to revise and to allow someone else (a good writer) to read them.
  • Send thank you notes to your recommenders—it's the perfect way to gently remind them to get on this task if they haven't already.    
  • Submit the FAFSA.
  • Prepare for interviews, which typically take place in the fall, winter, and, at some schools, early spring.
  • Interview and wait for decision letters! 

Acceptances (and rejections) start arriving during the winter and spring of your senior year.  If you don't get in, reconsider your career options or prepare to apply again next year.


Relax (for now). Classes begin in August. Congratulations, future doctor!