When should you apply?
The only answer that is true for every applicant is, “When you are fully qualified and personally ready.”
When that moment comes is different for everyone. Applying to professional school is lengthy, costly, and emotionally taxing. It is never advisable to apply “just to see what happens,” especially if you know and/or are counseled that your qualifications do not make you a competitive applicant. (The AAMC has a great tool for assessing your readiness for medical school. This can be useful for other professions, as well. Mount Holyoke students and alumnae may wish to use our internal self-assessment tool.)
Most MHC graduates complete 1-2 years of work, or a graduate degree, before attending professional school. Few students leave Mount Holyoke to matriculate in professional school directly after completing their Bachelor’s degree. For example, in fall 2016, only 14% of the MHC graduates who matriculated at schools of medicine or dentistry were from the class of 2016. Currently, the average age of students matriculating at MD-granting schools in the United States is 24 (https://www.aamc.org/download/321468/data/factstablea6.pdf).
Key reasons why entering professional school 1-2 years after graduation is often the right choice:
- Health profession schools place a high value on work and life experience. Because admission committees seek to admit applicants who display professional qualities such as responsibility, maturity, strong communication skills, and respect for others, experience outside of academics usually enhances an application.
- Having completed your undergraduate degree at the time you apply means that professional schools have your full undergraduate record to evaluate. This is almost always beneficial to the applicant.
- Using your time to apply to and interview for professional school during your junior and senior years may prevent you from fully taking advantage of important opportunities - new and ongoing interests and passions that may be less accessible after you graduate. Taking advantage of opportunities such as studying abroad, writing a thesis, or taking courses in a range of disciplines can help you to grow as a person. These pursuits enhance your qualifications for professional school and will help you excel in your future professional life.
What to do with your gap year(s)
"I don't want to waste my time..."
Agreed! Use your time wisely and effectively. Here are some of the top pursuits of alumnae prior to professional school matriculation:
- Additional coursework to complete prerequisites or increase their undergraduate GPA
- Earning a graduate degree
- Preparing for and taking entrance exams
- Conducting research as a technician or clinical research coordinator
- Serving their communities
- Earning money to repay undergraduate loans and/or save for professional school
- Building experience related to the profession they hope to enter
A timeline to consider
All applicants should expect to begin the application planning process two years in advance of when they hope to matriculate.
Here is a broad timeline for someone hoping to enter medical school in fall 2021:
January 2020: Submit pre-application to pre-health office, take the MCAT
July-August 2020: Write and submit secondary applications
September 2020-March 2021: Interviews
Summer-fall 2021: Enroll in medical school
Much of this timing is the same for applicants to other health profession programs, except for the time of submitting the primary and secondary applications, which may happen at a later date.