Your Med School Application is Ticking.
Sorry to be so dramatic with the title, but it's true. As it turns out, the longer you wait to apply to medical school, the lower your chances of admission.
While that's not entirely news, I haven't seen any research proving the point, so I decided to do some of my own. I present to you (the first?) proof that the later you apply, the lower your chances of admission.
First, the chart:
The national average acceptance rate (the blue dotted line) for MD and DO schools is 47.69%.*
How can we interpret these numbers?
1) Causation does not equal correlation.
Just because someone applies early does not mean that causes them to have a higher acceptance rate; both may be the result of being more organized in the application process (having been more on the ball, for example, in studying for and taking the MCAT, for the application essays, etc).
2) Disclaimers aside, that's a pretty clear slope, isn't it? There certainly seems to be something to applying early that helps your application, which we will explore in a later blog post.
3) Assuming then, that we want to be in the early June group, we should do whatever we can to get ahead of the application process, to start working on our personal statements in January-February, to pick schools nice and early, to get letters of recommendation together soon. And if you're taking a spring MCAT, don't wait until after your test to work on the rest of the application. Start now.
4) If you're applying after June, consider taking a year off so that you can apply early the next cycle. Especially if you're a student with only mediocre numbers, it's clear that applying late will make those chances even slimmer.
A note on methodology
(this section is removed from the original post, because I don't think it's that interesting. But if you'd like to know how I calculated the data, here you go).
AAMC and AACOM produce information on the total numbers of students who get in, but they have not produced a report (that I know of) that shows who got in by when they applied. As a result, I turned to mdapplicants.com, a site of self-reported profiles of med school applicants to MD and DO schools. I chose to look at the 950+ applicants who posted a profile for the 2012-13 application cycle and then sorted them by whether they got in and by when they applied.
As it turns out, the reported acceptance rate for students who posted on mdapplicants.com was 67%, or 20 points above the national average. It makes sense that students posting to an online site are going to have a higher acceptance rate than the overall applicant pool, because who posts online? People are more likely to post online if a) they are happy about what happened (i.e. they got in), and b) if they are so organized in the application process that they have time to spare (above and beyond scrambling to get everything turned in).
So while the acceptance rate should be higher, the variance between early applicants and late applicants should remain relatively the same. As a result, I took the results from the online students (which ranged from 73% to 57%) and normalized it at 47%, the national average acceptance rate. That produced the chart above.