What does applying early to med school mean, any way?

Apply early.

It's great advice, but what does early mean?  If AMCAS opens June 1 but the deadlines aren't until October, when in this 5-month window is the sweet spot?

I've always told my students to apply the first week of June, but to see whether this was necessary, I did a little online research.  In 2012, according to AAMC, 45,266 students applied to allopathic (MD) medical schools.  According to aacom.org, another 14,945 applied to DO school, but many of those are the same applicants to allopathic medical schools.  If you total only the unique DO applicants with the allopathic applicants, you get a total applicant pool of approximately 53,097.

This information, though, doesn't tell us when these students applied.  For that information, we turn to a site called mdapplicants.com.  If you haven't spent hours on this site yet, let me just say that there's something voyeuristically delicious about searching the profiles of students who did or did not get into med school, seeing their stats, where they applied, and other details of their applications.

For 2012, we get a data pool of 781 applicants who posted profiles on mdapplicants.com while also giving a valid date for when they first submitted their application.  In other words, roughly 1.5% of the applicant pool that year posted a profile on the site.  If we extrapolate these numbers to the general applicant pool, we get the following chart:

Roughly 1/3 of the applicants on the site applied in early June.  1/4 applied in Late June, another 1/4 in late July, and the rest in August, September and beyond.  That's, of course, if the numbers hold true between what's on mdapplicants.com and the overall applicant pool.*

So here's a rough definition of early:

Applying early = applying the first two weeks of June

Applying average = applying late June or in July

Applying Late = August or beyond

So, looking to apply early to med school?  You'd better have that application in before June 14.

* There are plenty of reasons to believe that the numbers don't extrapolate all that well.  To post a profile online about your application while you are going through the application itself, you would have to be particularly on-the-ball.  As a result, it's reasonable to assume that most of the people putting profiles on mdapplicants would fall on the early-bird side of the equation.