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When is the Best Time to Apply to Medical School?

Most Swarthmore students do not enter medical school directly after the completion of their college degree. They may wait one or two years, or more. The national average age of medical school matriculants is twenty-four, with some students waiting until their thirties to apply.

There are many advantages to delaying medical school. Many students really appreciate having a breather between two very rigorous and intensive academic experiences. Others want to take some time to explore various career options, to really satisfy themselves that medicine is right for them. Students who take some time before applying to medical school often acquire additional employment and academic experiences that make them stronger candidates, such as graduate programs or postbaccalaureate courses, Peace Corps volunteering, or laboratory research. Finally, taking some time between Swarthmore and medical school, even just one year, allows students to spread out the premedical requirements, so that they can be done at a reasonable pace with the likelihood of better grades. Don't sabotage yourself by rushing to get your premed requirements "out of the way" quickly, and then not earn the grades that you will need to get accepted.

If you decide to take a year between Swarthmore and medical school, the requirements for medical school may be completed during the senior year and the MCAT taken in the spring of the senior year or during the summer right after. For example, biology can be taken in the freshman year, chemistry in the sophomore and junior years and physics in the senior year. This allows a student majoring in the humanities to take only one lab course per semester. After taking the MCAT in the spring of your senior year, you would apply that summer to medical school and matriculate one year after graduation from Swarthmore College.

Another option is to complete the premedical requirements after graduation, at a college or university near your job or in a postbaccalaureate premedical program. This is a very common strategy for students who decide later on that they want to attend medical school, who spend their time at Swarthmore pursuing other interests, or who need to have a stronger record in the sciences to be a successful applicant.

If you wish to begin medical school the year you graduate from Swarthmore, you would take the MCAT in the spring or early summer of your junior year (or the summer after your sophomore year) and apply in June between your junior and senior years.