If you’re applying to medical schools on the assumption that, if you’re accepted, you can defer your enrollment for a year or more, not so fast! While colleges commonly grant deferrals, med schools are less open to the idea. Some schools do allow any admitted student to defer, but these are rare. Most schools presume that if you’ve applied, that means you’re ready to matriculate the following fall. And with an overall med school acceptance rate of only 41% (meaning that nearly 60% of applicants each year are not accepted to any med schools), each offer of admission is judiciously extended. So wait to apply until you intend to enroll, rather than banking on the option of deferral.

That said, sometimes things come up that you couldn’t possibly predict when you submit your applications! While certain medical programs only grant deferrals for truly exceptional circumstances, most will grant them on a case-by-case basis for students who (a) officially request them (b) with a compelling reason. The most common reasons that are approved include the opportunity to pursue intellectually rewarding experiences, service volunteerism, or participation in fellowship programs; or possibly a medical emergency or family hardship. Schools that are open to deferrals are most likely to grant them for a single year.

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Below, we walk through examples of medical schools that always, sometimes, and very rarely grant deferrals to incoming students.


Schools that grant deferrals to any student who wants one include the following:

DEFERRAL POLICY: “Students who are accepted for admission are offered the opportunity of deferring/delaying their matriculation for one year, with a guaranteed position in the following class. During the intervening period, students may earn money to finance their medical education, take advantage of additional educational experiences they may not have pursued otherwise, take care of personal or family obligations or simply burn out.”

DEFERRAL POLICY: “A deferred admission option is available to all students who are accepted to Sidney Kimmel Medical College. Students wishing to apply for deferral should write to the Director of Admissions stating the reasons for deferral and their plans for the subsequent year(s). The Committee on Admissions encourages students to take advantage of intellectually and personally rewarding opportunities.”

Sometimes, on a Case-by-Case Basis

Schools that grant deferrals on a case-by-case basis include the following:

DEFERRAL POLICY: “Candidates should apply in the year they intend to matriculate. Sometimes unique opportunities become available during the application cycle for activities which will better prepare a student for a career in medicine. Admitted applicants may request to defer matriculation by emailing the Office of Admissions with a description of their plans. Deferrals are not automatic, and are approved on a case-by-case basis. Successful requests are for participation in intellectually rewarding opportunities and service programs during the time of deferral from AMS.”

DEFERRAL POLICY: “HMS recognizes that special opportunities may arise during the application year. The Faculty Associate Dean for Admissions approves requests for deferral on a case-by-case basis. Accepted students who would like to apply for deferral must submit a request stating their reason for requesting deferral and their proposed plans for the duration of the deferral. If approved, the deferral is typically granted for one year, although they are routinely renewed for students involved in multi-year fellowship programs (e.g., Rhodes, Marshall). The Committee on Admissions only supports proposals that provide for participation in intellectually rewarding opportunities and service programs during the time of deferral from HMS.”

DEFERRAL POLICY: “The University of Louisville School of Medicine Admissions office will consider requests for deferred admission based on special professional or personal circumstances…Deferral requests are reviewed within the context of all relevant information, including, but not limited to, the date of deferral request, medical school application information, and reason(s) for requesting deferral. Only in unusual circumstances will a request for deferring enrollment for more than one year be considered. A candidate who is unable to enroll in a given year and has not been granted a deferral must decline his or her offer of admission and reapply at a later date.”

Rarely, and Mostly for Emergency Situations

Schools that grant deferrals only in exceptional circumstances include the following:

DEFERRAL POLICY: “The T.H. Chan School of Medicine at the UMass Chan Medical School discourages granting of deferrals except in cases of medical emergency or events of comparable significance. Requests for deferrals must be submitted directly to the associate dean for admissions and will be considered on an individual basis.”

DEFERRAL POLICY: “Matriculation deferrals are considered for unexpected and extraordinary circumstances. Matriculation will be deferred for one year, and deferred applicants are obligated to enter the UWSOM the following year.”

DEFERRAL POLICY: “Once offered a position at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, accepted students are expected to begin their studies the following August. Exceptional circumstances may constitute grounds for deferral of matriculation.”

DEFERRAL POLICY: “It is the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine policy that applicants accepted to the College of Medicine matriculate in the entering year to which they are accepted. Should an exception be justified under limited and rare circumstances, accepted applicants may request a one-year deferral of matriculation…Occasions for which one-year deferrals may be granted include but are not limited to:

  • Applicant develops serious illness
  • Unanticipated family hardship
  • A meaningful educational opportunity
  • Completion of military service

Applying to medical school is a complicated process, and deciding when to apply is no exception! Please contact Collegiate Gateway if you would like guidance on any aspect of the application and admissions process. As always, we’re happy to help!