Now that you have decided to apply to medical school, which application plan suits your needs and schedule? There are three different options, each with its own timetable: Regular Admissions (the vast majority of applications fall into this category); Early Decision Programs (EDP); and Early Assurance Programs (EAP). In this post, we’ll walk you through the differences between these three plans, and the requirements for each.

Regular Admissions

Regular Admissions is the standard application plan—it’s what most medical school applicants use—as well as the least complicated. On this plan, you can apply to as many schools as you want, all at the same time, plus you can apply to a combination of MD and DO programs if you choose. Since medical schools are becoming increasingly selective, we recommend applying to between 25-28 schools.

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For Regular Admissions applications, we advise that you submit your primary application as close as possible to the hour at which submission opens! These applications are rolling, so the sooner you submit your primary application, the sooner your transcript will be verified, the sooner you will receive the secondary application, and the sooner you will be evaluated for an interview invitation. Make sure to check the specific secondary application policies for each of your med schools. (For more detailed information on deadlines, see our previous post here; and for a discussion of secondary applications, see here.)

Early Decision Program (EDP)

The Early Decision Program is binding: you can apply to only one EDP school, and must commit to attend if accepted. So, there’s a bit of risk involved, and you should only go the EDP route if you have a clear first-choice school. That said, you’ll hear from your EDP program by October, so you can still apply to other schools if you’re not accepted.

Some med schools have minimum GPA and MCAT requirements for EDP applicants, so if you are considering an EDP application to a particular program, check to make sure you qualify. At Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), for example, Early Decision applications are typically open only to students participating in a prearranged linkage program “or those with extraordinarily strong academic records as well as some special or extenuating circumstance.” Students in the latter category are asked to email the Office of Admissions with their GPA and MCAT scores and a compelling description of why they’ve elected to apply to BUSM Early Decision.

The main advantage of applying to an EDP program is that you increase your chance of acceptance. (That’s because EDP applications are a boon for med schools: your commitment to attend increases their “yield”—the percentage of accepted students who choose to attend—which makes them look more appealing.) Plus, if you’re accepted, you will save time and money you would have used for additional medical school applications.

The drawback to applying via EDP is that if you aren’t accepted, you will be relatively late in the process of applying to medical schools through Regular Admissions, so we recommend getting started on these applications early just in case.

Here are the guidelines for EDP applications:

  • Apply to only one medical school by the stated deadline:
    • AMCAS: For MD schools, which use the AMCAS platform, the deadline is August 1; the universal notification deadline is October 1.
    • AACOMAS: For DO schools, which use the AACOMAS platform, the deadline is set by each individual school, so check the deadlines carefully for the schools you are considering.
  • Commit to attend the EDP if accepted
  • Do not apply to any EDP program if you have already submitted an initial or secondary application during the same cycle
  • Do not submit additional applications until the following conditions are met:
    • AMCAS: you are rejected, released from the EDP commitment, or the October 1 deadline passes without your having heard from your EDP med school
    • AACOMAS: you are notified by the EDP med school.

Early Assurance Program (EAP)

The Early Assurance Program, unlike the Early Decision Program, is not binding: if you’re accepted, you can still choose not to attend. The timeline is also different: EAP applicants apply at the end of their sophomore year or the beginning of junior year of college, without having taken all the required premed courses yet. Some medical schools don’t even require the MCAT for EAP applications.

Some programs do, though, require accepted students to maintain a minimum GPA. Review the specific requirements for each medical school, which may also involve high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores (since you will have only completed two years of college by the time you apply). Also review the conditions of acceptance.

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS), for example, offers an EAP called the Donald and Vera Blinken FlexMed Program, which is open to college sophomores in good academic standing from any major. To apply, students must have taken either the SAT or ACT and have completed at least one academic year of biology, chemistry, or physics.

There are three types of EAP programs:

  • Med schools exclusively affiliated with their own undergraduate university
  • Med schools that accept applicants from their undergraduate university as well as other colleges
  • Med schools open to applicants from any college

EAP acceptance offers several advantages: you may feel less pressure to maintain a top GPA throughout the rest of college and will have more freedom to take a wide range of academic courses; the acceptance will free up your time to pursue additional extracurricular activities; and you’ll save time and money you would have used for additional medical school applications. The only downside is that there are few EAP programs, so you are limiting your options.

Planning for medical school is a complex process. If you would like guidance on any aspect of the application and admissions process, contact us. As always, we’re happy to help!