Applying to Medical School

While the majority of students interested in medical school plan to complete premedical requirements during college and start the application process by the end of their junior or senior year, others take the necessary courses as postbaccalaureate students. Many students don't make the decision to pursue a career in medicine until late in college or after graduation. Applying after college does not put you at a disadvantage; in fact, many medical schools say they appreciate the maturity of older applicants.

If you are a current applicant for the 2022 cycle or if you an alumni planning to apply in the future, please subscribe to the OCS Medical School Applicant ListservNote: please subscribe using a @college, @post, or email address. If you do not have a @post or email address, please email with your name, email, and preferred email so we can verify that you were an undergraduate at Harvard.

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There are two timelines to consider, depending on when you plan to apply to and attend medical school:

Senior Applicants
Attending medical school directly after graduation; applying the summer after junior year.

Alumni Applicants
Taking a year off before medical school; applying the summer after senior year. About 75-80% of Harvard College applicants to medical school take one or more gap years. Of this number, around two-thirds take 2+ gap years.


  • Review the Premedical Information for Students booklet, which provides an overview of academic requirements and dispels some pervasive premed myths.
  • Read the weekly “This Week at OCS" email newsletter and choose to receive “Health and Med” updates.
  • Begin to identify possible sites for volunteering in the health field.
  • Get involved on campus.
  • Get to know your faculty, preceptors, instructors, and teaching fellows - attend office hours, invite them to dinner, etc.
  • Seek out help and advice from faculty, students, and/or OCS advisers.
  • Attend a Pre-Health 101 workshop.
  • Attend workshops in the Gaining Traction in Pre-Health Series.
  • Complete the Navigating Premed and Pre-Health form and schedule a Navigating Premed and Pre-Health advising appointment.
  • Connect with the Pre-Health Peer Liaison PAFs (PPL PAFs) and attend Pre-Health Question Centers.

Sophomore Year 

  • Attend medical and other health-related programs at OCS in your House, and the broader campus community.
  • If you did not attend one as a first-year, schedule a Navigating Premed and Pre-Health advising appointment.
  • Participate in service organizations and campus activities.
  • Refine extracurricular interests whether or not they are medically relevant.
  • Continue gaining healthcare experience.
  • Continue meeting with faculty. Consider asking for a recommendation letter.
  • Think about what you might like to do during the summer.
  • Attend some medical school admissions information sessions co-hosted by OCS with premed student clubs (schedule available in the OCS Employer and Graduate School calendar).
  • Attend workshops in the Gaining Traction in Pre-Health Series.

Junior Year (Senior Year for Alumni Applicants)

Fall term

  • Make an appointment with one of the OCS Premedical/Pre-Health Advisers to discuss your timeline, grades, and activities to ensure that this is the correct cycle for you to apply.
  • Begin Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) preparation (MCAT calendar).
  • Apply for AAMC Fee Assistance Program (FAP) prior to MCAT (if eligible). 
  • Make an appointment to speak with one of the Resident Premedical Tutors on the Premedical/Pre-Health Committee in your House (or the Dudley Community).
  • Attend pre-applicant meetings and/or other programs for upcoming applicants arranged by your House/the Dudley Community Premed/Pre-Health Committee.
  • Review House/the Dudley Community deadlines for submitting required application materials to your Premed/Pre-Health Committee.
  • Attend OCS workshop on Medical School Application Process (pdf).

Spring term

  • If you have not already applied for the AAMC Fee Assistance Program (FAP), be sure to apply now (if eligible). Note that the benefits are not retroactive and need to be approved before registering for the MCAT or submitting the AMCAS to receive full benefits.
  • Take the MCAT by early-mid May of the application year.
  • Brainstorm and begin a draft of your personal statement for AMCAS application.
  • Attend or request the link to view the recordings of OCS spring applicant workshops covering the following topics:
  • Generate a list of medical schools to which you would like to apply.
  • Confirm that all letters of recommendation have been sent to your Resident Dean’s Office/ your Premedical Committee. (See your House/the Dudley Community website for the waiver form and instructions for how to request and have your recommenders submit your recommendation letters to your Resident Dean’s Office.)
  • Send spring grades and GPA recalculation to your Premed/Pre-Health Committee. (May-June)
  • Arrange for official transcripts to be sent to AMCAS from all colleges attended.


  • Complete and submit your AMCAS application by the middle of June.
  • Receive and complete secondary applications for individual med schools within 10-14 days of receipt. (July/August)
  • Premedical Committee letters are sent to all medical schools by August 15 provided you have adhered to House/the Dudley Community deadlines.

Senior Year (Post-Grad Year for Alumni Applicants)

Fall term

  • Confirm with medical schools that your application is complete. (September)
  • Prepare for medical school interviews:
    • Attend a Medical School Interview webinar.
    • Keep up with current issues in medicine and healthcare.
    • Schedule a mock interview with your House/the Dudley Community.
    • Practice interview questions with friends/family.
    • Attend medical school information sessions co-hosted by OCS with premed student clubs.
  • Receive invitations to interview. (August through March)
  • Travel to interviews. (September through April) (Please note that for the 2022 application cycle, the majority, if not all, of interviews will continue to be held remotely due to Covid-19.)
  • If you have received 0-2 interviews by mid-late October, please let your Premed Tutors and the OCS premed/pre-health advisers know and make an appointment with the OCS premedical/pre-health adviser you are working with to discuss your application and strategies to gain interview invitations.

Spring term

  • Stay in touch with Premedical Tutors regarding the status of your application.
  • Be aware of the last date to hold more than three acceptance offers (April 15) and the last day to hold more than one. (April 30).
  • If on wait list(s), keep in touch with medical schools.
  • Register for your first day of medical school!

As an alumna/us who graduated fewer than five years ago, you may continue to take advantage of the resources available to you at OCS (workshops, premedical/pre-health drop ins and start-of-term office hours, and individual advising appointments). If you are no longer in the Cambridge area or are abroad, advising appointments can be done over the phone, Skype, or Zoom. If you have been out longer than five years, please contact the OCS front desk to arrange for a single courtesy advising appointment.

If you are planning to apply to medical or dental school soon, please contact your Premedical/Pre-Health Committee as soon as possible, preferably by late winter before your upcoming application year, for assistance with the process. The Premedical/Pre-Health Committee will write a committee letter of support for alumni up to five years post graduation. However, at the discretion of the House Faculty Dean, the number of years post graduation may, at times, be extended. Applicants should be ready to submit their AMCAS application by mid-June the year prior to matriculation at medical school. AMCAS processing and verification can take up to six weeks for those applicants who submit AMCAS later in the summer, significantly delaying consideration of their application.

If you are considering other pre-health professions such as nursing, physician assistant, physical therapy, pharmacy, optometry, or midwifery, please make an appointment in Crimson Careers with the OCS premedical/pre-health advisers and emailing with any questions.

A significant number of students take postbaccalaureate coursework before entering medical school. There are many types of postbaccalaureate programs, but they generally fall into two main categories: “career changer” and “enhancement” programs. The target population of these two programs differs. A “career changer” program is geared toward students who have completed few or no premed science requirements, whereas an “enhancement” program targets students who have completed all or most of their required science courses, but are advised to take additional science courses to strengthen their GPA.

Many Harvard alumni choose to enroll in the courses offered at the
Harvard Extension School. This is an excellent option for “career changers” as well as students who seek to enhance their academic record and GPA. Note: Application and enrollment in the Extension School's Premedical Studies Program is usually not necessary for Harvard College alumni.

Please review the following resource page for postbaccalaureate information, a glossary and FAQs developed by the National Association of Advisors in the Health Professions.

How do postbaccalaureate students afford to take classes?

Postbaccalaureate courses are often offered in the evening, allowing students to work during the day. Some universities offer tuition assistance to employees, encouraging staff members to enroll in courses for very low fees. For example, Harvard University offers an exceptional Tuition Assistance Plan (TAP), and several of the hospitals in the Boston area offer their own version of tuition assistance to employees working as Clinical Research Coordinators/Research Assistants, with which to enroll in science course at the Harvard Extension School or elsewhere. We also encourage alumni to look into the possibility of applying to be a Faculty Aide at one of the Houses (also referred to as a “House Elf” position) in exchange for free room and board.

Postbaccalaureate Career-Changers

Career-changer programs are typically designed for students with little or no science background, who have completed none (or only one or two) of the science course requirements. These programs can vary in their degree of structure, ranging from a certificate program with a set list of courses and pre-professional internships to a self-study continuing education program.

Things to consider when choosing a career-changer program:

  • Structure and access to courses (including electives outside of the premed core requirements)
  • Size of program
  • Cost and financial aid 
  • Individualized advising (by whom) and academic support
  • Workshops, programming, alumni contact
  • Internships/volunteer/research opportunities
  • MCAT support
  • Committee letter
  • Linkage arrangements with medical schools
  • Postbac student culture

See a full listing of Career Changer Programs maintained by the American Association of Medical Colleges.

Postbaccalaureate Academic Record Enhancement

Academic record enhancement coursework is targeted to those students right out of college who have already decided that medical school is their primary goal, but whose academic performance requires additional effort to be competitive for medical school admission.

Examples of such students include, but are not limited to:

  • MCAT scores with any section below 125 or a composite score below 505
  • Science and overall GPAs below 3.30
  • Students who experienced personal challenges during their undergraduate career, which impacted GPA negatively

Special Master’s Programs

Students with cumulative undergraduate GPAs below 3.3 and/or MCAT scores below 505 may want to consider a special master’s postbaccalaureate graduate program in which students take actual medical school courses and are graded in relation to the University’s own medical school students. This allows postbac students to demonstrate their ability to perform well in a rigorous medical school program. A true special master’s post-baccalaureate program is one that is affiliated with a medical school and whose curriculum overlaps with the medical school curriculum. 

Many students with weaker credentials are better served by completing additional coursework or a full postbaccalaureate program prior to applying to medical school.

See the full listing of Academic Enhancer maintained by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).

Opportunities for Economically or Educationally Disadvantaged Students and Those Belonging to Groups Underrepresented in Medicine (URM)

Special programs for disadvantaged or under-resourced students exist. Although URMs account for about 25 percent of the US population, they account for a substantially smaller percentage of practicing physicians. To address this imbalance, numerous postbaccalaureate programs have been developed that assist disadvantaged students with gaining acceptance to medical school. These students are self-described as disadvantaged applicants using AAMC criteria. Eligible students typically matriculate into these specially designed programs with lower cumulative GPAs and MCAT scores. These programs for disadvantaged or underrepresented students generally fall into two categories: 

  • Programs at medical or other health professions schools that invite only students from their prospective applicant pools to apply. Some of these programs offer conditional acceptance to the medical school upon completion of the program with a certain GPA and MCAT score.
  • Programs to which students may apply directly, regardless of their application status with the health professions school with which the program is associated. 

Some medical schools offer summer programs which expose students to a limited science tutorial program in which they must attain a certain level of proficiency before they can be considered for acceptance to the medical school. Other schools accept students into their MD class, but require a summer enrichment program to facilitate the student’s transition to medical school. In some instances student performance may dictate that the accepted applicant be placed in a decelerated program (e.g., the first year of medical school courses may be taken over a two-year period).

NAAHP provides information and links to dozens of research programs and fellowships for premedical and other pre-health students at universities and research centers across the country, including the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP)Community Based Dental Education, and numerous postbaccalaureate programs.

See the full listing of postbaccalaureate programs designed for economically or educationally disadvantaged students as well as for groups underrepresented, in medicine maintained by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).