Becoming a doctor takes a long time!!! Remember that after undergraduate school, you have four years of medical school and then three to seven years of residency. While there isn't much you can do to speed up the process, there certainly are things that prolong it. Before looking at a sample timeline, consider the following constraints (the following assumes that you are entering medical school in August after graduation):
- If you want to be in medical school the fall after graduation then you must apply to medical school in the summer before your senior year (i.e. 13 months before you would start medical school).
- Almost all medical schools require applicants to take the MCAT’s and in fact will not consider your application in earnest until the MCAT scores arrive. Hence, you need to take the MCAT exam before or about the same time that you apply to medical school. The MCAT is a computer based exam and is given multiple times a year. It is helpful to take the exam when you are not taking classes (because this allows you to study more for the exam); hence, good times to take the MCAT exam are the summer between your sophomore and junior year (if you have taken all of the requisite science courses in your first two years) or in the summer after your junior year. Taking the exam any later than this is going to delay your application to medical school. If you can't take the exam before early August of the summer before your senior year, then you might want to consider applying to medical school the summer after you graduate. This obviously delays your becoming a doctor by a year, but applying to medical school takes time and money and there is little point in doing this if a late application (any time after August is late) is putting you at a competitive disadvantage. The average age of students entering medical school is 24, so many students are NOT entering medical school directly after college. It is important to note that although you can take the MCAT multiple times not all schools automatically take your highest score; thus you can do real damage by taking the exam before you are prepared for it.
Given these constraints, two likely scenarios are:
- Take two sciences courses each semester your freshman and sophomore years and then take the MCAT’s in the summer before your junior year.
- Spread the sciences over three years and take the MCATs in summer of your junior year.
The first option makes the most sense for many science majors as it fits the typical programs that their departments suggest and also allows the MCATs to be taken in the summer, allowing students to study for them more without hurting their college coursework. It also has the advantage of allowing a student to retake the MCATs in April of the junior year if they want to try to improve their performance.
The second option has the advantage of being less science intense (i.e. students do not have to take organic chemistry and physics the same semesters) and is a logical choice for students not majoring in the sciences and even for some that are.
With all this in mind, here is a sample timeline.