Application Timelines

When do I take the test? When do I apply?

These are common questions pre-health students ask. While the application open dates and deadlines remain the same from year to year, when a student chooses to apply is a very personal decision. There is not a right or wrong way to do it. We encourage students to talk out their plans with an advisor before settling on a timeline.

Gap Year vs Straight Through

There are clear advantages to taking a gap year, but many students choose to apply during the summer before their fourth year in order to start professional or graduate school right after graduation. We included two SAMPLE timelines below: a gap year and a straight through. PLEASE NOTE: These are not a prescription or a plan for you. This is an example of how you can do it, but this may not work for you.

Benefits of a Gap Year:

  • An extra year of coursework towards your GPA
  • An extra year to gain experiences and build relationships with faculty for LOR
  • Not missing classes to travel to interviews during your fourth year of college
  • Not being stressed out worrying about acceptances, FA, finding housing during your fourth year of college
  • Working and making some money before starting your next step

See the Centralized Application Cycles

Charts outlining timelines for those going straight through versus taking a gap year.

Supplemental content

Timeline Template

Blank timeline tempate

Use this template to plan your application timeline.

Application Timelines

When do I apply?

Application seasons typically open one year before you are expected to start. For example, if you wish to start your health profession school in the fall 2018, you would apply in the summer of 2017.

Whether you should apply the year before you graduate, the summer you graduate or a year or two after you graduate depends on your situation.

Taking one or more years off after graduating is called taking a "gap year." There is nothing wrong with this plan.

The Health Professions Advising office has created two sample timelines found here that demonstrates the general difference between a gap year and a straight through plan. The sample timelines can apply to any health profession. PLEASE NOTE: They are not a prescription or a plan for you. They are examples of how you can plan the years leading up to the time you apply and start professional school, but they may not work for you.

What is a gap year?

A gap year(s) is the time after your undergraduate education and prior to entering a health professional school during which some students spend working, volunteering, doing research, doing community service, pursing an MPH, etc. It is a chance to expand and develop in areas you were unable to develop during your undergraduate years, such as experiences or grades. It is also a chance for exploration and pursing things you have always wanted to do (e.g., study abroad, Teach for America, etc.). For some students, this is the time to earn money to finance their professional/graduate education and to further develop outside interests. What you decide to do if you take a gap year is up to you.

If you are taking just one gap year (applying the summer you graduate) that year off is also your application year.

There are many clear advantages to taking a gap year; though many students do choose to apply during the summer before their fourth year in order to start professional or graduate school right after graduation.

When are the application cycles?

To view the centralized application cycles, click here.

For most doctoral level programs, applications open during the summer (May-July). We strongly encourage you to apply early if the program uses rolling admission.

If the schools do not use rolling admission, it is ok to apply near the deadline. We do not recommend waiting until the last minute to complete the application process though. Schools will not read your application if it is missing any component by the deadline.

When should I begin writing my personal statement?

The personal statement should be a reflective, well-polished document. You can create your first draft as soon as you want. We recommend beginning your draft by January of the year you plan to apply, but the more time you give yourself to get feedback and revise the better. The Office of Health Professions Advising can assist you with your essay, but please make your first appointment at least six months before your deadline and bring a physical copy to your appointment. Revisions take time.

When should I ask for letters of recommendations?

Schools will not read your application until the required LOR are in your application. Give your letter writers plenty of time to submit so that your application is complete within a competitive timeframe. The worst case is having an otherwise complete application but missing one letter. It is your responsibility to ask the letter writers far enough in advance so that you are not projecting your emergency onto them. Respect their time and commitments. Do not expect letters to be written within a month after asking. Ask 3-4 months before a deadline.

What are supplemental applications (or secondaries)?

Supplemental applications (or secondaries) are sent after the primary application has been submitted/verified. Generally schools that use a centralized application system tend to use supplemental applications to collect information they desire. Some programs will send a supplemental application to every applicant, while others will pre-screen the applicant pool, sending secondaries to those who are most qualified. The second application costs an additional fee per school. If you are applying to a program that requires a secondary, you should plan to spend on average $100 per secondary. The amount you need saved by the month after submitting your primary application depends on the number of schools to which you apply. The amount is typically $1000-$3000. You will also need to set aside time. Some secondaries are quick answers from a selection of questions, while others may require additional essays. We advise the following:


  • Tailor each essay to the program. ("Speak" to the school by highlighting how you would be a good fit based on how your attributes and experiences align with their mission and philosophy.)
  • Know the schools to which you apply in order to tailor your application to them. Do not copy and paste the same essay into multiple schools' secondaries.
  • Edit your secondaries carefully. Be sure not to include the wrong school name because you are in a rush and forget to edit. Never send first draft writing.
  • Don't leave questions blank. If they ask an optional question, answer it.