Applying to medical school is similar to applying to college. There is a common application shared by all medical schools, a secondary application specific to each individual school, test scores, essays, letters of recommendation and interviews. The good news is that you only have to complete the bulk of your medical application once. There are two centralized services — one for MD-granting medical schools and one for DO-granting medical schools — that will verify your application for accuracy and send it to as many schools as you want (for a fee, of course).
There are 154 allopathic (MD-granting) medical schools in the United States and 35 osteopathic (DO-granting) medical schools [sources: AAMC, AACOM]. In 2018, MD-granting medical schools received nearly 850,000 applications from more than 52,000 individuals (an average of 16 applications per applicant). Less than half of those MD applicants were accepted. In 2017, DO-granting medical schools received more than 20,000 applications and enrolled a little more than 8,000 first-year students [sources: AACOM, AAMC].
The medical school application process begins in the spring before the year you plan on starting school. So if you want to enter medical school in the fall of 2022, you will start the application process in the spring of 2021. The centralized application services open in May and start accepting applications in June.
You should generally apply to all the schools in your state, some that you feel are your safe schools, and some that you can only dream of getting into. State supported medical schools take an overwhelming majority of students from their own state. It is close to impossible to get into a state supported medical school if you are not a resident of that state. Occasionally they will take some students from neighboring states or states without medical schools (Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming).