HPSP Student To-Do List, by Year

In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions…

I get a lot of questions from people about what they should be doing. It goes something like this: “Um… I’m an M1 and I started classes a week ago… Am I supposed to be doing something to prepare for the military match?” Or this: “I’m in my last week of M3 and I didn’t realize I was supposed to have already set up my military rotations! HELP!” So, this post is going to be pretty dull and boring – it’s meant to be a basic checklist of things you should be doing and thinking about, by year, as an HPSP student. Here goes!


Before starting M1 year:

  • Do something smart with your bonus – save some, use it for moving expenses, etc.
  • Air Force students: If possible, go to Commissioned Officer Training before starting school, to get it off your to-do list


During M1 year:

  • Get a military ID card so you can get on base
  • File for reimbursement from your program for your books and other materials. The exact process varies by branch.
  • Talk to your school about getting a letter for other materials – as of 2015, the Air Force will pay for scrubs, a stethoscope, lab coats, even a doctor’s bag and an otoscope/ophthalmoscope set, if your school writes a letter saying they are required.
  • Arrange for summer training:
    • Army/Navy: Initial entry training. The Army calls it BOLC (the Basic Officer Leadership Course), and I don’t remember what the Navy calls it.
    • Air Force: Commissioned officer training (COT – initial entry training) if you didn’t do it before starting school. If you already attended COT, try to go to AMP-101, the Aerospace Medicine Basic Course. It’s a two-week course at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that is fully funded by the Air Force, including travel expenses and per diem. It’s a fun opportunity to meet other HPSP students, and to get something in your file demonstrating your “potential to be an outstanding officer” for your residency application.

During M2 year:

  • Study hard and do well on Step 1. 
  • Keep filing for reimbursement. Reimbursement varies by branch, but the Air Force will pay for exam fees (USMLE Step 2 CK and CS) but not study materials.
  • Remember that you will have to pay your travel expenses to Step 2 CS on your own – the military will reimburse for the exam fee, but not for gas/airfare, hotels, meals, etc. Find out where your nearest test center is, register early, and budget accordingly. 
  • Check the deadlines for completing Step 2 CK and CS – these vary by application year and by branch, but they are typically earlier than for the civilian match or your school. For example, my year you had to have a Step 2 CK score back before the JSGME board met. When in doubt, as your program manager.
  • Talk to your dean. Make sure they know that you need to finalize your specialty choice early and apply for military away rotations earlier than people apply for civilian away rotations. They may be able to help you set up your third year schedule so you do clerkships in the fields you are most interested in early in the year.


During M3 year:

  • June-October: Try to do clerkships in the specialties you are most interested in first, so you can make up your mind and start planning your military away rotations.
  • October-Feb: Schedule your military away rotations. Try to do two away rotations. Each program has a different application timeline. Some allow you to schedule any time (meaning you can coordinate your rotation in October), while others make you wait until 1 January, or until 6 months before your requested start date. Reach out to the places where you want to rotate in September or October if you can, and find out what their timeline is.
  • All year: Find people who can write your letters. For the Air Force you need two letters. One has to be from a physician in the specialty to which you are applying, and neither can be from a program director. As you go through your rotations, think about who could potentially write a letter for you, and ask them early.
  • Take Step 2 CK and Step 2 CS at the end of the M3 year or early in M4


During M4 year:

  • Go on your military rotations
  • Interview at military programs where you aren’t rotating (in person or by phone)
  • Fill out and submit your application to the military match
  • Coordinate your move to wherever you’re going
  • Remember to complete your re-commissioning/promotion paperwork and oath
  • Check your email regularly and submit all of your paperwork on time – there is lots of paperwork


For those who have been there and done that, what else do you wish you had known to do/not to worry about? Please comment below and let us know!

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  • Lily

    Hi there, thanks for your post – it is so informative and helpful. I am planning to apply for the HPSP scholarship for medical school this cycle. Other than COT for AF, OCS for Navy, and BOLC for Army, are there other training requirements during the four years of medical school? ie, any military obligations during M2? I will want to focus all my time on studying for the Step 1 during my second year.

    • Indy (admin)

      Air Force students are encouraged to attend COT before starting M1. The Air Force has an optional 2-week course (Aerospace Medicine Primary, or AMP-101) that you can do during the summer between your M1 and M2 year if you completed COT before starting medical school. Army and Navy students attend their basic course (OCS or BOLC) between M1 and M2, and Air Force students who were unable to complete COT before starting M1 have the opportunity to attend COT between M1 and M2. You will have plenty of time to study for Step 1, regardless of your branch of service.

  • Lily

    Thank you for your quick response! I didn’t see it until now. I just received my first med school acceptance recently and it looks like I am on track to get an HPSP scholarship from Air Force, my preference!
    On Military Away Rotations – is there a list of locations/hospitals for these?

    • Indy (admin)

      Congratulations on your medical school acceptance!! That is great news. If you are accepted for the AFHPSP, they will give you access to a private website which includes a list of program locations for your away rotations. You don’t need to start planning those until your third year, though, so for now just focus on getting through interview season, choosing the right school, and doing well in your first two years. Good luck with your HPSP application!

  • Andrew

    This was extremely helpful. I am an undergrad. Junior, looking to apply to the USAF HPSP, but was worried about how to manage step 1 with military requirements. This really calmed my fears 🙂

  • Heather

    Is this the same protocol for HPSP students in dental school? I’m applying for the 3 year program.

    • Indy (admin)

      I don’t know much about dental education, to be honest. It was my understanding that most dentists don’t do residency, is that right? I do know that there were a number of dentists at COT who were also going before starting school. I didn’t see any dentists at the School of Aerospace Medicine – I don’t know if attendance is expected or allowed.

  • Mike

    I had a question, I was told it is too late to apply for HPSP. Are there any other alternatives as I am planning to attend dental school in august of 2022

    • Indy (admin)

      Sorry for the late response, I hope it all worked out. The only option if you miss the 4-year HPSP deadline is to wait until the next year (take loans for your first year) and apply for a 3-year scholarship.

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