What Are the Requirements to Attend Medical School?
Applying to medical school involves more effort than other graduate programs. Universities often ask students to submit college transcripts, standardized test results, and reference letters from mentors, but the medical school application process involves significantly more planning and paperwork.
Med School Prerequisites
Choosing Undergraduate Courses
Once you set your sights on becoming a health professional, you'll need to choose an academic track that aligns with your goals. Medical school policies vary, but most programs require a mix of humanities classes as well as social and behavioral science courses, such as:
- General chemistry
- Organic chemistry
While a general guideline is helpful, researching the med school prerequisites for your preferred program ensures you can meet their requirements. Regular meetings with a premed academic advisor, beginning in your freshman year, can help you stay on track throughout your degree.
What Do You Need to Apply to Medical School?
Once you've chosen your undergrad degree program, the most important med school requirements to meet are solid grades and a high score on the MCAT. Certain grade point averages and test results are necessary to even be considered, but admissions committees look at several factors when admitting students to medical school.
What Is the Typical GPA for Med School?
Maintaining a high GPA demonstrates your work ethic and resilience throughout your four-year degree. Achieving high academic marks, especially in upper-division science courses, makes an excellent impression. Premed students should aim for an overall GPA of 3.5 or higher when applying to medical school.
What Results Do I Need?
The MCAT is a difficult test, and it's a critical component of your medical school application. While each institution has its own admissions guidelines, med school acceptance rates vary from 20% to less than 3% at selective institutions, and almost all of them require an MCAT score of 500 or above.
Labs, Clinical Studies, and Fieldwork
Some institutions require students to have research experience before applying. Premed students do not have to conduct and publish their own research. However, getting involved in lab work, clinical studies, or fieldwork demonstrates your critical thinking skills and ability to work with data.
Extracurriculars and Volunteering
Sports, Clubs & Employment
Participating in activities beyond coursework demonstrates commitment and a desire for personal growth. Playing sports, leading clubs or campus organizations, or joining theater or other performance groups while maintaining a high GPA also shows off your top-notch time management skills.
Volunteering, shadowing a mentor, or working in health-related jobs shows admissions committees that you have real-life experience with patients and medical settings. Talk with your professors about gaining clinical experience or look for opportunities in your community.
Writing about Your Goals and Experience
Most med schools will ask for an essay, or personal statement, to get additional background information on premed candidates. When composing your statement, include your career goals and specify how the experiences you've had and your academic career contribute to your personal growth and interest in the field of medicine.
Medical School Interviews
What Makes You a Good Candidate?
Part of your application may include a personal interview. These meetings may take place on or off-campus, and you'll likely speak with a member of the admissions committee, a current student, a practicing physician, or medical school alumni.
Topics often include questions about critical thinking skills, grades and test scores, personal attributes, career choices, and why you feel you are a good fit for medical school.
Letters of Recommendation
Reach Out to Your Mentors
Many medical schools require recommendation letters from professors and other important figures that influence your academic career. These letters give admissions counselors more insight into your conduct as a student as well as your personality and character.
When Do I Apply to Medical School?
While timelines may differ among students depending on their circumstances, you should start the process as soon as possible. Consider the following medical school application timeline to meet all your requirements:
- Freshman Year: Plan your degree with a premed advisor, seek out extracurricular activities, and begin researching medical schools.
- Sophomore Year: Build relationships with professors and start a contact list for recommendation letters. Volunteer or gain some work experience in a health-related field to ensure medicine is a good fit for you.
- Junior Year (Fall): Begin your MCAT test prep and register for the exam. Reach out to professors for letters of recommendation.
- Junior Year (Spring): Take the MCAT no later than mid-May and begin drafting your personal statement. You can start applying to medical schools as early as April but completing your applications by June or July is ideal.
- Senior Year: Address any secondary application requirements sent from your med school programs and prepare for personal interviews. You should start receiving decision letters in the winter and spring.