Top-down view of high rises in Chicago, Illinois, where Feinberg School of Medicine is located.

How to Get Into Feinberg School of Medicine: A Guide for Applicants

April 5, 2021

Introduction

The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine is ranked among the top twenty best medical schools for research. The Feinberg School of Medicine offers a rigorous program fit for students hoping to achieve personal and professional growth. If you are a prospective medical student wondering how to get into the Feinberg School of Medicine, you have come to the right place. 

About the Feinberg School of Medicine

Located in the vibrant windy city of Chicago, the Feinberg School of Medicine offers its students culture along with curriculum. It is one of Northwestern University’s twelve schools and was founded in 1859, declaring its mission to be educating the next generations of physicians and scientists. It was originally named the Northwestern University Medical School, but was renamed the Feinberg School of Medicine in 2002 after receiving a $75 million donation from the Joseph and Bessie Feinberg Foundation.

Programs 

The Feinberg School of Medicine prides themselves on their unique MD program. They have an established leadership team in the Department of Medical Education to help lead forthcoming students through this process. When looking to apply to the Feinberg School of Medicine, there are a variety of different programs to choose from and determine what is the best fit for you. 

Early Decision Program (EDP)

The Feinberg School of Medicine’s Early Decision Program (EDP) was established recently, in 2019. While its admission process is selective and the pool is small, EDP applicants that exhibit an impressive academic career, medically-related experiences, and a strong interest in research are prioritized. It is recommended that potential EDP applicants review the Entering Class Profile on the Feinberg School of Medicine’s website. 



MD Admissions (MD)

The Doctor of Medicine Program (MD) has a curriculum that is focused on the unification of four major elements in the program: Science in Medicine, Clinical Medicine, Health and Society and Professional Development. The goal of this four year program is to help medical students advance and grow in all areas. 

Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)

The Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) primarily focuses on prospective students that are pursuing their MD and PhD degree through the medical school and graduate school. All applicants must first be admitted to the medical school before they apply to the Medical Scientist Training Program. This is an eight year program that is ideal for any student interested in a dual career in biomedical investigation and medicine.  

Combined Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health (MD/MPH)

The combined Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health (MD/MPH) program gives medical students the opportunity to pursue a Master of Public Health Degree as a part time evening student while pursuing an MD at the Feinberg School of Medicine. All applicants must first be admitted to the medical school before they apply to the Graduate School. This four year program provides a multitude of opportunities for graduate students that intend on pursuing a career in public health, clinical care or health research.

Combined Doctor of Medicine and Master of Science in Health Services & Outcomes Research (MD/MS HSOR)

The program for a combined Doctor of Medicine and Master of Science in Health Services & Outcomes Research (MD/MS HSOR) is approached atypically compared to the other programs the Feinberg School of Medicine offers. It can be completed in a gap year between the third and fourth year of medical school. This is a unique program for prospective students that are looking to develop and enhance health policies and outcomes through research. It is also offered in full-time, part-time and hybrid formats. It is recommended that applicants submit their applications to the Graduate School while in their third year of medical school.

Combined Doctor of Medicine and Master of Science in Healthcare Quality & Patient Safety (MD/MS HQPS)

The combined Doctor of Medicine and Master of Science in Healthcare Quality & Patient Safety (MD/MS HQPS) program is a small, specific program that is offered part time and can be finished in the first two years of medical school. This program is a great fit for graduate students that are passionate about making proficient changes in the healthcare system.

Combined Doctor of Medicine and Master of Business Administration (MD/MBA)

The program for a combined Doctor of Medicine and Master of Business Administration (MD/MBA) allows medical students at the Feinberg School of Medicine to combine their medical training with a Master of Business Administration degree through a joint-degree program at Northwestern University, from Kellogg. This program is offered in a one year format as well as a two year format, and gives students the ability to balance business theory and medicine. It is recommended that prospective students apply during their third year of medical school. 

Combined Doctor of Medicine and Master of Arts in Medical Humanities and Bioethics (MD/MA)

The combined Doctor of Medicine and Master of Arts in Medical Humanities and Bioethics (MD/MA) allows medical students the unique opportunity to earn a Master of Arts degree in Medical Humanities and Bioethics while simultaneously earning their MD. This program is ideal for students that are interested in bioethical issues and implementing practical changes to fix them.

Honors Program in Medical Education (HPME)

The Honors Program in Medical Education (HPME) is a unique opportunity the Feinberg School of Medicine offers to high achieving high school students forecasting a medical career. This program allows these students the chance to explore their scientific and medical interests during their undergraduate careers without the intense pressures of applying to medical schools.

Northwestern University Premedicine Linkage Program (NUPLP)

The Northwestern University Premedicine Linkage Program (NUPLP) is specifically designed for high achieving Northwestern University graduate premedicine students. Its goal is to help these students accelerate enrollment into medical school. If accepted, students can enroll into the Feinberg School of Medicine’s MD program as soon as they finish their requirements for the post-baccalaureate premedicine program. This program can be completed in 12, 15 or 21 months.

Northwestern Undergraduate Premedical Scholars Program (NUPSP)

The Northwestern Undergraduate Premedical Scholars Program (NUPSP) caters to highly successful Northwestern University undergraduate students dedicatedly pursuing a career as a physician. This is also an early MD acceptance program into the Feinberg School of Medicine. These prospective students, if accepted, receive notice during their third undergraduate year. After their fourth year, they will matriculate into the Feinberg School of Medicine. 

Admissions: The Requirements & The Process

All applicants are required to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). It is recommended that prospective students take the MCAT exam no later than June of the year they are applying to the Feinberg School of Medicine. 

Ninety semester hours of undergraduate or graduate coursework from an accredited U.S. or Canadian university are also required. Although the Feinberg School of Medicine does not require any specific major field of study, yearlong courses in biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics are required. It is recommended that applicants have taken courses in statistics, writing and social science in addition to these courses.

Since the Feinberg School of Medicine is a largely research-based institution, prospective students are also expected to have clinical and research experience prior to applying. 

All of these aspects are required to apply to the Feinberg School of Medicine. However, each application is evaluated holistically during the admissions process. Everything in a student’s background is considered: academic recognitions, extracurricular activities, leadership experiences, clinical exposure, research activities and more. If a prospective student is being seriously considered, an in-person interview will be conducted.

In terms of a timeline of the application process, the end of May is the earliest time of submission of the application to AMCAS. By mid-July, prospective students will begin to hear if they have been invited to complete a secondary application. Admissions interviews are held between August and February. The Feinberg School of Medicine’s AMCAS deadline is the beginning of November. The secondary application deadline falls in mid-November, as does the deadline for letters of recommendation. July is the Feinberg School of Medicine’s commit to enroll deadline. 

Admission and Acceptance Statistics

In the last admissions cycle, The Feinberg School of Medicine received 7,052 applications. 801 applicants were chosen for interviews, and 160 students enrolled. The Feinberg School of Medicine has an approximate 2% acceptance rate. The last entering class is approximately 53 percent women and 47 percent men. 

Your MCAT Score

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a requirement to apply to the Feinberg School of Medicine. This is a standardized test taken by over 85,000 prospective medical students every year. The content is sectioned into four areas: 

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

Each area is scored on a scale from 118-132. Totaled, the entire MCAT is scored on a scale from 472-528. 


Every year, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) develops and delivers this exam. The Feinberg School of Medicine requires all applicants to take this exam within three years of applying, and it is recommended that the test be taken by June of the application year. 

For the Feinberg School of Medicine’s last entering class, the average accepted GPA is  3.91 and the average accepted MCAT score is 520. However, this is simply a reference point. There is no “required” score that applicants must receive to be accepted; the Feinberg School of Medicine commits to an integrated review of every application.

Extracurricular Activities (And How They Help You Get Ahead)

The extracurriculars section of any application can be daunting, especially on a medical school application. What stands out? What is relevant? Is any of it relevant, if not medicine-related? The answer is yes. Non-medical related extracurriculars can still be relevant to your application. Your extracurricular experience shows the Feinberg School of Medicine who you are and what helped you to grow. It gives them more of an insight on who you are.

One common mistake to avoid is not having enough clinical experience. This is going to show those reading your application that becoming a doctor is your life, your passion and your biggest goal. You are showing the Feinberg School of Medicine that you have experience in patient care and have done well in it, that you will excel in it in their program. 

Overall, it is best to exhibit in your application what has impacted you and helped you grow as a person, a leader and a future doctor. Any experience that highlights this is key in your application, so the Feinberg School of Medicine can get to know you and decide if you are the right fit for their school. 

Leadership Experiences: How to Develop (& Strengthen) Them

Leadership skills are another feat that prospective medical students struggle with tackling when filling out medical school applications. What makes a student stand out? Why are some students overlooked? What looks best on your application? Dr. Mehdi Ghajar addresses these many questions and gets into the nitty-gritty of what leadership really is, and what it means to aspiring medical students. Leadership requires taking initiative, Dr. Ghajar says, in any sense. Whether it directly correlates to medicine or not, premedical students can demonstrate this. “Regardless of the activity, focus on taking an idea and bringing it to fruition,” says Dr. Ghajar. “The skills you develop in this process will help you during your medical education and future career as a physician.” 

Dr. Ghajar offers four opportunistic ways to help premedical students develop and refine these skills, the first being to start an organization. No matter the cause, it is a fantastic way to showcase strong leadership skills and provides a great learning experience for those involved. Leading a research project is another suggestion Dr. Ghajar offers. This is a great way to prepare for and develop useful skills for a medical career, especially at a strong research-based institution like the Feinberg School of Medicine. Similarly, Dr. Ghajar suggests championing a cause that you are passionate about. Find an organization that supports or works with a cause you are strongly interested in. Dedicate yourself and your time to this organization and do what you can to help as well as learn. He also suggests giving to the underserved. Developing a project to give back speaks on your character as well as offers growth in leadership. 

Regardless of what your focus is, Dr. Ghajar puts an emphasis on remembering your ultimate mission and what you are working toward. Putting in work to achieve results will help you gain an enriching experience, and not only will your application stand out, but it will help you be a better doctor. 

Research Experience at Feinberg

The Feinberg School of Medicine is a research-based institution, so it is safe to say that research is a highly-valued practice. It is an extremely important aspect of their application process. 

Science, clinical, and translational research are supported at Feinberg by multiple centers: the Northwestern University Office for Research, the Feinberg Research Office and a network of 60+ research core facilities on both Northwestern and Feinberg campuses. 

Having a strong range of research experience is important to the Feinberg School of Medicine because it gives prospective students the exposure and chance for a hands-on experience that they should expect as medical students. This teaches students to move forward and ask questions based on what they already know. Ideally, research experience will much better prepare prospective students for medical school. 

Student research is strongly encouraged for all MD students at the Feinberg School of Medicine. They even have a program dedicated to guiding students through this process: the Area of Scholarly Concentration (AOSC) program. Its purpose is to help students find the mentor and project that is best fit for them. There are a wide variety of fields of research to choose from, multiple external funding opportunities and an extensive list of mentors available for MD students. 

The Importance of Patient Care

Patient-centered medical care is something the Feinberg School of Medicine takes very seriously in their MD students. To ensure that their MD students are expertly skilled, knowledgeable and prepared when they graduate, they require the successful completion of six levels of competencies.

Recommendation Letters & Essays: What Stands Out?

The Feinberg School of Medicine recommends that letters of evaluation are presented as a committee letter or letter packet, written by your university’s pre-medical or pre-health advisory committee. If your university does not have either of these committees, individual letters are accepted. However, if your letters are submitted individually, they must be submitted in a certain way. Three separate letters is the requirement, and at least one of them must be from a science faculty member you learned beneath.

It is also important to not only have letters of recommendation, but to have letters of recommendation written by faculty that can truly attest to your skills and passion for medicine. Reach out to a faculty member that you have a strong professional relationship with in which you are confident in. Another good rule of thumb is to ask your potential letter writers for a letter of recommendation months in advance. This gives them ample time to write a good letter for you, a letter that is not rushed or last minute. Make sure to extend a friendly reminder to your chosen letter writer one month before your application’s due date.

Committee Letter

If you are submitting a committee letter to the Feinberg School of Medicine, it may also include additional letters of support. These are typically written by pre-health committees or advisors. 

Letter Packet

A letter packet is typically assembled by your university. It can include a cover letter from your committee or adviser, but it does not include an evaluative letter as a committee letter would. 

Individual Letter

This is a separate letter, typically written by a single author: for example, a science faculty member or long-term employer. 

Essays

Writing an essay for a medical school application is one thing, but writing an essay for a medical school application that stands out is another thing. How do you make your essay stand out amongst 7,000+ other applications? The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) offers relevant information on how to write about yourself in your personal essay in a unique way. This is one of the many ways that the Feinberg School of Medicine determines whether you are a solid candidate for their next entering class. 

This is a perfect opportunity to distinguish yourself amongst all your applying competitors, so ensure you take the time to really think about what you want to talk about before writing your first draft. Consider why you want to be in the medical field. Find out what really motivates you in medicine. Think about what you want the Feinberg School of Medicine to know about you that you haven’t already included in your application. Include experiences that will support why you decided to pursue a career in medicine. 

Though these may seem like basic questions, they often aren’t acknowledged in a medical school application until the essay portion. The personal essay gives you the chance to showcase your  personality and explain why you are passionate about medicine. 

Supplemental Application

After your AMCAS application has been successfully submitted, verified and and transmitted to the Feinberg School of Medicine’s Admissions Office, an invitation to submit a supplemental application will be sent to students via email. This typically happens approximately four to six weeks after your primary application has been submitted. The Feinberg School of Medicine urges prospective students to take the necessary steps to remove spam filters on their emails so this invitation does not get lost. The supplemental application also has a fee of $95, and it must be submitted by mid-November.

Tuition and Scholarship Opportunities

Tuition and respective fees at the Feinberg School of Medicine are charged twice a year: once in July, due at the start of August, and once in December, due at the start of January. Tuition totals to approximately $64K. Additional fees approximate to $1.5K. Health insurance is also offered for approximately $5K, but students have the option to opt-out of this plan. The direct costs approximately total to $70K. 

In terms of scholarships, all students in Feinberg’s MD program are eligible for merit scholarships without any application. Students may also be eligible for merit scholarships or need-based grant funding. Students admitted to the Feinberg School of Medicine can submit financial aid applications to be considered for need-based grants. The Feinberg School of Medicine also offers several outside scholarship opportunities, detailed on their website.

The Next Steps: Interviews & Getting Admitted

Interviews 

The Feinberg Committee on Admissions distributes interview invitations via email to selected applicants. These are sent out from mid-August through January.

If you are selected for an interview, your interview will begin with an orientation session and a virtual campus tour with Feinberg medical students. You will then have three individual interviews. Two will be conducted by full-time faculty members, and the other will be conducted by a senior medical student. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is now offering a Video Interview Tool for Admissions (VITA) for all prospective students applying to medical school. This is a one-way recorded interview implemented so medical schools can more accurately assess prospective students in addition to their applications. The AAMC also offers a free interview resources guide to help students prepare for this section.

Getting Admitted: What Makes a Successful Candidate?

The Feinberg School of Medicine utilizes a competency-based education framework to guide them in their decisions on whether or not a candidate is a suitable fit for their institution. Selection factors include: 

Patient-Centered Medical Care: proficiencies are demonstrated in the application of clinical skills and knowledge, with attention to patients’ comfort and needs

Effective Communication and Interpersonal Skills: verbal and non-verbal communication skills are present to respectfully, compassionately and educationally converse and interact with patients, their families and medical care personnel

Medical Knowledge and Scholarship: strong knowledge of the scientific basis of medicine and the ability to apply that knowledge is possessed 

System Awareness and Team-Based Care: an acute awareness of the healthcare delivery system and the ability to work as an effective healthcare team member are possessed

Personal Awareness and Self-Care: the ability to self-reflect on personal acculturation to medicine and tend to physical and mental health 

Community Engagement and Service: a strong knowledge of community factors and their impact on personal, community and public health 

Continuous Learning and Quality Improvement: a commitment to continually assess and improve performance in the classroom and clinic

Professional Behavior and Moral Reasoning: professional responsibilities and behavior are treated as priority, as well as the reflection, understanding and integration of ethical and moral obligations into healthcare

Students are not admitted to the Feinberg School of Medicine solely based on their MCAT score or GPA or medical knowledge. The admissions committee is committed to an integrative, holistic review of each candidate and application. 

Final Words (& Reminders)

When it comes down to decision factors, the Feinberg School of Medicine wants candidates that are dedicated, passionate and ready to grow and learn in a rigorous environment. They want to produce the best physicians and scientists possible. There are a lot of ways to make your application stand out, as highlighted in this article. Some of the most important things to remember are:

1. Submit everything as early as possible. Applications that are received early are treated as priority, as it is a “first-come, first-serve” basis, therefore giving earlier applicants a stronger chance of being accepted.

2. Don’t be afraid to add the things that are important to you and your growth to your application. Even if it is not medical-related, having extracurriculars or experiences that exhibit your leadership or have shaped your perspective or passion show the Feinberg School of Medicine that you would thrive in their medical school.

3. Make sure you are confident in your letter writers. And reach out for letters of recommendation as early as possible! Give your writers a second, friendly reminder a month before they are due so you can assure efficiency. 

4. Take advantage of the AAMC VITA. This is a great tool that can provide lots of practice and resources to help you excel in medical school interviews. 

5. Be confident in yourself, your ambitions and your accomplishments! 

The Feinberg School of Medicine is one of the best research-based medical schools in the country. That title alone can be daunting to any prospective medical student. But it is all about taking the right steps, and paying attention to the details. Put everything into your application so the admission committee  at Feinberg gets to know you and why you want to be a future doctor. If you are a prospective medical student looking at how to get into the Feinberg School of Medicine, use your knowledge, your passion, your drive and then some

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