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How to Get Into Harvard Medical School: A Complete Guide

July 20, 2022
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How Hard Is It to Get Into Harvard Medical School?Harvard Medical School Admissions RequirementsWhat Do I Need to Do to Get Into Harvard Medical School? (3 Extracurriculars That Stand Out)Harvard Medical School Personal Statement (Example With Feedback) How to Tackle the Harvard Med School Secondary EssaysHarvard Med School Application Deadline and TimelineMD Programs at Harvard Harvard Med Scholarships and Tuition HMS Admission FAQs

”Jonathan

Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 7/20/22

Picture with "What You need to know about Harvard medical school" written in big letters

Do you have your sights set on Harvard Medical School? Then read on to have all your admissions questions definitively answered. 

There’s no use in denying the reputation. Harvard Medical School (HMS) offers students of the best educational experiences. It’s no surprise that U.S. News World and Report ranks HMS as the best national medical school for research and No. 9 in primary care. 

While HMS is a reach school for many students hoping to get into med school, insider knowledge can help you claim one of approximately 165 seats up for grabs. Fortunately, our expert team is passionate about getting you accepted at HMS. We regularly receive ecstatic testimonials from newly accepted students each cycle: 

Screenshot of a review from one of Inspira Advantage's clients who managed to get into Harvard med school with their help

This ultimate guide will provide the relevant insights you need to crack the Harvard Medical School admissions process. Read on for admissions requirements, application deadlines, and more! 

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How Hard Is It to Get Into Harvard Medical School?

HMS is highly selective, so getting in is no easy task. According to U.S. News,  Harvard Medical School ranks in the top 20 hardest medical schools to get into nationwide. The average GPA of matriculants is 3.9, evidencing that high-achieving students have the best shot of admission. 

Harvard Medical School Admissions Statistics

A snapshot of HMS’ class profile shows that only 164 of 8,002 applicants were admitted, putting Harvard Medical School’s admission rate at only 2.0%. However, U.S. News states that the Harvard Medical School acceptance rate is 2.8%. 

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Harvard Medical School Admissions Requirements

Before you decide to apply, you must ensure you meet all Harvard med school requirements. 

HMS Course Requirements

You can apply to HMS with any undergraduate major. However, you must take all HMS prerequisites

Infographic outlining harvard medical school's course requirements

While you don’t need to have finished these prerequisites before applying, you must complete them by enrollment: 

Table outlining the description of each course required by Harvard med school

Ensure you fulfill all of Harvard Medical School’s prerequisites before applying. 

HMS looks for students with diverse academic backgrounds. While most of the incoming class are science majors, 24% of matriculants held an undergraduate degree in another field.  

Infographic outlining various HMS stats, including the average GPA of its admitted students
Source: Harvard Medical School

Harvard Med MCAT Requirements

Because Harvard Med’s acceptance rate is so low, it’s no surprise that matriculants report high MCAT scores. The average reported MCAT score is 519.4.

Blue circle with "510.46" written inside of it. The accompanying caption reads "average MCAT score". This is in reference to the average MCAT score of harvard med school
Source: Harvard Medical School

However, HMS reviews all applications holistically, meaning a lower MCAT score won’t necessarily spell automatic rejection. A strong GPA and well-rounded profile may offset a lower score. HMS considers all valid MCAT scores. You can submit all scores if you've taken the MCAT multiple times with varying section scores.

Harvard Medical School Letters of Recommendation

Picture outlining that students applying to Harvard med need to submit at least two letters of recommendation with their application

Submitting letters of recommendation is crucial to your application. The admissions committee learns more about your strengths and fit for HMS from credible third-party perspectives. You can submit up to six recommendation letters, but HMS asks you to note that: 

You must submit at least three recommendation letters to apply to HMS. 

Harvard Medical School Interview

HMS describes your ability to communicate effectively as “crucial to the delivery of care.” Effective communication and making a good impression in your interview are integral to your acceptance. Harvard Medical School interviewed 851 candidates out of 8,002 applications; if you get to this step, you’re halfway there! 

All HMS interviews are virtual for the foreseeable future. If you’re selected for an interview, be honest, confident, and show how your acceptance will contribute to HMS. Applicants who are selected for an interview are notified by mid-January. 

Extracurricular Activities 

Harvard Medical School considers your extracurricular activities for admission, including healthcare-related experiences, research, and community service work. While there are no extracurricular requirements per se, varied activities strengthen your application. 

What Do I Need to Do to Get Into Harvard Medical School? (3 Extracurriculars That Stand Out)

Picture outlining what extracurriculars you need for Harvard med school

Team captain in college? Volunteer at your local nursing home? Spent a summer in the lab? These experiences were not in vain! Extracurricular experiences are an excellent way to demonstrate your passions and commitment to medicine.

Your activities show schools the unique knowledge, leadership skills, and experience you can bring to the classroom. These three types of extracurriculars can help you stand out at HMS. 

Research

Since HMS values innovation, research is crucial to students’ educational experiences. Most applicants have some research experience, so yours must stand out. The admissions board values the depth of research projects over time commitment.

Therefore, research conducted out of sincere interest in improving medicine will impress the admissions board. Research that you’re passionate about and intend to continue serves you better than experiences you think will look good on paper. 

Patient Exposure

Connecting with patients and providing knowledge, comfort, and sympathy are valuable medical skills. Knowing how to maintain a professional but trusting relationship with patients is key. Working well with patients isn’t a skill that can be taught in the classroom. 

Hands-on experience, especially through shadowing, is essential to preparing for the HMS experience. Admissions officers look for patient exposure, whether it’s through shadowing, volunteering, scribing, or other opportunities.

Leadership Experience

Leadership is a cornerstone of the education you will receive at HMS. Harvard graduates will likely hold leadership positions because of the school’s reputation and commitment to high-quality education.

Therefore, you should emphasize leadership experience in your application. Some examples of leadership experience include: 

Demonstrated leadership isn’t limited to these examples. Think about times you’ve taken the initiative to make positive changes in your surroundings. 

Harvard Medical School Personal Statement (Example With Feedback) 

All candidates submit Harvard Medical School personal statements through AMCAS. Although it can be tough to outline your passion for medicine in 5,300 characters, this HMS personal statement excerpt and feedback can help you structure your own narrative. 

“When I first joined the Marines at 17, I wanted to ‘fight for freedom’ and give back to my country. I joined the infantry because I wanted to be where the fight was, and that was the surest way to end up in Iraq or Afghanistan. Three years later, I finally found myself in Afghanistan, leading a 3-man fire team. When I first arrived in May 2011, I felt as if we were going to make the region, if not the whole world, a better place by removing some of the evil from it. My experience over the next 7 months, however, proved to be more nuanced than anticipated. 
When I arrived in Marjah, almost a year after the initial invasion to oust the Taliban from the city, most of the large-scale fighting had ceased. Most of the ‘good’ I thought I would be doing had already been done, and the Taliban that survived had either fled or hid among the populace using guerrilla tactics. The city was in the early stages of rebuilding and a sense of normalcy had returned…
What ended up remaining with me after my return from Afghanistan was…the good we were able to do by taking small actions to help the locals. This ranged from actions as simple as providing locals with water, to actions as complex as rendering medical care to those in need. While I never actively participated in providing treatment to locals, I was struck by how large an impact these treatments could have on an individual. In one particular instance, while on patrol, I approached a man who had been kicked by his cow and had a severe infection on his arm…Having spent the majority of my life in the United States, I had always taken modest medicine, particularly antibiotics, for granted. In Afghanistan, however, where there was little to no access to modern medicine, I was able to appreciate just how beneficial it truly is. 
When I got out of the military the following summer and prepared to attend college, I wanted to contribute to a career where I was able to benefit others. My experience in Afghanistan, witnessing the power of medicine, combined with the interest I gained in medicine following my trauma training, drove me towards health care. I entered Cape Fear Community College with the intention of joining their highly competitive nursing program…I was completely fascinated by the material and, following completion of the class, wanted to learn more. This captivation continued as I progressed through my science classes. 
I became fascinated in infectious disease following a class in microbiology…This interest prompted me to transfer to UNCW, instead of continuing into the nursing program, where I could continue to study the subject more in-depth. While at UNCW, the majority of my biology coursework, as well as my two research projects, focused on infectious diseases, cementing my interest in the subject. While I briefly considered pursuing a PhD in microbiology, my desire to work closely with, and treat, patients led me to apply to medical school. 
Following medical school, I intend on training in an infectious disease fellowship, where I will be able to combine my interest in microbiology with my desire to help others…
While I am certainly interested in practicing medicine within the United States, after the completion of my training I am also highly interested in working with an organization like Doctors Without Borders, enabling me to once again be part of a team bringing healthcare to underserved individuals around the globe. After my experience in Afghanistan, and making the decision to work in medicine, this is an opportunity I’ve been highly interested in, particularly with my desire to work in infectious disease, as many of the regions this organization operates in are still burdened with endemic diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria, as well as emerging diseases, such as Ebola. 
For the aforementioned reasons, I would like to attend medical school and pursue a career in medicine…Finally, I believe my prior leadership experience and ability to operate under stress will allow me to thrive.”

Harvard Medical School Personal Statement Feedback 

The author’s honesty and insight into their thought process make the introduction more impactful. They don’t leave the reader hanging or wondering what their intentions were. 

The author’s ability to realize the nuance of their situation and impact in Afghanistan shows critical thinking skills and the ability to shift perspectives in light of new information. Leading a squad also shows their leadership capability. 

Overall, it’s easy for the reader to follow their discovery and passion for medicine as it unfolds. We understand the initial event and how the author pursued education and experiences to further cultivate their interests. However, this essay could improve in the following ways: 

The concluding paragraphs help preserve the narrative thread by referring back to the author’s experiences, skills, and desire to “do good” from their time in Afghanistan. While this personal statement worked at Harvard Medical School, don’t be afraid to show your creativity and writing skills. 

How to Tackle the Harvard Med School Secondary Essays

We’ll outline each Harvard Medical School secondary essay prompt and how to approach each one. 

1. “On average how many hours per week did you devote to employment during the academic year?” 

Your approach to this prompt is straightforward; be honest! 

2. “If you have already graduated, briefly summarize your activities since graduation. (4000 characters maximum).” 

If this HMS secondary essay prompt applies to you, you don’t want to approach this as an itemized list (like a resume). Instead, approach it as an essay and explain: 

Treat this prompt like a mini personal statement. Give enough detailed description and narrative flow to your writing that it comes across as a story rather than a collection of briefly summarized experiences. 

3. “If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity, not addressed elsewhere in the application, that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Many applicants will not need to answer this question. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Briefly explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine. (4000 character maximum)”

You could answer this prompt if you didn't write about your background/identity at length in your personal statement. This is a classic diversity essay prompt; if you feel a deep dive into your identity and related experiences are relevant to your medical school journey, you should consider writing this essay. 

If you already have a diversity essay ready, you can take it one step further by tailoring it toward Harvard’s mission or connecting it to your desire to attend the school. 

4. “The Committee on Admissions understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted applicants in various ways. If you wish to inform the Committee as to how these events have affected you and have not already done so elsewhere in your application, please use this space to do so.” (OPTIONAL) 

This Harvard Med School secondary essay prompt is optional. If the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted you or your trajectory, writing a response may be in your best interest. 

If there was no great impact on you or your journey, you might want to skip this one. After all, no response to an optional essay is much better than a weak one. 

Harvard Med School Application Deadline and Timeline

These are the important dates you should know, including the Harvard Medical School application deadline

Table outlining the Harvard Med School Application Deadlines

All admissions decisions are sent out on the same day, whether you’re accepted, rejected, or waitlisted. 

MD Programs At Harvard

Picture showing that Harvard offers two MD program options

HMS offers two tracks within the MD program: Pathways and Health Science Technology (HST).

Pathways: This more traditional track allows students to gain early clinical experience and core basic/population science knowledge. Through advanced science courses, faculty-mentored scholarly projects, and electives, students can forge their own paths. Most Harvard Medical School students enroll in Pathways. 

Health and Science Technology (HST): HST is a joint program between Harvard and MIT that centers on clinical expertise, rigorous scientific instruction, and research experiences. Compared to 134 Pathways students, 30 students enrolled in the HST program the last cycle. 

You can apply to both HMS tracks if you’re unsure which is best for you. You can also choose from combined degree programs such as: 

If you want an interdisciplinary education, a combined degree at HMS may be right for you.

Harvard Med Scholarships and Tuition

Tuition for the recently entering HMS class was $67,610, not including other expenses. However, HMS offers significant financial aid. Harvard aims to ensure student financial needs are met: 72% of the entering class received financial aid. The average annual scholarship students receive is $59,502.

Graph showing the average debt of students graduating from Harvard medical programs
Source: Harvard Medical School

At $105,041, the average student debt is more than $70,000 below the national average for private medical schools. Beyond this, HMS has an extensive list of outside scholarship opportunities.

Getting Into Harvard FAQs

If you have questions about getting into Harvard Medical School, check out these FAQs. 

1. What Are the Harvard Medical School Requirements for International Students?

Additional Harvard Med School requirements for international students include: 

You don’t need to prove your English fluency (although expected), so you don’t need to take the TOEFL.

2. How Do I Get Into Harvard Med School With a Low GPA? 

If you have a lower GPA than you’d like, you can enroll in a post-bacc program to boost your GPA, ace the MCAT, or ensure the rest of your application is well-rounded and stellar. However, it’s in your best interest to attain a GPA of 3.9 or higher to reflect the average of admitted students. 

3. What Is Harvard Medical School’s Acceptance Rate? 

HMS’ acceptance rate is 2.8%, making it one of the most challenging medical schools to get into. 

4. What MCAT Score Do You Need for HMS? 

You should strive for an MCAT score of 519 or higher to be a more competitive applicant. 

5. How Many Shadowing Hours Do You Need for Harvard Medical School? 

While Havard doesn’t state a shadowing requirement, you should aim for at least 100 shadowing hours to apply to medical school. 

Getting Into Harvard Is Easy with Inspira Advantage

Now that you know how to get into Harvard Medical School, you can demonstrate your fit and show the admissions committee why you’re an excellent candidate. 

While there is no one tried and true method of getting into HMS, you have the best shot at acceptance with a polished application. Whether you need help with your application narrative or putting the finishing touches on your secondaries, our expert team at Inspira Advantage is here to make getting into Harvard easier! 

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