IIf you want to become a doctor, you’ll need to fulfill numerous requirements to claim your seat at one of the nation’s med schools. Read on to learn more and boost your chances of getting into medical school!
Just how hard is it to get into med school? The short answer is it's pretty hard.
The long answer is more complicated and depends on various factors, such as how ready you are and how long you have been preparing. Getting accepted into med school is highly competitive and requires a stellar application.
Many candidates will have a similar mixture of skills, experiences, high scores, and talents. To answer the question, “how hard is it to get into a medical school?” we must analyze the different parts of the application process.
To see the big picture, let's look at some of the data.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), 55,188 individuals applied to medical school during the previous admissions cycle.
Of these applicants, only 23,810 (43%) were accepted. Looking at these numbers tells us that, out of all the people who applied, more than half did not get into a single school, and the number of applicants continues to trend upward:
So why is medical school so hard to get into? Simply put, the applicant pool has continued to grow over the last decade (despite a dip in last year’s total), and the number of available spots has not grown with it.
Data shows that between 2013 and 2023, the number of applicants grew from 48,014 to 55,188, an increase of almost 15%. Medical school acceptance rates are low in part due to the sheer volume of applicants and limited space available.
You must have heard of the doctor shortages on the news. This may lead you to believe that med schools are welcoming more applicants than ever with open arms. However, that is not the case. Even with new med schools opening up, there are not enough seats available for all qualified applicants.
The doctor shortage is happening in the less popular areas and specialties of medicine. In other words, it's not that we need more doctors in general, but we need more doctors in often overlooked or disregarded areas: rural areas, underserved urban areas, and in specialties such as primary care and geriatrics.
GPA and MCAT score data can help you analyze the level of competition. The average cumulative GPA among last year’s applicants was 3.62, and the average MCAT score was 506.5.
Looking at the data, we can see that students earn high grades and MCAT scores, making the competition fierce.
Your GPA plays a vital role in helping you get into med school. GPA is a good representation of your time as an undergraduate student: your dedication, effort, and work ethic. Although applicants had an average cumulative GPA of 3.62, matriculants earned an average cumulative GPA of 3.75.
Medical schools use your GPA to gauge if you will study hard and can handle the academic pressure. They will also look at your year-by-year averages and the types of courses you took.
Just because your grades in science courses are more impactful doesn't mean your other classes don't matter. Med schools will analyze your schoolwork in its entirety to obtain a clearer picture of you as a student.
Getting accepted into med school is hard, but a high MCAT score can make it easier. The MCAT is difficult and requires a lot of preparation. It’s harder than your average exam: it covers multiple subjects like physics, biology, and chemistry. It also requires good reading comprehension.
The test requires that you understand the concepts you learned in your pre-med courses and use them to solve problems. There are a lot of questions to answer, and it can be difficult to finish each section in the allotted time.
Although medical school applicants last cycle earned an average MCAT score of 506.5, matriculants earned a score of 511.9.
The higher your MCAT score, the better your chances of admission. While lower grades and test scores don’t make you a competitive applicant, you can take steps like retaking the MCAT or seeking an MCAT tutor’s help.
If you have a low GPA or MCAT score, it will be much more difficult for you to gain admission as you will not be as competitive. That doesn't mean it's impossible, though. Getting into med school with a low GPA has been done.
Your personal statement is a critical part of your application. How hard it will be to get into med school will be determined, in part, by the quality of your personal statement. This is your chance to let medical schools know who you are and why you want to pursue medicine.
The application process can seem cold and impersonal. Personal statements are a way to show the humanity behind the stats. Med schools want to admit students who show:
Use your personal statement to show that you possess some of these qualities. The more compelling your statement is, the better your chances.
There are many themes you can write about, including:
What’s most important is that your statement addresses the question, “Why do you want to be a doctor?”
After completing your primary application, you may need to write additional essays in secondary applications. These essays often require you to answer more specific questions about diversity or the school you're applying to. If you want a robust application, ensure your secondary essays complement your primary application.
Getting into medical school requires acing your interviews. If you have landed an interview, it means that admissions committees were impressed by your application. This is a chance to showcase your personality and your eagerness. But how hard is the interview? It depends on the type: we’ll cover two of the most common below.
While there are a few different interview formats, one of the most common formats is the MMI (multiple mini interview). An MMI involves multiple stations. You will be given a scenario and time to answer at each station.
The MMI tests your communication skills, ability to apply general knowledge and fitness for a medical career.
The traditional interview is a one-on-one interview and involves a conversation between you and the interviewer. The interviewer will try to gain a sense of who you are as a person and why you want to be a doctor.
Some people find these interviews much more comfortable and straightforward than the MMI format. It depends on you. In either case, preparation is essential. If you have practiced with mock interviews and put serious thought into your answers, the interview process will be more painless.
As hard as it is to get into med school, there are steps that you can take to make it easier on yourself. In the quest to be as competitive as possible, there are mistakes that you can avoid making to save yourself from regret.
Medical schools will know how many times you attempted the MCAT and what you scored each time. With that in mind, you should only take the MCAT when you know you’re ready.
If you don’t feel ready for the MCAT or feel you could benefit from taking a gap year, then it's a path worth considering. Getting your applications in early and taking the MCAT before you’re ready may sound like a good idea, given that schools grant admission on a rolling basis.
The earlier you apply, the higher your chances of being accepted. Getting into medical school is difficult with low MCAT scores, even if you submit your application early.
Your GPA holds a lot of weight in the admissions process, and it can be easy to spread yourself too thin. You want to avoid becoming distracted by so many activities outside the classroom if it means your grades suffer. While extracurriculars are essential, your academics should be your top priority.
When it comes to extracurriculars, don't jump from one activity to another, thinking that it will look good on your application. It's about quality over quantity. You should consider these questions if you’re adding another extracurricular to the mix:
It's better to select a few activities to put your time into and from which you can gain valuable experience.
Applying to med school is arguably one of the most significant decisions you will make. So, why not take your time and go at your own pace if the end result of becoming a doctor will be more attainable?
Use your time wisely and decide if you need to wait until the next cycle:
In the end, it's about making your application as competitive as possible. If you decide your application is ready for this cycle, take your time to edit it to perfection.
Is getting into med school difficult? It can be, especially if you only choose schools out of your reach. It's important to look at your stats objectively and make realistic choices. These schools have slightly higher GPA and MCAT score requirements than you may have. Most schools you apply to should fall within your range.
You should apply to a mix of safety, target, and reach schools: objectively evaluate your GPA and MCAT scores to see how you compare to admitted students.
All students should apply to schools that fall in each of these categories.
After your primary application is complete, many applicants breathe a sigh of relief. However, after spending all that time on your personal statement and primary application, it won’t be long until you begin receiving secondary apps. You can reasonably expect to receive secondary applications from most schools you apply to.
While every secondary application is different, you’ll typically have to write multiple school-specific essays. Many medical schools like to see applicants turn these around quickly, so we recommend trying to complete secondaries within two weeks.
To make this easier, we recommend checking the last cycle’s prompts and pre-writing secondaries in advance. Even if prompts do change, they tend to stick to similar themes—pre-writing helps you turn around essays quicker!
Medical school interviews can be scheduled soon after you receive an invitation, leaving applicants little time to practice. To ensure you’re prepared enough, it’s best to begin practicing for interviews even before you submit your secondaries.
While it’s a bonus to be prepared for highly specific scenarios and policy questions, you want to ensure you’re ready to tackle common questions. Great answers to these lay the foundation for a stellar interview!
You can elevate your interview performance by practicing with a knowledgeable interview coach. Med school interview practice can help you improve your delivery, tone, and answer structure during the big day and build your confidence in the process.
Many medical school applicants assume they have to brainstorm, write, and edit their admissions essays and secondaries alone. Additionally, they may believe that two or three passes through their work are enough to guarantee its quality.
While you may be a solid writer, it’s easy to get too close to your own work and fail to see small errors that a fresh perspective would pick up on immediately. Getting essay feedback from a professional is a great way to ensure your essays are impactful, free of errors, and demonstrate your most impactful experiences.
Getting into med school is difficult. So, we’ve outlined several tips to help you understand what is required to get into med school and how to ace the application process.
It’s better to gain valuable experience from a few activities than to stretch yourself too thin. Med school admissions committees evaluate your activities, so it’s best to seek valuable experiences to strengthen your application.
For example, Dr. Sarah Carlson, a Vascular Surgery Resident at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, explains that “med school admissions committees want students to have realistic expectations for what a career in medicine will be like.”
Your grades are important, and GPA requirements are one of the chief reasons why getting into med school is so hard. If you pursue a major that doesn’t interest you, obtaining the recommended GPAs of 3.7 and 3.5 for MDs and DOs, respectively, will be more difficult.
While studying a subject like biology or chemistry is useful since curriculums fulfill several med school coursework requirements, they are not for everyone. Remember, you can pursue any major you like and complete the med school prerequisites independently.
Now that you know how hard it is to get into med school, you may have a few questions about the application process. So, we’ve listed several questions and answers below to help you.
Med schools are looking for applicants with various skills and experiences. They want applicants with strong academic abilities, good communication and leadership skills, a keen interest in medicine, and demonstrated empathy.
You should apply when you feel you have a competitive application. Ideally, you should submit your application ASAP once AMCAS opens (end of May to the start of June) to ensure you have the best chances of acceptance.
The short answer is yes; it's pretty hard, so try to submit your application between the end of May and the start of June.
Medical schools purposefully design their application processes to be vigorous to ensure admitted students can cope with the vast quantities of information, training, and clinical experiences needed to become an MD; that’s why getting into medical school is so hard.
Some of the hardest medical schools to get into include Kaiser Permanente, NYU Grossman, and Stanford University School of Medicine, with acceptance rates below or at approximately 1%. However, many medical schools have acceptance rates between 1% and 2%.
According to the AAMC, of the 1,890 international applicants in the 2019 application cycle, only 325 were accepted by MD programs in the U.S. This translates to an acceptance rate of around 17%. While this is an older statistic, it’s still much lower than the acceptance rate for U.S. applicants.
One factor that adds to how hard it is to get into medical school as an international student is fulfilling the academic requirements of your chosen program. Many MD programs require applicants to complete a bachelor’s before enrolling, and some only accept degrees from an American or Canadian institution.
If you complete a non-science major, you will need to take additional classes to satisfy the med school coursework requirements. While this may mean spending long hours studying, choosing a major that interests you can positively impact your grades and make it easier to get accepted.
Getting into medical school with a low GPA can be challenging as admissions committees use your grades to judge your ability to cope with the program’s difficulty. However, if you have a low GPA, achieving stellar MCAT scores, obtaining clinical experience, and practicing for your admissions interviews will improve your chances of admission.
Applying to med school is a stressful process—so many parts and pieces have to fit together in a cohesive way. How hard is it to get into med school? Based on stats and competition, it’s relatively difficult.
Several factors play a role in getting into med school: your GPA, MCAT score, extracurriculars, the schools you apply to, and much more. If you avoid common mistakes and fulfill all medical school requirements, getting into med school is an attainable goal.