Read on below to learn about what medical schools are looking for and how you can satisfy all their admissions requirements.
Getting into medical school is no easy feat. You have to meet many medical school requirements, making it challenging to know where to start.
Fear not, because we’ve broken down all the requirements into sections and provided a comprehensive overview. After reading this article, you’ll be more knowledgeable about the requirements to get into medical school and feel empowered to take on the application process.
As with any post-secondary program you apply to, you must meet the requirements to be considered for admission. The requirements vary by school and program; some have few requirements, and others (like medical schools) have extensive requirements.
Med school admission requirements include academic courses, GPAs, and MCAT scores. Increasingly, these requirements include extracurriculars and interpersonal skills to gain a better picture of each individual applicant.
The course requirements include specific classes a medical school wants you to have taken before applying to their program.
Medical school requirements are unique to each school, so it’s important to check the criteria listed on each program’s website. For example, here are the course requirements from two top medical schools in the U.S.:
As you can see, both Baylor and Perelman require you to take biology, chemistry, physics, and math before applying. Although they share several similarities, they do have some differences.
Baylor requires psychology, whereas Perelman lists psychology as one of many options that fulfill the “Behavioral Disciplines” requirements. Perelman also wants you to have an English or communications course on your transcript when applying, and Baylor doesn’t require any courses in this category.
This demonstrates that although medical schools may have similar prerequisites, they have variations. So, it’s important to look at each medical school’s requirements before submitting your applications.
There are other academic medical school admission requirements applicants need to meet, mainly GPA and MCAT scores.
Your GPA is the average of all your course grades combined. Many medical schools look at your cumulative GPA, the average of all course grades you receive throughout college when considering your application. Med schools may also evaluate your GPA in just your science courses. So, it’s essential you achieve high grades in biology, chemistry, physics, and math courses.
Med schools may also have a minimum GPA requirement, meaning your average needs to meet a minimum threshold to apply. These thresholds vary by school, so it’s important to see if the schools you want to apply to have GPA requirements.
Your GPA will usually be the first thing medical school admissions committees look at when screening applicants. If you have a low GPA, it’s best to explain it (and supplement it with higher MCAT scores) so that admissions committees know why it’s low. Otherwise, they may make assumptions about it.
Med schools require applicants to take a standardized test called the MCAT. This multiple-choice test assesses your knowledge of physical and biological sciences and your ability to exercise critical thinking skills. Some schools have MCAT cutoffs – your MCAT score shows you’re qualified for medical school.
This test is overseen by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and you can book your test through their online portal. Your MCAT score will be available approximately one month after test day.
Once your score is made available, it will be sent to the med schools you applied to. Medical schools will accept test scores dating back two to three years, so you can take the MCAT the year before you want to apply to medical school if you wish.
Medical school admissions committees value your experiences beyond the classroom; community service and extracurriculars help admissions committees understand who you are and what matters to you. Community service, in particular, shows your compassion, sense of social responsibility, and commitment to the underserved.
Great examples of medically related community service include volunteering at hospitals and nursing homes. However, working at organizations that aren’t directly linked to medical care is also valuable. While many schools don’t have a minimum number of service hours required, seeking meaningful experiences adds differentiation.
The most important aspect of community service for med school is that it’s meaningful to you. Supporting a cause that matters to you speaks to your ethos and demonstrates your desire to help others. You shouldn’t just do something just for the sake of it looking good on your application; it needs to be genuine.
As Dr. Sarah Carlson, a vascular surgery resident at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, explains:
“Med school admissions committees want students to have realistic expectations for what a career in medicine will be like.”
The best way to understand what the life of a physician is like is to obtain hands-on clinical experience.
Although some schools specify a minimum number of clinical experience hours, there’s no standard minimum. As Princeton’s Health Professions Advising Committee explains, med schools seek “evidence of your motivation [to become a physician] that is grounded in experience, not in the abstract.”
Several easy-to-obtain clinical experience opportunities include working as a:
You can also choose to shadow a physician or volunteer with medical organizations, including:
If you’re struggling to find clinical experience opportunities to satisfy med school requirements, ask your pre-med advisor or school medical center for help. Alternatively, some pre-health advising websites provide volunteer opportunities to help you get started.
Although med school research isn’t the most important factor in the admissions process, it can strengthen your application. The University of Utah School of Medicine, for example, uses participation in activities like research to determine your “interest in continuous learning” and how it will contribute to your performance as a physician.
Like Utah School of Medicine, some med schools require applicants to conduct research or academic projects. While research isn’t a requirement at every medical school, it’s valued higher at research-intensive schools than in primary care-focused programs.
As research isn’t a medical school requirement for most programs, there’s no minimum number of required hours. However many hours you dedicate to your research, ensure it’s relevant to you and your career.
Dr. Kama Guluma, Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Affairs at the University of California—San Diego School of Medicine, stresses the importance of choosing an appropriate research topic.
She notes “It is how that research experience fits in context with the rest of that applicant’s application … what the applicant had available to them” that matters.
There are several components to your AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) application. This application contains your personal and background information, along with other important forms and documents like transcripts and a personal statement.
After completing this information, you can select which medical schools to apply to. There is a base fee of $170 and an extra $43 for each additional school.
Your personal statement is a crucial application component. This statement describes why you want to attend medical school, what you’ve done to prepare, and how your experiences make you a suitable candidate.
A personal statement should highlight some qualities or attributes that make you an excellent fit for med school. Additionally, it should provide examples of when you have demonstrated those qualities or attributes.
Not only will focusing on a few of your best-exemplified characteristics allow you to provide more details, but it also allows you to provide a more centralized narrative about yourself. Personal statements that tell a story stand out more to admissions committees than those written as just a statement of facts.
The best personal statements are relatable and genuine, avoid cliches, and use the first-person perspective.
Letters of recommendation are a required part of your application and a key medical school admission requirement. Generally speaking, medical schools want three letters of recommendation. One of these usually needs to be from a medical doctor.
These letters are written confidentially, meaning you shouldn’t see what your letter-writer writes about you. Your writers can upload their letters to the AMCAS Letter Writer or Interfolio. In both scenarios, your letters are attached to your primary application and made available to all schools you applied to.
Remember, your letter writers need your AMCAS Letter ID and AAMC ID.
You must provide a copy of your transcript from every post-secondary school you’ve attended. A transcript is a formal document outlining every course you’ve taken and the corresponding grades you received.
You should request transcripts from your school(s) early to ensure they arrive before application deadlines. There’s normally a small fee associated with accessing your transcripts, so it’s important to keep that in mind.
A secondary application is the next round of applications in the medical school admissions process. Individual medical schools send out these applications. Secondary applications demonstrate why you’re a good fit for the medical school you applied to.
Some schools send them to you if you make the first cut following primary application reviews. Other schools invite all applicants to submit a secondary application and use both applications to screen them. It’s essential to check each school’s website to determine when you may receive a secondary application.
These applications allow you to elaborate on how your values match the school’s mission, vision, and values. Secondary applications allow you to demonstrate how your skills and experiences will make you a good doctor.
CASPer is a situational judgment test (SJT) designed to evaluate various “soft” skills.
The CASPer test consists of 15 sections, each describing a different scenario with three open-ended questions.
The whole test is done virtually and is proctored through your webcam. The CASPer website describes the test in more detail and how to register for and take it.
The CASPer test is used by more and more professional healthcare schools, including medical schools because it provides a more comprehensive picture of applicants beyond their academic abilities.
CASPer assesses your soft skills like communication skills, emotional intelligence, and professionalism. The absence of these key personal skills can signal who is likely to succeed in the profession and who may struggle.
If a medical school is impressed by your primary and secondary applications, they’ll invite you to attend an interview. This could be done with one interviewer, a panel of interviewers, or across multiple mini interviews.
A one-on-one interview is the most straightforward and common format. You’ll meet with one interviewer for anywhere from half an hour to an hour, where you’ll answer a series of questions. A panel interview means more than one person interviews you. These interviews can also last from half an hour to an hour.
A multiple mini interview (MMI) is a form of interview where you’ll rotate through stations, each with its own interviewer and a unique question or scenario. You’ll typically have two minutes to review the prompt and then five to eight minutes to discuss it.
The MMI allows admissions committees to better gauge your interpersonal skills, which aren’t always easy to see on a paper application. The MMI affords you the chance to make multiple first impressions, so if you don’t do well at one station, there’s hope to redeem yourself at other stations.
It’s important to know what interview format will be used in your med school interviews so you can prepare accordingly. Being prepared is the best way to set yourself up to succeed in your interviews.
After your interview, you’ll wait for decision notifications of being accepted, waitlisted, or rejected. Once most of your interviews are complete, you may wish to send a letter of intent to your top-choice medical school to express your interest and commitment.
These questions and answers will help you understand the AAMC medical school requirements and how you can submit a stellar application.
No, not all med schools have prerequisite course requirements. For example, Stanford University School of Medicine doesn't have specific requirements but recommends students take courses in multiple subject areas.
Experiences can come from your volunteer work, clinical experiences, extracurriculars, and research projects. While most medical schools don’t have recommended hours for certain experiences, they help differentiate your profile.
Most medical schools require MCAT scores – there are some exceptions for Early Assurance and BS/MD programs. If you’re applying to a regular MD program, you likely need to take the MCAT.
It depends on the schools you want to apply to. If a school has a minimum GPA cutoff, you can apply as long as yours is higher. If the school doesn’t, check class profile data to compare your GPA to past admitted students.
No, not all medical schools have MCAT or GPA cutoffs.
Your current academic institution likely offers at least some resources that can help you prepare for medical school. You can also find support here at Inspira through our 1:1 MCAT prep, interview prep, and final application review services.
Common required courses for med school include biology, chemistry, physics, math, and behavioral sciences. Check school-specific course requirements to determine what you need.
The work required to apply to medical school is extensive, but the admissions process becomes much more manageable by breaking it down into parts and keeping track of deadlines.
It can be tricky to satisfy all medical school application requirements. However, breaking down each requirement one by one is a great way to approach the application process and minimize your stress levels. Good luck!