Read on below to learn more about what medical schools are looking for and how you can satisfy all of their admissions requirements.
Getting into medical school is no easy feat. You have to meet an overwhelming number of medical school requirements, and you may feel that it’s impossible to know where to begin.
Fear not, because we’ve broken all the requirements down into sections and provided a comprehensive overview of each. After reading this article, you will be more knowledgeable about the requirements to get into medical school and feel empowered to take on the application process.
As with any postsecondary program you apply to, there are requirements applicants need to meet to be considered for admission. The requirements vary by school and by program; some have few requirements, others — like medical schools — have an extensive list of requirements.
Med school admission requirements include academic courses, GPA, and MCAT scores. Increasingly, these requirements include extracurriculars and interpersonal skills to gain a better picture of each individual applicant.
The course requirements are the specific types of courses a medical school wants you to have taken prior to applying for their medicine program.
The AAMC medical school admissions requirements are unique to each medical school, so it is important that you check the criteria listed on each program’s website. For example, here are the course requirements from two top medical schools in the US.
As you can see, both Baylor and Perelman require you to have biology, chemistry, physics, and algebra under your belt 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 does not require any courses in this category.
This demonstrates that although medical schools may have some similar prerequisites, they will also have variations. So, it’s important to look at each medical school’s requirements before sending off your applications.
There are a couple of academic medical school admission requirements applicants will need to meet in their application package, with the main ones being your GPA and MCAT score. Your GPA (grade point average) is the average of all your course grades combined.
Many medical schools will look at your cumulative GPA, the average of all the course grades you receive throughout your degree, when considering your application. Medical schools may also look at your GPA in just your science courses. So it’s essential that you achieve high grades in your biology, chemistry, physics, and math courses.
Medical schools may also have a minimum GPA requirement, meaning your average needs to meet a minimum threshold to be considered. These thresholds will vary by school, so it’s important to look into the GPA requirements set out by each medical school.
Your GPA will usually be the first thing medical school admissions committees look at when screening applicants. If you have a low GPA, it is best to provide an explanation for it so that admissions committees know why it is low. Otherwise, they may make assumptions about it.
You can explain a less-than-stellar grade in your personal statement or secondary application essays. Any part of the application process where the question “Do you have anything else we should know about?” appears is a good place to explain a low grade.
Medical schools also require applicants to take a standardized test called the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). This multiple-choice test assesses your knowledge of physical and biological sciences, as well as your ability to exercise good judgment and critical thinking skills.
This test is overseen by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and you can book your MCAT test through their online portal. The AAMC, along with many other academic institutions and organizations, including Inspira, provides test prep resources that can help set you up for success on test day.
Your MCAT score will be available approximately one month after you have taken the test. Once your score is made available to you, it will be sent to the medical schools to which you applied. 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 as a person and what matters to you. Community service, in particular, shows your compassion, sense of social responsibility, and commitment to the underserved.
Having relevant experiences is often one of the requirements to get into medical school. Great examples of medically related community service include volunteering at hospitals and nursing homes. However, completing service at organizations that aren’t directly linked to medical care is also valuable.
The most important aspect of community service for med school is that it is meaningful to you. Supporting a cause that matters to you will speak to your ethos and demonstrate your desire to help others. You shouldn’t just do something for the sake of it looking good on your application, as admission committees can tell if your experiences were genuine or not.
Medical schools typically recommend that you complete 100 hours of volunteering or community service. However, if you are struggling to accumulate that many hours, don’t worry. Medical schools usually prefer to see students obtain a few well-rounded and impactful experiences over much less impactful ones.
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 several schools specify a minimum number of clinical experience hours, there is no standard minimum. As Princeton’s Health Professions Advising Committee explains, medical 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:
If you’re struggling to find clinical experience opportunities to satisfy American medical school admission requirements, ask your pre-med advisor or school medical center for help. Alternatively, some pre-health advising websites provide a list of volunteer opportunities to help you get started.
Although med school research is not 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 medical school 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 medical schools require applicants to conduct research, academic projects, or “Creative Endeavors that Expand Cognitive Processes.” While research is not a requirement at every medical school, it is valued higher at research-intensive schools than primary care-focused programs.
As research isn’t a medical school requirement for most programs, there is no minimum number of required hours. Some candidates receive admission with 400 hours, while others earn 2,000 hours. However many hours you dedicate to your research, ensure it is relevant for 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 that, “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 all of your personal and background information, along with other important forms and documents, including transcripts and a personal statement.
After filling in this information, you can select which medical schools to which you want this application sent. There is a base fee of $170 and an extra $41 for each additional school.
Your personal statement is the final section of the AMCAS application. This statement is where you describe why you want to attend medical school, what you’ve done to prepare for it, and how your experiences make you a suitable candidate.
A personal statement should highlight some of your qualities or attributes that make you the right fit for a career in medicine. 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 detail on each of them, but it will also allow you to provide a more centralized narrative about yourself. Personal statements that tell a story stand out more to an admissions committee than a statement written as just a statement of facts about yourself.
The best personal statements are relatable and genuine, avoid cliches, and use the first-person narrative.
Letters of recommendation are a required part of the primary 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 trained and licensed 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 will be attached to your primary application and made available to all the medical schools to which you applied.
Remember that your letter writers will need your AMCAS Letter ID and AAMC ID.
You will need to provide a copy of your transcript from every postsecondary school you have attended. A transcript is a formal document that outlines every course you have taken at a given academic institution and the corresponding grade you received.
You should request transcripts from your school(s) early to ensure they arrive before the primary application deadlines around October. There is normally a small fee associated with accessing your transcripts, so it is 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.
Primary applications demonstrate why you are a good fit for medical school in general.
Some schools will send them to you if you make the first cut following a review of the primary applications completed through AMCAS. Other schools will invite all applicants to submit a secondary application and use both applications to screen them. It is 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 mission, vision, and values of each medical school at which you applied. Secondary applications also allow you to demonstrate how your skills and experiences will make you a good future doctor.
CASPer, short for Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal characteristics, is a situational judgment test (SJT) designed to evaluate various “soft” skills.
The CASPer test consists of 12 sections, each describing a different scenario with three open-ended questions. You will be given five minutes to answer all three questions in each section, with the whole test taking around an hour and a half to complete.
While taking the test, you will have the option to take a 15-minute break at the halfway mark. The whole test is done virtually and is proctored through your computer’s webcam.
This video from the CASPer website describes the test in more detail and how to register for and take it.
CASPer also offers the following tips for preparing to write the test:
The CASPer test is used by more and more professional 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 to medical schools who will likely succeed in the profession and who may struggle or fail.
If a medical school is impressed by your primary and secondary applications, they will invite you to attend an interview with the medical school’s admissions committee. 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 will meet with one interviewer for anywhere from half an hour to an hour, where you will answer a series of questions. A panel interview is where multiple representatives from the admissions committee will interview 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 will rotate through different stations, each with its own interviewer and a unique question or scenario. You will typically have two minutes to review the prompt and then between five and eight minutes to discuss it.
The MMI allows admissions committees to gauge better your interpersonal skills, which are not 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 is hope to redeem yourself at other stations.
It is important to know what interview format will be used in each of your medical 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 will have to sit back and wait patiently for notifications of being accepted, waitlisted, or rejected. Once most of your interviews have been completed, you may wish to send a letter of intent to your top-choice medical school to express your interest and commitment to that particular school.
These questions and answers will help you understand the AAMC medical school admissions requirements and how you can submit a stellar application.
You can find the AMCAS primary application deadlines through the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) website and on each college’s website.
It is important to check the deadlines early to ensure you give yourself enough time to complete all the application components and obtain the supporting documentation. The MSAR medical school admission requirements webpage is also convenient, as it outlines the med school admission requirements of every program in the United States.
Experiences can come from your volunteer work, clinical experiences, extracurriculars, research projects with faculty or classmates — the possibilities are extensive. The experiences you pursue must be important to you personally; don’t do something because you think it’ll look good on your medical school application.
We’re sure you have a lot of great qualities. However, a personal statement needs to focus on a few detailed explanations and examples of a few of your qualities. Listing every positive quality you possess limits the amount of detail you can include about each one, which is less appealing for admissions committees to read.
To choose which ones to write about, think about which qualities you would want a doctor treating you to have and which of those qualities you can provide a strong description of in the body of your personal statement.
CASPer results provide medical school admission committees with valuable insights into how you will act as a doctor. As outlined on the CASPer website, this test allows applicants to demonstrate their “people skills” early in the application process.
So yes, you should take some time to prepare for the CASPer, as your result will help determine whether you will advance to the next round of the application process.
Every medical school will conduct its interviews in a different way (one-on-one, panel, or MMI), and each school will notify you of the type of interview you should expect. If they do not disclose this when they notify you that you have been selected for an interview, reach out to the admissions committee to inquire which type of interview you should expect.
Your current academic institution will likely offer 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.
The amount of work required to apply to medical school is extensive, but the medical school admissions process becomes much more manageable by breaking it down into parts and keeping track of deadlines.
It can be tricky to satisfy all of the medical school admission requirements. However, breaking down each of the admission requirements for med school one by one is a great way to approach the application process and minimize your stress levels.