Wondering what you need to get into med school? Read on to learn what medical schools are looking for and how you can satisfy 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’ll break down all the requirements you need to know. Read on to feel more knowledgeable about medical school admission requirements and empowered to tackle the application process.
You must meet medical school admission requirements to be considered for admission. Med school admission requirements include specific coursework, GPAs, and MCAT scores. Increasingly, these requirements include extracurriculars and interpersonal skills to gain a better picture of each applicant.
To apply to med school, you will first need to obtain an undergraduate degree. You can apply to med school before completing your program, but you will need to hold an official bachelor’s degree before you matriculate. You can get into med school with any undergraduate degree, regardless of your major.
You can obtain a graduate degree of some kind before applying to medical school, but it’s not required. You may also choose to complete a BS/MD program, which allows you to complete both your bachelor’s degree and your MD as a single program. This is often a faster track to graduation.
Med school course requirements are specific classes schools want you to take before applying. Medical school admission requirements are unique to each school, so it’s important to check the prerequisites listed on each program’s website.
For example, here are the med school class requirements from two top U.S. medical schools:
For example, Baylor requires psychology, whereas Perelman lists psychology as one of many options fulfilling the “Behavioral Disciplines” requirements. Although medical schools may have similar prerequisites, they have variations. So, it’s important to evaluate each school’s requirements before submitting your applications.
While your pre-med major makes no difference in your med school applications, you may find it helpful to choose an undergraduate major that will prepare you well for the demands of medical school. Majors in science-related fields, for instance, will likely familiarize you with much of the subject matter you’ll cover in med school.
However, the best move is to choose a major that interests you. If you are passionate about what you’re learning, you’re more likely to get good grades, which will give your med school application a boost!
There are other academic requirements that med school applicants need to meet, mainly GPA and MCAT scores.
Your GPA is the average of your course grades combined. Many med schools look at your cumulative GPA, the average of all grades you received in college. Med schools may also evaluate your GPA in only 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 or exceed a minimum threshold to apply. These thresholds vary, so it’s checking whether schools have GPA requirements is important.
Your GPA is one of the first things admissions committees look at. 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.
Med schools require applicants to submit MCAT scores. The MCAT assesses your scientific knowledge and 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 an online portal. Your MCAT score will be available approximately one month after test day.
Once your score is available, it will be sent to the med schools you applied to. Med schools will accept test scores dating back two to three years, so you can take the MCAT the year before you want to apply if you wish.
The MCAT is a challenging exam, so you’ll need to make sure you prepare well. It’s a good idea to put together a solid study schedule and take lots of practice tests.
Med school admissions committees value your experiences beyond the classroom. Community service and extracurriculars help them 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 medical-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 a minimum number of service hours required for medical school isn’t common, 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 a physician’s life 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 experiences include working as a:
If you’re struggling to find clinical experience opportunities to satisfy 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 medical 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.
Some med schools require applicants to conduct research or academic projects. While research isn’t a universal requirement to get into medical school, it’s valued more at research-intensive schools than in primary care-focused programs.
As research isn’t necessarily a requirement, there’s no minimum number of required hours. However many hours you dedicate to research, ensure it’s relevant to you.
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 application. This application contains your personal information and other important 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 $175 and an extra $45 for each additional school.
Your personal 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 good med school personal statement should highlight qualities or attributes that make you an excellent fit for med school. Additionally, it should provide examples of when you’ve demonstrated those qualities or attributes.
Focusing on a few of your best-exemplified characteristics allows you to provide a detailed, centralized narrative about yourself. Personal statements that tell a story stand out more 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 key medical school admission requirement. Generally, medical schools want three recommendations. One of these usually needs to be from a medical doctor.
Your writers can upload recommendation 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. You should request transcripts from your school(s) early to ensure they arrive before the application deadlines.
Requirements for medical school often include completing secondary applications. Individual 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 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 candidates. Check each school’s website to determine when you may receive a secondary application.
These applications allow you to elaborate on your fit and how your skills and experiences will make you an excellent physician.
CASPer is a situational judgment test (SJT) designed to evaluate various “soft” skills.
The CASPer test consists of 14 sections, each describing a different scenario with open-ended questions.
The test is virtual and is proctored through your webcam. The CASPer website describes the test and how to register in more detail.
The CASPer 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, emotional intelligence, and professionalism. The absence of these key skills can signal who is likely to succeed in the profession.
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, 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 variety of questions. A panel interview means more than one person interviews you.
A multiple mini interview (MMI) has you rotate through stations, each with its own interviewer and 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. MMI also allows you to make multiple first impressions, so if you don’t do well at one station, there’s hope to redeem yourself at others.
It’s important to know what format you can expect on interview day so you can prepare accordingly. Being prepared for the different interview questions or scenarios you might face is the best way to set yourself up to succeed.
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 med schools don’t have recommended hours for 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 institution likely offers at least some resources to help you prepare for medical school. You can also find support here at Inspira through our end-to-end application support programs, MCAT prep, interview prep, and more!
Yes, MD program applicants must obtain (or be on track to obtaining) a bachelor’s degree.
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 med school 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!