Getting into medical school is no easy feat. There is an overwhelming number of requirements to meet and you may feel that it’s impossible to know where to begin. Fear not, because in this blog, we’ve broken all the medical school admission requirements down into sections and provided a comprehensive overview of each requirement. After reading this article, you will be more knowledgeable about each medical school admission requirement and will feel empowered to take on the application process.
As with any postsecondary program you apply to, there are requirements applicants need to meet in order 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. Medical school admission requirements include academic courses, as well as GPA and MCAT scores. Increasingly, medical school admission requirements are expanding to 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.
Course requirements are unique to each medical school, so it is important you check the requirements listed on each individual medical school’s website. For example, here are the course requirements from two different, but equally competitive, 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. They do have some differences though. Baylor requires psychology, whereas Perelman lists psychology as just 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 what each school requires before sending off your applications.
There are a couple of academic requirements medical school 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 is even more important 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 in order to even 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 your GPA is low instead of them making their own assumptions about it. You can explain a less-than-stellar grade in your personal statement, or in a secondary application if you are invited to complete one. 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.
If you are unsure of what your GPA is and your school does not provide an online GPA calculator, you can use our GPA calculating resource here.
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), which is the same overseeing body you will use to apply to medical schools, with the exception of medical schools in Texas. You can book your MCAT test through their online portal. The AAMC, along with many other academic institutions and organizations, including Inspira, provide test prep resources which 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 automatically 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 test the year before you want to apply to medical school if you wish to space the application process out more.
Your experiences beyond the classroom matter to medical school admission committees. Experiences like volunteer work, extracurriculars, and even hobbies help admission committees gain a better understanding of who you are as a person and what matters to you.
Having relevant experiences is now often a requirement for the medical school application process. That said, you shouldn’t just do something for the sake of it looking good on your application. Admission committees can see through this and will know whether your experiences were genuine or not. Choose activities that you consider valuable and those that support a cause that matters to you. In doing so, the experience will play a larger role in your personal development, and therefore will be a more valuable addition to your application.
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 then 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 for medical school.
Our blog, How to Write a Personal Statement for Medical School, dives deeper into this topic. A personal statement should highlight some of your qualities or attributes that make you the right fit for a career in medicine, as well as provide examples of when you have demonstrated those qualities or attributes.
Not only will focusing on just 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.
Our article also provides tips such as writing in the first person, avoiding cliches, and being relatable and genuine, along with providing guidance on how to achieve these in your personal statement.
Letters of recommendation are a required part of the primary application. 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 letter writers can upload their letters of recommendation to the AMCAS Letter Writer or Interfolio. In both scenarios, your letters will then be attached to your primary application and made available to all the medical schools to which you applied. Your letter writers will also need your AMCAS Letter ID and your 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, which usually begins in October and wraps-up in December. 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. These applications are sent out by individual medical schools. 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 the primary and secondary applications to screen you, so it is important to check each medical school’s website to determine when you may receive an invitation to complete a secondary application.
Where primary applications demonstrate why you are a good fit for medical school in general, secondary applications allow you to demonstrate why you are a good fit for each specific school where you applied and for admissions committees to get to know more about you. These applications allow you to elaborate on how your values match the mission, vision, and values of each individual 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 a variety of “soft” skills.
The CASPer test is comprised 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, along with how to register for and take the test.
CASPer also offers the following tips for preparing to write the test:
1. Familiarize yourself with the format of the test.
2. Complete the systems requirement check.
3. Find a quiet place to take the test.
4. Remember to use all 5 minutes to respond.
The CASPer test is being 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 test-takers communication skills, emotional intelligence, professionalism, and much more. The absence of these key personal skills can signal to medical schools who will be likely to 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 as a multiple mini interview.
A one-on-one interview is the most straightforward and most 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, on the other hand, is where you will be interviewed by multiple representatives from the admissions committee. These interviews can also range in length 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 outside of the interview room and then you’ll have between five and eight minutes to discuss that prompt.
The MMI allows admissions committees to better gauge 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.
Deadlines for medical schools to receive your primary application can be found both through the MSAR website and on each individual medical school’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.
Experiences can come from your volunteer work, clinical experiences, extracurriculars, research projects with faculty or classmates — the possibilities are extensive. It is important that the experiences you pursue are important to you personally; don’t just do something because you think it’ll look good on your medical school application.
We’re sure you have a lot of great qualities, you want to be a doctor after all. However, a personal statement needs to be focused and provide a few detailed explanations and examples of a few of your qualities. Listing every single 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 help you 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” earlier in the application process instead of having to wait until the interview stage to show how they would interact with others in hypothetical situations.
So yes, you should take some time to prepare for this test and take it seriously, as your result combined with the academic requirements you submit will be used to determine whether or not you will advance to the next round of the application process.
Every medical school will conduct their 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, among many others.
The amount of work required to apply to medical school is extensive, but by breaking it down into parts and keeping track of deadlines, the medical school admissions process becomes much more manageable.