Despite having a rapidly rising population of around 5.7 million people, Colorado only currently contains two medical schools. Both offer unique experiences in terms of their locations, curriculums, and post-degree employment opportunities.
This article will explore the mission of each of these schools, the requirements to get into them, and tips on how to get accepted into Medical Schools in Colorado.
The University of Colorado School of Medicine (CUSOM) is situated within the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado, one of the nation's newest health care campuses. Its mission is to provide “Colorado, the nation and the world with programs of excellence in:
According to CUSOM’s Admissions Tracker, this cycle, the School of Medicine received 10,897 applications. Only 5,663 applicants completed secondary applications, 723 were invited to the interview stage and 303 were sent acceptance offers.
In terms of fees, CUSOM charges an annual tuition fee of $64,242 for in-state applicants and $139,086 for out-of-state applicants.
With a less than 2% acceptance rate, getting accepted into CUSOM is no walk in the park. Thankfully, CUSOM is interested in what you can offer them, beyond your standardized grades and test scores; Karina Goodwin, CUSOM’s Senior Admissions Professional, says that “we really pride ourselves in that we use a very holistic review process when we are looking at applicants. We’re essentially looking for authenticity. We are looking for the entire package, not just the perfect applicant on paper.”
So, below we will offer a breakdown of this holistic review process, the admission requirements for CUSOM, and how you can maximize your chances of getting in!
Every candidate must obtain a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university before applying to CUSOM. Though all medical school majors are acceptable, some degrees are better than others; the CUSOM admissions committee states that while they "encourage applicants to explore a diverse, interdisciplinary and balanced undergraduate education, encompassing the necessary foundational knowledge in the biomedical sciences and humanities. Students need to be adequately prepared in the scientific underpinnings of modern medicine and also understand the psychosocial elements that are critical to its practice.”
According to the committee, demonstrable knowledge and competency in the following areas of study are essential for a competitive application:
Additional coursework completed in computer sciences, genetics, humanities, social sciences, and biochemistry is also recommended. So, if your undergraduate degree doesn’t cover these core topics, you may have to take additional classes before applying.
AMCAS also requires “one official transcript from each U.S., U.S. Territorial, or Canadian post-secondary institution at which you have attempted coursework, regardless of whether credit was earned.”
The academic requirement for attending CUSOM is rigorous; the average GPA of current accepted students is 3.78.
Prospective students must take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), and the average score of accepted students is 513. Starting to study for the MCAT is an arduous task, however we have some great tips and tricks to help you get started!
To support their candidacy, applicants are required to obtain three to five letters of recommendation. Typically, these are written by current employers, physicians, and supervisors. “Evidence of a successful engagement in a post-college experience," the committee reports, “is considered a valuable addition to other letters that also may be part of your file.”
Congrats! You have progressed to the secondary application stage. The CUSOM secondary application consists of:
As one of CUSOM's blog writers, Alessandra Santiago writes, “It’s heavy-hitter time: drafting your Personal Statement." The 5300-character personal statement is an opportunity to demonstrate your unique qualifications, experiences, and motivations. The AMCAS Applicant Guide is an excellent resource for those looking to find AMCAS's recommendations.
Once you make it to this stage, you must complete the online Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics (CASPer) test. This is an “online test which assesses non-cognitive skills and interpersonal characteristics” that CUSOM believes “are important for successful students and graduates.” According to the CASPer website, to register for the assessment, you must create an account with the following:
The key to acing the CASPer Test is to prepare in advance. Taking approximately 75-90 minutes to complete, the test itself is split into twelve sections, made up of video and written scenarios. After each section is completed, you will be asked several probing questions within a time limit.
Importantly, you can only take the CASPer test once per admissions cycle and, for future admission cycles or different program types, you will need to take a separate CASPer test.
After reviewing all of the secondary applications, the admission committee narrows down the applicant pool and will invite select applicants to interview. As CUSOM’s ‘Interview Process’ webpage reads, “applicants are selected for an interview using holistic review, a flexible, individualized way of assessing applicants’ capabilities in which balanced consideration is given to experiences, attributes and academic metrics and, when considered in combination, how the individual might contribute value as a medical student and physician.”
Focusing upon the “assessment of intra- and interpersonal competencies needed for the practice of medicine,” these interviews are in a mixed format that includes a traditional interview, a small group interview, and observation of a group activity. Even though it’s an important and stressful part of the admissions process, preparation is key as you will be more confident and relaxed when the interview day comes!
Located just twenty miles southeast of Denver in Parker, Colorado, Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine (RVUCOM) is the first for-profit medical school in the United States. Its mission is “to educate and inspire students to become highly competent osteopathic physicians and lifelong learners prepared to meet the diverse healthcare needs of tomorrow through innovative education, relevant research, and compassionate service.”
In terms of fees, RVUCOM charges an annual tuition fee of $58,330 and enrolls around 150 new students each year.
All candidates must apply through the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) for their applications' electronic receipt and processing. RVUCOM’s admissions process is as follows:
Before enrollment, you must complete a bachelor's degree or higher from a regionally accredited college or university. The compulsory courses that you must take before enrolment includes:
The RVUCOM Office of Admissions also states that “additional upper-division coursework such as Human Anatomy, Physiology, Genetics, and Cellular Biology is highly recommended.” As with CUSOM, an official transcript from all colleges attended where a degree was earned must be submitted prior to matriculation.
A minimum science and cumulative GPA of 3.0 is required by RVUCOM; the Admissions committee states that “No grade below a ‘C’ will be considered to fulfill requirements.” On average, however, accepted candidates have GPAs greater than 3.4.
The average MCAT score of accepted candidates is 506, though be sure to check medical school requirements as they are subject to change.
Submitted through AACOMAS, RVUCOM requires you to submit three letters of recommendation which includes: “a letter from an academic reference (order of preference to include Pre-Med Advisor or Committee, Basic Science Faculty, or anyone who can speak to the candidate’s ability to successfully complete a rigorous medical school curriculum), a letter from a healthcare provider who has worked with the candidate (DO or MD preferred), and a final letter of the candidate’s choice.”
All candidates are required to take the CASPer test.
Though there is no supplemental application, successful applicants are invited for an interview. These often take the form of a 35 minute, two-member panel interview.
So, let’s see how these schools stack up:
As Dr. Vaughn Browne, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Chairman of the School of Medicine Admissions Committee, states in a video discussing the GPA required to attend medical school, “GPA is not the only consideration for admission, it is only one of five different areas in which each student is evaluated.” Indeed, Goodwin says that although “our MCAT and GPA [scores] are very high… We look at what experiences they’ve done, what attributes they possess.”
Gaining informative experiences in patient care through clinical research, shadowing a physician, or hands-on clinical experience is an excellent idea as Goodwin states that "we’re looking for people who can apply what they’ve been learning in the classroom to outside experiences, whether that be research, or clinical experience, or diversity and inclusion [experiences], or any way that they can get a patient perspective.”
Taking the time to research and thoroughly review each medical school's curriculums, areas of expertise, and student experience is essential. Phil Bennett, a fourth-year medical student at Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine, suggests that prospective students should “talk to and ask current students what the student body is like.” “Get a feel for the personality of the school,” Bennett continues, as you will spend hours with these students, and you’ll work together throughout your journey to becoming a physician.” Discussing your research within an interview setting is an excellent way to further benefit from it as it shows you have taken the time to understand the culture and mission of the medical school.
While the CUSOM admission committee states that "all majors are valued,” they do affirm that “students are expected to engage in a rigorous academic program that enables them to understand the basic principles of science central to medicine. Independent of the choice of major, applicants are expected to have acquired effective learning habits, refined their critical thinking skills, and engaged in the habit of life long learning." Essentially, any major is acceptable, providing you have completed the necessary coursework to prepare yourself for medical school.
As RVUCOM states, “Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs) are one of the only two groups of physicians who are licensed and qualified for the unlimited practice of medicine and surgery in all 50 states. DOs, like their colleagues, MDs, or doctors of allopathic medicine, provide professional services to advance the health and well being of patients across this country and around the world." DOs place emphasis on wellness and preventative medicine by concentrating on the patient rather than the disease.
Though a letter of recommendation from an MD or DO is preferred, RVUCOM accepts letters from any healthcare provider or health professional that has worked with you, supervised or unsupervised. Ideally, the candidate will submit two letters which illustrate the applicant’s academic aptitude, and their clinical experiences, as well as a third letter of the candidate’s choice.
Yes, however, transfer requests are considered on an individual basis, and you must either be entering your third year at another college of osteopathic medicine or be in good standing.
CUSOM only accepts transfer students in "very rare circumstances." To be received, you must be in advanced standing from another LCME-accredited medical school. Your academic credentials and history must be reviewed and approved by the admissions committee before being accepted.
Be creative with your questions - avoid asking questions you can find on the internet. Some examples of good questions include:
Despite there only being two medical schools in Colorado, both provide unique experiences, disparate average GPA and MCAT scores, and divergent curriculums and training modalities.
Successfully applying to either school is a hard task , especially as CUSOM has less than a 2% acceptance rate. However, if you focus on acquiring hands-on clinical experience, ace your MCAT and CASPer Tests, and approach the interview in a calm and confident manner, you’re putting yourself in the best position possible to attend medical school in Colorado.