How to Get Into Perelman School of Medicine: An Applicant’s Guide

April 26, 2024


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 4/26/24

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If you’re wondering how to get into UPenn’s Perelman School of Medicine, you’re in the right place. Read on to learn more about UPenn medical school requirements and boost your chances of acceptance! 

Perelman School of Medicine, also known as Penn Medicine, is one of the oldest medical schools in the U.S. And getting in is a challenge. 

Some of the most important medical advancements have spawned from this Ivy League med school or were developed by alumni. These achievements have placed Perelman in the country’s top ten medical schools

Getting into the UPenn School of Medicine doesn’t have to be impossible: we regularly receive reviews like this from overjoyed students each cycle when they receive their acceptance notices.

Screenshot of a review from one of Inspira Advantage's clients who got into Perelman med school

If you’re ready to get into Perelman, read on to become an unbeatable candidate!

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Perelman School of Medicine MD Programs

The four-year MD program at Perelman School of Medicine is one of the country’s oldest. It developed the first teaching hospital in the country, and the program’s high standards make it challenging to enter.

Perelman offers numerous programs, most of which are focused on dual concentrations: 

Each program centers on different aspects of the medical field. So you’ll want to ensure you find a degree combination that fits your goals. You can also earn certificates in specialized concentrations in every Perelman program. Some certifications offered include Clinical Neuroscience and Research.

How Hard Is It to Get Into Perelman School of Medicine? 

Perelman School of Medicine’s prestige and limited spots make it one of the country’s most competitive schools. With historically single-digit acceptance rates, Perelman is hard to get into. 

UPenn Med School Admissions Statistics

Penn Medicine’s acceptance rate is 3.8% Out of thousands of applicants, only 156 students enrolled in a recent admissions cycle. The low UPenn medical school acceptance rate may be low, but one positive result of the low admittance is a lower faculty-to-student ratio.

Perelman School of Medicine has one of the best faculty-student ratios at 4.3:1. In comparison, other top U.S. med schools like Johns Hopkins and Harvard Medical School have a ratio of 4.8:1 and 13.1:1, respectively.

UPenn Medical School Requirements

No matter your chosen program, you’ll apply through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). Penn Medicine recommends applying as early as possible and submitting all AMCAS medical school application materials on time. Once verified through AMCAS, you will have to complete a supplemental application. 

A complete medical school application will consist of the following:

  • Verified AMCAS application
  • Supplemental application
  • Letters of recommendation
  • MCAT scores
  • Required $90 application fee

Remember — you have only one chance to apply each year, so ensure you have everything ready in advance. We’ll explore the University of Pennsylvania medical school requirements, so you’re ready to submit all materials by the deadline. 

UPenn Medical School Course Requirements

Infographic outlining the Course Requirements of UPenn Medical School

Perelman stresses that students must have a broad span of knowledge in the sciences. The admissions committee reviews the coursework and cumulative achievement of applicants. Before applying, all applicants must have a BS or BA from an accredited university in the U.S. or Canada. 

Suppose you have received an undergraduate degree from a foreign institution. In that case, you must complete one year of science coursework at a university in the U.S. before applying.

UPenn medical school requirements for courses include the following:

  • English/communication: Students should be able to read, write, and speak English fluently. Applicants should be able to deliver oral presentations and demonstrate strong interpersonal skills. Speaking other languages is helpful, but Penn Medicine recommends English as the primary language.

  • Biology - The admissions committee is not expecting you to be an expert in biology before applying. However, they want applicants to understand biological principles, such as basic molecular and cellular functions and basic biological concepts all living organisms share.

  • Chemistry - Applicants should take chemistry courses before applying. Competencies in chemistry include understanding the molecular basis of life, thermodynamics, acid-base balance, and chemical equilibria principles.

  • Physics and mathematics - Physics is the foundation of quantitative biology and biomedical sciences. Therefore, you must have a general understanding of physics. Math courses like statistics and algebra are also mandatory. Your application should show math and science prowess.

  • Behavioral disciplines - Candidates must demonstrate that they understand societal forces on the development and delivery of healthcare and research. Applicants should take courses like history, ethics, anthropology, psychology, and more. 

While it doesn’t seem like a lot, this list of necessary coursework requires multiple classes within each subject. Your transcript should demonstrate rigorous science preparation. 

MCAT Scores

Your coursework shows you studied the necessary material. But the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) Exam will be the time to demonstrate your knowledge. 

The MCAT is a multiple-choice exam medical schools use to assess applicants’ relevant skills and knowledge. The UPenn Medical School average MCAT score is 520.8.. Applicants are required to take the MCAT within three years of applying to Perelman School of Medicine. 

Letters of Recommendation for Perelman

Infographic outlining that penn med school requires between 3 and 10 letters of recommendation

You must secure strong letters of recommendation. These recommendations strengthen your application because the admissions committee gets a third-party perspective on your candidacy. 

All recommendations are submitted through AMCAS. Applicants must provide at least three letters. But you cannot submit more than ten through the AMCAS Letter Writer Application. All letters must be signed and written on official stationery. You have two options when you search for recommendations

  1. At least three recommendations from faculty members, at least one of which must come from a science faculty member with whom you’ve taken a class.
  2. Composite or committee letter: You can get individual letters or a letter packer from a pre-health advisor or career service office. 

You should ask for recommendations as soon as possible to ensure they’re complete before the application deadline. After all, writers need ample time to write nice things about you!

Work Experiences/Extracurriculars: What Should They Demonstrate?

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Your work experiences before medical school is a significant indicator of your character and skills. You must demonstrate abilities that are translatable into the medical field and show your passion for medicine. 

Research experience is almost essential when applying to the Perelman School of Medicine. In a recent admissions cycle, over 97% of entering students had research experience.

While you don’t have to participate in several research projects, you’ll want to include at least one or two. If you don’t have research experience but want some, you can look for opportunities at local universities or colleges.

Infographic outlining several perelman school stats, including its acceptance rate and what percentage of its students have research experience

Medical shadowing is another type of experience you must have in your arsenal. While shadowing isn’t technically mandatory, admissions committees highly recommend shadowing experience. 

Approximately 83% of Perelman’s students had shadowing and clinical research experience. This shows the admissions committee your passion for medicine and the experiences that led you to apply to medical school. 

When deciding which experiences will bolster your application, you must consider quality over quantity. Perelman School of Medicine’s admissions committee looks more favorably on applicants with a few high-quality experiences than one with many experiences that do not demonstrate their abilities. 

The Perelman Secondary Essays: How to Tackle Each Prompt

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While you must write a personal statement, your work isn’t done. The UPenn medical school supplemental essays are essential to your application. 

You’ll complete the Perelman secondary essays after you’ve passed the first round of the review process. Your responses help the admissions committee determine whether you’re serious about medical school and a good fit for Penn Medicine. 

Perelman School of Medicine secondary essays include:

1. “Were there changes to your academic work and/or personal circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic that you would like to share with the committee? (If yes, please describe these changes during this time in 500 characters or less.)” 

To answer this prompt, consider: 

  • Whether or not you need to write it (optional) 
  • That although the pandemic likely impacted your daily life, determine whether it truly stopped you from achieving things you set out to do 
  • Keep your writing concise (500 characters does not leave a lot of wiggle room) 
2. “If you were offered an option to continue courses with a standard grading system or switch to Pass/Fail, and you elected Pass/Fail, please describe the reason(s) for your decision here.” (500 characters)

This is another pandemic-related prompt. Your first step is to decide your stance on pass/fail versus graded courses. Your second step is to back up your stance with your reasoning. Again, keep your writing concise and factual. 

3. “Have you taken or are you planning to take time off between college graduation and medical school matriculation?” (500 characters)

Before you answer this prompt, consider: 

  • Whether you need to write it: no gap year, no problem
  • What your most impactful gap year activities were 
  • How your gap year activities elevate your candidacy 
  • What you want to do with your gap year, and why those experiences matter, if you’re planning to take one before matriculation 
4. “Have you participated in any global activities outside of the U.S. prior to submitting your AMCAS application?” (1000 characters)

This is your opportunity to dive deeper into any medical mission trips or study abroad programs you did during undergrad. If you answered “yes” here, don’t just simply list your activities. Explain why these experiences were impactful, how they broadened your cultural awareness, and how they’ll make you a better physician. 

5. The Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM) is deeply committed to recruiting a diverse class to enrich an inclusive team-based learning experience. How would you and your experiences contribute to the diversity of the student body and/or how would you contribute to an inclusive atmosphere at PSOM? (1,000 characters)

This UPenn Medical School supplemental essay prompt is a classic diversity essay. Before answering, consider: 

  • If you’ve already written about your background/identity elsewhere in your application 
  • If you haven’t, how do your background, identity, and experiences make you unique? 
  • How have your background/identity impacted your experiences on the way to medical school
  • What new perspectives/skills can you bring to the class? 
6. “We are all navigating through challenging times, and physicians and physician-scientists must contend with many instances of uncertainty. Describe a time when you faced a situation that was ambiguous, confusing, or uncertain, and how you navigated making a decision without complete information.” (3,000 characters)

This prompt is fairly new. If, at first glance, you’re unsure what to write about, don’t panic! These tips can help you focus your response: 

  • First, identify a situation/event that you found ambiguous/confusing (you might need to have a brainstorming session) 
  • Map out how you responded to this situation: what did you do? What was the outcome? 
  • Make an outline to put it all together. Remember, you want this essay to read like a story, similar to your personal statement’s style. 
  • Show off your qualities: this essay presents an opportunity to show off your problem-solving and leadership skills. Determine what your actions show admissions committees. 

If you’re struggling with this prompt, you may find jotting down bullet points from the situation’s beginning to end helpful. This strategy can help you focus your narrative and preserve a thematic thread. 

7. “Have you or your family experienced economic hardships?” (1,000 characters)

You can think of this prompt as an “adversity” essay. If you responded “yes” to this question, detail how your economic hardships have impacted your journey to medical school. However, don’t stop there. You should also write about how you’ve risen above these obstacles or what steps you’ve taken to lessen economic hardship.

8. “Please explain your reasons for applying to the Perelman School of Medicine.” (1,000 characters) 

You can read this prompt as a “Why us?” essay. Think about: 

  • How your personal values align with Perelman’s mission 
  • How your experiences so far have prepared you Perelman 
  • What specifically drew you to apply; what does the school have that other med schools don’t? 
  • How the school’s offerings align with your interests 
  • How you and the school mutually benefit from your acceptance

Remember, you don’t have much space to communicate your thoughts. Be as concise as possible! 

The Perelman Interview Process: What You Need to Know

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The Penn Medicine interview process kicks off with an invitation to meet with faculty and students. Perelman interviews occur between September and January. The Office of Admissions will select the date and time for your one-on-one, traditional interviews. 

Your Perelman interview is your chance to show your passion for medicine and that you possess the knowledge and skills necessary to join the UPenn community. You must interview to be offered admission at the Perelman School of Medicine.

Interviewers will ask questions related to medical school and your application. You’ll want to be clear and concise: live interviews means limited time to answer each question. The committee will determine final offers of admission to Perelman after a comprehensive review of your application.

UPenn Medical School Application Deadlines and Timeline

When you apply to UPenn medical school, you need to know your medical school application time. Please keep in mind the following dates and deadlines:

  • May: AMCAS application opens
  • July-November: Verified AMCAS applications sent to Perelman for review
  • August 1: Deadline for Early Decision applicants to submit AMCAS application
  • October 2: Early Decision applicant notification period
  • October 15: Deadline for regular decision AMCAS applicants
  • November 15: Deadline for submitting all required materials (supplemental applicants, fees, scores, letters of recommendation) 
  • August to January: Applications reviewed by the admissions committee
  • September to January: Interview invitations sent out
  • March: Admission decisions released
  • Late April: Last day to accept the offer at Perelman School of Medicine

Failure to complete your application results in delaying its review or an overall rejection. We can’t stress this enough: keep track of application dates and deadlines.

Tuition & Scholarships for Perelman School of Medicine

Medical school is expensive. Tuition alone for a full-time student at Perelman School of Medicine is $65,940. This amount doesn’t include books, materials, or living expenses. 

Here is a fee breakdown for your first year at Perelman:

Tuition/Other Expenses/Fees Cost
Tuition $65,940
General Fee $3,802
School Technology Fee $1,450
Clinical Fee $688
Disability $55
Subtotal $71,935
Health Insurance $4,100
Room & Board $29,568
Personal $2,486
Travel Allowance $1,408
Grand Total $109,497

While you can save money in areas like food and housing, you’re still paying roughly $110,000 per year. However, there are several medical school financial aid options. Perelman School of Medicine’s financial aid opportunities include approximately 25 full-tuition scholarships per year. All students are eligible for these scholarships

Selection criteria include outstanding academic performance and achievement and a broad range of intellectual interests. Other criteria include: 

  • Demonstrated leadership
  • Commitment to interests other than academic work
  • Unique life experiences that contribute to a medical career

Student loans, grants, and scholarship opportunities outside UPenn Medicine can also help ease the costs.

Getting Into Perelman School of Medicine: FAQs

Getting into Perelman isn’t easy. However, we’ve compiled questions and answers to help you understand how to get into the Perelman School of Medicine. 

1. Are There Different UPenn Med School Requirements for International Students? 

No. Perelman has the same admissions standards for all students. However, there are a few things to consider. If you received a degree from a foreign institution, you must complete a year of science coursework at a U.S. college or university before applying. This coursework must include biology, chemistry, and physics.

Additionally, international students are not able to apply for federal financial aid. 

2. Does Perelman Med School Have an Early Decision Program? 

Yes! Perelman has a limited Early Decision Program. This program is filled with competitive applicants who meet admitted students’ average GPA and MCAT scores. The average MCAT score is 520.8, and the average GPA is 3.91. 

3. Does Perelman Have a Minimum GPA or MCAT Requirement? 

No. However, the average Perelman School of Medicine MCAT score is 520.8, and the average GPA is 3.91. 

While these are not required scores, they’re good indicators of what you should aim for. UPenn’s acceptance rate is low. A good MCAT score and high GPA will help you stand out. 

4. Does Perelman School of Medicine Accept International Students?

Yes, Perelman accepts international students. However, the school does not release data on how many international students it accepts each cycle. 

Pull Off the Philly Special and Get Into UPenn Medical School Today

Applying to Perelman School of Medicine seems challenging, but by following this guide, you know what it takes to get accepted. The most important thing to remember is to meet all Perelman School of Medicine requirements and deadlines. Ideally, you want your application submitted with time to spare. 

There are excellent resources available to you. If you’re looking for help, our expert team is passionate about elevating your application and getting you accepted at Penn Medicine. By starting early and using the right resources, you have a better chance of getting accepted at the Perelman School of Medicine. 

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