Downtown Philadelphia, where Perelman School of Medicine is located.

How to Get Into Perelman School of Medicine

April 5, 2021


You have reached this page because you are interested in getting into the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Perelman School of Medicine, also known as Penn Medicine, is one of the oldest medical schools in the United States. Some of the most important medical advancements have spawned from Perelman School of Medicine or developed by a Penn Medicine alumni. These achievements have placed the Perelman School of Medicine in the top three medical schools in the country. 

With that being said, many prospective students are trying to be a part of the Penn Medicine community. However, the Ivy League institution has set such high standards for applicants that it seems almost impossible to get accepted. With low acceptance rates, there is even more pressure to make your application the one to beat. 

We will provide you with everything you will need to become an unbeatable candidate.

Programs: What Perelman School of Medicine Offers

Every medical school offers diverse programs, and the Perelman School of Medicine is no different. Most of Perelman’s programs are focused on dual concentrations, so there are multiple ways to achieve your medical degree:

The general MD program at Perelman School of Medicine is one of the oldest programs in the United States. It developed the first teaching hospital in the country. Its high standards make it the most challenging program in which to enter. 

The MD/Ph.D. program is known as the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). This program centers around students researching the biomedical sciences to provide knowledge and betterment for humanity. With this program, you will not only receive an MD, but also a Ph.D. through intensive training. Approximately 80% of students who complete the MSTP become physician-scientists in academic medicine, research institutes, or industry.

The MD/JD program allows students to integrate medicine with training in the legal world. The Perelman School of Medicine is one of the only medical schools in the United States that offers this joint program. This program's admission process is different and more intense than the others mentioned; you will have to apply to both the Perelman School of Medicine and Penn Law JD program. Students apply for the JD program within their first year of medical school. The deadline is early March. Students who choose the MD/JD program usually complete both degrees within six years. 

The MD/Master’s program allows you to obtain an MD and a Master’s degree in another concentration. When applying to this program at the Perelman School of Medicine, you will need to notify Admissions of your intent to pursue a dual degree. There are several options available:

MD/Master in Bioethics (MD/MBE) - This combined degree focuses on the ethical, legal, and social challenges faced in the medical field and how these challenges will affect the future. Students who pursue this program will need to follow the regulations and policies of both the Perelman School of Medicine and the Masters of Bioethics program.

MD/Master in Business Administration (MD/MBA) - The MD/MBA program focuses on studying medicine with training in managerial, financial, and technical expertise in the healthcare field. Students will enroll in the Health Care Management major at Wharton School alongside Perelman School of Medicine.

MD/Master in Law (MD/ML) - This program is for Perelman medical and Ph.D. students, post-doctoral researchers, and residents in the Penn Health system who are interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of health law and legal principles. The goal is to help medical students navigate the ever-changing regulations in the medical field. Students will apply to the Perelman School of Medicine and the Master in Law program.

MD/Master in Public Health (MD/MPH) - This program specializes in population and community health. The goal is to provide interdisciplinary training in which students are interested, such as clinical practice and health education.

MD/Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology (MD/MSCE) - If you are interested in clinical research on an academic level, then this program is the one to consider. This program enables graduates to have a successful career as independent academic clinical investigators.

MD/Master of Science in Health Policy Research (MD/MSHP) - This program combines the medical degree from Perelman School of Medicine with the Department of Health Care Systems at the Wharton School and the Leonard Davis Institute (LDI). The program’s primary goal is to train investigators in health services and policy research. Students who complete this program are suited for careers in academia, non-profit organizations, and health policy.

MD/Master of Science in Medical Ethics (MD/MSME) - The MD/MSME program provides intensive training in bioethics for medical students interested in becoming academic bioethicists. The MD/MSME program is different from the MD/MBE program in that the MD/MSME program is better suited for students interested in pursuing bioethics academically rather than socially.

MD/Master of Science in Translational Research (MD/MSTR) - This program provides medical students with the knowledge and extensive training to become excellent translational investigators. The MD/MSTR program aims to produce junior translational researchers knowledgeable about the complex issues associated with conducting sound translational research.

Each combination of programs will center around different aspects of the medical field, so you will want to make sure you find a degree combination that fits your goals at Perelman School of Medicine.

With every program offered at Perelman School of Medicine, you have a chance to earn certificates in specialized concentrations. Some certifications offered include Clinical Neuroscience and Research.

Admission Process: What You Will Need

Whether you choose to pursue a dual-degree program or just the MD program, you will still need to apply through the Perelman School of Medicine through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). Penn Medicine recommends applying as early as possible and submitting all 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

Be aware that there is no transfer admissions program at the Perelman School of Medicine. Once you have the required materials, your application will be ready to submit. Remember, you have only one chance to apply each year, so make sure you have everything ready in advance. Failure to provide any of the materials listed will delay your application review or the application’s rejection.  

Transcripts and Required Coursework for Perelman School of Medicine

The Perelman School of Medicine stresses that students must have a broad span of knowledge in the sciences. The admissions committee will be reviewing the coursework and the cumulative achievement of knowledge and skills required to become a physician. All applicants must have a BS or BA from an accredited university in the United States or Canada before applying. If you have received an undergraduate degree from a foreign institution, you must complete one year of science coursework at a university within the United States before applying to the Perelman School of Medicine. The following is the admission competencies required by Penn Medicine from applicants:

English/Communication - Prospective 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 also helpful; however, Penn Medicine recommends English as the primary language.

Biology - The Admissions Committee is not expecting you to be an expert in biology before entering medical school; however, they want prospective students to have a basic understanding of biological principles, such as basic molecular and cellular function and basic biological concepts shared by all living organisms.

Chemistry - Applicants should have taken multiple chemistry courses before applying for medical school. Competencies in chemistry include an understanding of 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 demonstrate a deeper understanding of physics in the coursework. Similarly, math courses such as statistics and algebra are mandatory as well. Your application should show math and science prowess.

Behavioral Disciplines - Candidates must demonstrate an understanding of societal forces on the development of and delivery of health care and research. This understanding can come from various courses in 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. To put it simply: your undergraduate work should demonstrate rigorous science preparation. 

MCAT Scores: How Important Is It?

Your coursework will show the admissions committee at Perelman School of Medicine you studied the necessary material required. Still, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) Exam will be the time to demonstrate your knowledge. The MCAT exam is a multiple-choice exam medical school admissions offices use to assess applicants’ skills before medical school. The average MCAT score reported for entering candidates at Perelman School of Medicine is 521. Applicants are required to take the MCAT within three years of applying to Perelman School of Medicine. The MCAT is your chance to prove your understanding of the fundamental principles and skills required for medical school.

Letters of Recommendation

The next most important item to include in your application to Perelman School of Medicine is recommendation letters. Adding letters of recommendation are a buffer to your application because the admissions committee gets a better understanding of who you are as a person. All letters of recommendation are submitted through the AMCAS. While there is no word count limit, applicants must provide three letters but no more than ten letters total through the AMCAS Letter Writer Application. All letters of recommendation must all be signed and written on official stationery. 

If the letters of recommendation come from faculty members, it must be from someone who knows you well. One letter must come from a science faculty member with whom you taken a class. If letters of recommendation come from a composite or committee, they may submit individual letters or a letter packet. A helpful trick with letters of recommendation is to give the writers a short synopsis highlighting key moments when working with or learning from them. This will remind them of some characteristics about you that they will translate in their letter. Because writers need ample time to write letters of recommendation, you should start as early as possible so the letters of recommendation are complete before the application deadline.

Work Experiences: What Should They Demonstrate?

The work experience you compile prior to medical school is a significant indicator of your character and skills. You want to demonstrate abilities that are translatable into the medical field and show your passion for medicine. You will expand on your work experience in your personal statement, so your work experience can be framed like a resume. 

Research experience is almost essential when applying to the Perelman School of Medicine. Last year, over 97% of entering students had research experience. While you don’t have to participate in several research projects, you will want to include one or two high-quality research projects. If you don’t have research experience but would like to gain some, you can look for research opportunities at local universities or colleges near you.

Shadowing is another work experience you must have in your arsenal. While it is not technically mandatory to shadow a physician, admissions committees highly recommend shadowing experience. 83% of Perelman’s students had shadowing and clinical research experience. It gives the admissions committee a better understanding of your passion for medicine and the experience that helped lead you to pursue medical school. 

When deciding on what work experience you should do to bolster your application, you must consider the experience's quality rather than the quantity. The admissions committee at Perelman School of Medicine will look more favorably on an applicant with only a few high-quality experiences listed compared to one with many experiences that do not demonstrate their abilities. Be aware that you do not have to go into too much detail with your work experiences. You will have a chance to do so later when you submit your secondary application.

Secondary Application: Essays

While your personal statement is part of the initial application process for Perelman School of Medicine, your medical school secondary essays are essential to the secondary application. You will complete the essays after you have passed the first round of the review process. The writing prompts help the admissions committee determine if you are serious about medical school and whether you are a good fit for Penn Medicine. Here are a few examples of previous essay prompts from the Perelman School of Medicine:

Are there any special, unique, personal, or challenging aspects of your personal background or circumstances that you would like to share with the Committee on Admissions, not addressed elsewhere (siblings/relatives at Penn, applying as a couple, educational environment, culture, ethnicity, etc.)? Please explain and limit your response to 1,000 characters.

Have you participated in any global activities outside of the U.S. prior to submitting your AMCAS application? If so, explain in 1,000 characters or less.

Please explain your reasons for applying to the Perelman School of Medicine and limit your response to 1,000 characters.

As you can see, the prompts are fairly general, so you will have more freedom to discuss your interests and motivations. With that being said, you must remember to answer the essay prompt fully. There is not much room to write, so make sure you are clear and concise while answering the prompt thoroughly.   

Interview Process at Perelman School of Medicine

Interviews are granted by invitation only, and they occur between September and January. The Office of Admissions determines the will select the date and time for your one-on-one interviews. It will be a single, standard interview rather than multiple mini-interviews. MD/Ph.D. interviews will be scheduled by a graduate group in conjunction with medical school interviews. You must interview to be offered admission at the Perelman School of Medicine.

Interviewers will ask questions relating to medical school and your application. You will want to be as clear and concise as possible because you will have a limited amount of time to answer each question. If you are hesitant about the interview process, we offer mock interviews to give you an idea of what to expect. Your interview is your chance to show the committee that you are passionate about medicine and that you possess the knowledge and skills necessary to be a part of the UPenn community. The committee will determine final offers of admission to the Perelman School of Medicine after a comprehensive review of the potential candidate’s application.

Acceptance Statistics for Perelman School of Medicine

While Perelman School of Medicine receives many applications, the limited spots available make it one of the most competitive schools in the United States. UPenn Medicine has a 4% acceptance rate, which means that out of the thousands of applications received every year, no more than 150 students gain admittance. This may seem alarming, but one positive result of the low admittance is the higher faculty to student ratio. Perelman School of Medicine has one of the highest faculty-student ratios at 4.3:1. Compare this to other top ranking medical schools such as John Hopkins University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, which have a ratio of 4.8:1 and 13.1:1 respectively.

Tuition & Scholarships for Perelman School of Medicine

Medical school isn’t cheap, in fact, tuition alone for a full-time student at Perelman School of Medicine, is $59,910. This amount does not include books, materials, or living expenses. Here is a breakdown of fees for Perelman School of Medicine and the average cost of one academic year:

While you can save money in certain areas, such as food and housing, you are looking at paying roughly $93,000 per year. Perelman School of Medicine awards approximately 25 full-tuition scholarships per year, and all students are eligible for these scholarships. Selection criteria includes outstanding academic performance and achievement, a broad range of intellectual interests, demonstrated leadership, commitment to interests other than academic work, and unique life experiences that may contribute to a medical career. Student loans, grants, and scholarship opportunities outside of UPenn Medicine are also available to help ease the costs.

Perelman School of Medicine Application Timeline

When you apply to the Perelman School of Medicine, you need to be aware of your application deadlines. Please keep in mind the following dates:

May: AMCAS application is open.

July-November: Verified AMCAS applications sent to Perelman for review

Early November: Deadline for submitting AMCAS applications

Early December: Deadline to submit all required application materials, MCAT scores, letters of recommendation, etc.

August-January: Applications reviewed by the Admissions Committee

September-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 will result in a delay in its review or an overall rejection. So we cannot stress this enough: keep track of dates and deadlines for your application.


Applying to Perelman School of Medicine seems challenging, but by following this guide, you should have a strong understanding of what it takes to get accepted. The most important thing to remember is to meet all application deadlines. Ideally, you want all of your application materials submitted with time to spare. There are excellent resources available to you. If you are looking for help with your application, we offers application consulting, so you can work one-on-one with an unbiased consultant who will provide feedback on how to enhance your application. So take a deep breath. By starting early and using the right resources, you have a great chance of getting accepted at the Perelman School of Medicine.

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