How To Get Into UCSF Medical School: A Guide For Applicants

April 1, 2024


Reviewed by:

Luke Hartstein

Former Admissions Committee Member, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Reviewed: 10/10/23

Inspira Advantage makes getting into UCSF easier. Read on to learn more about the UCSF’s acceptance rate, requirements, secondary application essays, and more!

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The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine is one of the country’s best medical schools. In recent rankings, U.S. News reported the school as #5 in both primary care and research.. With such high rankings, it is no surprise that many students have UCSF on their school lists. 

Applying to medical school can seem daunting, especially to a school with such high rankings and standards, but we’re here to put you at ease. Our team at Inspira Advantage understands what top medical schools like UCSF look for in applicants, evidenced by messages we receive such as this one: 

Message of a student who got into UCSF medical school with the help of Inspira Advantage.

Are you ready to join the UCSF? This guide will provide all the information you need to learn how to get into UCSF Medical School.  

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Programs Offered at UCSF School of Medicine

UCSF medical school offers nine MD tracks for college graduates, including: 

1) Traditional MD: Follows the Bridges curriculum, allowing students to learn foundational science concepts blended with clinical experience across four years. 

2) MD/Masters in Advanced Studies (MD/MAS): This program is meant for students interested in an intensive clinical research experience. 

3) MD with Distinction: The Distinction in Yearlong Research is available for students pursuing research/scholarship projects spanning 12 months, allowing them to take a leave of absence from enrollment. 

4) Medical Scientists Training Program (MSTP): The MD/PhD program prepares students for fulfilling careers as physician-scientists.  

Image outlining how many programs are offered at UCSF School of Medicine.

5) UC Berkeley - UCSF Joint Medical Program (MD, MS): A five-year graduate program allowing students to spend pre-clerkship years at UC Berkeley while completing a master’s degree before finishing their medical education at UCSF. 

6) MD/Masters of Public Health (MPH) Program: Students can choose to earn an MPH before or after the last two years of the MD program. 

7) Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US): A five-year track designed for students passionate about working with underserved urban populations. 

8) UCSF San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV PRIME): Similar to the PRIME-US program, SJV PRIME is meant for students committed to providing high-quality care to communities in California’s San Joaquin Valley. 

9) MD-PhD in History of Health Sciences: Students complete two or three years of the medical school curriculum before joining the History of Health Sciences PhD program.

10) Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS): While this degree is actually offered under the UCSF School of Dentistry, not the School of Medicine, it's a great program for anyone interested in dental medicine.

No matter what your educational goals or career aspirations are, UCSF offers something for everyone. 

UCSF Medical School Acceptance Rate & Admission Stats

Class profiles can tell you more about the students that medical schools admit. UCSF’s recent class profile data on first-year students shows that:

  • The class’ median GPA is 3.88; 
  • The median MCAT score is the 93rd percentile (516); 
  • 59% of students are women; 
  • 78% of students are California residents. 

Although there’s no data listed about the UCSF average MCAT score or GPA, identifying if your stats are close to these medians will help you determine your competitiveness. 

UCSF Medical School Acceptance Rate 

Data from 2023 shows that the UCSF medical school acceptance rate is around 2.8%. The class profile show: 

  • 8,774 students applied;
  • 545 applicants interviewed; and, 
  • 157 students enrolled.

UCSF’s low acceptance rate makes it one of the country’s most selective medical schools.

UCSF Med School Out-of-State Acceptance Rate

Recent class profile data showed that 78% of the enrolling class are California residents, meaning the other 22% comprise out-of-state students. While there isn’t an explicit UCSF acceptance rate for out-of-state students, we can assume it’s lower than the overall 2.8% based on these stats. 

Is UCSF Medical School Hard to Get Into? 

UCSF is among the country’s 20 hardest medical schools to get into, although some other schools in the UC system have slightly lower acceptance rates. While getting into UCSF is difficult, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. 

Suggested reading: The Top Med Schools in California

If you get through the secondary application screening and are invited to interview, you have a much higher chance of getting in. UCSF is highly selective, but remember that acceptance rates only measure the volume of applications, not their quality. Instead of lingering on statistics, your energy is better directed toward perfecting your application!

UCSF Medical School Requirements

Meeting admissions requirements is crucial to producing a complete and competitive application. These are the main UCSF medical school requirements for a complete application: 

  • Course requirements
  • Exceed the cutoff GPA requirement
  • MCAT scores
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Work experience/activities

UCSF Med School Course Requirements

One of the key UCSF medical school prerequisites applicants must have is a four-year undergraduate degree before applying. Students from all disciplines are welcome to apply, but they must complete these UCSF med school prerequisites

  • One year of biology with lab (may include biochemistry); 
  • One year of chemistry with lab (including at least one semester of organic chemistry, and may also include biochemistry);
  • At least one course in biochemistry; and, 
  • One semester of physics. 

These are the minimum UCSF medical school course requirements, but UCSF states that “most successful applicants will have taken at least one upper level biology course (e.g., biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, immunology, etc.) as well as a full year of organic chemistry.” 

Suggested reading: California’s Top Pre-Med Colleges

Image outlining the course requirements to get into UCSF Medical School.

The admissions committee also seeks students with a well-rounded transcript, including excellence in humanities and foreign language courses. 

GPA Requirements for UCSF Med School

Many medical schools consider academic excellence as an essential selection factor, which means that your GPA will be of great interest to admissions teams. Many excellent resources are available that explain med school GPA requirements so you don’t have to go through the process alone.  

For UCSF, they evaluate your GPA in the context of factors such as: 

  • Course difficulty; 
  • Number of units attempted; and, 
  • The applicant’s background. 

In 2023, UCSF med school’s average GPA was approximately 3.88. The school has stated that applicants with a GPA lower than 3.2 “generally are not considered favorably for admission.” If you have a lower GPA this does not automatically mean you will not be accepted to med school. There are some great resources available to you to help you apply to med school with a lower GPA.  

What GPA is Required for UCSF? 

A 3.2 GPA isn’t necessarily a cutoff; UCSF states that nontraditional applicants shouldn’t be discouraged or take courses exclusively to boost their GPA. We do, however, recommend applying with a GPA higher than 3.2, ideally close to the median of 3.88 or higher is ideal. 

MCAT Scores

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required to apply to UCSF Medical School. The exam’s purpose is to assess your problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills, and overall knowledge of biological, behavioral, and social sciences. 

Prospective students are allowed to take the MCAT multiple times. UCSF medical school will, however, look at the most recent scores. The MCAT must be taken within three years from the date you plan to apply to medical school. 

What MCAT Score Do I Need for UCSF? 

UCSF doesn’t have an MCAT score cutoff. Although class profile data doesn’t share the UCSF medical school average MCAT score, but the median score is 516. We recommend applying with an MCAT score that meets or exceeds 516 for your best shot at acceptance. 

Letters of Recommendation 

Letters of recommendation are sent to UCSF in the secondary application. Applicants are required to submit three to five recommendations, two of which must come from previous instructors. UCSF accepts only one set of letters no matter how many programs an applicant applies to. These letters are submitted through AMCAS

Your letters of recommendation should discuss you, your contributions, and your passions. Any achievements in the science field are of particular interest to the admissions committee and should be included in the letters. 

Sending writers a short synopsis about yourself and your achievements can direct them to what you want to be included in your recommendations. Character references and recommendations from family and friends are generally not considered valid, so focus on getting letters of recommendation from previous instructors, mentors, and coworkers.

Work Experiences/Activities 

Although there aren’t necessarily explicit UCSF medical school prerequisites related to work and activities, clinical and/or research experience can be vital to your application. They can be a defining factor of your application because the admissions committee will see that you’ve applied your knowledge in real situations and have tested your motivation to attend med school. 

Demonstrating interest in patient care reiterates UCSF’s mission statement and appeals to admissions teams. Excellent activities and work experience for medical school include: 

  • Shadowing a physician
  • Volunteer work (medical or non-medical);
  • Clinical experiences (paid or unpaid);
  • Research experience; and, 
  • Experiences focused on patient exposure. 

Volunteering for med school is a great way to bolster your application. Medical school students participate in research projects throughout the MD program, so previous experience can help move your application forward. Check local colleges and universities for research opportunities near you. 

UCSF Medical School Secondary Application Essays & Tips to Write Them

Compared to other top medical schools like Harvard and Perelman, the UCSF medical school secondary application is short. There are three essay questions, and each must be no more than 500 words. Your responses must be concise but include as much detail as possible. 

This may seem tricky, but preparing for the essays ahead of time will give you an advantage when it comes time to complete them. The admissions committee reviews secondary applications on a first-come basis, so completing your essays as quickly as possible–without losing the integrity of your writing–is highly recommended.

These are the most recent UCSF medical school secondary application questions and tips on how to formulate your answers. 

1. If you wish to update or expand upon your activities, you may provide additional information below.” (500 words)

Don’t let the wording fool you: you must answer this prompt. Even though you have discussed activities earlier in your AMCAS application and personal statement, this is another chance for you to further expand upon them. 

If possible, discuss an experience you haven’t touched on already. If you’re struggling to find a new experience to discuss, it’s ok to reuse an experience from your primary application if you focus on a different aspect of that experience. 

For example, if you discussed the success of a research project in your primary application, you could discuss the challenges in your secondary, what you learned from the experience, and how you overcame the obstacles you faced. Always keep content original, straightforward, and tailored to what UCSF desires in applicants.

2. “If you are a 2023 or earlier college graduate, please use the space below to tell us what you have done since completing your undergraduate degree.” (350 words)

If you took a gap year, time off between completing your undergraduate degree and applying to medical school, this question aims to determine how you spent your time. You’ll need to prove to the admissions committee that you used this time wisely to strengthen your application. 

Showing your continuous pursuits reveals your passion for and dedication to medicine. What’s important here is that you only include relevant experiences. Focus on what you pursued to make yourself a stronger applicant. Research, shadowing, clinical experience, and volunteer work all count as time well spent. 

3. “Do you identify as being part of a marginalized group socioeconomically or in terms of access to quality education or healthcare? Please describe how this inequity has impacted you and your community.” (350 words)

Feel free to skip this one if you don’t come from a marginalized or underprivileged background. If you do, write solely about your experiences connected to these backgrounds/identities. Unlike a standard diversity essay, you can’t pick any identity here to expand on. 

The best way to answer the UCSF School of Medicine secondary application questions is to be straightforward and convincing. Highlight your qualities and tie the answer back to your passion for medicine and why you’re an excellent candidate.

UCSF Medical School Interview Process

If you are selected to interview, it means the admissions committee at UCSF sees great potential in you. The UCSF medical school interview typically encompasses two 40-minute interviews. Interview lengths can vary. 

Interviews at UCSF medical school are closed-file, meaning the interviewer comes into the interview knowing only your name. They’ll ask standard questions, and you’ll answer by highlighting the key aspects of your application. 

Don’t regurgitate what you mentioned in your primary and secondary applications. Instead, speak naturally and ensure you’re not over-rehearsed. Ensure you discuss your achievements, work experiences, why you want to study medicine, and why you want to attend UCSF medical school. 

UCSF School of Medicine Admissions Deadline and Timeline

Applicants must apply through the American Medical College Association Services (AMCAS). Once AMCAS verifies the application, they will send it to the UCSF School of Medicine, and the admissions committee will conduct a preliminary review. 

After initial screening, the admissions committee will send selected candidates a supplemental application. Applicants have approximately three to ten weeks to complete the secondary application, but it’s best to finish them as soon as possible. Chosen candidates are invited for UCSF School of Medicine interviews.  

There is a general timeline prospective students should follow when applying, even though programs can have different deadlines. Please be aware that the following deadlines are subject to change by the admissions committee at any given time:

Month Description
May AMCAS opens
June You can begin submitting AMCAS applications
July AMCAS application review begins
September MCAT scores due
Mid-October AMCAS submission deadline
December to April Admissions decisions released

UCSF has rolling admissions, so it’s always best to submit your applications as soon as possible (without sacrificing quality)!

UCSF Medical School Tuition and Scholarships

Medical school isn’t cheap, but UCSF medical school offers scholarships and financial aid to its students to help cover the costs. But how much does UCSF medical school cost? Here’s a breakdown of the current tuition fees and expenses for UCSF School of Medicine:

Fee Type Annual Cost
Student Services Fee $1,152
Tuition $11,700
Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition $25,221
Community Centers Facility Fee $198
Graduate and Professional Student Association $27
Associated Students of School of Medicine $39
Student Health Insurance Premium $6,569
Student Health and Counseling Supplemental Fee $177
Disability Insurance - MD Students $41
California Resident Total $45,124
Nonresident Supplemental Tuition $12,245
California Nonresident Total $57,369

Source: UCSF School of Medicine

Tuition at UCSF can be more affordable with careful planning. Select programs offer half to full tuition coverage based on a student’s academic standing. Apart from student loans, there are scholarships available to all entering and continuing MD students.

UCSF also offers financial aid for entering students apart from FAFSA. The UCSF Finaid/Cost of Living Supplement (COLS) is an opportunity for incoming students to receive basic, full, or COLS funding. College Scholarship Service (CSS) Financial Aid is also available for students who require full funding. 

Infographic outlining the different financial aid options

Financial aid through UCSF is not the only option for help with the cost of going to medical school. As our infographic (above) shows, there are some great options available to help students. 

UCSF Application FAQs 

Do you still have questions about getting into UCSF medical school? Read on to get all your burning questions answered! 

1. What’s the Average GPA of Incoming UCSF Students? 

UCSF doesn’t release GPA averages, but the median GPA of incoming students is 3.88. 

2. What Does UCSF Look for in Applicants? 

UCSF looks for students who demonstrate “intellectual and personal characteristics that the admissions committee regards as desirable.” All application components help the admissions committee select students. 

3. What Is UCSF School of Medicine’s Acceptance Rate? 

UCSF School of Medicine’s acceptance rate is 2.8%.

4. Does UCSF Require MCAT Scores? 

Yes, UCSF requires MCAT scores from all applicants. The admissions committee evaluates your most recent score. 

5. Does UCSF Have a GPA Requirement? 

While not a formal cutoff, applicants with a GPA below 3.2 are generally not looked upon favorably in the admissions process. 

Get Into UCSF Medical School and Study in the Golden State

UCSF medical school is, indeed, a competitive school, but going into the application process prepared gives you an advantage over other candidates. By going beyond the expectations and requirements set, you’re one step ahead of the competition.

Preparing the ultimate UCSF School of Medicine application takes time and dedication. With the tips above, you can confidently answer how to get into UCSF Medical School. Now that you’ve read through our guide, you know what it takes to get into UCSF medical school! 

Best of luck.

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