Applying for Medical School

Applying to medical school is a serious endeavor that takes considerable time and careful preparation. Getting accepted to the right program is no easy feat; the Association of American Medical Colleges has reported that today only approximately half of all medical students who apply are accepted into medical school. Make the effort now to understand how you can prepare to have the best application possible.

Often, medical schools have websites listing the qualities they desire in their students. Some aspects of an applicant, such as college grades, MCAT scores, and research experience, have a strong academic focus. Admissions boards are also interested in a students personal statements on the application, letters of recommendation, and work experience. However, the boards will also try to gain insight into who the applicant is as a person and will conduct interviews to meet candidates face to face.

Medical School Admissions Guidelines Are More Open Than in the Past

Prospective medical school students with keen interest and ability in the science field are highly valued by medical schools, but diversity is also important. If your educational career has been a little science-heavy, consider broadening your focus – whether academic or personal – to cultivate other talents and interests.

Additionally, you should be able to illustrate a long-standing commitment to something, such as the extensive pursuit of a hobby or a lengthy period of volunteerism, to prove youll have the wherewithal to endure medical school. Remember the importance of altruism, as well. Your prior service to others will be a strong indicator of why you may want to become a doctor. Medical schools want to graduate students who truly want to listen to their patients and use the knowledge they gain to help others.

When you are ready to apply for medical school, turn to your college or universitys premedical advisor for assistance with the process. For additional help with the particulars of applying to medical school, consider purchasing the book Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR). The publication helps with application procedures and deadlines, provides medical school class profiles, details program costs and financial aid opportunities, and more.


To gain admission into many medical school programs, a strong grade point average is a principal requirement. Schools may differ as to what they consider an appropriate GPA for entry to their programs, but many set their minimum cutoff at 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. Medical programs want to know their students have a solid academic foundation as they prepare to undertake the rigorous process of learning how to be a doctor.

Traditionally, undergraduate students have majored in subjects like physics or chemistry in preparation for medical school. However, an emerging trend has seen students majoring in liberal arts subjects and still finding their way down the educational path toward becoming a physician. How a person performs academically is often more important that what he or she studied, the Princeton Review explains.

No matter the major, medical schools need to know their prospective students have at least performed well in premed courses such as biology and organic and inorganic chemistry. Those who have not chosen a science major are encouraged to take plenty of science courses outside their primary course of study. Medical schools will consider both a student’s science GPA and his or her overall GPA, but the science GPA will carry more weight.

The Importance of Your GPA Can’t Be Stressed Enough

It is essential to focus early in your college career and to maintain a good GPA throughout your education to help your chances of being accepted to the program of your choice. However, if you had a slow start your freshman year, forinstance, you may still be considered for medical school if you have shown continued improvement as your undergraduate years have progressed. If you had trouble in a particular course, it could still be possible to be accepted to medical school and retake a similar course later.

There are several steps you can take to boost your GPA. Remember that regular class Wattendance is important, and maintain open communication with your instructors. Speak with them directly about any successes or problems you are having in class, and ask about tutoring opportunities or other study resources that could help you improve your grades. Be mindful of scheduling, as well. Don’t overload yourself with classes, and, if possible, reduce the number of hours you work each week. Make sure you have allowed yourself plenty of time to study and improve your chances of success in the courses you are taking.

Your personal health can also greatly affect your performance in school. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or other concerns, seek help dealing with these issues through your school’s counseling center.

Test Scores

When you are trying to get into medical school, the definition of a “good” test score on an exam required to begin your education can vary depending on the school to which you are applying. Generally speaking, students can determine whether their results are among the average for the particular test they are taking by doing a little research. Individuals should inquire with their schools of interest to see if their results are competitive at a particular institution.

Admissions tests such as the MCAT, OAT, or PCAT are administered to give a medical school a resource for determining how successful an applicant could be in their particular program. Having a meaningful comparison of students who have graduated from different undergraduate institutions requires that test results be standardized. Schools set the minimum admission requirements they deem appropriate for their students.

Understanding Medical School Test Scores

On the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), the scores range from a low of 1 to the highest possible score of 15. The average test score is a 24, or an 8 on each section. Competitive applicants at medical schools generally need to score a 10 or 11 on the physical sciences, verbal reasoning, and biological sciences sections. To get into a Top 10 medical school, examinees should strive to earn at least a 12 in each of these three sections. The writing portion of the test is scored using letters J through T, with J being the lowest score and T the highest. An N generally represents an average writing score.

Scores on the Dental Admission Test (DAT) range from 1 to 30, with a score of 17 representing the national average. A student’s results are given in seven separate scores, one each for reading comprehension, perceptual ability, quantitative reasoning, biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry, as well as an Academic Average score, which factors in all sections of the test but perceptual ability.

With the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), scores range from 200 to 400, with 300 representing the average, or 40-to-52 percentile. (The scaled score is also presented with a percentile ranking.) Students will receive separate subscores for these individual disciplines: biology, organic and general chemistry, quantitative reasoning, and reading comprehension.

Like other examinations, the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) has scaled scores and percentile scores for the multiple-choice sections of the test. The scores range from 200 to 600. The writing portion of the test is scored from 1 through 5, with 5 being the “superior” ranking and 1 considered a “weak” score. Pharmacy programs differ in what they consider an acceptable PCAT score, and most consider the test result more seriously than a grade point average.

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is scored separately for all three sections. The verbal and quantitative sections have scaled scores ranging from 200 to 800, and the writing section has a scaled score of 0 to 6. The scaled scores also come with a percentile rank, which helps gauge how the student compares to other test takers.


The essay portion of your medical school application is your chance to sell yourself as an ideal medicalschool candidate and let the admissions committee know more about you and why you are interested in medicine. Crafting a good essay, however, will take some time and forethought. Use these tips to help yourself craft the best statements possible.

Medical School Essay Tips

Remember that you will submit at least two essays during the application process. The personal statement will be about a subject of your choosing. On a secondary application to individual schools, prospective students will be expected to write answers to specific questions. When writing your essays, keep your language simple to prove that as a doctor you will be able to communicate in a clear, efficient, understandable manner with those around you. Above all, remember the ultimate point of your essay: “In the very broadest sense, the focus of all medical school personal statements is “Why I Should Be Accepted to Medical School,'” the Carnegie Mellon Health Professions Program has stated. With this in mind, you will be able to narrow down your subject matter.

Remember that a personal statement is exactly that – personal. You might consider discussing experiences that have shaped your views of medicine, or discussing your relationship with a mentor or other influential person, for example. Try also to share something about yourself that will help you stand out from the crowd, but strive to balance your achievements with a little humility. The Princeton Review has advised applicants, “Beware of being too self-congratulatory or too self-deprecating.”


While the personal elements of your essay are important, bear in mind that you will need to follow basic rules of grammar and strong writing, as well. Good transition sentences are essential to helping your piece flow well. The last sentence of a paragraph should be related somehow to the first sentence of the next paragraph. You should also ensure that you have provided sufficient details to flesh out any ideas you raise in your work. Do not assume the reader knows what you are talking about. As you work, check for correct punctuation in your writing, and beware of sentence fragments or run-on sentences. Be sure you have followed any other formatting requirements for your essays, such as having the correct font and margin sizes.

The time you invest in your personal statement may make it difficult for you to spot errors when you finish writing. Seek feedback from people you trust, those whose writing skills will truly help you turn in a quality essay. Make sure you allow proofreaders plenty of time to do a thorough job of reviewing your statement.


As with a job interview, the interview portion of applying to medical school can feel nerve-wracking.That doesn’t have to be the case, however. Understanding more about how and why the interviews are conducted can do a great deal to ease one’s nerves.

  • While policies can vary slightly from one institution to another, there are some common interview formats utilized by medical schools. You will likely be interviewed by faculty members and representatives from the Student Affairs and Admissions departments. Some schools enlist the help of upper-level medical students, as well.
  • The interviews may be conducted in a one-on-one setting, or you may sit before a panel of interviewers. Other schools interview a group of candidates simultaneously.

Medical School Interview Tips

Generally speaking, this is the school’s chance to get a better picture of you as a person, beyond what they know about you on paper. How you respond to this situation will be important. Do your best to make yourself feel at ease during this big event. Take your time answering questions, and be honest if you don’t know the answer to something. The interviewers are more interested in how you articulate yourself, how mature you are, and how well you think on your feet. Feeling stressed by the interview is normal and to be expected. In fact, those who do not show some signs of nerves may be perceived as overconfident or even uninterested in the program.

While it is not unheard of for interviewers to purposely try to make an interviewee nervous during a meeting like this, remember that many interviews will not be pressure-driven situations. According to the Princeton Review, you might often “hear less about the good experiences than you do the bad ones.” Those who feel completely flummoxed during an interview are frequently accepted to a program anyway. You can help yourself by reviewing your application materials again before your interview day, familiarizing yourself with the requirements of the school, and staying abreast of prevalent issues in healthcare. Have some idea of what you would like to say if you are asked a specific question, but be careful that you do not become too rehearsed. “Authenticity is crucial. Say what you think, and you will do well,” says the Princeton Review.

Regardless of how promising it is to receive an invitation to an interview, there is still no guarantee you will be accepted to a particular program unless you continue to perform well through the end of the application process. The programs that are unsure whether they will accept you will likely place you on a “hold” list until they have interviewed all of their candidates and will then make a final decision on your case. Remember to send thank-you letters to schools that interview you. It is also appropriate to carefully choose and submit supplemental material to boost your chances of winning acceptance to the school of your choice. A short description of any recent extracurricular or academic achievements, for example, could be a good addition. Use discretion, however, and don’t send excessive supplemental materials to your application.

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