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How to Apply to Medical School
Applying to medical school can get confusing fast. Between keeping track of all the materials you need to submit and knowing which medical schools to apply to, it can become overwhelming. In this article we will break down how to apply to medical school and some helpful tips along the way. So, let’s jump in!
Before you apply…
Before we jump in, let’s make a quick note of what you need to do before applying to medical school. Your first step on the road to medical school is receiving an undergraduate degree. Your undergraduate degree does not need to be in anything specific. As long as you complete the necessary prerequisite classes in addition to your degree. Our article assumes you have done this step or are at least in the process of doing so, so we won’t spend much time talking about this step.
How do I apply to med school?
When applying to medical school, you’ll complete a primary application and a secondary application. Think of the primary application as the Common App for medical schools and the secondary application as the specific application from each school.
There are three main primary applications:
Depending on your goals, you may submit just one of these applications, or multiple. Fortunately, each application requires you to submit similar materials. After your primary application is verified, it will be sent out to every school you have indicated.
You’ll then receive a secondary application from most schools. Note that some schools automatically filter applications that don’t meet certain GPA and MCAT cutoffs, so you may not receive a secondary application from every school. These secondary applications, otherwise known as supplemental applications, comprise various school-specific essay prompts. Below we’ll dive into the specific components that make up med school applications.
What are med school application requirements?
There are a variety of factors that medical schools consider when evaluating applicants. Medical schools are interested in your academic strength, your personal interests, and what other people have to say about you. To make things digestible, keep in mind that medical school applications are evaluated according to the following factors:
- Personal Statement
- Recommendation Letters
Some factors are weighed more heavily than others, but a winning application will successfully hit on all of these requirements. Let’s explore each application requirement more in-depth.
Having a strong GPA will help you out enormously when applying to med school. Your primary goal during your undergraduate years should be to excel academically and build a high GPA. Most medical schools require you to have a minimum 3.0 GPA to apply, but you’ll need at least a 3.5 GPA to be a competitive applicant at many schools.
Another major factor in the medical school admissions process is the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Similar to how you take the SAT to gain admission to undergraduate schools, you’ll have to take the MCAT when applying to medical schools. This standardized exam consists of the following four sections:
- Critical Analysis and Reading Skills (CARS)
To apply to certain medical schools, you’ll need to meet minimum MCAT score requirements. As such, it’s important to score as highly as possible so that you have options when applying to med schools.
Also read: Top STEM scholarships
While not as important as GPA and MCAT scores, extracurricular activities are a crucial part of your application as well. To demonstrate their interest in medicine, pre-med students typically volunteer or get a paid job at a medical facility during their undergrad years. You should absolutely consider gaining experience in a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or hospice care facility. Medical schools favor applicants who have engaged in any of the following activities:
- Shadowing physicians
- Clinical experience
- Volunteering / community service
Keep in mind that medical schools are looking for extracurricular activities that demonstrate leadership, compassion, thoughtfulness, and interpersonal skills. So you’ll want to be able to explain how your activities have impacted you and shaped you as a person. AAMC has compiled a list of 15 core competencies that medical schools look for in their applicants.
This is another pivotal factor in medical school admissions decisions. The personal statement is a 1.5-page narrative essay in which you explore the events in your life that inspired you to pursue medicine. During your primary application, you will complete the narrative essay. You can write your essay on any topic as long as it reflects your personality and highlights why you want to be a doctor.
Consider these questions
- Being a doctor is not an easy profession, what motivates you to become a doctor?
- What experiences have you had that you think have helped prepare you for medical school?
- When did you become interested in studying medicine?
In your essay try not to just talk about your qualifications, the jobs you’ve had in clinical settings and the patient care experience you might have. A college will already have seen those things on your application. Your essay is a chance to express the things about you that your application doesn’t already show. Visit Prospective Doctor for tips on writing your personal statement.
Letters of Recommendation
Most medical schools require three letters of recommendation. This typically includes two letters from science professors and one from a non-science professor. These letters give medical schools an opportunity to hear what others think of you as a student and a person. Strong letters of recommendation can give your application that extra boost it needs, so make sure to request recommendations from faculty members who know you well. These AAMC guidelines are useful for faculty members who aren’t sure what to address in their letters.
You’re almost there! If you’ve made it to the interview step of your application, you are doing well! The interview is traditionally the last major step in the application process. While not every school requires an interview, and those that do may conduct them differently, it is still good to be familiar with this step of the process in case it does come up.
A medical school interview is meant to give the school a more thorough sense of who you are and why you want to attend their school. Be sure of yourself and the things that have kept you going through this process. If possible, speak with someone who has been through the interview process on either side and ask for advice about how you can best prepare.
Okay, we know that this article was a lot! If you feel a little intimidated, that’s okay. Keep in mind, though, that this is not an overnight process. Your application is something you will be thinking about long before it’s due. If you remain on top of things, you will have plenty of time to write your personal statement, ask for letters of recommendation and seek advice where you need it. So, take a deep breath and try to enjoy the process, because after it’s all over, you’ll hopefully be accepted to a medical school where the real work will begin!
See also: Top medical school scholarships
Frequently asked questions about how to apply for medical school
How long should I study for the MCAT?
What is a good MCAT score?
What is the process of getting into medical school?
How do you pay for medical school?