How to Get Into Medical School?
Reviewed By: Dr. Jordan Bilezikian
Despite countless hopefuls wanting to become a part of the medical field, US News reports the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates only 41% of applicants get into medical school. Many students are curious how to get into medical school. We’re here to help.
Most candidates will have excellent MCAT scores and unblemished GPAs. Your biggest challenge when figuring out how to get into med school will be finding a way to stand out amongst other applicants.
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From selecting the proper college and major to getting medical experience and spending some time volunteering, there are many unique paths you can take to make yourself a unique candidate.
Whether you’re a high schooler just starting your journey or a pre-med major hoping to become a doctor, to get into medical school you have to find a way to make yourself stand out.
Summary: Learn about how to get into medical school. If you are preparing for your MCAT, consider using a best MCAT prep course.
Key Characteristics of Good Medical School Candidates
Though many school counselors have told you the cliché of being a “well-rounded student,” they aren’t wrong. Many medical schools look for applicants who choose to be involved in many different activities on top of having good academics. Below are some options to pick from to make yourself a better candidate.
Having above-average grades is a must if you want to attend medical school. Why is your GPA so important when applying to medical school? A high GPA shows that you are not only intelligent but also a diligent and hardworking individual, which are all good characteristics. It is generally recommended that you have a GPA of at least 3.0 or higher, though most programs look for 3.5 or better.
With so many clubs, groups, and sports to join, how can you determine which will be best for your med school application? The best choice is an extra-curricular activity you can excel in and one that shows your personality. Examples include:
- Varsity or intermural sports
- Theatrical or artistic clubs and activities
- Planning and event committees (such as a class council)
- Academic clubs and teams
- Activist or awareness clubs
If clubs and teams aren’t your style, another extra-curricular activity that looks great on medical school applications is volunteering. It takes little experience and expertise to volunteer, and there are often many places or events to volunteer at when you’re in college.
Remember, extra-curricular activities cannot replace poor academics, so manage your time well.
Majors and Classes
What majors and classes should you focus on to give yourself the best chance of getting into medical school? The answer isn’t as clear-cut as once believed.
A common myth is that you have to study a STEM major if you want to go to medical school. However, students who study writing, languages, business, and other majors are just as likely to get into medical school. Focusing on these science classes is important, however:
Do some research and learn which classes are most important to the medical field you want to go into to better your chances of getting into med school.
Becoming a well-rounded student is important to get your foot in the door with most medical schools, but preparing yourself properly is another important part of the application process.
How to Prepare for Med School Applications?
This may be one of the longest and most stressful times in a student’s life. However, there are some measures you can take as a student to help them prepare for their med school applications.
There are numerous ways to get experience to help boost your résumé beyond academics and extra-curricular activities. One of which is getting real-world practice as a medical professional. College students have summers off, and some colleges even offer internships and practicums during the semester.
Finding a way to get work in the medical field during these times can be a crucial part of your application to med school.
Another way to get your application noticed is to complete research. Oftentimes, professors look for students or teaching assistants to help them complete some research they are conducting. If not, you can always suggest a research project to them, and they can help you get started.
It is never too soon to begin studying for your MCAT since it is such a major part of getting into medical schools. Even if you are only in high school, there are ways you can begin preparing yourself to get ahead of the game. The MCAT focuses on these four sections:
- Biological and biochemical foundations of living systems
- Chemical and physical foundations of biological systems
- Psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior
- Critical analysis and reasoning skills
The MCAT can be taken multiple times, so do not stress if your first results are sub-par. Some medical schools will average your scores and others will look at the highest, so do try to go in prepared and answer the questions to the best of your abilities.
Use our free MCAT practice tests to help prepare.
Prepare for Interviews
The purpose of interviews conducted by medical schools is to get to know who you are and if you would be a good fit. There are some steps you can take to be sure you will make a good impression on the medical schools.
Knowing what sets you apart is important to highlight. Everyone will have good grades and strong leadership skills, so it is better to talk about experiences you have had than to focus heavily on skills you have developed. Showing them you are a qualified candidate is much stronger than telling them you are.
It is also important to get an idea of the questions they may ask during an interview so you can prepare answers beforehand. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) suggests these common question-areas you may be asked during a medical school interview:
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Ethical scenarios and questions
- Questions about grades and test scores
- Personal attributes and experiences, including philosophical views
- Career choice (i.e., why do you want to be a doctor?)
- Why you are a good fit for that medical school
Be sure to be as honest as possible during your medical school interview. It is more important to be at the right medical school than to just get into one.
Be Proud, Not Boastful
Interviews are the perfect time to brag about everything you’ve done that contributes to your med school application. However, if you talk too much about yourself, you will come off as conceited and arrogant. Find a way to be proud of your achievements without sounding narcissistic.
Creating a portfolio website that shows all your accomplishments and experiences may be a good way to do so. Your application reviewers will be able to get a good sense of who you are and what you have done before even talking to you.
Research Medical Schools
When figuring out how to get into med school, it is important to research different options. Be sure to consider the following:
- Areas of expertise
- Connections to residency programs
According to AAMC, most students apply to 16 medical schools. Know that the more schools you apply to, the better your chances are of getting into one of them.
There are also tools out there to help you decide which medical school is right for you by comparing schools side-by-side.
Though there are many ways to get prepared to apply to medical schools, you may still be feeling a little lost. Not to worry, there are plenty of steps you can take to get questions answered.
Ask for Assistance
Do not be tricked into thinking this is a process you have to go through alone. Not only are there numerous tools to help you successfully apply to medical school, but there are also plenty of people who have been placed in your life who are more than willing to help you succeed.
Typically, every major has an advisor that helps you schedule classes and checks in to make sure you are on the right path to graduate. If someone willing to help you succeed, your advisor is the best person out there.
Don’t be afraid to ask them for a reference letter to go with your application or even to give the medical school a call to put in a good word for you. They can serve as a character reference to attest to your greatest strengths.
Some of your professors may have experienced what you are about to go through if they are practicing or have practiced medicine. If you are feeling lost in the process, they may be able to point you in the right direction and give you insider advice.
Professors can also be great character references for your medical school application, and they may even have connections at the medical school.
Many students use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) to apply to medical schools. This tool not only collects information and test scores for medical school applications but also verifies the information before sending it to your med schools.
There is a cost to the AMCAS, but you can apply to an assistance program through the AAMC to help pay the fees so you have access to the same tools as other applicants.
Getting into medical school is a rigorous process that takes several years to complete. The earlier you start, the better leg-up you will have in getting into medical school. The main way to look best on your med school applications is to stand out amongst the other candidates by creating a unique path to your dream medical school.
How to Get Into Medical School FAQs
What GPA do I need to get into med school?
Can any major get into med school?
Can I get into med school at 30?
Official Resources for How to Get Into Medical School
Here are some important resources from the AAMC to help you with your journey to medical school: