Columbia medical school is one of the most prestigious medical schools in New York, and one of the Ivy League medical schools. Its medical programs remain highly competitive to this day, with approximately 8,000 MD applicants competing annually for only 138 available spots. In this blog, you will learn all about Columbia's admission statistics, available programs, selection factors, application timelines, and more!

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Article Contents
9 min read

Mission Statement Available Programs Academic Curriculum Application Timeline Admission Statistics Recommended Courses Tuition & Debt Funding Opportunities Selection Factors Interview Format Acceptance & Waitlist Information Contact Information FAQs

Mission Statement

"Our mission is to provide continuing medical education to Columbia faculty, professional trainees, and to the larger community of physicians and other healthcare professionals in the New York area and beyond. Our primary goal is to serve their educational needs by:

  • Presentation of contemporary, relevant clinical knowledge using best practices for adult learning.
  • Translation of research into medical knowledge; and
  • Improved health outcomes through application of knowledge of disease prevention and treatment."

Are you looking to get into an Ivy League medical school? Check out our tips for how to get accepted:

Available Programs

There are five medical programs offered at Columbia medical school:

MD Program:

The standard 4-year MD program. See “Academic Curriculum” section for details.

Columbia-Bassett Program:

This program divides the standard 4-year MD program between locations, in partnership with Bassett Healthcare in upstate New York. The purpose of the program is to help redress doctor shortages in rural areas. Students begin orientation in Cooperstown before spending 18 months at the NYC campus. Beginning in January of the 2nd year of the program, students move to the Cooperstown campus, where they participate in inpatient blocks and gain longitudinal experience. Then, three rotations take place in NYC during the 4th year of the program.

3-year-PhD-to-MD Program:

This program is for students who already have a PhD in a biological or related science from an accredited school in the United States or Canada only, and applicants must be United States citizens or permanent residents. The program is meant for students who intend to pursue biomedical research as a physician scientist, and who are committed to a career in a medical specialty such as internal medicine, pediatrics, neurology, psychiatry, and pathology. The curriculum consists of preclinical courses (16 months), and a major clinical year with electives (17 months). The usual scholarly project component of the MD curriculum is waived. The medical curriculum is the same as that of the MD/PhD dual program.

MD/PhD Program:

The dual MD-PhD program provides the same medical training curriculum as the PhD-to-MD program. This program is meant for students who wish to combine research in biomedical sciences with a career in medicine. All applicants for the 3-year PhD-to-MD program must have successfully defended their thesis by April 30 of the year of their matriculation to Columbia. Applicants should have strong research backgrounds in basic science. Substantial undergraduate research in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Computational Biology, Mathematics, Epidemiology, or Engineering is required. The first part of the MD program takes place in Years 1 and 2 (coursework); the PhD component then commences from Year 3 to Year 5; then the second part of the MD program follows in years 6 and 7 (remaining MD curriculum components).

MD-OMFS Residency Program:

This program is for graduates who hold a dental degree from an approved school in the United States or Canada only. It is open to United States citizens, permanent residents, and holders of a J-1 visa. Applicants must have already passed Parts 1 and 2 of the National Dental Board Examination before they apply. Passing the National Board of Medical Examiners Clinical Basic Science Exam (NBME CBSE) is also required. Applicants are encouraged to have taken OMFS surgery externships while in dental school, and research experience is preferred.

Note that if you apply to any of the non-standard MD programs and do not make it to the interview stage, you will automatically be placed in the standard MD applicant pool.

In the following sections, we will be focusing on the details of the standard MD program. 

Academic Curriculum

Columbia medical school MD curriculum is as follows:      

  1. Fundamentals (18 months): You will complete the standard coursework of the MD program.·      
  2. Major Clinical Year (12 months): You will complete your clerkships. Clerkships are divided into 2-week long intercessions known as Mechanism and Practice, featuring classroom-based seminar-style discussion and teaching.      
  3. Differentiation and Integration (14 months): You will explore specialty areas of interest through your scholarly project and electives.

The MD curriculum is based on four main curricular threads: Biomedical Information; Medical Decision Making; Public Health; and Systems, Leadership, Integration, and Management.

Other features:      

  • Various outreach programs are available for working with underserved communities.      
  • Residency programs are offered at New York – Presbyterian Hospital (NYP).      
  • Fellowships are available in many areas of clinical specialization.

Check out the most important info:

Application Timeline

Columbia clearly states that they do not use rolling admissions.

Instead, all decisions are made at the end of the interview season, and all decision letters are sent out in early March.

You must submit both an AMCAS application and a secondary application when applying to Columbia. The fee for the secondary application is $110 USD and non-refundable, although if you have been granted a waiver for the AMCAS fee, your fee for the secondary application will also be waived.

Columbia’s application timeline follows the cycle below:

Admissions Statistics

Admission to Columbia Vagelos College is highly competitive. Here are some recent statistics:

Overall success rate: 1.76%

In-state success rate: 1.75%   

Out-of-state success rate: 1.9%      

International success rate: 0.2%      

Median GPA: 3.91

Median MCAT: 521

Columbia medical school overall success rate:

Recommended Courses

You must meet the following criteria to apply to Columbia:·      

  • Three full academic years completed at an accredited college in the United States or Canada. At least one year of premed training at a United States college is required.      
  • Your degree must be complete prior to your matriculation at Columbia.

The mandatory medical school prerequisites are:      

  • 1 year of Biology (with labs)      
  • 1 year of Physics (with labs)      
  • 1 year of Chemistry (with labs)      
  • 1 year of Organic Chemistry (with labs)      
  • 1 year of English/writing intensive course

All prerequisites must have been completed within 10 years of your application, with Biology completed within 5 years of your application. AP credits in Chemistry, Physics, Biology, or English require an additional year at the collegiate level. Online courses are not accepted for prerequisites.

The following courses are highly recommended:      

  • Biochemistry      
  • Statistics      
  • Biostatistics

You should have As and Bs in your Science courses to be competitive, with mostly As. Any grade below a “C” grade in a course means that the course must be re-taken or substituted with higher grades. A few non-mandatory courses may be taken as “Pass/Fail”, but you will be expected to explain any “Fail” grades on your transcript.

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Tuition and Debt

Medical school tuition fees are $65,425 USD per year for both in-state and out-of-state students. Including other mandatory fees, the total per year is $94,012 USD.

The amount of average graduate indebtedness is $122,045 USD.

Funding Opportunities

Columbia is proud of its Vagelos Scholarship Program, which meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for eligible students. Currently, about 84% of medical students at Columbia receive some form of financial aid. Students who complete the Financial Aid application are automatically considered for the Vagelos Scholarship. You will be asked to provide information about family and personal income, and any assets you or your family may have.

There are also Institutional Scholarships, Interschool Scholarships, External Scholarships (e.g. National Medical Fellowship), Service Scholarships (e.g. Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship), and the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program. 

A PDF of the detailed Financial Aid Handbook is available here. Students are also encouraged to speak with the Office of Student Financial Aid & Planning for assistance and guidance.

Selection Factors

Columbia does not accept transfer students. Students who have graduated from foreign universities are rarely considered for admission, because Columbia cannot adequately evaluate premedical education at postsecondary institutions outside of Canada and the United States. Students who have previously enrolled in medical school are not eligible for admission.

Applicant Profile

Columbia will assess your suitability based on the following criteria:      

  • Academic achievement      
  • Evidence of excellence and leadership potential in medicine      
  • Integrity      
  • Ability to relate to others and concern for their welfare      
  • Letters of recommendation      
  • Extracurricular activities/interests      
  • Personal Interview


noted earlier, the median GPA for matriculants to Columbia is 3.91, with a range of 3.37 – 4.0. Read more about medical school GPA requirements to learn about why your GPA is important, and how to make your GPA competitive.

Columbia is not one of the medical schools that don’t require MCAT. Your MCAT score will be an important component of your application, so learn more about what is a good MCAT score and how to create the best MCAT study schedule before you begin.

The MCAT range of recent applicants was 510-528, with a median score of 521. Your MCAT score is valid only if taken up to four years prior to your application cycle. If you took the MCAT more than once, your highest overall score will be used by the Admissions Committee.

Wondering how to get a good MCAT score?

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation should be submitted on official letterhead and include your AMCAS ID. The following criteria applies:      

  • A minimum of 3 letters of recommendation is required, but you may submit up to 7      
  • 1 letter must be from a science faculty member, teacher, or research mentor      
  • Letters are accepted from individuals and premedical advisory groups      
  • Your writers should be from those who know you very well and can speak with knowledge of your experiences and abilities.


Although shadowing experience is not required, it is strongly recommended. 85% of matriculants in recent years had prior experience shadowing a physician at the time of entry to the program. If you still need shadowing experience, learn how to ask to shadow a doctor to get started.

Clinical Experience

Recent data shows that 88% of matriculants had experience volunteering in a medical or clinical setting. Furthermore, 34% of matriculants had paid employment experience in a medical or clinical setting.


The vast majority of matriculants (95%) had prior research or lab experience at the time of entry. This percentage has increased by 5% compared to previous years.

Did you know that 95% of Columbia's matriculants had research experience?

Extracurriculars/Community Service

Your extracurriculars will be an important part of the AMCAS Work and Activities component of your med school application, so learn more about which extracurriculars for medical school you should pursue, and how many volunteer hours for medical school you need to prepare yourself.

Interview Format

Columbia uses the Personal Interview format. Interview invitations are sent out in August-January via email. To prepare for your interview, you should familiarize yourself with common medical school interview questions such as “why do you want to be a doctor?” and “tell me about yourself”. You can also review the Columbia medical school interview questions the admissions committee might ask.

Interview dates can sometime be rescheduled by the Interview Coordinator; if you wish to make a rescheduling request, send an email to the Admissions Office. 

Get ready for your medical school interview with our sample questions and answers:

Acceptance and Waitlist Information

The waitlist is not ranked. The Admissions Committee reviews waitlist applicants from May until August each admissions cycle. The waitlist closes when classes begin in mid-August. Offers are made to waitlist applicants as spots become available.

If you are offered admission, you must mark your status as “Plan to Enroll” on April 15 and withdraw your applications from all other medical schools. By June 1 you must “Commit to Enroll.” No deposit is required to reserve your spot. 

Deferral requests are considered on a case-by-case basis if you were accepted in the first round – waitlist applicants cannot request deferrals if offered admission.

Before matriculating at Columbia, you must:      

  1. Have completed your Bachelor’s, including all prerequisite courses.      
  2. Send your official academic transcripts direct to the Admissions Office. Your transcripts should be complete, including both the degree earned and the date it was conferred.      
  3. Submit your Pre-Registration Health Forms      
  4. Submit your Criminal Background Check

Contact information

Email: [email protected]



1. How hard is it to get into Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons?

The competition for entry is quite high. Approximately 7,855 applicants apply per year for 138 spots, with an overall success rate of 1.76%.

2. Is the MCAT required?

The MCAT is required, and must be taken within four years prior to your application to be considered valid. If you take the MCAT more than once, your highest overall score will be used.

3. Is CASPer required?

Columbia is not one of the medical schools that require CASPer or the CASPer Snapshot.

4. What are the coursework prerequisites?

1 year of Biology with labs, 1 year of Physics with labs, 2 years of Chemistry (1 year of Organic Chemistry) with labs, and 1 year of English or an equivalent writing-intensive course. Biochemistry, Statistics, and Biostatistics are all highly recommended.

5. How many letters of recommendation do I need to submit?

Applicants must submit at least three letters of recommendation, although up to seven are accepted.

6. What are the important dates in the admissions cycle?

The AMCAS application opens in May, and secondary applications are sent to all applicants in July-October. October 15 is the AMCAS deadline, and October 22 is the secondary application deadline. Interviews are conducted August-January. All admission decision letters are sent in March.

7. Does Columbia accept transfer students?

No, Columbia does not accept transfer students.

8. Can I apply if I did my undergraduate degree abroad?

Columbia rarely accepts students who graduated abroad from international institutions. This is because Columbia states it is difficult to satisfactorily evaluate premedical education undertaken outside of North America.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

Disclaimer: BeMo does not endorse or affiliate with any universities, colleges, or official test administrators. The content has been developed based on the most recent publicly available data provided from the official university website. However, you should always check the statistics/requirements with the official school website for the most up to date information. You are responsible for your own results. 

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