The age-old question: how hard is med school…and how hard is it to get into medical school? We hear this often from students in our medical school admissions consulting programs. Applying to medical school is not for the faint of heart. The application process, and your years in medical school will be a long and arduous undertaking. In this blog, we’ll aim to provide some insight and clarity into how hard it is to get into medical school and how hard medical school is once you’re in, plus our tips on how to get through!


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Article Contents
10 min read

Getting into Medical School: Is It Hard? How Can I Get Into Med School? What To Expect If You Get Accepted to Med School FAQs

Getting into Medical School: Is It Hard?

Medicine is a subject that encompasses science, methodology, practicality, patience, personality, and empathy. The sheer amount of knowledge required for medicine is difficult, but just getting into school can be even harder. Medical school acceptance rates are extremely low.

Each year the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) releases average cumulative GPA and MCAT scores for applicants to medical school. Because better and more accessible resources are available for medical school and MCAT prep, scores tend to move in an upward trend each year; but as a result, competition only becomes steeper.

Mean GPA of Accepted Medical Students = 3.77

Mean MCAT of Accepted Medical Students = 511.7

Mean Acceptance Rate for US Medical Schools = 3.36%

While it is true that some schools have higher acceptance rates, or a more lenient admissions process, there’s no doubt that you have to strive be one of the best; and that is precisely what makes medical school so difficult.  

Taking into account these factors, we can start to get a sense of the demanding task of medical school acceptance. It is a tall order and takes time. Also cited on the AAMC’s website was the number of first-time applicants and reapplicants. Which is a subtle way of implying that many students do not receive acceptance on their first application cycle:

"After an unsuccessful first application to medical school, I learned the value of not rushing and thoroughly preparing my application. This experience taught me what not to do, enhancing my next attempt. I recommend applying even if you're unsure, as it's a valuable learning opportunity. My journey wasn't straightforward; an injury shifted my focus from a potential sports career to pursuing medicine, particularly sports medicine. The application process required introspection, emphasizing the importance of telling your unique story and including diverse experiences beyond just academic achievements." – Sherry, Former BeMo Student


Being aware of what to expect allows you to get ready for what's ahead; you may be accepted during your first round…or, like Sherry, you may not. If you want to hear from your peers, check out application experiences of our past students - this should give you an idea of the competitive nature of medical school admissions process.

With all of this considered, you’re likely eager to receive an answer to your very common and practical question “how hard is it to get into medical school?”

Getting into medical school is strenuous. The good news is it is totally within your reach, you’ll never know until you try…and, there are plenty of positive medical school acceptance stories, and most importantly, resources available to help you achieve acceptance at the school of your dreams (including, but not limited to, BeMo):

“The consultation sessions that BeMo offers are really helpful for preparing medical school applications. The advisors help to walk you through what you have already put together and think about what you still need to do. It makes you feel less anxious about the whole process!”- Kalenga Lubembele, Former BeMo Student


Just because it is difficult does not make it impossible. Many students have started where you are now and felt all the things you are feeling. Anxious, nervous, overwhelmed are all normal to feel at this point. Do not let it get in the way of your success – but do keep in mind that the entire application and preparation process was not designed to be easy!

On one hand, in the early stages of your application journey, you’ll need to laser-focus on extracting what value and meaning can from clinical and volunteer experiences. This will be for your personal statement and extracurriculars/activities section; these points may also be useful during an interview. This is vital for all students –and for those non-traditional applicants—it’s an especially important opportunity to showcase what sets you apart from thousands of other applicants. You mustn’t be shy to harness your personal and professional experiences and use them as a superpower:

I was a nurse. I taught dance and volunteered. I had the opportunity to highlight a few experiences (rather than a personal statement) so I focused on discussing my leadership and advocacy experience in my application.” – Dr. Jacquelyn Paquet, MD


If you haven’t had adequate experiences, you’ll need to ensure you prioritize getting substantial exposure prior to submitting your application. Remember, these experiences are not just crucial for your application, but for your personal journey toward becoming an MD:

“Shadowing and clinical experience will help validate your decision [to pursue a career as a physician].” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, University of Maryland School of Medicine


Further, you’ll need to ensure you meet all of the medical school requirements, have a suitable GPA and are prepared to study diligently for the MCAT. Then, comes interview preparation. We’ll get into more of this below.

Needless to say, you’ve got this, but getting accepted into medical school is not easy!

Here's how to get accepted without perfect stats!

How Can I Get Into Med School?

While there’s no sure-fire way to be granted acceptance, the first thing you need to do is prepare early. Attempting to pull together a medical school application a month before the deadline will be chaotic and is unlikely to result in an acceptance.

To prepare for medical school, you should start by doing the following:

Reflect on Your Experiences

  • Make a list of all your extracurricular activities, volunteer experiences, and shadowing experiences. Then, decide if there are there areas you can improve upon; and don’t worry if your experiences aren’t medical; our consultants actually encourage this. This will take some reflection.

"Ask yourself, where does your CV suffer? Don't be afraid to look BEYOND the medical field when it comes to volunteer work and experiences.” – Dr. Jaime Cazes, MD, University of Toronto School of Medicine


Think about Recommendation Letters

  • Get quality letters of recommendation from professors who will write highly of you. A great LOR is better than a good letter any day. Ask your professors early to ensure they have enough time to write you an amazing letter. 

Calculate Your GPA

  • Next, calculate your GPA both science and cumulative. Are you happy with where your marks are, or is there room for improvement? Stay on top of grades and if you need a tutor get one.

Take the MCAT

Write Your Personal Statement

  • Give yourself time to draft a few versions of your personal statement, and be sure to write and revise more than one version thoroughly! If you aren’t sure where to start, perhaps ask yourself: "Why do you want to be a doctor?" and let this guide your essay; similarly, if you’ve got your heart set on an MD-PhD program, you may wish to elaborate on our future goals.
  • In all components of your application, watch out for grammar and spelling mistakes and have everyone you can proofread it. I have taken anywhere from a month to six months on personal statements. Do not underestimate this key part of your application.

Prepare for Interviews

Remember, the application is just half the story. You also need to ace the CASPer test, learn how to answer the most common medical school interview questions and practice with our 100 sample MMI questions.

When it comes to interviewing for med school, our former student Sherry explained:

“Initially I felt overwhelmed by the amount of prep resources. But, working on MMI questions [with my consultant] helped with formulating and practicing unique responses.” – Sherry, Former BeMo Student


Our consultant, Dr. Neel Mistry, echoes her sentiments. He suggests students not underestimate the importance of:

"Showcasing your uniqueness in your application and being authentic during interviewsthe people you interact with on interview day might be your classmates and a part of your experience next year; it’s important to be yourself and make great impressions."


Practice with these hardest medical school interview questions!

What To Expect If You Get Accepted to Med School

Medical school is challenging, demanding a mastery of vast, complex subjects in a short time and pushing students to their limits both intellectually and emotionally. It requires not just memorization but the ability to apply knowledge critically. Despite these hardships, the journey is deeply rewarding, offering personal growth, the development of a close-knit community among classmates, and a profound new understanding and appreciation for medicine and empathy that lasts a lifetime.

Our consultant, Dr. Neel Mistry, wants to remind future medical students:

“Work hard, play hard. While it is a stressful time, it is a lot of fun and your years in medical school. Yes, medical school is hard, but prior to my first year, I wish someone had emphasized the importance of taking time for yourself and making friends.”


Amidst the sleepless nights, intensive learning, and probably a few stressful moments, medical school is a time for you to flourish and grow. Inevitably, all students will make mistakes and have difficult days – this happens in every field of work – but once you’ve made it in, you should adopt confidence in yourself and pride in all the hard work it took to get you there.

“When you’re stressed, remember, it will all work out in the end.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD


You can expect to be busy, and probably stressed, in medical school; but it’s imperative that you extract the most value and meaning out of your years in medical school. Here are a few good places to start…

3 Tips for How to Thrive In Medical School

  1. Adapt your study habits early in medical school; while all-nighters worked in undergrad, medical school demands faster, more efficient learning. Group study, despite personal preferences, can enhance understanding and pronunciation of medical terms. Experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you.
  2. Take meaningful notes and review them; writing down everything without understanding it is ineffective. Prioritize reviewing and comprehending your notes to reinforce learning.
  3. Time management is crucial; prioritize subjects, especially challenging ones, as medical topics are interconnected. Allocate study time wisely, balancing preferred subjects with those less appealing to ensure comprehensive understanding.

“The most challenging part of medical school was learning to balance priorities. It is crucial that you identify how you learn best, as the transition from undergraduate to medical school can be steep. There is a misconception that in medical school, you’ll be too busy for anything else; you just have to plan your day ahead of time and schedule time for extracurriculars and activities outside of school.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD


How many years is medical school? Check out this infographic:

The path to medicine is long but worth it…and the above tips are just some of the many things you can do to make medical school ‘easier’ for yourself. But remember, simplicity and complexity are subjective. There’s no denying that medical school is difficult, however, your academic and personal background, how well you prepare, and how well you remain organized and motivated throughout your journey can have an impact.

We all pursue medicine for different reasons, and we all come from different histories; some students are traditional applicants, and others aren’t. Some get accepted early, and for others, it takes a few cycles. 

“Watching a medical team save a child’s life was profoundly impactful on me and sparked my interest in medicine.” – Alison, Former BeMo Student, Dell Medical School


“The process underscored the unpredictability of med school admissions for me. I had to write the MCAT twice, but learned that taking time in between efforts to better prepare was well worth it ... I aimed for an MCAT score over 510, starting prep in my second year and improving from 497 to 510 after six months of additional study.” – Kannan, Former BeMo Student


…What matters the most is that you prepare, believe in yourself, try again if you fail…and draw on your unique passion and inspiration in all that you do. You may wish to work with an advisor to filter out your potential weak points and strengthen them before reapplying…or you may decide that a gap year makes sense for you. Here’s what one of our consultant’s thinks:

“If there is a specific area that is a deficit and this can be easily addressed, you may be able to start preparing for the next cycle immediately and addressing the deficit. For instance, if you have minimal research and you think this is an area but are currently involved in research, then continuing with research and applying again may be helpful. Alternatively, if you think your portfolio is strong but did not succeed after the interview and found that to be an area of weakness, reapply and begin preparing for the interview. Conversely, if you have a more difficult to address area, such as a lower GPA, lower MCAT score or deficit in one area of your application that cannot be easily addressed, take a gap year and focus on that/those area(s). Focusing on those areas for the year allow you to fully engage in that concern and improve your chances of success especially when it comes to a low GPA! Even if you feel the rest of your application is quite strong, do not neglect to consider those areas and ensure you remain active in your volunteer, research and extracurriculars to maintain a strong application.” – Dr. Jacquelyn Paquet, MD


How hard is medical school? That depends on you. Generally speaking; medical school is no walk in the park! However, the right prep strategies, and working with an expert, can help you achieve your goals!

FAQs

1. How hard is it to get into medical school?

Getting into medical school is highly challenging due to the rigorous admissions process, low acceptance rates, and the competitive nature of the applicant pool. The mean GPA and MCAT scores of accepted students are on the rise, making it crucial for applicants to strive for academic excellence.

2. What makes medical school admissions so competitive?

The competitive nature stems from the limited number of seats available in medical schools compared to the high volume of applicants. Additionally, medical schools seek the most academically competitive students, making the admissions process particularly stringent.

3. Is there a difference in difficulty between getting into DO vs. MD programs?

Both DO and MD programs have rigorous admissions processes, but some students perceive DO programs to have slightly more lenient admissions criteria. However, both paths require exceptional academic records and a strong commitment to the medical profession.

4. What should I do if I'm not accepted into medical school on my first try?

Consider it a learning opportunity to improve your application. Reflect on any areas of weakness, such as your GPA, MCAT score, or experience, and take steps to address them. Reapplying with a stronger application can increase your chances of acceptance.

5. How can I improve my medical school application?

Enhance your application by gaining diverse and meaningful clinical, volunteer, and shadowing experiences, securing strong letters of recommendation, achieving a high GPA and MCAT score, and crafting a compelling personal statement.

6. How important are non-medical volunteer experiences for my application?

Non-medical volunteer experiences are valuable as they demonstrate your empathy, personality, and commitment to service. Admissions committees appreciate applicants with well-rounded experiences that extend beyond the medical field.

7. What should I focus on in my medical school interview?

Focus on showcasing your uniqueness, authenticity, and passion for medicine. Prepare for common medical school interview questions and practice articulating your experiences and motivations compellingly.

8. What can I expect once I'm accepted into medical school?

Expect a challenging but rewarding journey that demands mastery of complex subjects, critical application of knowledge, and personal growth. Medical school is both intellectually and emotionally demanding but also offers profound satisfaction and a close-knit community.

9. How can I thrive in medical school?

Adapt your study habits early, prioritize comprehensive understanding and application of knowledge, and manage your time effectively. Embrace group study, take meaningful notes, and balance study time across subjects to ensure a deep understanding of the interconnected medical curriculum.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


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1 Comments

Raymond W. Lee, M.D.

The first two years of medical school material is easy, takes no IQ to understand. It is just the shear volume of knowledge to master that is overwhelming. At UCSF classes ran from 8 to 5, including noon-hour electives. There were about 200 pages to read daily, total about 800 pages a week. Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday were catch-up time or tutorial/reviews. To survive I subtracted from 24 hours all that I did to live, i.e., class time, meal time, shower time, toilet time, and 7 hours of bedtime, and the rest was study time. The class average was always over 90%. My classmates were just as dedicated. I scored 95% on my pharmacology final exam and I took the make-up exam. Half of my classmate took the make up exam and tried to get 100%. Only 25% did not try. I brought my score up to 97.5%. The 3rd and 4th year were about applying what I learned the previous two years and that was more fun and challenging. Before you want to be a doctor ask yourself this: can you handle a study load that is 2 to 3 times as heavy as undergrad and do well? Are you truly dedicated? Can you stay focused to the point of living no life for four years outside of med-school? Raymond W Lee, M.D., UCSF class of 1980

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BeMo Academic Consulting

Thanks for your comment, Raymond!

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