If you want to know how to get into Harvard Medical School, you've come to the right place. With an acceptance rate of less than 2.2%, it's not easy to get accepted to one of the most prestigious Ivy League medical schools in the world. Each year, one hundred and sixty-five students overcome the odds to land a place at their dream school. While getting into Harvard Medical School (HMS) is certainly difficult, it's not impossible. This blog will cover all admissions requirements and will tell you exactly how to get into Harvard Medical School.


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Mission Statement

"To nurture a diverse, inclusive community dedicated to alleviating suffering and improving health and well-being for all through excellence in teaching and learning, discovery and scholarship, and service and leadership.”

Available Programs 

MD

There are two different curriculum tracks: Pathways and Health Sciences & Technology (HST).

Pathways is for students interested in patient care. It involves more clinical experience and basic/population science experiences. Only 135 students are admitted into Pathways per year. You can find more information here.

HST is geared towards students seeking a career in biomedical research and is offered jointly by HMS and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). You must have a strong interest and background in physical or molecular science to join this program.

HST’s rigorous and quantitative curriculum, focuses on biological, chemical, physical, and engineering sciences. Students take courses at both HMS and MIT. Only 30 students are admitted into HST per year. Find more information here.

You can apply to the HST track, to the Pathways track, or to both. Applying to both tracks does not reduce the chance of acceptance to either one.

MD-PhD

The Harvard-MIT MD-PhD Program provides fellowship support for selected and highly qualified students who have elected to pursue both the MD and PhD degrees. Check out our blog for information on applying to MD-PhD programs

MD-MBA

 A joint 5-year MD-MBA program allowing for skilled graduates in both medicine and management.

MD-MAD

Harvard medical students have the opportunity to complete a Master of Academic Discipline (MAD) degree between the third and fourth years of medical school.

MD-MMSc

Medical students will have the opportunity to complete a Master of Medical Science (MMSc) degree between the third and fourth years of medical school. The dual MD-MMSc degree is offered in clinical investigation, global health delivery, immunology, and medical education. 

MD-MPH

Medical students will have the opportunity to complete a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree between the third and fourth years of the MD program. 

MD-MPP

This combined program is for those who wish to contribute to the field of medicine by helping to set policy or administer programs involving health care issues of public concern. Graduates of the combined program will receive a Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) degree.

Academic Curriculum

Admission Timeline

The following deadlines should serve as a general guideline. Make sure to check the exact deadlines on the school's website before you start preparing your application.

Admissions Statistics

Harvard Medical School overall acceptance rate:

  • Success rate (Overall): 2.16%
  • Success rate (In-State): 3.43%
  • Success rate (Out-of-State): 2.1%
  • Success rate (International): 1.63%
  • Average Accepted GPA: 3.94
  • Average Accepted MCAT Scores: 520

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Medical School Prerequisites 

Biology, 1 year with lab, including cellular and molecular aspects.

Chemistry/Biochemistry, 2 years that covers inorganic, organic, and biochemistry. Lab is required.

Physics, 1 year, lab not required but strongly recommended. For the HST program, 1 year of physics must be taken at the college level. You are strongly encouraged to meet this prerequisites with at least one year in calculus-based physics.

Mathematics, 1 year that includes one semester of calculus and statistics. Biostatistics is preferred for the statistics portion of course requirements. For HST, it is strongly encouraged to take upper-level mathematics (differential equations and/or linear algebra) and biostatistics.

Writing, 1 year, intensive courses are preferred. This requirement can also be satisfied with humanities or social science courses involving substantial expository writing.

Recommended Courses

  • Literature
  • Languages
  • The arts
  • Humanities
  • Social sciences (e.g., psychology, sociology, anthropology, and ethics)

Tuition & Funding Opportunities

  • Harvard Medical School tuition, fees in-state/out-of-state: $65,203
  • Total cost of attendance in-state/out-of-state:: $95,055
  • Students receiving financial aid: 72%
  • Average graduating debt at HMS: $111,823
  • National average graduating debt at public medical schools: $200,000
  • National average graduating debt at private medical schools: $215,000

Funding Opportunities

On average The Harvard Medical School Financial Aid Office provides funding to about 72% of students in the form of loans, employment, and scholarship funding from various federal, private, and school sources. Funds are distributed on the basis of financial need and academic merit is not considered. This financial aid is awarded annually and students must reapply every year. All application forms and materials are sent electronically to all students. Decisions on financial aid are made by March 18.

Award letters are emailed to first-year MD students on a rolling basis, starting in late March. Students must acknowledge the aid award within 30 days.

International Students are eligible to apply for need-based financial institutional scholarships and loans.Contact [email protected] for more information.

Did you know that 72% of HMS students get funding from the Harvard Medical School Financial Aid Office?

Selection Factors 

Harvard Medical School aims to review applicants holistically and is very selective when sending interview and acceptance invitations. Desirable candidates will possess maturity, commitment to helping others, leadership skills, and the ability to work with others. In addition, the following factors are used to evaluate applicants:

1. Academic Records

GPA & MCAT

Last year, Harvard Medical School (HMS) had roughly 7,600 applicants competing for 950 interviews and 165 positions in its entering class. Of the 165, 135 enrolled in Pathways, 30 in HST and 14 in the MD-PhD program. Matriculants came from 74 different colleges, across 33 states, from 7 countries. Overall, 22% of all matriculants are underrepresented in medicine. Roughly 69% possess science majors, though Harvard specifically states that they do not give preference to applicants with science backgrounds over those with other academic backgrounds. HMS matriculants have extremely competitive grades and test scores. To be a competitive candidate, you need to have near-perfect statistics, ensuring that you meet or are very close to the statistics of matriculants. So, what are you aiming for? Well, the average MCAT score of accepted individuals is 520, with applicants scoring between 129-130 in each section. The average GPA of accepted individuals is 3.94.

This is tough to achieve, but not impossible. It's true that in some cases you can still get into medical school with a low GPA, but Harvard is an exception to this rule. If you're thinking of applying to HMS with less than perfect grades and scores, I'm here to tell you, think again. 

Harvard will only consider applicants for admission a maximum of two times. Now, this isn't two times in a two-year period, it's two times in a lifetime. For this reason, you have to make sure that your first application will count and be seen as competitive, as you only have one attempt to re-apply. If your GPA isn't competitive, work on improving it. If that means re-taking courses or enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program, do so. If you didn't score well on the MCAT, you'll also need to re-take it. Keep in mind that 24% of all test-takers re-take the MCAT, likely to try and improve their scores, so you won't be alone in your venture. If you're reading this and you haven't taken the MCAT yet, be sure that you know when to start studying for the MCAT so you can begin preparing a study schedule at least six months in advance of MCAT test dates. In addition, it's important to devote time to mastering the difficult CARS section, where you'll need to score around a 128 to be seen as competitive. Use MCAT CARS practice resources and take practice tests to ensure you are well prepared for the MCAT. Above all, only take the MCAT when you are scoring consistently well. If you find your scores bouncing around between different practice tests, you're not ready to take the test yet. Lastly, if you have taken the MCAT but it was years ago, you'll need to re-take it as Harvard only accepts scores within the last three years.

2. Applicant Essays

Harvard places high importance on applicant essays in determining which applicants will be selected for both interview and admission. It is therefore essential that your medical school personal statement and medical school secondary essays are not just good, but phenomenal. With no room for errors or an average application, it's a good idea to consult a professional medical school advisor to ensure your application highlights the absolute best version of yourself. Unlike some medical schools, Harvard sends secondary applications to all applicants who apply, which must be sent back with a $100 filing fee. You'll notice that the AMCAS deadline and the secondary application deadline are both in mid-October, meaning if you send in your primary application too late, you'll be unable to receive the secondary application and complete it before the deadline. So, it's essential to start working on your primary and secondary application right away. Be sure to review our medical school personal statement examples blog to learn how to craft an effective, stand-out statement that will captivate Harvard's admission committee. Lastly, review medical school secondary essay examples to learn about common prompts and the best strategies for addressing these prompts appropriately.

Check out our video for Harvard Medical School personal statement examples:

Harvard Medical School secondary application prompts are as follows:

1. If you have already graduated, briefly (4000 characters max) summarize your activities since graduation.

2. If there is an important aspect of your personal background or identity, not addressed elsewhere in the application, that you would like to share with the Committee, we invite you to do so here. Many applicants will not need to answer this question. Examples might include significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Briefly explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine.(4000 character maximum)

3. Our interview season runs from mid-September through January. Please indicate any significant (three or more weeks) restriction on your availability for interviews during this period. If none, leave blank.

HST Essay: ESSAY FOR APPLICATIONS TO THE HARVARD-MIT DIVISION OF HEALTH SCIENCES AND TECHNOLOGY (HST)

Instructions: The HST MD program draws on the combined resources of Harvard and MIT to provide a distinct preclinical education tailored to preparing students for careers as physician-scientists across the full spectrum of disciplines including biological, physical and engineering sciences. HST classes are small, commonly include graduate students and have an emphasis on quantitative and analytic approaches, centered on understanding disease mechanisms and preparing students to solve unmet needs in medicine ranging from novel diagnostics and therapeutics to applications of ‘big data’ and systems engineering as they relate to healthcare. Please focus on how your interests, experiences and aspirations have prepared you for HST (rather than identifying specific HST faculty or research opportunities). Limit your comments to the equivalent of one page of single spaced text with a font size of 10 or 12. (4000 Char)

MD/PhD

1. Briefly list your research interests/areas; use keywords only. This information is not binding. (100 character limit)

2. Please list publications, indicating for each whether it is published, submitted/under review, or in preparation3. For PhD’s in the social sciences only, please complete the following and upload where indicated:

Statement of Purpose:

Describe your reasons and motivations for pursuing a graduate degree in your chosen program of study at Harvard. What experiences led you to your research ambitions? Concisely state your past work in your intended field of study and in related fields. Briefly indicate your career objectives. Your statement should not exceed 1,000 words. Health Policy applicants should indicate the concentration(s) and policy area(s) of interest.

Please see Program Details to determine whether the program to which you are applying requires a writing sample, CV, or other documents. Please follow departmental requirements on type and size of writing sample. Unless noted, writing sample is limited to 20 pages.

Harvard Medical School secondary essay example

I was raised in a small, rural community in an underprivileged and underserved area. Only 18% of people have a four-year degree or higher in all of my County. Many students enter the workforce or attend small, local universities upon graduation and do not pursue their dreams because they are unaware of the educational and financial options available to them because their parents do not have the experience to guide them. Furthermore, there is the mindset that students from a small, country high school are not capable of attending larger universities, and the sentiment was shared by my school’s administration. How can students have high aspirations when the administration does not believe in them? Even if students did understand their education options, they often did not attend college because they could not afford it. The median household income in my County is $52,000, which is over $10,000 below that of the U.S. median, and 13% of the population lives in poverty. Many of my peers worked part-time jobs in high school because they had to help their parents pay bills, so they did not even consider attending an expensive university.

As an adolescent growing up in this County, I did not have access to many educational resources, such as numerous teachers, electives, advanced placement classes, and counselors for college preparation. For instance, the lack of teachers and the resulting scheduling conflict restricted the number of advanced courses I could take, so I studied for several subjects on my own in the library. One other classmate and I were the first students ever from my high school to take the SAT Subject tests. When I applied to college, I conducted my own research regarding universities and their requirements as well as how to fill out applications and write a personal statement because my school did not expect many of its students to attend four-year universities and did not provide resources. I am pursuing a career in medicine not only because of my commitment to improving the health and well-being of others, but also to serve as a role model for students in rural, underprivileged areas and to show them they are capable of pursuing their dreams just as I have.

Growing up in a medically underserved community, I have experienced and witnessed the effects of inadequate access to healthcare. When my mother experienced breathing issues which required her back to be evaluated, there were no doctors in the area who would accept her as a patient or could refer us to someone who could. My mother was scared, and I was terrified. I could not believe I was at risk of losing my mother from lack of access to care. She eventually received the referral she needed from a doctor in Philadelphia, five hours away from where we live. We had to make multiple trips to Philadelphia for consultations, the surgery, and check-ups, which required me to miss multiple days of school. The people in my community often have to travel long distances for care, like my mother, if they have anything more severe than a common injury or illness.

I realized cases such as my mother’s posed a major health concern for two reasons. First, not all people had the means to leave town, especially the elderly with no family nearby. For instance, my father drove one family friend to Baltimore, five hours away, for his doctor appointments and surgery and another family friend to Binghamton, two hours away, several times per week for in-center hemodialysis until he was able to do it at home. Second, many people could not access well-established health systems in more populated areas because their health insurance plans restrict them to the limited number of doctors in the local area and going out of network was significantly more expensive or not covered at all. As a result, I developed a strong desire to become a doctor and work in underserved areas to provide more accessible health care for people.

3. Letters of Recommendation

Applicants can submit up to six (6) letters of recommendation and must do it through AMCAS. You must submit at least 3 letters to meet the requirement. Out of the six, at least two must be by professors in the sciences and at least one by a professor not in the sciences. Applicants to both the MD program and the MD-PhD program should send letters from all research supervisors. You may exceed the six-letter maximum if the additional letters are written by research supervisors. If you want to supplement a premedical advisory committee evaluation packet with more letters of recommendation, you should count the packet as one letter toward the six-letter maximum.

HMS does not require letters of recommendation from employers, but if you have been out of school and working, you should ask your employer to send a letter to the school. If AMCAS receives your letters of recommendation after the deadline, your materials will be processed, but no confirmation will be sent when your file is complete. HMS does not guarantee that late letters will be reviewed by the Committee (they review incomplete files after the October 22 deadline, with the materials on hand).Learn how to choose your recommendation writers and how to ask for medical school recommendation letters in our blog.

4. Extracurriculars

Extracurriculars for medical school are essential for admission at any institution, and Harvard is no different. According to MSAR, approximately 92% of Harvard matriculants have medical or clinical related community service and volunteer experience. 80% of Harvard matriculants have community service and volunteering experience not related to medicine. 82% have shadowing experience and 98% have research and lab experience. For this reason, to get into Harvard Medical School, you need to have stand out experiences that can demonstrate the steps you've taken to solidify your decision to become a doctor. You must learn how to ask to shadow a doctor and understand how many hours of shadowing are required for medical school, as this hands-on clinical experience will be essential proof that you have put yourself in the shoes of a physician. To show your selflessness, you should have meaningful community and volunteer experiences and you must have research experience to demonstrate your curiosity for the unknown and dedication to understanding the mechanisms behind disease. 

Did you know that 98% of HMS matriculants have research experience?

All of these experiences will be entered into the AMCAS work and activities section of your application, where your goal will be to prove not only that you want to be a doctor, but that you possess essential non-cognitive skills, maturity, and emotional intelligence to become the best doctor. Each of your experiences will help set you apart from other candidates and just like a diversity essay for medical school, they will showcase what aspects of diversity you can bring to Harvard's medical school class. Harvard will be looking closely at your summer occupations as well, to see whether or not your dedication for medicine is evident throughout your studies. If you've gained shadowing and research experience during your studies but you take every summer off to hang out with friends, you're not going to convince the admissions committee that you're taking a career in medicine seriously and that you're preparing as best as you can. Overall, your life experiences need to show a pattern. Your desire, passion, and motivation towards pursuing medicine should be undeniable. 

Interview Format

The Office of the Committee on Admissions Candidates emails candidates with available interview dates and everything they need to know about the interview itself. HMS is currently conducting video interviews only. Make sure to review our ultimate video interview guide to get ready for your HMS interview.

Acceptance and Waitlist Information

Harvard Medical School does not have an early decision program or a rolling admissions policy. All their admissions decisions are emailed on the same date in early March, whether candidates are accepted, declined, or waitlisted. All admissions decisions are final. If you are accepted and would like to apply for deferral, you must submit a request stating why and for how long. If approved, the deferral may be granted for one year, but can be renewed if you are participating in a multi-year fellowship program. If offered a position on the waitlist, the Office of Committee on Admissions will send you information about the procedures of the waitlist. Learn how to get off a medical school waitlist in our blog.

Contact information

Main site:  https://hms.harvard.edu/

Admissions: https://hms.harvard.edu/departments/admissions

FAQs

1. What kind of undergraduate degree do I need to get into Harvard Medical School?

Harvard Medical School does not give preference to science majors. However, certain science courses are required or recommended. The school urges applicants not to strive for specialized training, but for a balanced, liberal education in their undergraduate program.

2. Does Harvard Medical School accept transfer students?

No. You are ineligible to apply if you are currently enrolled or were previously enrolled in any medical school. There are no exceptions.

3. Do I need to apply for financial aid every year?

Yes, you must apply for financial aid every year.

4. Are international students eligible to apply to Harvard Medical School?

Yes, but you must have studied for at least one year at an accredited institution in the United States or Canada, and have completed the undergraduate course requirements. Although fluency in English is expected, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is not required.

Candidates with degrees from accredited institutions in the US and Canada are strongly preferred. Students are required to complete at least three years of college work and a baccalaureate degree prior to matriculation.

5. Are international students eligible for financial aid?

International Students are eligible to apply for need-based financial institutional scholarships and loans.5. How many times can I apply to HMS? You can only apply for admission a maximum of two times. If you have already made two previous application attempts, you will be rejected. Note that incomplete application attempts count toward the two-time maximum.

6. Do I need to complete all the required courses before submitting my application?

No, prerequisites do not need to be completed in order to submit an application to Harvard Medical School. The required courses must be completed prior to matriculation. However, most successful applicants complete most of the required courses before applying.

7. Are online courses accepted for the prerequisites at Harvard Medical School?

There is no specific policy restricting online courses, but HMS strongly prefers in person courses for prerequisites. Laboratory Sciences requirements, for instance, should always be taken on-site. All other online courses must be approved by the Admissions Office on a case-by-case basis.

8. What are the average GPA and MCAT scores of HMS matriculants?

HMS matriculants have extremely competitive grades and test scores. To be a competitive candidate, you need to have near-perfect statistics, ensuring that you meet or are very close to the statistics of matriculants. So, what are you aiming for? Well, the average MCAT score of accepted individuals is 520, with applicants scoring between 129-130 in each section. The average GPA of accepted individuals is 3.94.

9. Is the secondary application sent out to everyone who applies or to selected applicants only?

HMS does not pre-screen applications. That means that all applicants who submit an AMCAS application and choose Harvard Medical School will receive a secondary application.

10. How should I prepare for my HMS interview?

HMS is currently conducting video interviews only. Make sure to review our ultimate video interview guide to get ready for your HMS interview.

11. How long do I have to respond to an offer of admission?

If accepted, you must select the "Plan to Enroll" option on the Choose your Medical School tool on or before April 30th and the "Commit to Enroll” option on or before June 1st.

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 publically 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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