Ivy League Medical Schools: How to Get Accepted in 2020

Updated: August 6, 2020


The fierce competition at Ivy League medical schools has prospective students questioning how to get accepted. These schools are famous for the quality of their MD programs, as well as their incredibly selective admissions processes. This blog will reveal all the important admissions stats of Ivy League medical schools, as well as their selection factors and strategies to get accepted.

Here’s What You’ll Learn:

Admissions Statistics

Strategy to Get In #1: Improve Your GPA and MCAT scores

Strategy to Get In #2: Impress with Your Extracurriculars

Strategy to Get In #3: Outstanding Essays

Strategy to Get In #4: Stellar Recommendation Letters

Final Thoughts

FAQs

Admissions Statistics

To assess your chances of getting into an Ivy League medical school, let’s look at their latest admissions statistics and find out more about its matriculants and admissions process.

Alpert Medical School (Brown University)

Average acceptance rate (overall): 1.93%

Acceptance rate (in-state): 18%

Acceptance rate (out-of-state): 1.7%

Average MCAT: 516

Average GPA: 3.83

Tuition: $64,248 (in-state and out-of-state)

Matriculants with science majors: 59%

Number of recommendation letters: 3-6

Interview format: Group session and two individual meetings

Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Average acceptance rate (overall): 1.75%

Acceptance rate (in-state): 1.9%

Acceptance rate (out-of-state): 1.9%

Average MCAT: 521

Average GPA: 3.91

Tuition: $65,425 (in-state and out-of-state)

Matriculants with science majors: 71%

Number of recommendation letters: 3-7

Interview format: Virtual interviews

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Weill Cornell Medicine

Average acceptance rate (overall): 1.7%

Acceptance rate (in-state): 2.2%

Acceptance rate (out-of-state): 1.6%

Average MCAT: 520

Average GPA: 3.9

Tuition: $62,426 (in-state and out-of-state)

Matriculants with science majors: 72%

Number of recommendation letters: 2-10

Interview format: Two 30-minute interviews with admissions committee members

Geisel School of Medicine (Dartmouth College)

Average acceptance rate (overall): 1.2%

Acceptance rate (in-state): 6.6%

Acceptance rate (out-of-state): 1.1%

Average MCAT: 516

Average GPA: 3.78

Tuition: $67,794 (in-state and out-of-state)

Matriculants with science majors: 63%

Number of recommendation letters: 3-5

Interview format: Two one-on-one 30-minute interviews conducted by faculty, current students, and admissions staff members. One 20-minute group exercise, in which a group of 5-6 candidates work together to compose a single, consensus response to a question.

Harvard Medical School 

Average acceptance rate (overall): 2.3%

Acceptance rate (in-state): 3.6%

Acceptance rate (out-of-state): 2.2%

Average MCAT: 520

Average GPA: 3.94

Tuition: $65,203 (in-state and out-of-state)

Matriculants with science majors: 69%

Number of recommendation letters: 3-6

Interview format: Virtual interviews

Do you want to get some more information on how to get accepted into an Ivy League medical school? Check out this video:

Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Average acceptance rate (overall): 2.4%

Acceptance rate (in-state): 5.4%

Acceptance rate (out-of-state): 2.1%

Average MCAT: 521

Average GPA: 3.92

Tuition: $65,343 (in-state and out-of-state)

Matriculants with science majors: 69%

Number of recommendation letters: 3-10

Interview format: Two individual interviews with faculty and student.

Yale School of Medicine

Average acceptance rate (overall): 1.8%

Acceptance rate (in-state): 6.2%

Acceptance rate (out-of-state): 1.5%

Average MCAT: 521

Average GPA: 3.9

Tuition: $64,024 (in-state and out-of-state)

Matriculants with science majors: 1%

Number of recommendation letters: 3-7

Interview format: One-on-one, open-file interviews. Applicants have two individual interviews with members of the MD admissions committee and one individual interview with a member of the Office of Admissions staff.

Strategy to Get In #1: Improve Your GPA and MCAT scores

When it comes to medical school admissions, typically there is always an outlier story. You might have heard stories of students with relatively low grades and poor MCAT scores getting into medical school. Perhaps you’ve even read on premed forums of people with no clinical experience getting into their first-choice school. Some medical schools forgive a lower MCAT score if your GPA is outstanding and if you are wondering how to get into medical school with a low GPA, you can find some help in our blog. Likewise, some schools will overlook a lower GPA if the MCAT score compensates for it. This is not the case for the Ivy League medical schools. Due to enormous competition, you must at least meet both the GPA and MCAT averages at the school to which you’re applying. Even though most Ivy League members do not have a grade or score cut-off, your marks and test scores should not be any less than the program’s average if you want the best chance of getting accepted.

If your GPA does not meet the average of the Ivy League school to which you want to apply, you have to improve your grades. If you’re still a student, take the opportunity to re-take the classes in which you did poorly. This strategy will also demonstrate your dedication to improvement. You can also organize your coursework by taking classes in disciplines you know you’re going to ace. If you are no longer a student, you might want to enroll in a post-baccalaureate program or work to complete more undergraduate courses. Do not forget that all these schools have general prerequisites. Check out our blog if you need more information about medical school prerequisites. It’s important to remember that the majority of these schools have “expiration dates” for your prerequisite courses, i.e. your prerequisites must have been completed within a certain time period. For example, Cornell asks that your courses are no older than 10 years old, while your biology prerequisites are no older than five years. Each school has different time limits, so be sure to check with the school of your choice.

Just like your GPA, your MCAT score must at least equal the average acceptance score of your preferred school. If you are just planning to take the exam, make sure you know when to start studying for the MCAT and how to create an MCAT study schedule. Preparing for the MCAT is a strenuous and time-consuming process, do not take it lightly and leave it to the last minute. To get a good MCAT score, you will need to know everything there is to know about this exam: its components, study strategies, what to expect on the test day, and so on. If you have already taken the MCAT but you are unsatisfied with your score, you should consider retaking the test to improve your result. Before taking the test again, study and prepare rigorously. Take several practice tests to make sure you consistently score well (in the 90th percentile). There is no point in sitting the test again if you see no improvement when you take the practice exam. Remember, the schools to which you are applying can see all the times you took the exam and all your scores. If you are still not sure when you should take the MCAT, check out our blog. If you’re getting ready to take the test, make sure you're aware of MCAT test dates and release dates and be sure to register early.

Remember, you do not need to have a science degree to have a chance of admission. But beware that the majority of Ivy League matriculants do, with the exception of Yale Medical School (only 1%!).

Strategy to Get In #2: Impress with Your Extracurriculars

Your extracurriculars for medical school must include activities that would highlight your individuality and show your dedication and passion for a career in medicine. Your AMCAS Work and Activities section must demonstrate your versatility and dedication. As always, the quality of your activities trumps quantity. Demonstrate a variety of extracurriculars with a substantial time commitment; having only one extracurricular could hurt your chances of acceptance as it limits your experiences. According to the latest data, students who get accepted into Ivy League medical schools have incredibly impressive premedical experience. More than 90% of these schools’ matriculants had in-depth research and lab experience. Over 50% of Dartmouth’s medical school matriculants had medical or clinical paid employment experience! And even though shadowing is not required but recommended, over 80% of the students who were accepted by these schools had shadowing experience. A high percentile of matriculants also had other community engagement and volunteering experiences.

So, how can you stand out? Firstly, consider doing research. As world leaders in scientific research and progress, Ivy Leagues certainly value their applicants’ research experience. Even if you have no interest in MD-PhD programs, research is a great way to boost your medical school application. Not only does it show your dedication to the development of the medical field, it also demonstrates your curiosity, high levels of responsibility, and ability to work in a team. All these qualities are extremely valuable in a potential medical student. To gain some research experience, start by searching for research assistant positions on campus. You can always ask your instructors and TAs if they are involved in research projects and whether they need any help. You can also find research positions and jobs on Google, LinkedIn, and websites like Indeed. Before you apply to research positions, be sure to read our blog to learn how to craft an excellent research assistant cover letter.

Clinical experience is paramount for an Ivy League medical school applicant. The admissions committee needs to know that you have been exposed to the medical field and know what it takes to work as a physician. To stand out, make sure your clinical experiences demonstrate initiative, leadership, and willingness to learn. It’s not enough to be a passive observer: get involved, i.e. demonstrate readiness to help your supervisors and colleagues, interact with the patients, give your 100% to even the most menial task. Food for thought: if you haven’t committed to a clinical setting yet, consider participating in clinical activities in rural settings, rather than metropolitan areas. Rural medical institutions tend to be smaller and have fewer staff members, so you’ll get more attention from your supervisor and have more opportunities to learn. Rural hospitals may be an incredible learning opportunity as you might have more direct communication with your supervisor and the patients. Remember, your supervisors are perfect candidates to write your medical school recommendation letters – the more they get to know you, the better your reference letter will be.

As I stated previously, shadowing is not required, but highly recommended by all Ivy League medical schools. With this said, even though shadowing is not officially required, you'll have a very hard time convincing admissions committee members that you have taken the necessary steps to test drive your future career without this experience. Shadowing a physician can really help you grow as a future physician, since you’ll be exposed to the everyday work and responsibilities of a practicing professional. An occasional shadow session will not add anything to your Ivy League applications. Be sure to review our blog to learn how many shadowing hours are required for medical school you need. Remember, the amount of time you spend shadowing is important, but it’s more important to focus on the quality of your experience. Although shadowing is a passive activity, use this opportunity to ask questions, take note of curious and memorable moments you witness and reflect on what you've learned from your experiences. These observations can become a part of your AMCAS most meaningful experiences. A rewarding shadowing experience can help boost your application. Furthermore, it can lead to further opportunities with the physician you shadowed! Shadowing is also a great networking opportunity. Now, it can be difficult to know how to approach a physician with the request to shadow them so make sure to review our blog to learn how to ask to shadow a doctor the right way.

Strategy to Get In #3: Outstanding Essays

The personal statement and secondary essays for your Ivy League medical school applications must be outstanding. While it’s true that many premed students have similar journeys, your personal statement delivery and content must stand out. It can be difficult to organize all your hard work and accomplishments into a coherent story in the space provided by the AMCAS application. Personal statements are limited to 5300 characters, including spaces. So, it’s important to prioritize and choose three to four talking points for your personal statement. Remember, your essay should have a captivating first sentence, as well as a memorable conclusion. If you’re having trouble prioritizing what to include in your statement, you might want to seek help of a medical school advisor. They can help you highlight your journey to medical school. Review our medical school personal statement examples and Harvard Medical School personal statement examples blogs to help you create a stand out statement.

Medical school secondary essays are more difficult to plan and execute, as you usually have a shorter period of time to prepare them. While a personal statement can take weeks or months to write, your secondary essays should be submitted within two weeks after you receive the invitation to complete them. If you’d like to see an example of a secondary essay from an Ivy League school, be sure to check out our “How to Get Into Harvard Medical School” blog. 

Strategy to Get In #4: Stellar Recommendation Letters

According to the Ivy League medical schools’ profiles, recommendation letters play a vital role in their decision-making process. This is why your reference letters must be stellar. You are encouraged to submit as many letters as are allowed. That is, if the school you’re applying to has a minimum of 3 letters and a maximum of 6, aim to have more than 3 letters. Though most schools require letters from science and non-science faculty, letters from other writers are highly encouraged. If you have substantial research experience, one of your letters must be written by the head of your research project or your principal investigator (PI). If you have been involved in clinical practice or shadowing, make sure your supervisor writes you a glowing reference. Other writers may include non-medical work and volunteer supervisors, employers, colleagues, athletics coaches, and so on. Your experiences and commitments will often determine who you choose to write your letters. Most Ivy League schools request individual letters but if your school provides its premed students with a committee letter, you should definitely get a letter from your premed committee. Your medical school recommendation letters can really boost your candidacy by providing an objective, external evaluation of your character, abilities, and accomplishments.

Final Thoughts

While difficult to get into, Ivy League medical schools are not impossible to please. It’s important to understand your abilities and choose a school according to your limits. Remember, Ivy League schools have great programs, but so do other schools. Do not be tempted by the sheer stature of these institutions. Choose a program that aligns with your short and long term goals and overall, is the right fit for you.

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FAQs

1. How do I apply to Ivy League medical schools?

All Ivy League schools use the AMCAS application system. Check our blog to learn about medical school application timelines.

2. Will Early Decision programs help me get into Ivy League medical schools?

Early Decision Program (EDP) allows students to apply to their first-choice school and receive an early decision about their candidacy. If you choose to participate in the Early Decision Program, you must apply to only one US medical school by their stated deadline. You must guarantee that you will accept an offer of admission if it is granted. While EDP does admit a limited number of students early, do not think that it gives you an advantage if your application is lacking. The majority of students who submit their application by the EDP deadline are certain that their application is perfectly fitted for the program of their choice. EDP does not help students with weaker applications to get accepted. Giesel School of Medicine also offers admissions through the early assurance medical program.

3. Do Ivy Leagues accept Canadian and International Students?

Yes, they do. If you’re an international applicant, check with the school of your choice if you’re required to complete coursework in the United States or Canada. Check out Canadian friendly US medical schools to learn more about studying in America as a Canadian applicant.

4. Do Ivy League medical schools place a higher value on grades and MCAT scores?

All of the member institutions stress a holistic approach when looking at applicants’ profiles. However, to be a competitive candidate, you must demonstrate excellence in all your application components. Any weak link in your application, whether it’s the MCAT, your GPA, recommendation letters, or your essays, will be a reason to cut you out of the enormous application pool.

5. Do Ivy Leagues accept transfer students?

Most of these schools do not accept transfer students. Alpert medical school may consider transfer applicants under extraordinary circumstances. Admission of transfer students will also be based on whether there are spaces available.

6. How do I prepare for an Ivy League medical school interview?

Each school has its own interview format. Learn how to prepare for your med school interview by practicing with some common medical school interview questions and MMI questions.

7. Do I have to go to an Ivy League medical school to be successful?

No, you do not. The courses you take, the research you do, the clinical experiences you have, as well as volunteering and extracurriculars will have much more impact on your career than the school you choose to attend. Watch this video to dispel any doubts about whether you need to attend a “brand name” school to be successful!

8. Will attending an Ivy League medical school help me match to a better residency?

Not really. Attending these schools certainly indicates your academic excellence up to this point, but what matters most is the experiences you have during medical school, like your research and clinical experiences, letters of reference from your mentors, your coursework, your residency personal statement, and other components of your residency application rather than the school you attend.

9. Why do you recommend being at the median for these schools’ GPA or MCAT?

Perhaps you think getting in with the minimal score is the way to go but meeting the median GPA and MCAT score makes you a more competitive and stronger applicant. You should not aim for lower GPA or MCAT scores just because some students get in with those lower scores. You should work hard and show the best possible grades you can.

10. Are Ivy Leagues more expensive?

No, attending an Ivy League is not more expensive. There are non-Ivy League medical schools that cost more. All of the Ivy League schools are private, so the cost will be the same for in-state and out-of-state students. The most expensive Ivy League medical school is Geisel School of Medicine, which costs around $67,794 annually.

11. What are the pros and cons of attending an Ivy League?

One of the main cons of attending a member school is the fierce competition to get in. This is not because the curriculum is better than in other medical schools, but the reputation of the Ivy League schools does add to their popularity. A major pro is that attending an Ivy League schools speaks to your ambition and your academic excellence. However, as I mentioned before, simply attending an Ivy League medical school will not affect your chances of matching to residency. You will need to impress with your coursework, research and clinical experiences, extracurriculars, and recommendation letters. Simply having an Ivy League diploma will not make you a competitive candidate.

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