Even the have medical school requirements that must be met by all applicants. From and experiences to grades and , we've got you covered in this blog. With essential information and expert tips, we'll help you every step of the way so you can tick off all the requirements the admissions process calls for. By the time you've finished reading, you'll feel confident to meet and exceed medical school requirements and be on your way towards acceptance. Remember, if you are still unsure whether you are ready for medical school, you can always contact to help you out!
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Most medical schools in the US require the completion of a bachelor's degree before students are eligible to apply to medical school. So, what should you study? Is there a particular pre-med major that is better than the rest? What are medical schools looking for? Do let in students from non-science backgrounds?
For starters, forget what you've heard about one pre-med major being better than another one. It's simply not true, and some students get so carried away with studying a major that they think will look good that they sacrifice other areas they were more interested in, better suited for, and may have even performed better in.
To best prepare yourself for medical school, it's important to complete your undergraduate degree in a field of study that you're interested in. Not in a field that you think will impress others or the admissions committee. Another common misconception is that you must complete your undergraduate major in a science specialty, but that is not the case. Even though majors in the biological sciences are the most common major of medical school matriculants, there are so many other majors represented such as humanities, math and statistics and physical sciences. It's important to choose a major that will highlight your strengths and showcase your passion and motivation for pursuing medicine. For example, if you have a passion for both medicine and business, and you choose to attend one of the and complete the required prerequisite coursework, you will impress the admissions committee with a great academic background in your favored major, i.e., business, and with your ability to balance the rigors of business program with the necessary premed coursework. If you're interested, head over to our blog to see how your chances of acceptance vary between majors. Whether you choose a science or non-science major, be sure that you complete all the requirements of your program.
The following tabs show the most common prerequisites for medical school.
These are the mandatory prerequisite courses for most medical schools:
These are the courses medical schools recommend you take, though they aren’t usually mandatory:
The specific requirements vary from school to school. For example, some schools require both Organic and Inorganic Chemistry coursework as part of the mandatory Chemistry course prerequisites. Others may allow you to substitute Biochemistry for one of the chemistry courses. Similarly, some schools may ask for specific Math courses such as Statistics or Calculus. Some schools, such as do not require the completion of any specific prerequisite courses but do have recommended courses. It’s important to remember the difference between required and recommended coursework. If your application is missing the former, your file will not even be reviewed by the admissions committee, while if you do not take some recommended courses, your application will still be considered. However, we strongly encourage you take as many of recommended courses as possible. While they may not be required by your chosen school, you want to ensure that you fit the profile of a successful matriculant as much as possible.
Those enrolled in science majors likely have many, if not all, required courses included in their curriculum. For those studying non-science majors, it's important to elect to complete these courses as they are probably not included in the curriculum.
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Another tip I can give you is that not all prerequisites for medical school are created equally, meaning that they vary greatly between medical schools. Whether you’re applying to all your local state schools and the easiest , or targeting only top Ivy League med schools, don’t assume that just because one medical school requires x, y, and z, that another school will also require that.
That other school may actually require a, b and c, in addition to x, y, and z, so never assume. Always check the prerequisites at each medical school you want to apply to so you can make sure you've completed what you need to apply. One of the biggest reasons students take a year off before applying to medical school is because they failed to complete the required coursework in their undergraduate studies. Due to this gap, these students often fall into the category. While some students enroll in or to complete these missed courses, it's a time-consuming and costly way to complete what could have been completed during your undergraduate studies.
are one of the best ways to set yourself apart from other candidates. It shows the admissions committee who you are a person, what steps you've taken to become knowledgeable about the profession, what motivates you to do what you do, and of course, . Keep in mind that everyone applying to medical school wants to be a doctor, it's your responsibility to prove to the admissions committee why you would be a great doctor and how your experiences have solidified your decision to pursue medicine, instead of another field. In addition to writing a as part of your , , or optional essay for , your list of extracurriculars are also a great way to show the admissions committee what aspects of diversity you can bring to the entering class.
Remember that your has to be more updated, in-depth, and targeted than your generic . That doesn’t mean you can’t mention significant high school experiences in your application. For example, a lot of universities and hospitals offer high-impact that might be worth highlighting. When trying to decide what to include, consider how that experience influenced your personal journey to medical school. Each experience you have has shaped you as a person, helped you grow, and develop new skills and knowledge that you can share with your peers. No two people have had the exact same experiences, and even if they had, each would take something different from it. So in this way, your experiences become unique entities that the admissions committee wants to learn about. They want to hear your own personal story that answers the prompt and discusses how you first became interested in medicine, how you gained experiences in the field to develop your interest, and how that interest changed from possibility to absolution. For example if you took a , highlight what you gained from your throughout your application. If you ever presented research papers or leadership talks at conferences or meetings, highlight the topic, the research you put into it, and the impact you made with your presentation – for example, if others used your work to come up with new projects or research materials. Additionally, remember that can actually be great source materials for your essays.
Check out our video to determine the best extracurriculars for medical school:
While many extracurriculars are important for medical school, clinical experience is one that holds a lot of value to the admissions committee. Clinical experience includes hands-on experiences in a clinical setting and one of the most valuable to add to your application is shadowing a doctor. There is no better way to test drive your career as a physician than by tagging along as a physician completes all their normal daily tasks. You'll understand how each hour of the day is spent as you silently observe a physician interact with patients, complete reports, order tests and even perform surgeries. Once you know and , you'll find the process easy.
So, which doctors should you shadow? Well, this totally depends on which area of medicine interests you. If you're interested in family medicine, try reaching out to your own family doctor or the doctors of members of your family, this way, you're gaining experience that is 100% relevant to your interests. If you have a few different interests, don't be afraid to shadow doctors in a variety of different fields. It's perfectly acceptable to sample different areas to help you hone in on your true interests. The same applies if you have absolutely no idea which area of medicine to pursue.
Don't worry, the admissions committee does not expect you to know exactly which area of medicine you want to study. What's important is that you want to become a doctor and you can show them that you've taken the necessary steps to get there. Show them that you've put yourself in a physician's shoes, and enjoyed the fast-paced environment, the stress, the long hours, the connection with patients, or whatever other aspects you may observe and experience. Many of us have had dreams of becoming different professions, but sometimes when we try them we realize they're not for us at all. That's why it's so important to gain this shadowing experience, to try it, and hopefully know that it's right for you.
Shadowing experience isn't the only type of clinical experience you can partake in. Any other volunteer or employment opportunities that place you in a clinical setting is excellent will serve your purpose. Admissions committees want to see that you have real-life experience in the field of medicine which can be completed in a variety of facilities such as clinics, hospitals, and medical offices. Having a variety of different experiences is highly valuable, just be sure that you devote time to each experience, and don't just try to stack up multiple experiences in an effort to impress the admissions committees. Always participate in valuable clinical experiences that align with your own interests and passions. When you select experiences that you want to put into your section or highlight items in your , make sure to choose quality over quantity and show what you learned from each experience.
Check out our tips for how to get clinical experience:
Nearly every student applying to medical school has clinical experience to add to their application, but not all of them have research experience. That's right, another area for you to potentially stand out! Some schools, like , are heavily focused on research, requiring students to possess this experience to be considered for admission. Normally, schools that are research-based have this incorporated in their mission statement and core values. To be considered competitive at these institutions, you need to demonstrate your desire and motivation for research. There are so many different ways to gain research experience, you could work as a lab assistant or technician in a clinical setting, research facility or even in the field. To help you get these positions, always accompany your job application or CV with a . Now, don't simply apply to research-focused medical schools if you have no desire or interest in research. As always, tailor your experiences to your interests and apply to medical schools that are in line with your short and long term goals.
If you want to apply to joint , you absolutely need to add research experience to your box of requirements. These programs are specifically designed for students with a passion for medicine, but also a strong passion for research. Graduates from these programs will be trained as physician-scientists, ready to tackle the mechanisms behind disease, conduct independent or joint research, and strive towards making discoveries in the field of medicine. In reviewing your research experience, the admissions committees will be looking at your level of participation, your reasoning as to the importance of the research, and what lessons you learned from the experience. Try to gain hands-on experience conducting research by testing hypotheses, analyzing results and contributing to reports or scientific papers.
Keep in mind that if you apply to programs, you'll have to complete additional essays, the significant research experience essay and the . These essays are solely designed to learn about your extensive research experiences, so be sure to demonstrate your commitment to research through a variety of meaningful experiences. Regardless of whether or not you apply to joint MD-PhD programs, meaningful research is a valuable experience to include in your med applications. Ensure that you understand the ins and outs of any research you participate in. Regardless of your level of contribution, if you're invited to an interview, the interviewers will expect you to have a strong grasp on the research, its significance, and major findings.
Check out why research is so important in our video below:
What is one of the many important qualities a physician should possess? The selfless dedication for helping others which is why service orientation is one of the demonstrated by successful medical school students. Patients put a lot of trust and faith into doctors, and it's a physician's responsibility to provide the best quality of care while respecting patient autonomy. A physician's day to day life requires putting their patients first, working long hours and skipping breaks, all to best meet patient's needs. Therefore, when proving to the admissions committee that you're suitable for a lifelong career as a medical doctor, you must be able to demonstrate your commitment to serving others and this is where your volunteer experience becomes relevant.
Unlike the aforementioned experiences, volunteer experience does not have to be completed in a specific field or setting. Rather, you can participate in any type of volunteer experience, as long as you can discuss why it's significant, how it has or will help you in your pursuit of medicine, and what you took from the experience. Don't think for a second that medical schools are going to take a gamble on applicants that can't demonstrate that they really do care about their community and the public in general. Community service helps the admissions committees determine those that genuinely want to help others from those that are simply interested in the external rewards that come with being a doctor.
Try to look for volunteer activities that are well aligned with what you're passionate about. For example, if you're passionate about changing the lives of communities that don't have proper access to medical care, seek out experiences that place you in that setting, where you can make a difference. If you want to improve the lives of the aging population, look for experiences in retirement and respite centers. Be sure that your experiences are true to what you're trying to accomplish. Think about what you stand for and where you want to make a difference and go from there. you will need will differ from program to program. However, remember to make a long-term commitment and show genuine interest in whatever activity you choose to participate in.
Anyone can say “I'm great at my job, I'm the top employee” but what would that individual's supervisor say about them? Would they echo those claims or have something entirely different to say? Speaking with that individual's supervisor is the only way to know for sure and this same principle applies to students applying to medical school. Letters of recommendation give the admissions committee insight into whether or not you're as good or committed as you say you are. On average, schools require three to accompany your application, however, this varies between schools so be sure you're aware of the number of letters your school requires, who they must be from, and whether or not there is a maximum amount you can submit.
Want a quick overview of how to choose your referees?
Your lab supervisor that overlooks your daily projects or the physician that accompanies you in the back of an ambulance has first-hand knowledge as to who you are as a person, how you function in your designated role, and if you will be suitable as a medical doctor. Are you constantly trying to better yourself? Are you curious about the unknown? Do you follow instructions to a T? Do you panic in stressful situations? Do you take feedback willingly? The individuals behind letters of recommendation have the answers to all of these questions, and because members of the admissions committees can't follow you around on your experiences, they take the word of these individuals highly.
For this reason, it's very important to choose wisely when selecting where your letters of recommendation will come from. If you're unsure what an individual may say about you in a letter to medical schools, this is not the right individual to ask. Similarly, don't ask a professor to be your referee simply because you scored highly in their class. You want to form strong relationships with your mentors and supervisors and it's important to develop these connections early on in your time spent with them. Focus on putting in the effort to form these connections right away and tell your mentors about your plan to apply to medical school from the start. This will give your bond a chance to develop and grow stronger over time into a lasting, supportive relationship that results in fantastic recommendation letters. Lastly, don't wait until the last minute to ask your referees for a letter, it's best to give them at least a month's notice to fit crafting an excellent letter into their busy schedule.
Wondering how to receive outstanding letters of recommendation? Check out our video below:
Secondary applications may or may not be required depending on the medical schools you apply to, and you may not always be given the opportunity to complete them. Some medical schools send out secondaries to every student that applies to their school, while others use primary applications as a way to screen which applicants should receive secondaries. So, what are secondary applications? They are applications that are sent to students to collect more information from them, usually information that was not already provided in the primary application. They often contain a handful of questions, known as prompts, that students must answer in essay form, and return to the admissions committees. For example, applications contain two mandatory prompts whereas applications have 10 different prompts that require answering.
The amount of time you'll have to complete your secondary essays will vary between schools, but 2-4 weeks is fairly standard. As most students apply to 15-16 medical schools, it's easy to become overwhelmed with an influx of secondaries to fill out, all at the same time, without much time to complete one, let alone a collection of them. It's therefore important to plan in advance and begin completing your medical school secondary essays ahead of time. Refer to our blog for to see the most common type of prompts so you can work on answering them confidently and effectively.
There is no denying that your GPA is one of the more important aspects used to determine whether or not you'll be invited to an interview, and in turn, offered acceptance. While it is possible to , it's a much more difficult path, requiring extremely strong performance in all other areas. Unfortunately, no matter how excellent the rest of your application is, if you don't meet , your application won't receive further consideration. AMCAS calculates two different GPAs, your cumulative GPA, which is your overall GPA taking into account all courses you've taken, and your Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math (BCPM) GPA, also known as your science GPA.
While both GPAs are important, admissions committees are especially interested in your science GPA, and whether or not there is consistency between the two. For example, if your overall GPA is 3.8 but your science GPA is a 3.2, it will act as a red flag to the admissions committee, telling them that you may not be able to handle the difficulty of medical school science and math courses. It's therefore important to focus intently on achieving the highest GPA possible. In addition to taking courses that meet the requirements for medical school, be sure to follow your passions and interests. Sometimes students attempt difficult courses that they are not good at and are not required, to try and impress the admissions committee. This tactic however often backfires because if you're not good at a course, you'll likely score poorer in it which will bring down your entire GPA.
Your GPA is an important tool you possess to help you when you're wondering, but also in determining which medical schools to target. Be sure to visit our and blog to see how your stats compare to accepted individuals and where you have the best chances of getting accepted.
While there are some , many schools do. The MCAT is one of the hardest tests you'll complete in your lifetime, requiring seven and a half hours of focus and mental resilience. Nearly 1 in for 4 students have to re-take the MCAT, likely to try and improve their score to make them a more competitive applicant. Along with your GPA, the MCAT is an essential factor in determining your chances of acceptance.
In order to score well, you'll have to put in some serious review and preparation time, do not underestimate the difficulty of this test. Firstly, take the to determine your baseline. Based on your results, you will be able to choose which disciplines you need to review. Next, you can create a thorough that will incorporate the content areas you need to cover and active study strategies. Make sure to include , , questions, and in your review. Devise a strong and ensure you take a test to help you prepare.
Want to know how you can score well on the MCAT?
It's important to know so you can create a study plan that's best suited for you. Keep in mind that the mean MCAT score of last year's matriculants was 511.5. The MCAT is offered at a variety of different times at different testing locations, but registration fills up quickly so ensure you're aware of available well in advance of when you plan to take it.
The is a multi-component assessment that is a part of the application selection process for many professional programs, including medical schools. While previously, only, now, some schools require all three components of the Altus Suite.
The three components are:
While the Altus suite is supposed to help assess students’ soft skills and suitability for professional programs, many have shown that situational judgment tests cause bias. Many schools use Altus Suite to screen applicants and decide who gets an in-person interview invitation, which is why it's important for you to know and other components effectively and perform well at each stage. It takes 6 to 8 weeks to prepare for CASPer, and 6 weeks to 2 months to prepare for Snapshot. Don’t panic! You can prepare for both at the same time, as your approach to answering CASPer questions will be similar to how you approach Snapshot questions. While you can’t predict exactly which questions you’ll receive in each of these components, you can get familiar with the test format, practice with sample questions, define your key talking points, and perfect your communication skills. Check out some and answers to help you prepare.
Not all medical schools require Altus Suite. Some do not require any components of it, while others may require only the CASPer or CASPer and Snapshot. You should check the Altus Suite requirements of each school you’re applying to so you can prepare accordingly.
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1. Do MD and DO schools have the same medical school requirements?
2. You mentioned secondary essays, but what about primary application essays?
Yes, personal statements and essays are inextricable parts of the American application procedures, whether you apply through AMCAS, TMDSAS, or AACOMAS.
3. If I meet all these requirements, will I get an interview invite?
Meeting all the medical school requirements does not guarantee an interview invite. If you do get invited to interview, you must know . You should find out which interview format your school uses. Today, many medical schools in Canada and the US use the MMI format. Review how to prepare for your MMI and go over . Make sure to go over common medical school interview questions that can be incorporated into any interview format.
4. Are there any extraccuriculars that will give me a competitive edge?
My number one advice regarding extracurriculars would be to research your schools of choice to find out what kind of experiences previous year’s matriculants had. For example, some schools greatly value research. Matriculants of most Ivy League medical schools have in-depth research and lab experiences.
On the other hand, there are schools that really value experiences in the rural or northern communities, like or . Make sure to read the schools’ descriptions and mission to find out more about what kind of applicants they are looking for.
5. Does prestige of my undergraduate school matter when it comes to medical school acceptance rates?
No, it does not. While even the easiest Ivy League school or top to get into may seem like an advantage to have in your med school application, admissions committees pay much more attention to the quality of your application components, scores, experiences, letters of recommendation, and essays.
6. Who should I ask to be my referees?
Letters of reference are very important. Make sure to ask someone who will give you outstanding recommendations. If you see that a person is hesitant to write you a strong letter, it’s better to ask someone else. Most medical schools will ask for a letter from one science referee, one from a non-science referee, and one referee of your choice. If you are applying to , you should know that most schools participating in will ask for a character reference.
7. How many medical schools should I apply to?
You should apply to 15 to 20 medical schools. Do not go over 20 schools. Why? Because once you submit your primary application, you will most likely receive secondaries – it will be difficult to complete a large number of secondaries on time. Additionally, apply to schools where you know your GPA and MCAT scores meet the expected averages.
8. Should I still apply to schools that have higher GPA and MCAT cut-offs than my averages?
You can apply to a couple of schools that have higher averages but try not to have too many. There are schools that weed out applicants in the initial stages of the application review process based on grades and scores. This means that they won’t even look at other application components if your GPA and MCAT do not meet their standards.
9. What are the most common medical school course requirements?
Most medical schools ask for 2 semesters each of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, with lab, along with 1 semester of Math and 2 semesters of English. In addition to these mandatory requirements, they may ask for additional recommended courses such as a relevant humanities or social sciences course, Statistics, Calculus, etc.
10. Which schools require the completion of ALTUS Suite?
The requirement for Altus Suite varies from one school to the next. You should check the admissions website of your target schools to make sure which components of Altus Suite, if any, are required for admission.
11. How can I prepare for the ALTUS suite components?
The Altus Suite is a behavioral diagnosis tool that is used to test a student’s suitability for medical school. Hence, prepping for it can be a little difficult as there’s no set list of questions or prompts to refer to. Instead, you need to focus on researching the specific format of each of the components, and developing appropriate strategies for tackling them so you can get the outcome you want.