Medical School Requirements: Everything You Need To Know

Last Updated on August 18, 2022 by Laura Turner

You’re concerned about medical school requirements. Different medical school programs are on your radar, but they’re all fiercely competitive. You fear that you’ve chosen the wrong major. You may feel that your path to medicine is futile. Medical school is indeed competitive. To build a solid foundation of success, however, choose a major that interests you most, even if it’s not related to the medical field. Your major could even be humanities or social sciences. Choosing a major that sparks your interest will motivate you to study harder. As a result, you’ll excel in your studies and get stellar grades in the process. If you choose a major not related to the medical field, remember to take your prerequisite medical courses as an undergraduate.

Applying for medical schools also requires completion of the MCAT. Also, you must complete your college application and obtain several letters of recommendation. This article will reveal more about the medical school mandates. Read further to know more.

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Enroll in college​

An undergraduate degree is necessary before you can enroll in a medical school program. It helps to enroll in a four-year university, as some evaluators may scoff at community colleges due to perceived lower standards. That said, medical schools are becoming more open to students who have started at community college as they seek to diversify their matriculants, so you can still complete some of your coursework at a two-year institution. This is the starting point to satisfy medical school requirements.

Many undergraduates choose biological science as their major, as the requirements to complete the degree also allow you to complete medical school prerequisites. Besides biology, the following programs are great fits for pre-medical students:

  • Statistics
  • Math
  • Humanities
  • Social Science
  • Specialized Health Science
  • Physical Science

Remember: choose a major that showcases your strengths and talents. When it comes to admission rates, humanities, math/statistics, and physical science rank higher than other categories.

GPA scores​

Regardless of your major, aim for a high GPA to gain a competitive edge. Many premeds change their career plans when they are unsuccessful in their prerequisite courses. However, your GPA isn’t the sole factor that determines acceptance. Admission heads may pair your GPA with the prestige of the university.

  • Example: If student A has a 3.5 GPA from a prestigious university, they will have an advantage over student B who received a 4.0 from a non-prestigious university.

This scenario is common, but not all universities apply this standard. To be truly competitive, strive to get a high score on your MCAT exam.

MCAT standards​

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is the most important factor that will determine your eligibility for medical school. Your GPA is important, but the MCAT is the ultimate equalizer that will make you stand out.

  • Example: Student A went to a prestigious university, and Student B attended a non-prestigious university. If both score a high MCAT score, both will have equal standing.

For this reason, strive for a high MCAT score during your first or second try. The MCAT comprises four sections that are graded on a scale between 118 and 132. The average point on each section is 125. The points you get in each section add up to determine your final score. The highest score you can get on an MCAT is 528, with 472 being the lowest score. The average score is 500, but the most competitive applicants receive scores of 510 or above. At 515 or over, your competitive status increases, and scores over 517 will almost guarantee your admission.

Another factor determining your score will be the medical school where you apply. Your score will be compared to the average score of your chosen medical schools. Keep in mind that a high MCAT score won’t secure your admission even if you scored over 517. The admissions committee will compare your MCAT with your profile and application.

Life experience​

The admissions board will also assess who you are as a person. They’ll study your work experience and the time you devoted to your studies. To stand out more, you’ll complete a work and activities section in your medical application. The application allows you to include 15 entries in your profile. Give as much detail as you can about your work histories, such as:

  • Jobs or internships
  • Community service (Medical or non-medical)
  • Hobbies
  • Lab experience
  • Teaching/teaching assistant experience
  • Athletic pursuits
  • Artistic pursuits
  • Leadership experience
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Honors or awards
  • Military service

Overall, include any achievements that differentiate you from other applicants. Medical board members want to know how your life experience guided you to the field of medicine, and this medical school requirement has qualitative value. This section is one of the most important factors during the application process because many assessors will review it before viewing your personal statement.

The personal statement​

The activities description will influence how committee members think of you as they read your personal statement. The personal statement will be the essay portion of your application. Moreover, this application section allows you to add anything that you couldn’t include in your application.

It’s a summation of who you are as an individual, and it’s another step that helps you stand out from other applicants. Be upfront and genuine when writing your statement. Give a succinct description of your personality and professional profile. Here are the best details to include:

  • Your interests and hobbies
  • Where you grew up
  • What you enjoyed about college

To stand out more, list any obstacles or challenges that impacted your educational path. Detail how you overcame those challenges and how they enhanced your passion for medicine. When it comes to professional experience, list the motivating factors that led you to choose a specific medical field.

Further, note anyone who influenced you throughout your undergraduate studies. Did you gain any mentors or friends that guided you to a certain medical specialty? If you gained a professor as a mentor, they can also write your letter of recommendation.

Letters of recommendation​

Your personal statement will amplify your voice, but you’ll need others to speak on your behalf. Medical schools have different standards when dealing with letters of recommendation. Regardless of the school, letters of recommendation have evolved over the years to become letters of evaluation. A letter of evaluation is a more comprehensive view of the applicants. It reveals such factors as core competency, work ethic, and character.

In many cases, you’ll need at least three recommendation letters. Most of your letters should derive from a math or science professor. For example, if you have three recommendation letters, two of them should derive from a math or science teacher. You should also get letters from a researcher and a physician. Letters from a non-math or non-science professor will suffice as well; however, don’t forget to do your research on each school you are applying to in advance in order to plan ahead accordingly.

On average, medical students tend to submit four or five letters to gain an edge. A recommendation letter should include the following information:

  • Thinking and Reasoning: The letter can showcase such attributes as critical thinking or stellar reasoning.
  • Professional Performance: The letter could highlight excellent social skills or impeccable teamwork skills.
  • Consistency and Dependability: Your medical school will take notice if a professor champions your reliability.

Also, the letters can note your adherence to ethics. Any letter that shows your ability to adapt to changing circumstances will enhance your application as well. Get letters from professionals that know you well. If you work closely with a teaching assistant (TA), you can ask the TA for a recommendation letter, and the professor can sign it.

If you choose to ask a professor, ask them by April of the year you intend to apply. Professors typically receive many letter requests. If you ask professors during a busy time, they could rush through your letter and include less detail. Poor recommendation letters can hamper the admissions process or cause a rejection.

Prerequisite courses​

Another factor that can delay the admissions process is not taking enough prerequisite courses during your college tenure. Take the right prerequisites that apply to your medical school. Prerequisite courses typically include:

  • Psychology
  • Biology
  • Organic chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • English
  • Calculus

Many of these courses are mandatory. If you want to become a doctor, experts recommend completing all prerequisite courses as an undergraduate. If not, you must take the courses in a separate program that’s pricier and consumes more of your time.

If you’re a non-science major, you can still take these core classes before enrolling in medical school. Regardless of your major choice, the prerequisites will help you prepare for the MCAT. To know if you’re taking the right courses, meet with an academic advisor routinely.

Core medical school requirements​

Medical school requirements entail a high GPA and a high MCAT score. Your life experience is just as valuable as your test scores. Also, get several letters of recommendation so others can vouch for your character and work ethic. Your extracurricular activities are also vital and will help you stand out more to evaluators. That said, the standards vary among medical schools. Therefore, contact the school of your choice to know for certain.

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