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Becoming a competitive applicant

In other words, 'How do I get in?'


To be a competitive applicant for medical school you need to become the kind of person that would be an excellent physician. Excellent physicians know and understand important biological and scientific processes, can learn and understand vast amounts of information, understand what medicine is and have a strong motivation for the field, interact well with others and are compassionate and service-oriented, and can lead others and teams. Medical schools utilize the following experiences to determine if you possess the attributes and characteristics necessary to become an excellent physician and hence whether or not you should be admitted to their medical school.

Medical schools evaluate applicants in three areas: GPA, MCAT scores, and other non-academic factors. Because each school places different weight on each area, be sure to research specific schools. To research specific schools, consult individual school websites, participate when schools visit campus, and consult the AAMC and AACOM guides to medical schools. (Available at our office, for purchase online, or on course reserve at the library). Additionally, utilize the services available at the Pre-Professional Advisement Center, open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To be a competitive applicant you need to:

1) Do well in your courses, especially science courses, obtaining a relatively high GPA. See the 'By the Numbers' tab below for average GPAs of those admitted to medical school.

2) Do well on your MCAT. The Medical College Admission Test, “MCAT,” is a standardized test required for all students seeking admission to U.S. medical schools. On the exam, you will be asked to demonstrate scientific reasoning and problem solving skills by applying your knowledge of scientific principles to answer passage-based and discrete questions. Ideally, the MCAT should be taken approximately 2-4 weeks prior to the submission of your medical school application.

3) Take full course loads (about 14+ credit hours) each semester, while working hard to perform as well as possible. Spacing out more difficult classes while continuing to take a full course load may work, but consistently light loads raise questions about an applicant’s ability to handle the heavy loads required in medical school. Generally, work, MCAT study or research may not be a satisfying justification for taking fewer hours each semester.

4) Shadow multiple physicians, including primary care, to determine if you really are committed to medicine.

5) Engage in research to learn more about and appreciate the scientific process.

6) Serve regularly in meaningful ways in your community.

7) Gain hands-on patient care experiences, again to confirm your desire to serve others and work in medicine.

8) Lead groups and others in meaningful ways.

More Helpful Resources

Each of the areas above are described in further detail via the links below