What To Look For When Applying To Medical School
Updated: May 11
Every prospective med student should consider four things before applying to med school: the qualifications, the experience of a med student, the qualities of a good doctor, and, ultimately, the application process itself.
Our Article Will Discuss The Following:
We’ll start with the qualifications you need, which—no surprise—require tremendous foresight, commitment, and focus. But before running the other way, we’re here to tell you it’s possible. You can successfully prepare to get accepted to medical school, especially when you break the process down into concrete components and expectations.
Key Things That Medical Schools Want To See
Excellent GPA and MCAT Scores: Your grades and MCAT score prove that you have the grit to succeed in a grueling academic program that will take 4 years of studies and 3 to 7 years in residency. The higher your GPA and MCAT scores, the higher your chance of acceptance.
Research Experience: Contributing to original research shows you are curious outside of the classroom, take initiative, and are familiar with the rigor of the scientific method, all of which are critical for entering the medical field.
Clinical Experience: Having spent time in a clinic shows that you know what you are getting yourself into. It conveys you have a concrete idea of what doctors do day to day and better understand the totality of the profession, including the skills needed to engage with patients.
Volunteer Experience: The medical profession centers around empathy. You must show you are engaged in your community, care about the welfare of others, and know how to relate to others’ experiences.
Qualifications aside, you also need to know what you are getting yourself into. Plenty of medical students keep blog posts about their experience, so for now, we’ll skip to what you should know about the qualities that make a good doctor.
Part of pre-med preparation requires serious introspection, including time spent reflecting on your personality, communication style, and value systems. Many prospective students focus only on the scientific demands of medicine and forget to consider the humanity of the profession.
Doctors need to be compassionate, effective communicators, creative problem solvers, good listeners, and systems thinkers. That said, it may be worthwhile to broaden your perspective by looking into the long standing debate about whether medicine is a science or an art.
The Application Process
If you have the qualifications (or plan to get them), bedside manner, and an unwavering passion for medicine, then the next step is to know how to successfully apply to medical school.
In a nutshell, the process looks like this:
Define Your Timeline: A full application process—from studying for the MCAT to interviewing—takes upwards of a year, so it is imperative to plan your timeline efficiently and effectively.
Exams: Your entire medical school journey will be impacted by your MCAT test score, so it is critical that you have time to achieve the best score possible. Many students seek tutors.
School Selection List: Your school list absolutely affects your chances of success, so it is worth spending time on. You must aim accurately. Base your list on your GPA and MCAT scores, so that you have realistic options for reach, target, and safety schools.
Application Package: Set yourself apart by having a well-defined personal brand that runs strong through your application. You should have a single narrative that threads your research, clinical, and volunteer experiences into a unified statement: your mission in medicine.
Finances: Take a deep breath and punt this down the line. First focus on getting accepted, and then seek scholarships and federal student loans.
The Average of GPA and MCAT Scores
Average GPA and MCAT scores vary by school, so there is no one answer to this question. However, to give you a reference point, the top 20 medical schools all boast median GPA scores above a 3.68 (19 are above a 3.8) and MCAT scores above 510 (18 of those are 517 or above).
For a more comprehensive understanding, you should use an online database such as the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) database to search for median GPA and test scores at a variety of schools that interest you. Moreover, there are many available online predictor algorithms that will estimate your odds of acceptance based on your GPA and MCAT scores.
Because the MCAT can ultimately be a barrier to entry, many prospective students have turned toward MCAT tutoring to get focused and personalized coaching to improve their scores.
How Many Medical Schools Should I Apply To?
A strong list will have 15-20 schools, including reach, target, and safety options, based on how your GPA and MCAT scores compare to the mean GPA and MCAT scores of each school. Any more than that and you risk diluting your efforts and submitting subpar application packages, while any less than that risks missed opportunities.
Fortunately, most schools use the American Medical School Application Service (AMCAS), which is the equivalent of the Common App for MD programs. It allows you to complete one application that will be sent to all the schools you select, which is wildly helpful when you’re applying to over a dozen schools.
The AMCAS will ask for your background information (biographical, schools attended, coursework, and transcripts), work and activities, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and your MCAT exam date. It’s a lot to juggle, but it’s doable.
Getting The Right Help
As you go through your medical school application process, remember that your GPA and MCAT scores play a major role in your success. Make sure you have the best MCAT scores possible by working with an MCAT tutor who can show you where and how to improve your results as efficiently as possible. We cannot emphasize enough that your MCAT scores will either open or close doors for you in your journey.
That said, it’s worth investing in a tutor early on, so you can get the best MCAT score in the least number of attempts; remember if you elect to retake the MCAT multiple times, unlike the ACT/SAT where you can submit your highest score, schools will be able to view all your MCAT scores.
In conjunction with an MCAT tutor, many applicants turn toward medical school admissions consulting to maximize their chance of success. Solomon’s team of expert med school admissions consultants are all former admissions officers from some of the best medical schools in the country.
Increase your likelihood of medical school admission and contact Solomon today for your free initial consultation. We work with high school students on the BS/MD program track, pre-med freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, first time applicants, and students who are reapplying to med school.
Our comprehensive coaching provides help on everything from essays to interviews (including MMI and CASPer interviews). We also provide customized medical school admissions consulting package to meet your personal needs.