Preparing for medical school can be a daunting process, and even the easiest medical schools to get into have stringent requirements that must be met by all students. There are prerequisite classes, multi-year extracurricular activities to complete, and several exams on which a student must do well in order to gain entry to a medical school. What’s more, strong letters of recommendation are required, which means developing and nurturing close relationships with professors and mentors. Because expectations differ from school to school, It can also be confusing. There are certain constants, however, that apply to every med school. Here, we offer a helpful guide to requirements that apply to a wide range of programs, in order to help you ensure that you will be eligible for whichever medical school you choose.
• Medical schools have varying GPA requirements.
Obviously, the better your grades are, the better your chances of being accepted into medical schools. Here’s the challenge, though: medical schools do not typically post their minimum GPA requirement. Even the “easiest” medical school to get into will not accept anyone with an average below 2.5, and most require higher than that. Take a look at the average GPA of students at your schools of choice, and make sure that your GPA is at least at that school’s 10 percent mark. Otherwise, your chances of admission are slim. Furthermore, it’s important that your science grades are strong. If your overall GPA is a 3.8 but your science GPA is a 3.0, for example, this could lead a medical school to conclude that you would not be able to handle the rigorous coursework required for their program. Sometimes, people with a low GPA will get into medical school, but this rare occurrence only happens because of extremely strong performance on all other factors considered on the application. When deciding where to apply, check medical school acceptance rates and you will be able to tell how you measure up to students who have already been accepted.
• Most medical schools require the MCAT.
This is an extremely grueling exam, requiring seven and a half hours of focus. About 25 percent of students retake the MCAT to try to improve their scores so that they will be able to compete with other applicants. Your MCAT score and your GPA are probably the top two factors in determining whether or not you are accepted into medical school. To adequately prepare for this test, do not underestimate its difficulty. Instead, take the MCAT diagnostic test to see which disciplines you will need to review the most. Use every resource available to you to create a study schedule and strategy to help you succeed. Make sure you know what kind of questions will be on the test, and incorporate MCAT biology, psychology, and chemistry questions, along with MCAT physics equations, into your review. To determine whether your score is high enough for medical school, consider that the mean MCAT score of med school students last year was 511.5, and a 494 is considered the lowest acceptable score, even for schools with the lowest admission requirements.
• Prerequisites vary, but there are some that are common to most medical schools.
First, the education. Do you need a pre-med degree to be accepted into medical school? It may surprise you to learn that you do not. As long as you take the required courses, you can major in whatever field of study interests you most. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a scientific specialty. While majors in biological sciences are the most common among med school students, the most important factor in the major you choose will be that it highlights your strengths. You want a major to showcase your passion and demonstrate why you are motivated to pursue medicine. Majoring in something about which you are passionate will mean higher grades, stronger performance, and a better chance at admission into the post-graduate school of your choice, whether that’s medical school or a different institution. It can be helpful to look into the acceptance rates by major of the schools in which you’re interested. No matter your major, there are certain courses required for entry into medical school. Most medical schools mandate two semesters each of biology, chemistry, English, and physics, with a semester of math. It’s also recommended that medical school hopefuls take additional science classes, including biochemistry, psychology, physiology, or anatomy. Take note of which courses are required and recommended by the schools you’re eyeing, and take not only the mandatory courses but also as many of the recommended courses as possible.
• Extracurriculars allow students to set themselves apart from other candidates.
Like your admissions essay, your extracurriculars let you show what you are bringing to the table. They provide an opportunity to demonstrate who you are and why you would make a really great doctor. While there are some high school experiences that may be relevant to your medical school resume, like a summer program at the med school, your resume must be updated from your generic high school resume. Community service, clinical experience and shadowing, and research experience are all valuable for inclusion in your application. What the admissions committee wants to see is participation in activities that demonstrate a commitment to medicine, understanding of health care delivery, interest in serving diverse populations, passion for science, communication and interpersonal skills, and, above all, leadership.
• Letters of recommendation show the admissions committee which students are truly committed.
Generally, you’ll need three recommendation letters, but this varies between schools, so determine the number of letters required by the school to which you are applying. There may be a minimum requirement, but there also may be a maximum number of letters you can submit. Ultimately, the quality of the letters is more important than the quantity. While it varies depending on the school, the basic letters you should try to get include two from science professors, one from a non-science professor, and two or three letters from people who have been your supervisors in extracurricular activities. These people will have first-hand knowledge of your strengths, how you perform under pressure, and how you would likely function as a doctor. Choose wisely when deciding who you will ask for these letters, and make sure to choose people with whom you have formed strong relationships. Give each person at least a month’s notice to allow time to craft an excellent letter.
• Secondary applications may or may not be required for admission.
These school-specific applications are sent out after the primary applications are received, and while some schools send them to every applicant, others use primary applications to screen students in order to determine who will receive secondary applications. Secondary applications are labor-intensive, often containing several prompts which must be answered in essay form. It can be helpful to pre-write essays using prompts from prior years, in order to decrease your substantial workload once you begin receiving secondary applications.
• Increasingly, schools are requiring assessments beyond the MCAT.
The Casper test, which stands for Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics is becoming widely used. This exam involves text and video based scenarios, centered on ethical dilemmas, to which you will need to respond within five minutes. It can be helpful to refresh your knowledge of medical ethics and run through some practice scenarios to prepare for this exam. The Casper is actually part of a multi-component assessment, and some medical schools are now requiring all three parts of this assessment. The other components are called Snapshot and Duet. While the Casper takes 110 minutes, Snapshot is a 10-15 minute recorded interview that gives you the opportunity to provide insight into your motivations for entering the medical field and allows you to show your communication skills. Duet is meant to determine what you value in a medical school and how that aligns with the particular program to which you are applying, in an untimed assessment.
• Candidates being favorably considered will be invited for interviews.
Receiving interview invitations early in the process is an indication that you have a good chance of being accepted into the medical school. You may be asked for a traditional interview, an MMI (multiple mini-interview) or some combination of the two. So when you are preparing, make sure to cover skills for each style of interview, as well as the types of questions you should expect from the specific school where you are interviewing.
When you’re looking for a medical school with a deep-rooted tradition of quality, look into Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara
. The first medical school in Latin America to offer a US-style curriculum, we are committed to cultivating future physicians who have the skills and abilities necessary to meet the challenges of personal and community health. With the best facilities in Guadalajara, state-of-the-art laboratories, and a close working relationship with many of the hospitals in the city, we are able to provide an excellent educational experience for our students both on campus and in the field. With the goal of preparing graduates for careers as physicians where they can provide individuals, families, and communities with outstanding preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic services, our medical school offers a curriculum of excellence. We prepare our students to heal and serve their community, and we encourage them to strive for innovation, academic excellence, leadership, and commitment to society. For more information about our college of medicine, call 833-220-7645 or contact us
through our website