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Tips for getting into medical school

Acing the MCAT is crucial for getting into medical school. But it is just one piece of a sometimes complicated puzzle.

From knowing how to approach the admissions board, writing a great personal statement (AMCAS essay) to obtaining strong letters of recommendation, prospective medical students have to hit their marks in order to get into the medical school of their choice.

What are the requirements for getting into the medical school of your choice? If you know how to adequately prepare yourself and understand what the admissions board is seeking, then you’ll stand a much greater chance of success. And even as medical schools are increasing enrollments in order to offset an anticipated physician shortage, competition for spots is still tough.

Hard requirements for getting in

One of the first requirements for getting into the med school that you want is to score well on your MCAT. This will require that you know what areas are covered on this test in order to prepare yourself adequately. The MCAT measures what you know in the fields of biological science, chemistry and other physical sciences, as well as gauges your communication skills.

MCAT exams may be taken up to three times per year from January through September. Many premeds enroll in MCAT test prep courses to help them prepare, and perhaps give them an edge.

The application process to medical schools usually has multiple steps. For most of the US, the initial medical school application is the AMCAS application (Texas state schools have traditionally used a different primary application). Medical schools screen the initial application, often having numeric cutoffs for GPA and MCAT scores they use to decide on sending out secondary applications. Secondary applications are unique to each school, with different essays and can require additional letters of recommendations.The strongest letters of recommendation come from science faculty or clinicians with whom you've worked closely. A letter from a research advisor is much stronger than from a professor in whose 200-person class you got a B. You might also seek out letters from anyone who has employed you or supervised any of your volunteer efforts.

Additional med school requirements

You will find a few other requirements for entering the school of your choice. For example, if your first application is accepted, you will need to fill out a secondary application. This application is more focused on your personality, goals and achievements, rather than on academics. You will also find that after the secondary application has been accepted, you must undergo a medical school interview with members of the admissions committee and faculty.

Prepare yourself for the interview process by studying likely interview questions that will be asked. You should also have a list of questions that you would like answered by the admissions board. Having questions of your own to ask shows the board your initiative, that you are serious about your course of study and eventual career. This can carry great weight in the admissions process.

Other requirements include:

  • Completion of required undergraduate courses
  • Strong grade-point average
  • Activities, including any work in health fields or volunteering

Variety helps with getting into medical school

You should prepare a list of several different schools to which you'll apply. You should certainly have several top choices on the list, but you should also include schools that you know you can get into without undue difficultly. These are called “safety schools” and are there in case you fail to be accepted to your other choices.

Other resources

The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) provides resources for getting into medical school.
The State University of New York offers handy tips for getting into medical school.

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