There are few graduate programs that are harder to get in to than medical school. Every year, thousands of college graduates apply to medical school. Depending on the year, only about a third of those applicants will actually find a place in a medical school. Because of this competition, you must have an application that is solid and emphasizes your positive traits.
There are many aspects involved in the seemingly insurmountable task of getting in to medical school. As someone who achieved success in the process, allow me to outline some of the key elements.
There are some people who will tell you that only 1-2% of applicants get in to medical school. This is not true. The real number ranges between 30-40%. Every medical school has between 100 and 150 first year spots every year. Each school will get thousands of applicants. But remember, applicants apply to more than a dozen schools each – so those thousands of applicants are all the same people. Overall, it is very hard to get in to medical school, but not impossible.
One of the most important aspects of your medical school application is your grade point average. You will actually have two GPAs, an overall GPA and a science GPA. Both are essential to your application. Most medical students will have a GPA over 3.5. There is some variation in this, so don’t take this number as a hard rule. In general however, if your GPA is less than 3.2 or so, you’re going to have a very, very hard time getting in to medical school.
The MCAT is the standardized exam that every medical school applicant must take. Your MCAT score is used by almost all medical schools as a way of comparing you to other applicants who went to different schools that may have different standards for their grading. A good MCAT score can really help your application, and a bad one can kill your chances, even if you have a good GPA. Take the MCAT seriously – it’s a very hard exam, and it is important to your application.
Medical schools want to know that the students they let in to school are well rounded and have interests outside of the classroom. It is essential that you demonstrate to the medical school that you are a normal person, with some hobby or interest that doesn’t involve studying. It makes no difference what this is – just something which shows passion and dedication. For example, I was an accomplish saxophone player and marathon runner.
If you have a competitive application, you may be selected to interview at the medical school. This can be time consuming and expensive if you have to travel, but you won’t get in to medical school without and interview.
On your interview, it’s it vital to be professional. Men should wear a suit. Women should wear formal business clothes. Don’t dye your hair red to show off your individuality (I’ve seen a man do that. He didn’t get in.). Take the nose ring out of your face. Ditto the ring in your eyebrow. Cover the devil tattoo on your forearm. Trust me on this – these things will kill your chances.
This is just a primer on the insurmountable task of getting in to medical school. If you are persistent, you can do it. For some people, it may take more than one round of applications – but you really want it, don’t give up.