7 Tips for Applying to Medical SchoolJanuary 19, 2021
If you’ve always dreamed of becoming a doctor, you know that medical school can be highly competitive. According to The Princeton Review, over 52,000 students applied for medical school for the 2018-2019 academic year. Of that number, just 41% were accepted.
With such a low acceptance rate, it’s important to learn how to apply to medical school and make yourself a compelling candidate. Here’s what you need to know.
7 Medical school application tips
When it comes to medical school applications, good grades and high test scores are nearly a given. What can set your application apart is your own experience and passion, but it can be difficult figuring out how to show those characteristics off.
If you’re wondering how to make your medical school application stand out, here are seven application tips that can help:
1. Get some experience for your resume
If possible, try to get some first-hand experience to include on your resume. Having real experience highlights how dedicated you are to your chosen field and shows that you can handle some of the stresses of the work. Here are a few ways to get experience:
- Job shadow with doctors and medical professionals
- Become a certified nursing assistant
- Volunteer as an emergency medical technician
- Do hospital data entry
- Participate in research projects as an undergraduate
- Spend time as a hospice volunteer
2. Research schools
When it comes to your career, choosing the right medical school is important. You can apply to multiple medical schools to improve your chances of finding a good fit. In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported that students apply to 16 different schools, on average. However, it costs money to apply and travel to interviews, so it’s necessary to narrow down your list of schools.
When considering medical schools, consider their application requirements, tuition, and areas of specialty. The AAMC has a database of medical school admissions requirements that can help your search. Experts recommend that 80% of your applications be directed to schools where your GPA and MCAT scores are within the school’s average range for accepted students. The remaining 20% can be sent to your reach schools, where your GPA and MCAT scores are slightly below the average range.
3. Take the MCATS
To apply to medical school, you’ll have to take the MCATS, a standardized test that assesses your knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts, as well as your critical thinking.
Most people need 10 to 15 hours of study per week for four to six months to prepare for the MCATS.
Be prepared to spend some money to take the MCATS. The initial registration fee is $320. If you want to purchase practice or study materials, that is another additional cost.
If you take the MCATS and your scores are less than you’d like them to be, you can retake the exam. Spend some time doing extra preparation and practice to improve your scores.
4. Pay attention to deadlines
The AMCAS application usually opens the first week of May for the following year’s medical school class. However, that time is just when the application becomes available; you cannot submit the application until June, so you have a few weeks to polish your application.
Some institutions have separate medical school application deadlines, so make sure you check with each university to ensure you don’t miss their deadline.
5. Fill out the American Medical College Application Service
Many schools use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) as part of their application materials.
It’s wise to complete the AMCAS as early as possible since some schools accept applicants on a rolling basis; the earlier you apply, the better your chances of getting in.
When filling out the application, make sure you proofread it thoroughly and take some extra time to prepare your personal statement. It’s your chance to stand out from the crowd.
The AMCAS primary application fee — which covers the cost to take the exam and your results sent to one school — is $170. For each additional school you apply to, the cost is $41.
6. Check to see if a school requires a secondary application
In addition to the AMCAS application, some schools require applicants to complete a secondary university-specific application.
While the AMCAS is a standard application across all participating schools, secondary applications are unique and sent to you by the individual schools. While some are short and require you to just checkboxes, others are extensive, with multiple essay questions.
If required, the application will likely ask questions about why you’re interested in that particular institution, your goals, and your experience.
Secondary applications typically have additional fees, generally costing about $100 each, so make sure you budget accordingly.
7. Prepare for the medical school interview
Most medical schools require candidates to have an interview either in-person or virtually. You may interview with a single committee member, a panel, or practicing physicians. The interviewers will complete an evaluation on you after the interview is complete.
For many students, the interview is the most nerve-wracking part of the application process. To make the most of the opportunity, dress professionally — normally a suit is preferred — and prepare ahead of time. Be ready to talk about your accomplishments and to explain why you want to study medicine.
You should also be prepared to speak about major health events in the United States and why you want to attend that particular school.
If possible, ask your academic advisor or mentor to practice with you in a mock interview.
Going to medical school
Applying to medical school is a rigorous and time-consuming process. If you aren’t ready just yet, it’s perfectly acceptable — and normal — to take a year or two off to take additional classes to boost your GPA, prepare to retake the MCATS, or build real-world experience.
However, if you plan early and follow these tips, you can create a dynamic application that improves your chances of getting into medical school.