Complete Guide To Applying To Med School

Complete Guide To Applying To Med School


Applying to medical school can feel like a daunting prospect. It’s the dream of many young people across the world, who look to eventually work in a professional environment where they can make good money while helping others in need. But the first hurdle a lot of prospective doctors or medical professionals run into is applying to med school. Medical Schools will not only look for good grades but also individuals with positive personal qualities that will make them caring and effective doctors.

If you’re a student looking to start applying to med school, then you’ve probably got a lot of questions. In this article, we’re going to give you a complete guide that will help you apply for medical school, going through everything you’ll need to know from start to finish.

Where To Start?

Where To Start

In this first section, we’re going to give you some of the foundational information you’ll need to confidently apply for medical school. Make sure you keep these first steps in mind, as they will pave the way for later success or failure.

What Do Medical Schools Want?

Although it might seem that there are a lot of complicated things that a med school application requires of you, it’s actually quite simple in terms of concrete requirements. However, that does not make it easy.
 There are a few key competencies that you’ll have to make sure you have developed in order to be accepted into med school, as outlined by the Association of American Medical Colleges. Some of these include interpersonal skills like social skills, service orientation, cultural competence, and oral communication—but also include thinking and reasoning competencies like quantitative reasoning, written communication, and scientific inquiry.

So in short, medical schools will want evidence of all of these skills on your application and via personal interviews. These are some of the key virtues that you will want to cultivate when crafting your application.

Types of Medical Schools

Types Of Medical Schools

The first thing you’re going to need to do is narrow down the type of medical school that you’re going to be applying for. Medical Schools in the United States of America are typically divided into two main programs—either allopathic or osteopathic. Allopathic schools will offer the most widely-known MD degree, while osteopathic programs offer what is considered to be a less widely-known DO degree.

It’s worth noting that the allopathic program, offering the MD degree, is the more popular option for most students. This is because MD degrees create more lucrative opportunities for graduates. With that in mind, you should know that DO degree programs also have a high success rate, with a slightly different career path, it’s just that Osteopathic practices are less accepted internationally.

The Timeline For Applying

The timeline for applying for medical school is going to take you around a year to complete, so it’s important to understand each part of the process so that you can plan ahead. We’ll explore this in more detail later in the article, but for now you should know that from primary applications to final interviews and offers, the entire process is going to take you well over the course of a year.

This means that you’ll need to be ready for each part of the process, with any resources you’ll need at hand, knowledge of how to draft the written portions of the application, and the social skills required to conduct a successful interview.

Undergrad Qualifications

One of the biggest questions a prospective med student might have is that of undergraduate qualifications. The first thing you must know is that all US medical schools will require a four-year, pre-med undergraduate degree in a relevant subject. More than this, you will be required to demonstrate your knowledge of scientific fields such as biology, chemistry, or organic chemistry.

What You Need When Applying For Med School

What You Need When Applying For Med School

In this section, we’re going to give you a total breakdown of everything you’ll need when applying for med school. Some of these can be written or gathered by you without much effort, and others will take many weeks to obtain, so make sure you plan ahead and work through the list methodically.

Letters Of Recommendation

This is common practice for any kind of educational application, and you’ve no doubt already had to submit them for your undergraduate degree. Letters of recommendation for med school work exactly the same way. Reach out to authoritative, third party associates of yours (usually professors in the most relevant areas of study), and secure strong letters of recommendation.


GPA (or Grade Point Average) is one of the metrics Medical Schools will use to determine your academic achievement. It should go without saying that the higher GPA you have, the better, but it is important to state that GPA can be affected by the school you’ve achieved it under. For example, a GPA score from Yale might be worth more than a GPA school from another, less prestigious university.

MCAT Scores

MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) scores are going to be one of the most important pillars of your application. Whether you’re submitting an application for an allopathic MD, or Osteopathic DO degree, you’re going to need to provide as good of an MCAT score as you can get. Although MCAT scores might not be a good metric for determining future career success for a doctor, they act as the bar for entry that all must pass through.

Completing A Primary Application

Primaries, or ‘primary applications’ are application systems that send all the relevant information that you will need to submit as an applicant. This includes your basic information, important transcripts and/or coursework, letters of recommendation, MCAT and GPA scores, as well as your entire, expanded resume.

You also need to be aware that your personal statement is included here, an important first touchstone that references the specific medical school you are applying for. This will differ depending on the program that you choose to apply for. These programs are separated into AMCAS or MD programs, AACOMAS or DO programs, or finally TMDSAS or Texas medical school programs.

Although each program having a different primary application may appear overwhelming, the good news is that each application is fairly similar, comprised of mostly the same materials. Primary applications can be split up into a few distinct sections.

Demographic information: this first section is simple and will ask you about your age, address, income and gender.

Academic Information: next, you’ll be asked to submit all the relevant information regarding your academic achievements. This includes MCAT scores, your GPA, and all college courses you’ve taken.

AMCAS Work and Activities Section: In this section, you’ll have to submit a list of your extracurricular activities, awards and achievements. You’ll need to include details about how many hours you dedicated to each activity, as well as a description of each, and highlight which you believe to be your most important achievements.

Completing A Secondary Application

Completing a secondary application is the next stage of your journey. After your primary application is sent out to every school you hoped to attend—providing you meet the GPA and MCAT requirements—you will be sent a secondary application. These applications are school-specific, and you’ll need to submit a series of supporting documents that show your interest in a specific med school.

The first thing you need to know here is that secondary applications are some of the most time-consuming parts of the entire application process. For example, each school is going to ask you to complete a series of essays, each with their own specific prompts and requirements. The word counts for these essays won’t be overly long, but if you’re applying to multiple schools then this will take quite some time.

Some of the most commonly used essay prompts will ask you to outline challenges that you have faced throughout your academic career. It’s important to take these as opportunities to show why you are a good candidate for med school. A secondary application is also the place where you show your interest in the school in question. In order to do this, you’ll want to make sure you know a lot about the school, and have considered why it is a good fit for you.

In many ways, in a secondary application, you’re going to want to answer these two questions:

  1. Why am I interested in studying at this med school?
  2. Why would they want to accept me as a student?

If you can answer these questions with sufficient eloquence and evidence, then you’re likely to have a successful secondary application.

Preparing For An Interview

Preparing For An Interview

One of the most important and nerve wracking parts of the application process is the in-person interview. This is where you will have the opportunity to not only discuss your academic achievements, but also to give the interviewer insight into your personal character. In this section, we’re going to give a few tips on how you can prepare and put your best self forward.

Dress Appropriately

Firstly, you’re going to need to make sure you dress appropriately for the interview. This means dressing smart. This can be anything from a full suit, to a slightly more casual slant like a blazer, smart sweater, or smart shirt. You’re going to want to avoid casual clothing such as jeans, sneakers, or anything that might make you appear unprofessional.

Dressing appropriately will not only help you make a good impression on the interviewers, but can also help your own self-confidence. We’d recommend taking the time to create an outfit that makes you feel great about yourself, preparing you to give a great interview.

Confirm Your Interview Immediately

Punctuality is everything when it comes to showing that you’re serious about your place at medical school. Make sure you confirm your interview as soon as you are notified about it. This will show that you are punctual and on top of your time schedule.

Be Yourself

Although it’s very important to dress and act formally when entering the interview, you’re also going to want to just be yourself. After all, the medical school in question is holding the interview to get a better understanding of your character. Make sure to relax, be yourself, and show the most positive aspects of your character.

Be Positive

This brings us to our next point, which involves you being positive throughout your interview. Positivity is going to be your ally when applying to med school, especially when discussing your application. Make sure to highlight the positive aspects of your academic achievements, as these will be the parts that your interviewer will remember.

Beware Of Your Body Language

If positivity is your ally, then your body language is one of the most effective ways to communicate this. Positive body language can often dictate success in a variety of different pursuits. Make sure you portray positive body language. This begins with the initial handshake, and continues throughout the interview. Make sure to have good posture when you sit down, maintain eye contact when appropriate, and have open body language throughout the interview.

Nonverbal communication is another important aspect of being successful in your application. This includes things like eye contact, and facial expressions. It is believed that an increase in skills involving nonverbal communication can increase the success rate of students in interviews.

Ask To Practice On Friends/Family

If you’re not a person who has had to go through interviews before, then you might want to practice. A good way to do this is to ask friends or family members to help you simulate the experience. We’d recommend setting up a room exactly as it will be, and simulating the whole interview from start to finish; everything from the opening handshake, through answering some classic interview questions, to the eventual farewell.

It can be hard to know how we come across from our own perspective, so that’s why it can be good to practice with a friend or family member. Just make sure you’re choosing somebody who can give you honest feedback. We’d also suggest running through this practice interview multiple times. If you do this, then you will be able to improve each time and properly prepare yourself for the interview in question.

Be Prepared For The Following Questions

The meat of an interview is likely to be comprised of a few key questions. In this section, we’re going to give you some advice on each of these common interview questions, as well as the purpose of each of them.

Why do you want to be a doctor?
This question is where you can show your underlying philosophy as a person, and your intentions for choosing medicine as a career. Some people choose to explain the importance of scientific method and why it’s important to them, others will convey an anecdote that outlines the moment of their life where they realized they wanted to be a doctor. Whatever you choose for this question, just make sure that it is memorable for the interviewer.

Why do you wish to attend this school?
The positive thing about this question is that it’s something you’ve already considered and outlined in your secondary application. Make sure you have some key points in your head that will help you to quickly explain why the school in question is the right fit for you. You can also use this opportunity to outline why you would be an asset to the school.

Tell me about yourself.
This is a notoriously difficult question to its vague nature. However, the best thing to do with this question is to use it as an opportunity to outline your key achievements, and academic history. Just start from the end of your high school career, and make sure to talk in detail about positive events in your life. You can also use this question as a way to convey your character, but talking a little about your interests, or anything else that makes you stand out.

What’s your greatest strength?
For this one, you’re going to need to make sure you pick a strength that you truly possess, and one that relates to the med school in question. Let’s say you have impressive quantitative reasoning skills – highlight this with evidence from your academic or extracurricular career.

What’s your greatest weakness?
This is a dreaded question, but one that can be answered easily with some preparation. Of course, you don’t want to say something that’s going to be a damning weakness. Instead, look for a weakness you have that has the opportunity to become a strength. For example, let’s say you’re not so good with written communication. You can explain that although this is a weakness, you are overcompensating to try and fix it, making your writing more concise and measured than other candidates may be.

Writing A Medical School Essay

Writing a medical school essay is another difficult aspect of the application process. This is one of the parts that you will want to spend the most time on, as it is the first connection that the med school in question will have with you. Many applications live or die based on their school essay, so you need to make sure that each word counts.

Personal Statement

Your personal statement is the moment where you get to explain who you are, what you’re about, and why you are interested in pursuing medicine as a career. A typical personal statement question will be concise, informative, and colorful. Doing all three of these things within the confines of around 5,300 characters (which correlates roughly to around 500 words) can be a difficult task. Some of the main things you’ll want to convey throughout your personal statement include:

  1. Why you want to be a doctor or attend medical school.
  2. Key challenges you’ve faced in your life and how you’ve overcome them.
  3. Any relevant diversity information, this could link to point 2.
  4. Any relevant clientele experience you may have.

You’re going to need to cover all of these key points, taking the time to show your character and some skill in writing throughout. Although the information you choose to convey is up to you, we’d recommend cutting any kind of fluff from your personal statement, making sure that it is direct and easy to read.

How To Apply?

In order to apply for a med school, you’re going to need to make use of their application platforms. It’s important to note here that different med schools will make use of different platforms, depending on the type of school you have chosen.

MD Schools will use the American Medical College Application Service (otherwise known as AMCAS), which allows you to log on, complete, and track your application. If you’re looking to apply for a DO school, then you will need to use the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (or AACOM) application system. If you’re applying for a Texas Medical School (TMDSAS,) then you’ll need to seek out their own individual applications.

Applications for med schools open each year in May, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until then to begin your application. Ideally, you’re going to want to gather many of the resources much earlier in the year. We’d suggest beginning to compile documents and begin research in April, so that you’re ready to start applying as soon as applications open.

Top Tips

Top Tips

In this final section, we’re going to give you a list of 7 top tips that will help you on your way to apply to med school. There are lots of things you might want to do ahead of time, and if you’re considering applying some time in the future, you should consider engaging with these tips to help get the most out of your premed experience.

1. Be Involved In Research Projects

Research projects can help improve your chances of getting into med school. You can think of any research projects on your resume as extra credits that will help turn the heads of med schools that you might want to get into. A research background can be an important part of a top tier application, as it shows that you are an engaged, and enthusiastic physician scientist. It also shows that you have wider knowledge of different fields.

2. Experience

Any experience you can get within the medical profession is going to be useful, and something that you can write down on your future application. This could range from working as a secretary in a doctor’s waiting room, to more hands-on experience at a hospital. Whatever experience you can get within the medical field, is something that you should try and get if you can. Any experience is going to enrich your application and give you a lot more to talk about in a future interview.

3. Volunteer


Volunteering in anything regarding medicine is a great way to push yourself and show your commitment to admissions committee members. You should attempt to volunteer as much as you can, with a key focus on a relevant position that links to medicine. Volunteering can also help you grow as a person, and allow you to give back to your community.

4. Apply To Multiple Schools

You’re likely to have a dream school, but it’s always important to have a backup plan. It’s important that you apply to multiple schools. This will give you a much bigger chance of getting into one, but will also allow you to get a better understanding of what each school has to offer. Remember, if you’re a good candidate, the application process is as much for you to check them as it is for them to check you.

5. Take Part In Extracurricular Activities

Hobbies and extracurricular activities are a great way to develop character and a diverse skill set. The more eclectic you can appear as a person on your application, the more interesting you will appear. It’s a good idea to get involved in at least one or two extracurricular activities. What these are should be up to you, but make sure you’re stretching yourself and learning new things outside of studying.

6. Choose A Major That Is Right For You

During your time as an undergraduate, you’re going to need to make sure you pick a major that is right for you. It should be something relevant to medicine, something that challenges you, and something that you are truly passionate about. The more you engage with your major, the better, as it will help you to create positive study habits that will allow you to succeed in medical school.

7. Study Early And Often

Studying is an important part of school, and one that you will have to master if you want to get into medical school. You should make studying part of your daily routine (with some rest days, of course). Consider this mantra—study early and often! You’d be amazed at just how much you can get done if you wake up early enough. Time management skills are believed to be one of the greatest predictors of undergraduate GPA.



Applying to med school can feel like a never ending journey. Over the course of a year, there are bound to be lots of ups and downs, as well as long periods of waiting that can feel very frustrating. Throughout all of this, it’s very important to keep on top of your application, but also to stay calm.

One of the most important things when it comes to applying to med school is preparation. As you can see from the guide above, there are a lot of different things you’ll need to prepare in order to be successful throughout the process. If you’re considering applying to med school in the next few years, it’s a good idea to prepare your application ahead of time.

We hope that our guide has helped you to understand the steps you’ll need to take in order to apply for med school. If you still have some questions about the process, make sure to keep reading for our short Frequently Asked Questions section. We wish you the best of luck in your continued education, and hope that you get a spot in the perfect med school for you!



Where Should I Volunteer To Get Into Med School?

A good place to volunteer to get into med school would be anything relating to healthcare. This could be a care home, an ambulance service, or a charity that looks to help people in need. We’d recommend keeping a track record of any volunteering you engage in, so that you can more easily highlight what you’ve learned in your future application.

How Hard Is It To Get Into Med School?

The truth is that getting into med school is very difficult. Although the USA needs a lot of doctors, it is also one of the most sought after jobs you can find. From 2020 to 2021, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported that around 42% of applications got into med schools. With that said, they also reported that first-year medical students are growing, especially among underrepresented groups! Even so, you’re going to need to create a strong application with good supporting grades to secure yourself a space.

What GPA Do You Need For Med School?

Although GPA reference points can depend on the med school in question, a good rule of thumb is to aim for a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Of course, the higher the GPA the better, especially if you have taken relevant classes that bolster your knowledge of science and medicine.

What Is The Best Medical School To Get Into?

The best medical school to get into often depends on what the student in question is looking for. That said, some of the most renowned schools in the USA include Harvard Medical School, Wake Forest School of Medicine, George Washington School Of Medicine And Sciences, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

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