Med school requirements vary slightly by school, but not as much as many other plans. When people’s lives are on the line, schools don’t want to focus on students who aren’t wholly committed to success in this field. Here are the things you should know about medical school requirements before you start applying.
Strong Academic Performance
Overall academic performance is one of the key indicators that schools look at when deciding whether to accept your application for med school. Regardless of role, medical positions require studying and memorizing vast amounts of information, and far more than most students have ever dealt with before.
This means that the higher your grades and test scores are, the more likely it is you’ll get in. Factors like community service or volunteer work are not as crucial in meeting med school requirements as they are in some other programs, though they’re still essential for getting in. Colleges also expect you to take and pass the MCAT.
Minimum Standards for GPAs and MCAT Scores
Is a 3.4 GPA good for med school? Yes, but only technically. Most medical schools expect a minimum GPA of 3.3, and they scrutinize performance in science-related courses. You could have a higher GPA and still get rejected if you didn’t do well enough in those classes.
However, while a GPA of 3.4 is technically acceptable, it’s hard to call it a good score. With that in mind, what is the average GPA for med school? The median grade for undergraduates accepted is 3.75, which requires strong performance in all classes starting from your very first semester of college.
For the MCAT, the median score of accepted students is 512 out of 528. This means that roughly the 85th percentile and better are likely to get accepted to med school.
However, you’re not entirely out of luck here. If you have low grades in science classes, you can take graduate-level science classes early. If you perform exceptionally well there, that indicates you’re turning things around, and schools are more likely to give you a closer look.
So, do you need all A’s to get into med school? No. You can have the occasional B, but it’s better to keep your grades as high as possible the entire time. Med school requirements are more rigorous than most other programs, so you shouldn’t slack off anywhere if you want to maximize your odds of getting in.
Prerequisite Courses Required for Med School
Aside from grades, what prerequisites do you need for med school? The main thing most schools look at besides academic performance is which prerequisite courses you’ve taken. Here are the most common courses that schools look for:
- Biology: This is a must-have, considering med school is all about treating a biological organism, namely the human body. The more you understand about the human body, the more likely you are to succeed as a doctor.
- Physics: Doctors require a thorough understanding of fundamental physics, including how different forces can impact physical objects.
- English: All medical personnel deal with densely-written, jargon-filled material. Knowing how to read and write complex content is another essential factor for success.
- Chemistry (General): Doctors may prescribe or even help develop new chemical treatments, which requires a thorough grounding in basic chemical processes.
- Chemistry (Organic): Despite the name, this branch of science refers to chemistry involving carbon thanks to its impacts on carbon-based life like humans. Most people take this course after studying general chemistry.
- Biochemistry: Not to be confused with organic chemistry, biochemistry is the study of chemical reactions inside of living cells. This is the primary technique used for many medical treatments, making it one of the most important classes.
- Psychology: Most doctors don’t become psychiatrists, but a basic grounding in psychology is useful for dealing with irrational, upset, or chemically-unbalanced patients. This includes patients who may be mentally affected by prescription medicines.
- Genetics: People’s genes have a significant impact on their health throughout their light. Understanding genetics is key to identifying risk factors and helping optimize outcomes.
- Calculus: Finally, most doctors must be familiar with calculus at a minimum. Doctors could end up needing to use complicated math or understand tough formulas, so the better you are here, the more likely you are to succeed as a doctor.
However, just taking these classes may still not be enough to get into med school. The main reason for that is that medical schools also evaluate the quality of your undergraduate school, and they have a distinct bias towards four-year colleges and universities over community colleges.
This isn’t always true. For example, some community colleges specialize in preparing people for med school and may have accredited courses that medical schools are more likely to accept. However, you shouldn’t spend more than two years at a community college, and preferably none at all.
Extracurricular Activities for Medical School Admissions
Academic performance and taking all prerequisite courses are the major factors in determining whether or not you’ll meet med school requirements. There are two types of extracurricular activities that schools look for: community service and clinical experience.
Community service usually requires 10-15 hours of work per month for as many years as possible. Ideally, this will be in a healthcare-related position, and it’s even better if it involves helping underserved populations.
Empathy is an important part of being a doctor, so demonstrating that you care about the people you’re helping shows schools that you’re willing to make a long-term commitment to helping them. To put it another way, med schools want to see that you’re a nice person. If you seem like you’re only in it for personal gain, they’ll probably reject your application.
Clinical experience is even more important than community service. Most schools expect a minimum of 50 hours of experience, with most candidates having several hundred. Clinical experience takes many forms, ranging from shadowing doctors to volunteering in medical areas or even working as a scribe.
Having several types of clinical experience is better than spending all of your time in one position. Being familiar with a variety of medical environments gives you a thorough understanding of what the profession is like and looks significantly better on your application.