How to Get Into Medical School
Editor & Writer
Editor & Writer
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- The national acceptance rate for medical school was 41% as of 2022.
- Medical schools share some but not all of the same admission requirements.
- Pre-medical education, exam scores, and clinical experience play a big role.
- You can increase the strength of your application with meaningful extracurricular experiences.
Most people know it's tough to get into medical school, but do you know how tough?
The national acceptance rate for medical school was 41% in 2022, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Last year, there were 55,188 applications to 172 medical schools. Each applicant applied to 18 schools, on average.
Those numbers are a bit of a doozy. But that's to be expected. Again, nobody said getting into medical school would be easy. First, it may help to have a solid understanding of how to get into medical school.
How to Get Into Med School: 7 Steps
Getting into medical school may seem daunting, especially considering all the effort it takes. But a high-level overview of what you need to gain admission may help make things clearer. Below, check out the steps it takes to get into most medical schools, in somewhat chronological order:
- Complete pre-medical education requirements, such as earning a bachelor's degree and taking relevant courses.
- Earn high scores on pre-medical school exams: the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and, sometimes, the CASPer (a situational judgment test).
- Gain clinical experience (usually between 100-150 hours) through shadowing physicians, volunteering in medical settings, and caretaking.
- Secure three or more letters of recommendation from a physician, sciences professor, and non-sciences professor (and sometimes a pre-med advising committee member).
- Apply to your school through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) by a specified deadline.
- Submit a secondary application (after your AMCAS is approved), answering questions and prompts, often in essay form.
- Interview with a pre-med advising committee, communicating your experiences, knowledge, and skills.
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What Do You Need to Get Accepted Into Medical School?
Most medical schools share a lot of the same admission requirements. For example, nearly all medical schools require you to have a bachelor's degree, clinical experience, test scores, and a handful of recommendation letters.
But admissions standards can sometimes vary depending on the individual school. For example, you may need three recommendation letters at one school and five at another.
How exactly does that work? BestColleges researched past exam scores, GPA data, and admission rules to recap what you may need to get accepted into most medical schools:
How Hard Is It to Get Into Medical School? 3 Expert Tips
Medical school is very competitive. Admissions standards will be rigorous wherever you apply. How do you improve your chances of getting accepted, aside from meeting all the admission requirements?
Tips for Getting Into Medical School
- Think holistically about your experiences and attributes.
- Focus on quality over quantity extracurricular activities.
- Go above and beyond your school's admission requirements.
One method is to think holistically about your application. According to the AAMC, nearly all medical schools use a holistic review to screen applicants.
A holistic review considers the "whole" applicant, determining how your academic metrics, experiences, and attributes align with an institution's goals and values. For example, one medical school may want students with experience providing care in rural areas. Another might prefer students who are passionate about working in urban settings.
Another consensus is focusing on quality over quantity. Many schools don't ask for a specific number of clinical hours but rather recommend gaining "quality" experience before applying. In practice, that means looking for opportunities to gain meaningful exposure to medical settings. Princeton's Office of Health Professions Advising recommends choosing activities that can provide lessons aligning with your career goals rather than unrelated experiences.
Finally, you can go above and beyond your school's admission requirements. According to the AAMC, 37% of medical schools require applicants to have research experience. Some schools require the CASPer test.
Doing both, even when not required, can give you a boost. According to Kaplan, an exam prep site, admissions committees look favorably on research experience.
Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Into Medical School
How many clinical hours do you need for medical school?
Medical school may require between 100 and 150 hours of clinical experience. The exact number of hours depends on the school you're applying to. Some may require you to meet minimum hours of shadowing to be considered for admission. To be a competitive applicant at other schools, you must volunteer for a certain number of hours.
How many medical schools should I apply to?
How many schools you apply to may come down to the strength of your application. If you're confident about your application, you won't need to apply to as many schools as others. But, based on AAMC data, the average person applied to 18 schools in 2022.
How long is medical school?
Medical school is about four years long. You'll spend the first two years doing classroom and lab work, taking classes in basic sciences, and learning how to interview and examine a patient. The final two years prioritize clinical experience and doing rotations at hospitals and clinics.