How to Get Into Medical School

In Education
March 29, 2016

How to Get Into Medical School

If you’re trying to figure out how to get into medical school, you’ve come to the right place. It can be one of the most stressful and time-consuming processes among all graduate application processes, but is very doable with a little guidance and willpower.

How to Get Into Medical School:

1. Take & Pass the MCAT

The difficulty of this exam should not be taken lightly as it is weighed alongside your GPA in the admission process, meaning that your score carries nearly as much weight as 4 years of undergrad!

Aim to begin studying for the test as early as your junior year of your undergraduate program, setting aside time each week to master each section. Luckily, there are a plethora of guides, books, and other resources you can find for free or purchase online.

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a comprehensive standardized test that covers 4 sections, including:


 Section Breakdown

Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry

Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics

Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior

  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests introductory psychology, sociology, and biology

Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills

  • 53 multiple-choice questions
  • 90 minutes
  • Tests reading comprehension, humanities, and social sciences

One thing to note, however, is that you don’t need to have completed the MCAT before submitting your application, but it will not be reviewed until all materials, including exam scores, have been submitted.

Learn more about the MCAT and get practice materials

2. Start the Application Process Early

The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) manages the application process for aspiring medical students and has streamlined and simplified the process.

You can start the application process by creating an account whenever you want, so make it early and try to become familiar with their system. However, you’ll have to fork out the $160.00 processing fee before actually submitting the application. This fee includes one medical school designation, with additional schools being $37.00/each.

The process is broken down into 9 sections:

Sections 1-3: Background Information

  • Basic personal information including birth date, sex, etc.
  • Schools attended, transcripts, and any disciplinary action.
  • Biographic information including citizenship, residence, ethnicity and race, military history, felonies & misdemeanors etc.

Section 4: Course Work

  • Aspiring medical students must include a detailed list of their completed coursework and grades, converting them to a standardized scale specified by the AMCAS.

Grade Conversion Guide // Grade Conversion Chart

Section 5: Work & Activities

  • This is where you include valuable experiences including employment, extracurriculars, awards, honors, or anything else or merit that you believe may bring value to your application.
  • Up to 15 may be included and you’re able to identify 3 as the most important, impactful, or meaningful. Choose experiences that most closely align with your goals.

Section 6: Letters of Recommendation

  • The AMCAS Letter Service manages the reception of all letters for admission purposes electronically. Rather than each author having to send their letter to each school independently, they’re all collected by the AMCAS and disbursed to the schools you specify.
  • Accepted letter types include: committee letters, letter packets, and individuals letters (the most common).

Section 7: Specify Medical Schools

  • This is the point in the application where you must designate the schools and programs in which you intend to submit your application.
  • There are varying types of degree programs to choose from, including regular MD, combined MD-PhD, combined BA/MD, deferred or delayed matriculation, and other special programs (OSPs).
  • Also includes the Early Decision Program (EDP) which allows you to secure your spot in the class by October 1st.

Section 8: Essays

  • All applicants are required to submit an essay of up to 5300 characters with spaces counting as characters.
  • MD-PhD combined candidates must submit two other essays: the MD-PhD and the Significant Research Experience essay.

Section 9: Standardized Tests

  • This is where you include your MCAT scores. Do not include voided scores or those more than 3 years old. Most schools require them to have been taken in the past 3 years.
  • More specialized programs, like the combined MD-PhD, may require other exam scores as well depending on the school’s requirements. These can include the GMAT, LSAT, MAT, or GRE, so be sure you know the requirements early!

2017 AMCAS Instruction Manual

Review & Submit

Once you’ve submitted all of the above information, it’s time to go through it with a fine-toothed comb and send it. Be sure to triple check for errors on every section, especially the essays, grades, and test score sections as any inaccuracies will delay the already-lengthy process.

3. Interview with Medical Schools

If you’re invited to interview at a school, it means you’ve made it past the first wave of eliminations and they’re narrowing the results! Hopefully you’ve gotten an invite to visit the school(s) of your choice, so take the opportunity to thoroughly investigate the campus and culture of the school before making your final decision.

It may be in your best interest to arrive a few days early just to meander around campus and soak up the atmosphere. While getting into medical school is a competitive process, you still have the ultimate choice as to where you end up.

Interviews are typically held in the fall of each year and may take the form of a one-on-one interview, panel, or multiple, small interviews (most common). Search for specifics regarding the school of your choice or simply call and ask their admissions department.

Prepare to your fullest by ensuring that you have a full understanding of the basics of modern medical science, ethical dilemmas that may arise, and be ready to explain or justify any “holes” in your application, like a poor GPA or disciplinary actions against you.


Depending on how your interviews go compared to other candidates applying for the same program, your application will either be accepted or declined. This is why it’s vitally important to apply to multiple schools. Try to classify those that you’re interested in into categories like “reach” schools that you think you’ll have a slim chance of getting into, “probable” schools that you’ll be a competitive candidate for, and “fallback” schools that you know you’ll get into. This strategy will all but ensure your acceptance into a program if you’re denied acceptance into your dream program.

Hopefully this article clears up how to get into medical school, but let us know if you have any questions in the comments below!

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