Applying to Medical School

Applying to medical school:

This is probably one of the most contemplated subjects for any “pre-med” major. Perhaps, “how do I get into medical school?” Is a better way of phrasing it.

If you have pondered this question, I will give you some advice, as someone who was recently accepted into a medical school (Class of 2019). If you scour forums, websites, literature for information, you will likely find similar advice to what I’m about to tell you. You will also find a lot of negative discussion and fear-mongering about the application process that is absolutely unnecessary. I want to make all of the positive advice as concise as possible here, as well as dispel any myths surrounding medical school applications, statistics, etc. I’ll add my own personal flair, based on my application process, while I do this.

Let’s begin.

The first two points of discussion no one wants to hear, but everyone must do, is, to the best of your ability, achieve the highest MCAT and GPA you possibly can. (Please read beyond this next) section, it gets better). You should aim to complete your undergrad in four years and take your MCAT by your junior year of college, if you want to go straight in. That means you should complete orgo and all other prereqs by about sophmore year. Biochem and biology electives can wait. This is not a necessity, for example: I did not do this. I went to graduate school first because I thought I wanted to do academic research and pursue a PhD first and then maybe go to medical school. I was very wrong about that. Anyways..

According to the AAMC the average applicant MCAT score is a around a 28 and the average matriculate score is around 30, for older scores. Since I am writing this at the time of the new MCAT application cycle, there isn’t much data on scores and acceptances yet. What you can assume is that people who study for a standardized test usually score within a certain percentile, that is, your SATs predict pretty well how you’ll perform on the MCAT and thus you would probably have scored in the same percentile on the old MCAT as you did on the new MCAT. Thus, the scores for applicants and accepted are probably within the 67 and 80 percentile range, for applicants and accepted, respectively. The average GPA for applicants is 3.5 the average GPA for matriculates are a 3.6. This has some variation with each year. The sources below are for AAMC, but DO schools have the same stats, within one standard deviation of AAMC schools (see AAMCOS source below).

Now that we’ve got those things out of the way, I also want to tell you that while these two attributes are definitely of the utmost importance, they are not the be all and end all. What do I mean by that? None of these are hard and fast rules, like anything else you learn in medicine, apparently, every rule has its exception. This means that if you scored a 28 on your MCAT, or 67th percentile on the new MCAT, and 80 percentiles, on average get in, you can still be competitive. The same is true for your GPA. Some schools do have cutoffs of a 3.0 GPA, or some arbitrary MCAT score, but not all schools.

Essentially no matter what, if you really want to get into medical school, and I say this as delicately as possible, if you have an average IQ and a solid work ethic, or even a high IQ and poor work ethic, you can get an acceptance somewhere and you will practice medicine somewhere. It may not be first cycle. It may require retaking classes, or achieving a higher MCAT, but if you really want it, you can get it. If it takes another year, so be it. This is a marathon, not a sprint. I don’t want to make it seem like any Joey Bag O’ Doughnuts can get an acceptance, medical school is hard and it requires a lot of work and intelligence, but I feel like right now the paradigm is that only the holier-than-thou types can get in. Don’t listen to everyone on SDN, you GPA doesn’t make you Einstein, or James Watson, for that matter. You certainly can’t polish a turd, but gold, silver AND bronze can shine.

Okay, so you’ve got a GPA and MCAT within the average matriculate range, either, immediately, or “non-traditionally.” Now what?

You apply and to be honest, send out as many applications as you can through AACOMAS and AAMC. Apply broadly. In the end I applied to about seven schools after secondaries and about 17 primaries. Money will be a factor in where you can apply, unless you have wealthy parents, in which case you should beg and thank them. If you are in my boat, pick your secondary applications wisely maybe one reach, several in-state and the out of state schools that fit your GPA/MCAT range.

Your personal essay and who you are as a person, including extra-curricula, can make, or break you. I know kids with higher stats than me who were rejected from the same school I am currently attending. I also know students with worse stats than me, who were accepted to schools that I was rejected from; so in the end, know the school’s mission, be honest about who you are and really try to convey why the school should pick lucky you. Better yet, why you and the school are a perfect fit and why you will be the physician they want to see in their graduates.


This brings me to my next point. The most important part of your application process is your interview. Once you hit your interview.