How to apply for Medical School

Susanna Kahr

So you want to apply for Med School?! That’s great news. And it gets even better, because there’s never been a better time to get into the healthcare industry! Today, healthcare accounts for almost 18% of GDP in the US and is one of, if not the, biggest job engines for the American economy. With so many healthcare jobs in high demand, job security is high and healthcare employers are now offering all kinds of great perks and benefits to employees to help them to keep up a great work-life balance. So, now’s the time to start getting your application for Medical School together and we’re here to help! 

Choose the right subjects

Before you start putting your application together for Medical Schools, the most important thing you need to do is to choose the right subjects for your high school diploma. When it comes to getting accepted for Medical School programs your grades matter more than your transcript and your GPA is one of the most important criteria for medical school admission. Medical schools will consider both your science GPA and your overall GPA, so it’s important to pick subjects that are required, yes, but also those that you enjoy the most. Make sure to check the requirements of the Medical Schools you’re most interested in, and choose the optimum mix of subjects that will help you get the grades you need. 

Most medical schools will want a qualification in:

  • Biology (with Lab) 
  • General Chemistry (with Lab)
  • Organic Chemistry (with Lab)
  • Physics (with Lab)
  • Maths
  • English 

But you could also take any one of these required, or recommended subjects: 

  • Biochemistry
  • Calculus
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Statistics/Biostatistics
  • Genetics
  • Humanities
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Social sciences

Get Work Experience

Applying for Medical School is really competitive and everyone will be trying to get work experience so you will need to do everything you can to land a good placement. You can start by trying to get experience in a hospital, doctor’s practice or a healthcare organisation to show you are committed to medicine and that you know what you’re signing up for. You could work or volunteer in a hospital or clinic for a couple of hours a week, or you could enrol in an intensive summer program, or you could work in a lab. 

Here are some suggestions

  • Enrol in a summer program like the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP). SHPEP is a free, 6-week enrichment program for first and second year college students interested in attending medical or dental school.
  • Sign up to help in a laboratory to get some hands-on research experience. Check the science department bulletin boards or websites for opportunities to assist with faculty research projects.
  • Shadow a healthcare professional. Ask your teachers, professors, and pre-med or academic advisors as they might know doctors who have allowed other students shadow them.
  • Look for a voluntary position at a hospice or a chronic-care facility, or assisting disabled children or nursing home residents.


Decide which Medical Schools you want to apply to

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, most students apply to an average of 16 schools, so it’s worth really finding out which ones suit you best! You can view a database of all the medical schools in the US and Canada here.

Each medical school is different, so it’s really important that you take the time to do your research and pick the right school/s for you. 

One great way to work out where to apply is to attend some health and medical profession fairs, so you can meet people who work and/or study at different Medical Schools around the country. 

To help decide which Medical School you should apply for, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want to go to a small niche medical school or a large school?
  • Where do I want to study?
  • What grades am I likely to achieve?
  • Do I want to go to a commercial medical school or one that favours a holistic approach?
  • How much am I willing to pay for my course? 

Once you’ve written your answers down, you can start researching everything there is to know about each school and their requirements and start putting your applications together. 

Take the MCAT

Every Medical School will require you to take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). This is an online multiple-choice examination designed to test your knowledge of natural, behavioral and social science concepts, principles which you need to be able to study medicine, as well as problem-solving and critical thinking.

The exam is split into four sections:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

You don’t have to take it straight away, and you should definitely take some time to prepare yourself. There are online resources to help you prepare and you can take it more than once – just remember your prospective schools will be able to see your scores, so only take it when you’re ready. 

We recommend taking the MCAT the year before you intend to go to medical school so you have time to resit it. 

Talk to your parents

Regardless of your financial situation, you will need to talk to your parents about how you’re going to pay for your studies. 

If you decide to apply for financial aid, then you will probably need information from your parents to fill out the application. To be considered for financial aid you have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Most applicants do this in January in the year before they apply for medical school.

Send your first application to AMCAS

In the US, the application process to medical school is split into two parts, both of which are done through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). The great thing about AMCAS is that regardless of many schools you want to apply to, you only need to submit the primary application on the site! 

(To apply to an MD program at a public medical school in Texas, you will need to apply using the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS)).

The primary application can be submitted from June of the application year i.e. the year immediately before you plan to start studying. So if you want to start medical school in September 2019, you should apply in June 2018.

You should allow time to familiarize yourself with the system though as the application is extensive, and you won’t be able to complete it in one go. You’ll also need to enter personal statements and all the coursework you’ve taken, so take some time to get everything organized.

To submit your application, you will need to:

  • Request your official grade transcripts from your high school
  • Write your personal statement
  • Write down all of your extracurricular activities
  • Have your MCAT score to hand

Take note of the pricing before you send off your primary application. There is an application fee to process your application for each medical school. So for every additional medical school selection you will have to pay an extra amount. For all current AMCAS application fees visit the AMCAS website

Write a great personal statement

To be in with a good chance of being accepted for a Medical School program you will need to write a stand-out personal statement. 

Avoid writing a generic story about how much you ‘want to help people’. While this may be true, every other medical student is probably motivated by this too. Medical Schools read hundreds of applications every year and so will definitely want to see something a bit different. 

We recommend digging deep and finding your own personal reasons for wanting to train as a health professional. Perhaps you nursed or tended to a loved one when they were ill, or maybe you have overcome an illness or injury yourself – draw on your own experiences as much as possible and make your personal statement as personal as possible. Here are some great attention-grabbing ways to start your statement. 

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you to get started: 

  • Why do I want to be a doctor rather than another healthcare professional?
  • What kind of doctor do I want to be and why?
  • What makes me the ideal person for this above anyone else?

Secondary Application

After your chosen Medical Schools have reviewed your primary application, they will either ask you for additional information or reject your application. Don’t panic though – you’re not likely to get rejected at this point in the process. 

You will then need to complete your secondary application – an additional school-specific application. The secondary application helps you to explain why you’re interested in the particular institution you’ve applied for and how your goals, experiences, and plans align with their mission and goals. You should also seek to show them how/what you want to contribute and develop as a learner at this specific Medical School. 

Many schools will simply ask for an application fee for the secondary application. On average, this is US$100 per school but can range from US$30 to US$250 for the top schools, according to Kaptest.

Some Medical Schools will ask you multiple yes or no questions, while others will require you to write a few short essays. If you’re asked to write an essay then this is your opportunity to explain why you would be the right fit for this particular school and this particular program. So, make sure to do your homework and refer back to the Medical Schools goals, mission and culture as much as you can. 

If you have applied to lots of medical schools then you will probably have a lot of secondary applications to complete. To help you manage your time, try to prioritise the schools you want to go to the most and spend the most time on these applications. 

The deadline for secondary applications tends to be in December or January, but every school sets its own deadline so make sure you check this.

Once the school has received your application, the next step is the interview! 

Prepare for the interview

If you land an interview, or a few, then you’re one step closer to becoming a doctor! The interview is a big part of the admission process, though. It’s time to go all in with preparations for the big day to make sure you show the interviewers that you not only know your stuff, but that you have what it takes to become a great medical practitioner. 

You can ease the stress of the day by making sure you are physically and mentally prepared for the interview. At this stage, the school will be assessing whether you have the right attitude to succeed on the course so we recommend practicing your interview techniques way ahead of time.

Just a word of warning. No two medical school interviews are the same. You could have a panel interview with a number of different people, a blind interview in which the interviewer knows nothing about you at all, an open interview in which the interviewer can ask you anything they want, a stress interview in which you’ll be put under a lot of pressure, or a behavioral interview in which you will be asked extensively about your past behavior in specific scenarios. So, it’s worth preparing yourself for all of these scenarios. 

That being said, you’re most likely to be asked about:

  • Your motivation to study medicine
  • Why you want to study at this particular school
  • The kinds of extracurricular activities you’ve been involved in beyond medicine
  • Your opinions on controversial medical topics such as abortion or euthanasia

And to help you to get used to the different questions, plan your answers and practice with family or friends, here’s a list of common questions and answers you can download. 

Accept the offer

After your interview, you will either receive an offer or a rejection. The offer is likely to be conditional and dependent on you achieving the right grades, so that doesn’t mean the job is done yet. You’ll have to get your head down and study hard, but you’ll be really close to achieving your dream. 

If you miss your grades, you may miss out on your first choice of Medical School but don’t panic – there may be other options open to you. You could ask for a remark of one of your papers if your GPA is slightly off, or you could take a gap year and apply again next year. Don’t be disheartened, medicine is really competitive but you’ll find your way. And, if you decide that becoming a doctor isn’t for you, there are plenty of other, high paid, ways to work in the industry


Download your overview on how to apply to MedSchool now and keep it simple:

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