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Medical School Admissions Requirements: A Complete Guide

If you are interested to pursue a career in a medical school, here are the various medical school admission requirements. It was written to guide you during the application process.

The moment you decide you want to go for a career in Medicine, you know you are expected to go through a lot of hard work and inevitably many hours of study. However, all your efforts will be worth it in the end

Medical schools consider a wide range of factors in evaluating their applicants, and meeting their many requirements is not easy. See Best Radiology Schools in the US

Before embarking on the grueling medical school admissions process, it is important to make sure you can satisfy all their expectations.

Whether you are a high school student considering a pre-med pathway or a college student looking to commence with sending an application to an M.D. program, understanding what medical school admission committees are seeking in their applicants can significantly increase your chances of admission.

What Are the Medical School Admissions Requirements?

It is necessary to have all these factors in mind as you consider the next steps on your journey to medical school.

Strong coursework, a good MCAT score, the right extracurricular involvement, and thoughtful essays will all substantially increase your chances at your dream school.

What degree do you need to get into medical school?

Every United States medical school requires the completion of a four-year degree from an accredited college or university. It does not matter whether your degree is a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.).

“Four-year” does not mean that you have to be enrolled in school for four years. For example, you can complete your degree sooner by taking more classes per term to graduate in three or three-and-a-half years. The degree requirement can also be satisfied through a BS/MD program.

Furthermore, your four-year degree must be obtained before matriculating into medical school. In other words, you can apply to medical school before you complete your degree. Otherwise, you would not be able to go straight through from your undergraduate.

Some students opt to pursue graduate degrees prior to matriculating into med schools, such as a Master of Public Health (MPH) or Special Master’s program (SMP), but advanced degrees are not required.

Medical school course requirements

Medical school prerequisites are what differs most from school to school, which is why they are so confusing. For example, a certain set of courses might meet Harvard Medical School’s requirements but not another program’s.

According to the AAMC website, the general courses you will need to complete for medical schools, include: One year of biology, One year of English, and Two years of chemistry, through organic chemistry.

This list clarifies little, due to it being vague and incomplete. Most medical schools will require more than this, including more specific courses.

Given how difficult it is to get into medical school, you are strongly encouraged to aim beyond the aforementioned minimum requirements.

In fact, we suggest that you take courses that will satisfy the requirements of every medical school so that you will have the option to apply anywhere. Completing the following list of courses will assist you to do just that:

  • Biology: Lecture: Two semesters or three quarters | Lab: One term
  • General chemistry: Lecture: One semester or two quarters | Lab: One term
  • Organic chemistry: Lecture: Two semesters or two quarters | Lab: One term
  • Biochemistry: Lecture: One term | Lab: Not required
  • Physics: Lecture: Two semesters or three quarters | Lab: One term
  • Math: Lecture: Two semesters or three quarters (must include calculus and statistics)
  • English: Lecture: Two semesters or three quarters (must include writing)

(Note: Certain science majors have additional course requirements.)

If you complete the courses above, you will meet every medical school’s requirements. The one other recommendation is that you take courses in arts, humanities, languages, literature, and social sciences, though there are no specific guidelines to follow.

It’s not necessary that you take courses in all of these areas but definitely aim to take courses in some. See What Is a Medical Residency?

As with your degree, you have to complete your prerequisites for medical school prior to matriculating to medical school.

In other words, you can apply to medical school even if you have a few outstanding prerequisite courses to complete. So long as you get them all done before matriculation, you’ll be just fine.

Be aware that AP credits, even if accepted by your undergraduate institution, might not be permitted to satisfy certain medical schools’ requirements.

Therefore, you should research the websites of schools you’re most interested in so that you’re not caught off guard by missing coursework during your application cycle.

Medical School Major Requirements

Your pre-med major does not matter when it comes to medical school admissions.

As long as you complete all the prerequisites for medical school, you can major in anthropology, biology, chemistry, English, history, or physics.

Most colleges and universities do not offer a separate pre-med major; therefore, it is not expected nor required.

Moreover, there is no such thing as a best pre-med major. All else being equal, an English major with a 3.8 overall GPA and 3.7 science GPA will be just as competitive of an applicant as a biochemistry major with the same stats.

Therefore, you should prioritize majoring in an area of interest, one that you feel you could do very well in.

Going back to the previous example, it would be preferable to have a 3.8 overall GPA and 3.7 science GPA as an English major rather than have a 3.6 overall GPA and 3.6 science GPA as a physics major.

This might not seem fair, since certain majors are generally tougher than others. You might believe that, had you chosen an easier major, your GPA would be higher.

(Some students also lament having a slightly lower GPA as a result of attending a notoriously difficult institution.) That’s where the MCAT, a standardized test, comes in. More on the MCAT in a moment.

We often get asked whether a double major or a minor boosts your odds of getting into med school.

While some admissions committee members will likely admire your diverse interests and pursuits, we have not observed the presence or absence of a double major or a minor as a significant factor in medical school admissions.

Therefore, you should pursue a double major or minor if you would like, but it would not likely make or break your application.

Medical school GPA requirement

Most medical schools will not post a minimum GPA requirement.

Moreover, most medical schools will automatically send you their secondary application once your primary application is verified, regardless of your GPA and MCAT score.

Despite the routine mentioning of “holistic admissions” and no minimum GPA requirements, medical schools have high, yet variable grade expectations.

The average overall GPA among successful applicants during the most recent cycle was 3.74 across MD programs. See Cheapest Medical Schools in the US.

It is much tougher to get into medical school with a low GPA, so make sure to protect your grades at all times.

Some students end up taking too many courses or participating in too many extracurriculars at the start of undergrad, and their grades suffer as a result. A few terms with lower grades early on will make the rest of college an uphill academic battle.

Students routinely ask whether their GPA is “too low” or “good enough” to get into medical school and whether medical schools employ a cutoff when evaluating applications.

Some do and some do not, but what is most important is that you do as well as possible and apply to a balanced school list based on your stats.

When using MSAR, make sure that your GPA is at least at a given school’s 10th percentile mark. Below that, and your chances of getting into that school will be extremely slim. Of course, the higher your grades, the better.

Medical school MCAT requirement

Unless you are enrolled in certain BS/MD programs or other early assurance programs, you will have to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

Unfortunately, some BS/MD and early assurance programs require you to achieve a certain minimum MCAT score to remain qualified.

At the vast majority of medical schools, you will be required to submit an MCAT score from within the last three years. If you last took the MCAT over three years ago, you will probably have to retake the exam.

The earliest students typically take the MCAT is during the summer after their sophomore year. January of junior year is also a good idea for students who want to apply to med school straight through (i.e., without taking a gap year or two.)

The latest we recommend taking the MCAT is in April of your application year, and even that’s pushing it.

Regardless, in most instances, you should give yourself 3–4 months of study time and develop a great MCAT study schedule to maximize your score.

Of course, you should aim to do as well as possible on the MCAT. If you are looking to get into an MD program, your score target should be, at minimum, a 508.

This is an incredibly conservative target, as many medical schools post a higher average MCAT score among matriculants.

Moreover, the average MCAT score among matriculants during the application cycle (i.e., students who started med school in fall 2021) was 511.9.

If you are interested in applying to DO schools, your MCAT score does not need to be as high. However, whether you are applying to MD or DO programs (or both), the score you will want to aim for also depends on your GPA. The higher your GPA, the more you can withstand a slightly lower MCAT score.

Students often ask how close to a school’s median stats they need to be competitive for that school, incorrectly viewing average stats as a threshold for getting in.

However, keep in mind that median means “middle score.” Therefore, a school with a median MCAT score of, say, 514 admitted half of its students with an MCAT score below a 514 and half of its students with an MCAT score above a 514.

Medical School Extracurricular Activity Requirements

Approaching your premed years the right way typically results in being extremely busy with studying and especially with extracurricular activities.

Competitive medical school applicants all have good-to-great grades and MCAT scores, which means that stats are not a useful differentiating factor; they simply tell admissions committees whether an applicant is academically ready.

Therefore, med school admissions committee members (adcoms) evaluate how you’ve spent your time outside the classroom.

And while many medical schools state that they want to see the obtainment or demonstration of certain competencies and skills, they almost never provide any details about what specifically to pursue or how much.

In order to choose the Right Extracurricular Activities for Medical School, you are expected to have obtained the following:

Shadowing experience: Shadowing refers to observing physicians in any care setting, whether an outpatient clinic, operating room, community clinic, etc.

You should aim to observe physicians across two or three specialties, and ideally in multiple settings.

Clinical experience: This category is sometimes referred to as clinical volunteering or patient exposure.

It’s different from shadowing in that you will have 1:1 patient contact, delivering some form of care. Popular clinical experiences include working as an emergency medical technician (EMT) or medical assistant (MA).

Community service: Otherwise known as non-clinical volunteering, this category is infinitely broad. Depending on your interests, you could tutor students from underserved backgrounds, make an impact through a charitable organization, or do anything else.

Research experience: Research experience can be obtained in “wet lab” or “dry lab” (often clinical) settings.

The goal is to demonstrate an interest in academic medicine, especially if you’re interested in getting into MD programs. Many medical school websites do not explicitly mention requiring research experience.

Medical school letter of recommendation requirements

Like coursework and extracurricular activities, medical school letter of recommendation requirements can be quite confusing because they differ across schools.

There are so many layers to understanding med school recommendation letters; in fact, we published a separate, comprehensive resource on the subject: Medical School Letters of Recommendation: The Definitive Guide.

However, the basics that you should aim to get are:

  • Two letters from a science professor
  • One letter from a non-science professor

Two to three letters from individuals who have supervised you in an extracurricular setting, such as the principal investigator (PI) of your research laboratory.

Medical school Casper requirement

While not a general requirement, allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) medical schools are increasingly requiring that applicants take the Casper test, which stands for Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics.

During the exam, you will be presented with various text- and video-based scenarios, followed by three questions that you will have five minutes to respond to.

The five minutes per scenario go by quickly, so consider increasing your type speed to maximize your score.

Some people think that it’s unnecessary to prepare for Casper, but we disagree. You’ll want to brush up on medical ethics and go through various practice scenarios to familiarize yourself with the exam.

Medical school application requirements

After years of completing required courses and pursuing meaningful extracurricular activities, you’ll have to complete your medical school applications. These applications, which require months of work, are organized in the following phases:

  • Primary applications (AMCAS [MD] | AACOMAS [DO] | TMDSAS [Texas med schools])
  • Medical school personal statement
  • Work and Activities section
  • Medical school list
  • MD-PhD essays (optional)
  • TMDSAS essays (optional)
  • Secondary applications (i.e., supplemental applications)
  • School-specific secondary essays
  • Interviews
  • Traditional medical school interviews
  • Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI)


Going to a medical school is not easy as they consider a diverse range of factors in evaluating their applicants, and meeting their many requirements is not easy.

In this article, we have highlighted diverse medical school requirements to help prospective medical school students know how to go about the requirements. Was it helpful?

Last Updated on July 11, 2023 by Admin

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