Getting into medical school is the single most difficult step of becoming a physician. If you want to get to medical school, you need a premed plan.
There are lots of details and small steps to get right, and of course, big decisions to make. Medical school will likely cost you over $200,000, and your lifetime earnings potential as a physician is probably north of $10,000,000. Take the time and spend the effort needed to get this first, and hardest, step right.
The Premed Section at StudentDoc is set up to help guide you through the process. Based on over 20 years of experience, we’ve broken the process down into several steps. If you want help, you can use our online tools as a starting point for your premed plan.
Here are the basic steps:
Choosing a college is a very important decision. Many people make simple but costly mistakes here, like going to a school that doesn’t have a premed committee or going to a school, like Johns Hopkins, from which only a small percentage of premeds actually end up going to medical school. Ask questions about medical school admissions rates when you interview at the college.
Choosing a major is another decision that frequently gets messed up by premeds. DON’T major in “premed studies.” Only major in biology or chemistry if that’s what you would do even if you weren’t applying to medical school. Major in what interests you and excites you – that’s your best chance to excel and to be happy while in school. And excellence is what medical schools want to see.
Know the basic medical school requirements. We’ve outlined them in some detail in the linked article.
Get excellent grades. Duh! Grades are one of the two factors that get you past the first filter at medical school admissions committees. Part of your strategy should be identifying the weed-out courses at your college, and deciding how to handle them.
Use, but don’t rely on, your premed advisor. Establish your own premed plan, complete with a timeline and steps to become a doctor.
Along with your GPA, your MCAT score is what many medical schools use to make their first cut. Each school has their own cutoff rule, so your goal should be to have the best combination of GPA and MCAT scores possible.
- Plan to take the MCAT in your junior year. Here’s more information on when to take the MCAT.
- MCAT prep – this is important, so do it right. There’s a good reason why over 70% of applicants take a formal prep course.
- Use practice MCAT exams to estimate how you will do on the real MCAT. Our analysis shows which practice tests best correlate with the real scores.
- Find out if your MCAT scores are competitive. Our online MCAT score tool compares your GPA and MCAT scores to the stats of students accepted to different US medical schools.
- Decide whether you should retake the MCAT. There’s data and an MCAT retake tool to help you make your decision.
Letters of Recommendation
This article addresses some of the following important questions about med school letters of recommendation:
- Who should you ask for a recommendation letter?
- When should you ask for recommendations?
- What information should you provide to letter writers?
- What goes into your school’s premed committee letter?
Activities above and beyond academics speak to your priorities and your accomplishments. General categories of extracurricular activities are listed below in order of importance; it is most important that you have some clinical exposure.
- Clinical exposure / physician shadowing
Choosing the medical schools to which you will apply
There are now a wide variety of kinds of medical schools and programs to which you can apply. Matching your interests and qualifications to the type of medical school gives you the best chance of getting into an appropriate institution.
- What are medical school rankings?
- What’s the difference between an MD and a DO?
- Should you consider Caribbean medical schools?
- Should you look to foreign medical schools outside of the Caribbean?
- At which US allopathic medical schools would you be competitive?
- At which US osteopathic medical schools would you be competitive?
- What are the top 10 medical schools in the U.S.?
When it comes time to apply to medical school, you will most likely use the AMCAS application, which is the initial step for most allopathic medical schools outside of Texas. Most Texas schools use a different preliminary application, called TMDSAS. We deal with each of the following topics in detail through the linked article.
- AMCAS basics, including what goes in the application and what you need to prepare.
- AMCAS essay and personal statements.
- Secondary applications
The Medical School Interview
- Sample medical school interview questions
- How to dress for a medical school interview
- Video examples of medical school interviews
- Should you write a thank you note?