Last Updated: 03/17/15
Medical School Requirements: General
Medical school admissions can be a tricky process. Medical School requirements can vary from school to school, so it’s always a great idea check with each individual school you plan on applying to for specifics. However, there are general minimum requirements that every med school looks for. That’s what we’ll cover in this section. For more information about the exact scores it takes to get in visit our admissions statistics page.
Medical School Requirements: Courses
This is a general list that every school requires. These courses will also be helpful for the MCAT:
- General Chemistry + Lab (1 year)
- Organic Chemistry + Lab (1 year)
- Biology + Lab (1 year)
- Physics + Lab (1 year)
- English (1 year)
These are courses that some schools may require in addition to the above:
- Biochemistry + Lab
- Social Sciences
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to try to take as many of the courses on the second list as possible, even if the schools you’re applying to don’t require them. They look good on your transcript and they set you apart from other applicants.
The MCAT is one of the most important medical school requirements and it is mandatory to take for every US medical school. You should try to take it before you plan on applying to medical school in case you need to take it more than once. There is no magic score that will guarantee you acceptance to medical school, but you should try to aim for a 30 or above to make yourself a highly competitive applicant. We have seen a few students admitted to medical school with MCAT scores around 25, but they are generally the exception. See our MCAT Prep Guide page for more details.
GPA is another one of the most important medical school requirements. So, what GPA do you need to get into medical school? This is a common question with no correct answer. Obviously the higher your GPA, the better your chances, but people with lower GPAs have also been accepted to medical school. To be considered competitive, your GPA should be at least 3.3 and a GPA of 3.6 or above is considered good enough for most medical schools. For your application to even be considered for admission to most schools, you should have at least a 3.0 GPA. If your GPA is low, you’ll need to balance it out with a higher MCAT score and stronger extracurricular activities, such as those listed below. See our statistics page for current data on accepted students and their GPA/MCAT scores.
Shadowing is not a mandatory medical school requirement. However, it is extremely important to still do as much as possible for several reasons. Shadowing will help you decide for sure that you want to be a doctor. It will give you some insight into what a real, average day is like for a person in that specialty. Shadowing will also add considerable value to your medical school application. Not only will the admissions team be impressed that you took the time to shadow doctors, but they will know that you know what it’s like to actually be a doctor. You will have something to talk about in your activities section of your application and you might have something to talk about in your personal statement. We’ve never seen a student accepted to medical school who didn’t complete at least some shadowing.
It’s best to approach a doctor you’d like to shadow in person. Tell them you’re a pre med student and you need shadowing before you can apply for medical school. Most will be happy to help. You might also find doctors to shadow from personal connections or through your school’s pre med organizations. While you’re shadowing, pay attention to your surroundings and what’s happening around you. Is the doctor communication with patients well? Are the patients going home happy? Does the doctor love his job? What can you learn from this experience? These are all potential points to use in your personal statement.
This is another area that is not necessarily required, but will help to set you apart. Volunteering of all kinds is helpful, but volunteering in medical settings is especially useful. You can use your experiences while volunteering to add substance to your personal statement. The quality of the volunteering experience will also matter to medical schools. It is much more meaningful to dedicate longer periods of time to projects that you’re passionate about than to just attend several one day events.
Research experience is not required to get into medical school. However, it can also be helpful to strengthen your application. If you go to a college with lots of research activity it shouldn’t be hard to find a research mentor. Approach your favorite professors and ask about opportunities. They may have openings in their own lab or they might know someone else willing to take on an undergrad research assistant. Additionally, you can search your school’s current research projects online and email professors who are working on projects you’re interested in. Research can be a useful topic to add to your activities on your application, especially if you have the opportunity to present at a conference.
This is an additional section that’s not required but looks awfully good. Medical students and doctors are often leaders that their community looks up to, so gaining leadership experience is valuable to admissions officers. For most premed students this means becoming an officer in a student organization. If you can show commitment to a student organization and gain enough trust to earn a leadership position, medical school admissions officers will be impressed. It will also give you something to talk about on your application. For example, maybe you believe healthcare should be delivered as a team and you learned how to work together toward a goal through your experience as an officer.
Medical School Requirements: What Should I Focus On?
The most important part of your application will be GPA and MCAT score. Focus on these as much as possible and try to mix in extracurricular activities when you can. However, the bottom line is you should never sacrifice grades to focus on extracurriculars. When all is said and done, the admissions committee will be more impressed by solid numbers than anything else.