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Pre-Health Advising
Pre-Health Advising

Applying to Medical School

Prerequisite Courses

Typical Medical School Requirements:

(Students should double check required courses for specific schools)

  • General chemistry with lab (CH105 and CH106 or CH107)
  • Biological sciences with lab (BI210 and BI220)
  • Organic chemistry with lab (CH351 and CH352)
  • Biochemistry (CH361)
  • Physics with lab (PH107 and PH108)
  • Introduction to Psychology (SW250-PS)
  • Introduction to Sociology (SW200-SO

Recommended Courses for Additional Preparation for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT):

  • General Statistics (MA162 or equivalent) or courses within the student’s major of choice that emphasizes statistics
  • Advanced biochemistry (CH462)
  • Physiology
  • Ethics
  • Additional sociology, anthropology, psychology

MCAT

A student interested in medical school will typically prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) during their junior year (fall/winter) and then take the exam in spring/summer of their junior year. Based on current admission trends, an acceptable score is a 508 or higher for MD programs and slightly lower for DO programs. See the link below for more information on the exam content and mean scores for admission to different programs. For more information visit the MCAT website.

Application Process

For both MD and DO programs an applicant should check the application website well in advance to understand the application process, requirements, and deadlines.  See the links below.

In general, the application process for MD programs occurs during the spring of the junior year. Applicants typically prepare for and take the MCAT in the spring often in April or May. The application process for MD programs begins in May with the primary application submitted to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) no later than June. Texas applicants applying to Texas Medical Schools are required to utilize Texas Medical Medical Application Service.  Secondary applications begin to arrive in August or September of the senior year and they must be completed and returned immediately.

In general, the application process for DO programs occurs during the senior year with most deadlines occurring in February and March. However, they are highly variable and depend on the school an applicant wishes to apply to. Applicants typically prepare for and take the MCAT in their junior year. The primary application should be submitted to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOMAS). It is imperative to check the application deadlines for each of the programs one would be applying to by checking the application website. Secondary applications are often due a month after the primary application.

For more information visit the website for AAMCAS and AACOMAS.

Building Your Resume

Considered by some to be a more difficult aspect of medical school preparation is building your resume to demonstrate your interest and commitment to the field of medicine. Clinical exposure is a must and so shadowing and volunteerism is an absolute necessity. In addition, showing that you have the ability to simultaneously perform well academically and play a leadership role in some organization is important. There is no specific formula for gaining the exposure you'll need in order to build your resume. Just ensure that you pull meaning from any experience and that you are invested in the lives of people and not just checking off a box. You'll want to become a well-rounded student-scholar-citizen to become the best possible candidate.

Personal Statement

When applying to a professional program, your personal statement will serve as an interview on paper. Admission committees want to learn information about you that cannot be gleaned from transcripts and MCAT scores. Your statement should demonstrate that you are more than a conscientious student, explain your motivation for entering your chosen field, and confirm that you have the maturity to succeed in their program and as a health-care professional.

Your statement must be well-written. Proving your ability to communicate is essential as you embark on a career in which interpersonal skills, including being able to work with colleagues and connect with patients and clients, are vital. Above all else, you should be sincere. The statement should be an accurate reflection of your experiences, aspirations, and motivations. In combination with the in-person interview, if required by the program, your personal statement will give admission committee members a window into what type of student, colleague and practitioner you will be.

It is often difficult to write about yourself. You do not want to come across as boastful, nor do you want to seem insecure or incompetent. Yet, you must be specific about yourself. General statements, such as how you have always wanted to help people or that you will strive to live up to an idealized version of a doctor or dentist, are unlikely to sway the committee in your favor. To begin getting personal, you can list out what experiences, both positive and negative, led you to want to enter your chosen field. You should also write out your career goals and what type of preparation, including coursework, internships, shadowing and mentoring opportunities, and volunteer work, in which you have engaged. You can ask family, friends and colleagues what traits best describe you and what examples make them think of you in that way. Keep in mind not everything you list will make it into your statement. However, these lists can help you see connections between the activities you have chosen and the person you have become. They will also provide you with some ideas regarding on what theme or experience to focus your statement. The more cohesive the statement is, the better it reflects on you.

While looking over your lists, look for common themes. Is there any particular experience that will allow the admission committee to understand you and your motivations better? Is there an experience that demonstrates that you can empathize with others? Committee members rather know one or two things about you that define you as a person and the type of professional you will be than a laundry list of experiences and accomplishments. When writing about yourself, it is best to demonstrate your abilities and motivations through an example or story and not just through a declaration. For example, instead of stating you are well-organized or love working with people, provide an example of how you organized a complex event or volunteer regularly to work one-on-one with people. Even a negative experience, if it provided you with a lesson, can demonstrate your ability to self-reflect and grow as a person.

If you are applying to medical school, you should consider what skills medical schools expect their own graduates to have. For example, Indiana University School of Medicine organizes its program around the "Nine Competencies." The nine competencies include the following skill sets: (1) effective communication; (2) basic clinical skills; (3) use of science to guide diagnosis, management, therapeutics, and prevention; (4) life-long learning; (5) self awareness, self-care, and personal growth; (6) social and community contexts of health care; (7) moral reasoning and ethical judgment; (8) problem solving; and (9) professionalism and role recognition. (See IUSM, Nine Competencies.) If you can show that you are well on your way to developing some of these competencies, you will have given the committee good reason to consider you a strong candidate for its program.

Once you begin writing, keep in mind that your statement will likely go through many drafts. You should ask friends, family, professors, advisors and supervisors to review and comment on it. Is it an accurate reflection of you? Does it move them? Does it answer the questions asked on the application? Is it well-written? If the answer is no to any of the above questions, keep working on your statement. As you edit, the below lists will help guide you.

Do:

  • Answer any questions asked
  • Follow any formatting guidelines
  • Use a consistent theme or tell a story to make your statement cohesive
  • Self-reflect on what you have learned/gained your experiences that will make you a better doctor someday.  The personal statement should be more about what you gained from your experiences, rather than merely restating what you have done, which is already listed elsewhere in the application.  
  • Demonstrate your abilities with examples
  • Include relevant information about the program to which you are applying
  • Have others read your statement
  • Edit, edit, edit

Do Not:

  • Write your autobiography
  • Write your résumé in prose form
  • Use clichés
  • Be too general
  • Be gimmicky
  • Be overly dramatic
  • Begin with a quote
  • Write about someone else

Letters of Recommendation

The process for requesting individual letters is outlined below.  However, check with the specific school’s website to determine if letters need to be sent directly to that school (becoming relatively rare), as opposed to merely submitted through the AMCAS or AACOMAS service (more common).  You should request the letters in February or March of your application year (usually your Junior year).  

In general:

  • Identify two science professors and one non-science professor that might be willing to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf.  These professors should know you well (had for more than just one course, you stood out among your peers, they had extensive contact with you outside of the classroom, etc.) and should have observed your academic skills in the classroom as well as a laboratory, recitation, or co-curricular activity.
  • Schedule a meeting with the professors to directly ask them to write the letters.  Don’t just drop in as the request might get shuffled off and forgotten.  Be intentional about asking.
  • Bring a list or short narrative of the work you completed in the classes taken under the professor (more important).  Professors see many students over the years and don’t always remember specific course assignments or course experiences like you will.  Remind them of these experiences.
  • Provide an estimated date for submission of their letters.  Both AMCAS and AACOMAS “go live” and begin accepting applications in June.  Faculty should upload letters in June or July.  Give your professors enough time to write a thoughtful letter.
  • Understand that no professor is required to write a letter of recommendation for you.  If they do not feel that they know you well enough (or in some cases maybe know you too well?) or do not feel that they can provide you with a strong endorsement relative to your peers, then it is best for all parties involved if they decline.  Refusing to write a letter of recommendation because you refuse to waive your right to see the letter, thus making the letter non-confidential, is within the professor’s rights.
  • When you submit your application materials to the online application service, you will need to fill in the professor’s information and email.  Be sure you get the correct email address!  The application service will send the professor instructions on how to upload the letter.  Check with the professor by email or by appointment to ensure that they received the request from the application service.  Don’t be pushy, but be firm...this is important!
  • You can check on the status of your application and the status of the letters at any time (though you cannot read the letters - they are supposed to be entirely confidential) by following the instructions on the application service website.