Are you curious about what it takes to get into medical school? You aren’t alone. 

Applying to medical school is a task that’s not for the faint of heart. While the acceptance rate for this type of program tends to be much lower than it is for other school programs, medical school applicants have a special type of grit and perseverance. So if you’re mulling over whether you want to apply to medical school – and if you have what it takes – chances are, you probably do!

In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about how hard it is to get into medical school – so you can find out what it takes to get accepted and start your studies ASAP. 

stethoscope

How Hard Is It To Get Into Medical School?

It’s no secret that applying to medical school and being accepted to medical school is no piece of cake. However, if you’ve been passionate about the idea of med school for quite some time, you probably already know how much hard work and perseverance it’s going to take. 

Medical schools have always been competitive, accepting only the students with the very best applications. But how hard is it really? Here’s what you need to know.

In the last ten years or so, being admitted to medical school has only gotten more challenging. The Association of American Medical Colleges regularly publishes data on how competitive it is to be admitted. About ten years ago, just under 43,000 students applied for admission to medical school. In 2020-2021, that number jumped to nearly 54,000. That’s a nearly 25% increase!

If you’re curious about acceptance rates, you might want to take a deep breath. How many of those students were ultimately accepted to medical school? Less than half. Your chances of getting into medical school might be lower than you think, but you can work your way into the applicant pool by considering some of the tips below. 

How Hard is it to Get Into Medical School

Why Is It So Hard To Get Into Medical School?

With the latest Association of American MEdical COlleges report projecting a serious doctor shortage from 2020 and beyond, it might come as a bit of a shock that medical school is so competitive. There are serious shoes to fill – so why aren’t more medical schools opening up their applications a bit more? 

The biggest reason is that there is lots of competition for limited spots and the competition is innately self-selecting. Only about a quarter of premeds who start college with this major make it to the application process. The classes are tough! And unfortunately, although there is a serious doctor shortage, it’s concentrated in areas that are unglamorous, like primary care and geriatrics (sorry, aspiring pediatricians – there’s going to be some stiff competition). 

Of course, you can increase your chances of getting into medical school by spending time volunteering with the patient population you want to serve (particularly helpful if those populations are considered “underserved”). You can also participate in some sort of activity that might set you apart from other pre-meds.

One final tip? Don’t apply until you are absolutely sure you’re ready. Spend a year beefing up your grades and your application – trust us, it will be worth it. 

How to get into med school

Requirements For Becoming A Medical School Student

What GPA Do You Need For Medical School?

The GPA you will need to get into medical school will vary depending on the schools to which you apply. The average GPA for applicants in 2019-2020 was around 3.73. In the last ten years, there has been a significant upward trend of GPA points, meaning it has gotten more competitive to be admitted to a medical school in recent years. 

If you have a GPA that’s lower than average, that’s not to say that you can’t apply – and potentially be admitted – to medical school, but it’s going to be a lot harder for you to do so. 

It’s not just your GPA that matters, either. While good grades are important, you also need to focus on academic skills and clinical experience that will help make your application more competitive. 

Studying for med school

Is The MCAT Required? 

The MCAT, or the Medical College Admissions Test, is one of the most notable requirements for medical school applicants. The cut-off or average MCAT score will vary depending on where you intend to apply. 

However, for the 2019-2020 academic year, the average MCAT score was around 506.1. 

To prepare for medical school, consider enrolling in some MCAT prep courses. At the very least, expose yourself to MCAT practice test material so that you can see exactly what might be asked on the real test – adn so you can figure out whether you have what it takes to score highly on the exam. 

Don’t rush to take the MCAT, either. This is a huge task that requires several months of preparation. While you might be tempted to bang out the test as quickly as possible so that you can submit your medical school applications early, try to resist this temptation. It’s true that applying early to medical school is a good idea, since most schools will accept applications on a rolling basis and stop doing so once all their seats are filled.

However, that’s not going to do you any good if your scores aren’t up to snuff. Prepare, prepare, and prepare some more until your MCAT scores are where they need to be. 

MCAT

Do You Need A Personal Statement?

A personal statement is typically required by most admissions committees. The significance of this personal statement in regards to your overall competitiveness can vary depending on the school, but in some places, combined with your interview performance, it can contribute to up to 60% or more of your total admissions score.

The topics you’ll be asked to address in your personal statement will likely vary, too. However, you might want to consider some of the following ideas when you sit down to write:

  • An experience that challenged, inspired, or changed your thoughts about medicine
  • A meaningful relationship you’ve had with a mentor or someone else in your career
  • A challenging personal experience or hardship you have faced
  • Your motivation to pursue a career in medicine

Of course, make sure you take the time to proofread and rewrite several drafts of your personal statement! This isn’t something you want to rush through and knock out the night before your application is due. 

What About Extracurricular Activities?

Extracurricular activities, in most cases, aren’t required by medical schools. While they can certainly help strengthen your application and give you the skills and network you need to be successful, try not to focus too much on clubs and activities. After all, you’ll need to keep your grades up. 

It is a better idea to participate in just a small handful of extracurriculars as an undergrad rather than dozens in order to pad your application. Rather than signing up for every club and organization you can think of, choose one or two that really interest you and focus on those. Your application will look much better if you have published an article in a respected journal and volunteered for a few hours a week than if you bounced around between tons of different activities. 

Is Clinical Experience Required?

Getting into medical school may be easier if you have some clinical experience, but your chances of getting into MD schools won’t be dramatically lower if you don’t have something in this category when you apply. 

In fact, having experience in medicine is essential when you apply to school – med schools don’t want to take their chances on accepting someone who doesn’t know anything about the medical profession and hasn’t taken the time to thoroughly explore the field. 

How do you get the experience you need? There are a few options. You could work as an EMT or nursing assistant or you could always volunteer. Children’s camps, assisted living centers, and other high-need facilities are always looking for a set of helping hands – and it’s a great way for you to learn more about whether the field of medicine is right for you. 

Are Medical School Interviews Required?

Many med school applicants are required to complete an interview with the school’s admissions committees in order to apply. The vast majority of medical schools complete their interviewing process by the end of the application cycle in mid-March, though some continue going until all of their spots have been filled, interviewing students until the end of April and beyond. 

Can An Average Student Get Into Medical School?

The average student can get into medical school, but don’t rest on your charm and good looks alone. You’re going to need to be seriously hardworking in order to be admitted. 

Getting into medical school has become more challenging in recent years, in part because more students are applying and in part because pr-med education has changed. There is a growing trend toward high schools and baccalaureate programs offering additional STEM education, with students being exposed to STEM disciplines as early as preschool.

Because of this, more students have the skills and interests necessary to pursue a medical education – so it only goes to reason that medical school admissions will have become more competitive, too. 

One more tip – make sure you apply to the right schools. Read the rankings and find the medical schools that are right for you, your goals, and your current situation. While it’s perfectly fine to apply to “reach” schools, or those that might be more difficult for you to get into, you also need to apply to “target” and “safe” schools. 

Be realistic with yourself and put your nose to the grindstone. With a bit of dedication and hard work, you, too, can be admitted to medical school!

Doctors in the hallway

How Hard Is It To Get Into Medical School: FAQ

What Are The Odds Of Getting Into Medical School?

The medical school applicant pool is crowded –  in fact, the national acceptance rate is right around 43%, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Follow the tips above and make sure your application is finely polished and perfected before you apply. Remember, experience is everything, even if that just means doing a bit of job shadowing to put on your resume. 

What Is The Easiest Medical School To Get Into?

“Easy” is a subjective term, so it’s hard to say which school is easiest to get into without taking a look at the unique attributes that you bring to the table in your application. However, there are some schools that have reputations for being a bit less competitive than others. Some to consider if your application isn’t quite as strong as you’d like it to be are the University of Massachusetts, the University of North Dakota, the University of Nevada, and East Carolina University. Additionally, if you’re considering other medical-related fields you may enjoy our articles on the best medical billing certifications and the best medical coder courses. No, go apply yourself!

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