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How to Get Into Medical School: Expert Tips for Admission

If you want to know how to get into medical school, you’re in the right place. We’ll discuss how difficult it actually is to be admitted to medical school in general, and we’ll also examine admissions requirements at specific, top-ranked schools, like Harvard, Brown, and NYU. Getting into medical school can seem impossible with less than perfect academic records…but don’t stress! In this guide, we’ll also be covering how to land a seat in medical school despite a less-than-stellar GPA or a low Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) score.

Let’s start by looking at just how hard it is to get into medical school.

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How hard is it to get into medical school?

Getting into medical school is challenging—there’s just no way around it. People who want to study medicine are typically driven, high achievers (like you!). This means that they usually have very high GPAs, MCAT scores, and a host of other achievements, making for a super competitive applicant pool.

Additionally, recent statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges show around a 25 percent increase in medical school applicants over the last ten years. As a result of this increased number of interested students, med schools are reporting all-time low acceptance rates. For example, John Hopkins accepts 5.3% of applicants, Harvard accepts 3.7% of applicants, and Stanford accepts only 2.3% of applicants.

That said, all hope is not lost. Med schools accept all types of students every year (but it does help to have a really good MCAT score!).

To help you increase your chances of getting into medical school, and to put your mind at ease, we’ve rounded up the top 10 expert tips for getting into medical school.

Top 10 expert tips for how to get into Harvard Dartmouth and other medical schools -magoosh

Top 10 Expert Tips for Getting into Medical School

Without further ado, here are the top 10 expert tips:

  1. Get medical experience
  2. Complete research projects
  3. Get the best GPA you can
  4. Get the best MCAT score you can
  5. Learn another language
  6. Participate in lots of extracurriculars
  7. Apply to multiple schools
  8. Apply early!
  9. Get the best recommendation letters possible
  10. Know why you want to be a doctor

Now that you have an overall idea of the top tips for getting into medical school, let’s take a look at each one in a little more detail.

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1. Get medical experience

Find every opportunity you can to get hands-on medical experience. Whether through paid work or volunteering, try to get as much practical involvement in the medical field as possible. Not only will this experience help you better understand what being a doctor will be like, it shows admissions committees you are dedicated. And who doesn’t want to impress those Harvard or Dartmouth admissions officers? The AAMC has a great resource page to start your search for opportunities.

2. Complete research projects

To get into medical school, you need to show your ability to research through extensive research projects. And to get into a top med school, you’ll need to complete impressive research, beyond what students typically produce. Additionally, you should try to have published work that demonstrates your ability to do research. U.S. News has a helpful list of where undergrads can get their research published.

3. Get the best GPA you can

Having a strong GPA is crucial to getting into med school, especially at top-ranked schools like NYU or Brown. So, you should do everything you can to get the highest GPA possible. The best place to start is by choosing a science-based major you know you’ll be passionate about. After that, study, study, study! Get a tutor if you need to, and definitely go to office hours. All the hard work you put in now will really pay off when it comes time to apply to med schools.

4. Get the best MCAT score you can

You should do everything in your power to get the best MCAT score you possibly can. Carve out the time to adequately prepare for the MCAT and make sure you follow the best MCAT study tips to make effective use of your prep time. This one component of your application is crucial to getting into your dream school.

5. Learn about other cultures (and learn another language)

Being an effective doctor requires skilled communication and nuanced cultural understandings, so it makes sense that med schools are looking for these skills. They want applicants who will develop into great doctors while representing their school well. So, show the admissions committee just how awesome of an alumnus you’ll be by demonstrating your language skills and familiarity with different cultural backgrounds.

6. Participate in lots of extracurriculars

Establish a high GPA and then commit to maintaining it while gradually adding new extracurricular activities every few months until you have a load of approximately 2-4 activities per year. Med school admissions officers are looking for individuals who are committed to giving back to the community and who are natural leaders. Demonstrate your ability to contribute to society and hold leadership positions through volunteering, sports, or student government. Challenge yourself to seek at least a few extracurricular options located off-campus, like hospice, youth shelters, or harm reduction centers; this demonstrates your comfort level with diverse settings and groups of people.

7. Apply to multiple schools

Even if your sights are set on NYU, Brown, Harvard, or Dartmouth, make sure you apply to many schools, including a few safety schools. According to a recent AAMC report, the average number of schools med student apply to is 15. You should look up your target med schools and see what their admitted applicants look like, aka their GPA and MCAT scores, volunteer experience, clinical experience, etc. Continuously remind yourself that to achieve your goal of becoming a doctor, you need to attend a med school—don’t get too caught up on one particular school and miss out on your dream!

8. Apply early

You should plan on completing your medical school applications in the spring so they are ready to send when the season opens in June. Most schools offer rolling admissions, so you should get your application in early while there are still a lot of spots to fill. How good will it feel in October when you already know where you’ll be attending school the following year?

9. Get the best recommendation letters possible

Remember that you are trying to beat out the competition with every single piece of your application. The 2.8% of applicants who were accepted to Brown had exceptional recommendation letters—make sure yours are as well. The best recommendation letters are personal and prove that you are truly committed to the study of medicine (and that you are better than any other student the admissions officers might be considering).

10. Be ready to explain why you want to be a doctor

You have to know exactly why you want to be a doctor. A generic answer of “I want to help people” will not be sufficient to get into medical school. The answer to this question is what drives all parts of your application. Without a clear sense of why you want to go to medical school, you will not be able to put together a strong application.

Also, you will be asked this question in interviews, and you need to be able to wow the admissions committee. So, take some time now to think about why you personally want to go to med school.

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How to get into medical school with bad grades

While a low GPA or bad MCAT score may make it harder to get into medical school, they alone will not cause a med school admissions committee to reject you. You need to keep in mind that med school admission committees look at the whole person, and your bad grades or MCAT score are just a part of the package. In fact, AAMC found that about 8% of applicants, who had GPAs ranging from 3.80 to 4.00 and MCAT scores ranging from 39 to 45, were rejected by every med school they applied to.

Let’s start by taking a quick look at how to get into medical school with bad grades.

Overcoming a low GPA

If you’re still in school, do everything you can to bring up your GPA. Get a tutor ASAP. Find more time to study and learn how to study effectively. If you’re no longer in school, then you should consider a post-baccalaureate program or graduate school. If you can demonstrate your ability to get a high GPA in a postbac or graduate program, that’s all the admissions officers will focus on. In addition, according to the health advisors at Brown, a lot of postbac programs have connections with med schools and can help expedite the help admission process.

Additionally, you should provide context in your application, if applicable. Think about why your GPA was lower than you would have liked. Did you face any extenuating circumstances while you were in school? If so, develop the context around your low GPA for admissions officers. They’re mostly concerned with how you’ll do in med school, so prove to them how you’re different now. If possible, show how you developed your study skills over time, which lead to higher grades.

Overcome a low MCAT score

The main way to overcome a low MCAT score is to study and take the MCAT again. Be sure to study more effectively this time around and follow a solid MCAT study plan.

However, if you’ve already taken the MCAT many times and you know that you will not be able to do better, don’t despair. Schools differ in what they are looking for from their students. Some schools place more weight on community service, clinical experience, and leadership roles over the MCAT. Additionally, you could consider applying to medical schools that do not require the MCAT. (Yes, those really do exist!)

If you have a bad undergrad GPA or MCAT score, you’ll need to make sure the rest of your application is as close to perfect as possible. Make sure you get really strong references to help you overcome any bias from your low scores.

Additionally, try to strengthen the other parts of your application as much as possible. Get all of the clinical experience you can, whether that’s through paid or volunteer work. Show those admissions officers why they would be lucky to have you (and take their eye off your low GPA or MCAT score).

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How To Get Into Medical School - Image By Magoosh

The Best Advice from Admissions Officers

In addition to the top 10 expert tips above, you should try to learn as much as you can about how to get into medical school from those who know best, admissions officers. To help get you started, we’ve compiled a list of the best places to find advice from admissions officers:

Note that this is just a starting point. You should also check in with your academic advisor at school to see what advice they have or other resources they would recommend. The most important thing is to remember that you are not alone—there are lots of people out there who know how to help you get into medical school!

How To Get Into Medical School - Image By Magoosh

Takeaway

Getting accepted to medical school is a daunting, arduous process. However, if you follow the top tips from experts outlined here, and use your passion to get the best GPA and MCAT scores possible, and develop the best med school application you can, you will get into medical school and fulfill your dream of becoming a doctor.

This post has been reviewed by MCAT Expert, Dr. Kat Thomson.

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2 Responses to How to Get Into Medical School: Expert Tips for Admission

  1. Harish Kumar August 5, 2019 at 9:46 am #

    Thank you for sharing, may I have your phone # to call you.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 18, 2019 at 12:46 pm #

      Hi Harish,

      I’m going to forward your message to a member of our support team. 🙂 You’ll hear from someone shortly.

      Just a heads up, it will be in an e-mail.


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