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How to Get Into Med School

If you plan to get into med school in the future, here’s an important number to memorize: 40%. That’s the percentage of first-year medical students who successfully matriculated during the 2019-2020 academic school year. Consequently, the number of applicants who successfully enter medical school during the annual application period has remained around 40% every year for the past decade.

As the data show, the application process for medical school is highly competitive. However, earning a spot among the 40% of successful applicants is less about luck and more about the hard work and strategy that go into preparing for and completing each step of the process, up until and including med school applications.

Here are a few actionable steps to get into med school and become part of this year’s 40%.

1. If you’re still an undergraduate, focus on your academic marks

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the mean GPA for all 2019-2020 med school matriculants was 3.73. That number has been steadily increasing year-over-year. During the 2017-2018 school year, the mean GPA was 3.71.

Additionally, the mean GPA for all 2019-2020 med school applicants was 3.58. That number, as well, has been inching upward each year. But the difference between the mean GPAs for applicants and successful matriculants reveals two points:

  • Applicants tend to have high overall GPAs
  • Successful applicants are more likely to have exceptionally high GPAs

It’s certainly possible to get into med school with a GPA that’s lower than the mean. However, you have a much greater chance of getting accepted into a med school, and even the med school of your choice, when you maintain a higher undergraduate and graduate GPA.

For premed students, a high GPA is often a good indicator of acquired knowledge and skill in the prerequisites med schools want to see on your transcripts—which brings us to our next point.

2. Be highly selective with your undergraduate or graduate coursework

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a large hurdle for med school applicants due to the background knowledge required to get a high score. Although you don’t need to be enrolled in a popular pre-med major (such as biology or microbiology) to get a great score on the MCAT, having the requisite coursework common to those majors will help you succeed.

The MCAT has four sections:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

A proper foundation in coursework related to those subject areas will be critical if you want to get a competitive score on the MCAT and get into med school. If you’re still early in your undergraduate years, sign up for the type of classes that will most prepare you for these sections.

You may need to speak to a Pre-Health advisor regarding which courses would best suit those areas.

3. Do well on the MCAT

While this may seem obvious, it’s important to know exactly what number to strive for. During the 2019-2020 academic year, the mean applicant MCAT score was 506.1. For that same time period, the mean MCAT score for matriculants was 511.5.

As with GPAs, the mean MCAT score has been edging upward year-over-year. To be competitive in the application process, you’ll need to shoot for a score that’s around the range of successful scores from the previous year. So, for 2020-2021, ideally, you may want to shoot for 511.5 or higher.

Earning that score may be no easy task and, ideally, you will want to take your MCAT only once. However, some students might need to take the MCAT multiple times. You can take the MCAT up to three times in one year, but only up to four times over the course of two years. There’s also a lifetime limit of seven attempts.

To that end, don’t retake the MCAT to get a better score until you’ve properly prepared for it. MCAT preparation options may include additional postgraduate coursework, MCAT preparation guides, or private tutors or tutoring companies.

4. Apply to med school as early as possible

Many med schools will begin accepting applications in May and June. You should be ready to submit your application as early as possible, ensuring that is error-free. That means you’ll want to have all of the application materials ready to submit as soon as possible.

Med school applications may change from year to year, but most don’t add significantly new requirements every year. Explore the applications of the med schools you’re interested in at least a year prior to applying. That way, you’ll know what they’re asking for and you can prepare your materials before med schools start accepting applications.

The AAMC offers a centralized service for med school applications, though not all med schools participate in the AAMC American Medical College Application Service®. Identify any schools that don’t participate and research their application opening dates, process, and deadlines.

5. Apply to a large range of schools, but also consider early admission options

There are a few approaches to the application process. You can apply to a broad range of schools, or you can apply using an Early Decision Program at the school you’re most interested in attending.

Many med schools claim that early decision applications have a higher acceptance rate. If you believe you’re a competitive candidate — you have a high GPA on your transcript and you have an above-average MCAT score—early admission may be the correct route. The Early Decision Program requires that you may only apply for early decision with one school, that you don’t apply to any other schools for the coming academic year, and that if you do get accepted, you will attend the school to which you submitted the early decision application.

The alternative is to apply to a large, broad range of med schools through normal admissions. You can still re-apply if you get rejected through the Early Decision Program.

The Early Decision Program is certainly a gamble, as you’ll need to wait another year to apply to med schools if you get rejected. But, if you’re confident that your GPA, MCAT, and transcripts make you a highly competitive candidate, applying for an early decision may increase your chance of getting into your top choice med school.

6. Prepare for med school with a postbaccalaureate premedical certificate program

Acquire more knowledge and skills in the medical field prior to taking your MCAT and submitting med school applications. Not only will doing so help you significantly increase your MCAT scores, but you will also have critical coursework that you can list on your transcripts. The combined impact may boost your competitiveness as you enter the med school application season.

KGI’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical Certificate (PPC) program was designed for pre-med students who need to advance their applicable knowledge and experience in applied life science courses prior to taking on the challenge of med school applications.

Our program takes participants through graduate-level courses in molecular biology, medical diagnostics, pre-medicine professional development, clinical biostatistics, and more. Not to mention that our program has two full-time dedicated premed advisors who have a combined 30 years of experience in guiding students through their journey towards medicine.

The success of our students also speaks for itself. While the mean med school matriculation rate for all students is just around 40%, we’ve found that 70% of our students matriculate into med schools after completing our PPC program. The remaining 30% of KGI students matriculate into PhD programs, dental schools, physician assistant programs, or enter full-time employment in the biotech and life sciences industry.

Apply today to secure your spot in KGI’s Postbac Premed Certificate Program. Or, go all the way and earn a Master of Science degree from KGI. Either route comes with the support you need to prepare for the MCAT, medical school applications, and lifetime success in the medical field.