An MD degree requires four years of medical school after college. Some students choose osteopathic schools; these four-year programs lead to a DO degree, equivalent to an MD with additional training in osteopathic manipulation. Students with a strong interest in clinical research or a career on a medical school faculty may choose a combined program awarding both an MD and PhD degree, which usually takes at least six years. At least three additional years of internship and residency are required before you begin practice—even more in some specialties.
Most medical schools accept a standardized application form called the AMCAS. The AMCAS application includes academic and personal information and a personal statement (essay). After preliminary screening, schools ask for a secondary application, usually including additional essays, from students they are still interested in. From this pool, they then choose candidates for on-campus interviews.
Minimum course requirements for medical school admission are:
Most medical schools require or recommend a year of calculus (MTH 151-152 or 140-141-152), and some recommend additional courses in psychology (e.g., PSY 210, 220 or 230). Because requirements vary, applicants should always contact schools they are interested in to determine specifics.
We recommend additional preparation in the biological sciences, especially Physiology (BIO 302), Microbiology (BIO 340), Genetics (BIO 251), Cell Biology (BIO 252) and Molecular Biology (BIO 360). Additional courses that would strengthen your preparation include Statistics (PSY 250), Drugs & Behavior (NSC 280), Death & Dying (REL 310), Professional Ethics (PHL 210) or Bioethics (PHL 215).
The average GPA for students accepted to medical schools is about 3.6. Admissions committees look at overall GPA, science GPA and also upward or downward trends.
Medical schools require the MCAT exam. There are four sections:
Each section of the MCAT is scored on a scale from 118 (low) to 132 (high). Your overall score is the sum of your four section scores, from a low of 472 to a high of 528. The exam will be scaled so that the median score (50th percentile) is 125 for individual sections and 500 overall.
A score of 507 is expected to be at the 80th percentile, which is roughly the percentile rank of a "good" MCAT score of 30 on the old test. However, because the exam and its scoring system were heavily revised in 2015, it will take some time before we have a good understanding of what medical schools are now viewing as an acceptable score.
You should take the MCAT in the spring of your junior year, after completing the minimum course requirements above. A strong GPA can sometimes help compensate for a slightly weaker MCAT, or vice-versa.
There is no specific major requirement to enter medical school, so long as the prerequisite course requirements are met. A BS in Biology or a BS or BA in Biochemistry is recommended unless you have a strong interest in another area. Medical schools require a B.S. or B.A. degree.
Medical schools look for experience in the medical field to demonstrate that you can work comfortably in a clinic or hospital environment and with people who are ill. Two kinds of experience are commonly recommended:
Our Pre-Health Organization (PHO) can be helpful in finding these kinds of opportunities. Additionally, you might consider becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Medical Scribe; these certifications can be obtained relatively easily at a community college and give you access to a wider variety of patient-care jobs.
Research experience is valued and encouraged by all medical schools and required by some: physicians spend a great deal of time reading medical journals and trying to decide what new treatments will benefit their patients. See the Biology research page for more information on working with NCC faculty mentors, applying for an off-campus summer research program or finding a research internship.
Service and Leadership
Extracurricular activities that are important to medical admissions committees include significant volunteer service and demonstrated leadership potential. NCC's Ministry and Service programs can connect you with local service opportunities or take you around the country. Volunteer work does not have to be in a medical setting, but volunteering at a clinic in an underserved community is certainly one good way to demonstrate your dedication. Leadership activities might include being a student lab assistant or preceptor, serving as an officer in a student organization, tutoring or leadership roles in employment.
Preparing for Interviews
What are the "big isssues" in medicine and medical ethics today, and what do you think about them? You'll be asked for your ideas in interviews, and a great way to prepare is read the editorial pages of important journals like JAMA and NEJM.
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Pre-health advisor Marguerite Degenhardt