Preparation for Medical School
Do you want to be a physician?
There are over 136 Allopathic medical schools and 26 Osteopathic medical schools. Allopathic schools grant Doctorates of Medicine (M.D.) and participate in the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). Osteopathic schools grant Doctorates of Osteopathy (D.O.) and participate in the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS). Some students may want to consider whether it is somewhat more advantageous to attend a more competitive undergraduate school ranked according to the Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges (e.g. Most Competitive, Very Competitive, Highly Competitive, Competitive or Less Competitive) to prepare you to be a more competitive applicant for medical school. However, in our school we have selected students from a wide range of colleges. If the school is less competitive, more weight may be given to the separate components of the MCAT.
Interest and Personal Characteristics
Medical school applicants should have not only a general understanding of the profession, but also a demonstrated interest in medicine. Prospective applicants should be prepared to answer such questions as, "Why do you want to be a physician?", "What do you think about the health care system in this country?"
Motivation, maturity, poise, integrity, inquisitiveness, perseverance, humility, responsibility to self and others, professionalism and excellent communication skills are desired in the applicant. Medical schools are looking for distinction in academic preparation, personal accomplishments, leadership, humanistic dedication and passion for medicine and research.
Premedical Curriculum: Requirements and Expectations
It is never too early to begin preparing for a career in medicine. It is recommended that students take four years of math and four years of science in high school.
Although an undergraduate degree in the sciences is not required, most medical school applicants are science majors. If you do not choose a science major, you must be sure to take the science prerequisites. It is important to plan college courses to satisfy academic requirements for many medical schools to increase consideration for multiple schools. Be sure to discuss your career interests with your high school guidance counselor and undergraduate premedical/health advisor and meet periodically. The required premedical courses are generally completed by the end of year 3, at which time many prospective applicants choose to take the MCAT and apply to medical school.
CCLCM Academic Requirements are as follows:
In addition to the basic requirements for admission, applicants must have completed a college level biochemistry course and must have some prior experience in research. You must have a solid foundation in the sciences needed to understand modern biomedical information. At a minimum, you should possess the following knowledge:
- Biology - Students ordinarily satisfy this requirement if they have taken a one-year biology course, including lab, that stresses molecular and quantitative concepts. Courses in anatomy, taxonomy, botany and ecology will not satisfy this requirement, but can supplement.
- General Chemistry through Organic - Students normally meet this requirement if they have completed a one-year course in basic chemistry with lab and a one-year course in organic chemistry with lab.
- Basic Physics - Students generally satisfy this requirement if they have taken a one-year course in physics with lab.
- Writing skills - Students typically meet this requirement if they have taken one semester of an introductory course in expository writing. The committee will consider other courses that require extensive writing, however.
- Biochemistry - A course in biochemistry is required.
AP credits are acceptable for physics and general chemistry. They are not acceptable for organic chemistry or biology. If a student does have AP biology credits, they must complete two upper level biology courses to satisfy the premedical requirements.
General information about admission to various medical schools
In addition to the required science courses, a broad humanities and liberal arts background is encouraged. Many medical schools also require English and Math, which should be taken early in your college years. Refer to Medical School Admission Requirements to obtain academic requirements for U.S. and Canadian medical schools. Check to see if schools accept AP credit in place of required courses and ask if they take courses from community colleges. Many but not all, schools discourage students from taking "all" of their science prerequisites at a community college. Taking upper level science courses is always a good choice. You should contact the diverse schools to find out their individual requirements.
Maintaining a Competitive GPA
The national mean grade point average (GPA) for 2009 entering medical school students was 3.7. It is important to maintain a competitive GPA throughout college; you should avoid withdrawals or multiple repeated courses. ( As you plan your schedule for the first year in college, be sure to balance your course load with one challenging course, two moderate and two less demanding courses.) Do not take two science courses with labs at the same time in your first year; allow time to adjust to college to determine what you need to perform well in college. Unless you are a very disciplined person, it is also a good idea to refrain from very time consuming extracurricular activities the first year of college; extracurricular activities can be added in subsequent years. It is important to focus first on developing time management and study skills and performing well academically.
Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and Applying to Medical School
Three to four months of preparation should be devoted to the MCAT with significant time allocated for practice exams. MCAT is usually taken at the end of the junior year or just before the senior year. The AAMC practice tests are highly encouraged. You should take the real exam only when you feel most prepared to perform well, as schools have access to all scores.
Begin the application process to medical schools early. When creating your list of schools where you wish to apply, list schools you would like to attend and meet your educational goals, as well as schools you are interested in, but perceive you might not get accepted. In addition, apply to schools where you feel that you will be accepted. Plan carefully, as the interview process is expensive. You might also consider doing a summer program at schools you are particularly interested in attending if they are available. It is important that applications are completed carefully and submitted without grammar and spelling errors. The personal statement should be meaningful, and it should reflect attributes and experiences that will make you attractive to the medical school.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are critical in the decision-making process. Requirements for letters vary from school to school. We require students to submit 3-5 letters of recommendation (one from a research advisor and at least two more from science professors). Note that recommendation letters from teaching assistants (TAs) are usually not as valuable to medical schools. Request letters from individuals who know you well and can judge your performance, personal qualities, and potential/suitability as a physician objectively (no family members or friends of family). Obtain letters of recommendation during years 2 and 3 so you can apply early.
The ideal college experience would provide the following:
- Competitive GPA and MCAT
- Great letters of recommendation
- Participation in activities to develop teamwork and leadership qualities; demonstrative of group experience
- Health related experiences (shadow one or more physicians or volunteer in a health care setting)
- Research experiences
- Community service activities demostrating a willingness to sacrifice for others
- Extracurricular experiences
- Mock interviews
Summary of things to do for application to CCLCM to enhance your application
- Participate in clinical or research experience in first summer of college (summer enrichment programs)
- Participate in clinical or research experience in second summer of college
- Consider completing a long term research project during your second or third year of college
- Volunteer experiences
- Shadowing of a physician(s)
- Request letters in second and third year of college
- Take MCAT spring of third year of college
- Submit application to medical school beginning June of third year. It is extremely important to apply early, as interview slots often fill with earlier applicants.
Important web sites to visit as you prepare for a career in medicine