How Hard is it to Get Into Medical School?

November 22

Table of Contents

Medical school admission is way more demanding than you expect it to be. It takes a considerable amount of effort, time, and money in the admission process. 

If you have a high GPA and MCAT score, you can easily pass through the admissions committee, then think again. 

Many factors must be considered before you are accepted as a medical student. The school’s admission committee will only select students with the high cognitive and emotional capacity to handle the rigorous training and medical school courses. 

In this article, we will present you with the different considerations why it is hard to get into medical school. And also give you tips to increase your chance of acceptance and the mistakes to avoid for your application.

How Hard is it to Get Into Medical School: Considerations

Everyone who wants to apply for medical school knows how hard the admission process is.  It is extremely challenging and incredibly competitive. Below are some of the considerations why it is difficult.

Level Of Competition

The admission percentage for medical school rapidly increased to 37.5% starting in 2002, with a 1.7% increase in 2020. These data show that more and more students are inclined to pursue medicine, contributing to high competition for medical school. It is one of the top reasons why it is hard to get into medical school. 

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the number of African American students enrolled in 2021 was 21% higher than in 2020

Also, 5% of matriculants are Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish during the school year of 2022 to 2023. It signifies that these underrepresented groups are now given equal chances to get into medical school and to help further address the country’s public health needs.  

Medical schools are strict in deliberating their admission process to make sure that only those who are highly qualified and meet their high standards can be accepted. It is also done to ensure that these applicants can handle the demanding curriculum and training in medical school. 

GPA and MCAT Scores

The GPA and MCAT scores are significant factors that affect your admission result. 

The higher your GPA and MCAT scores, the higher your chance of being accepted into medical school, but if you have lower scores, it will be challenging to pass the admission process. 

The MCAT score will determine your abilities, knowledge, skills, and preparedness to handle the academic challenges of a medical degree. 

The MCAT is a difficult and long exam with a total seated time of 7 hours longer than most standardized examinations

The average MCAT score accepted by most medical schools in the country is 511.9 points, and the average GPA is 3.5. 

Maintaining a high GPA during your undergraduate course is also challenging. Getting a GPA below 2.0 will reflect poorly on your record and significantly affect your admission to medical schools.

Essays or Personal Statement

Writing essays or personal statements for medical school admission comes with pressure and challenges. It can impact your chance of being accepted or rejected. 

The most selective medical school's acceptance rate ranges from 20%, which is the highest, to below 3% – making it more difficult for applicants to handle the admission process of these institutions. 

If you have applied through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), their Application Essay requires you to develop 5,300 characters written composition. It should be a compelling and unique piece. And it has to describe you as an individual, your characteristics, and why you want to pursue a medical degree. 

However, applicants fail to compose a persuasive essay it contains overdone metaphors, a vague storyline, grammar mistakes, and more. Your statement should leave an impression and uniqueness on the admissions committee. 


Another factor that you should consider is the interviews. 

Note that these interviews in medical school are complex, and it is a critical step during admission. It is done to check whether the applicant has the right skills, knowledge, and determination to continue a medical degree despite its challenges. 

There are around 23.2% of applicants invited for an admission interview. 

The most common interview questions will be about your undergraduate program, character, personality, medicine-related questions, society-related questions, ethics, diversity, medical school, motivation, and more. 

Most applicants fail during this admission stage because they are very lenient and need more focus. Therefore, even if you have a high MCAT score of 517  and an average GPA of 3.81, it is still insufficient to help you land a spot. 

It would be best if you had in-depth preparation for this, as it will be your chance to present your communication and interpersonal skills and why you are among the best applicants.

Letter of Recommendation

An average of <50% are at risk of failure during admission due to a lack of requirements. 

These letters of recommendation are among the critical admission requirements that can make or break your application to medical school. Therefore, these letters should not be taken for granted; you must give these equal effort and importance. 

Most medical schools require a minimum of three recommendation letters from two science professors or physicians and one from a non-science professor. 

Also, some institutions allow applicants to submit a maximum of 6 letters

It is hard to come up with a good letter of recommendation because you need to choose the right individuals who will advocate on your behalf on why you are fit to apply for a medical degree. 

Ask individuals from your undergraduate program whom you have worked with closely, know you well, and can vouch for your credibility. 

Also, your recommenders should know your characteristics and academic and extracurricular strengths.

6 Tips for Increasing Your Chances of Getting Admitted to Medical School

The admission process of medical schools differs from a regular university or college. It is highly competitive and meticulous in every application that they receive.

There were nearly 900,000 medical school applicants from 2019 to 2020, and only 22,000 applicants more or less matriculated, equivalent to 44% of the total application submitted.  

Even with the high percentage of applicants, medical schools cannot welcome them all, so medical schools are highly selective during admission. And to increase your chance of getting into medical school, below are some tips that you can use to ace your way to medical school. 

Start Preparing for the MCAT Early

Your MCAT score will help you secure a spot in applying for medical school. 

To give yourself a good chance of acing the MCAT, consider the timeline for when you will start preparing for it. 

One of the best ways to do this is to start your MCAT preparation as early as possible, depending on the schedule you want to take the exam. 

For example, you can start preparing three to six months before your scheduled MCAT. 

This preparation period will help you familiarize yourself with how the exam works and allow you to take multiple practice tests to help you check your progress. And pinpoint the areas of your weaknesses and strengths. 

Also, give you enough time to cover those areas where you need improvement.

Another thing you should consider is to have a target MCAT score based on the average requirement of the institution to which you are applying. With this, you will have a benchmark of what mark you should aim for. 

You also need to take into consideration your study habits and methods.

Choose the best study method that fits your schedule and style and will help you retain information well. It would be best to devise an excellent study plan to avoid burnout and stress during your review.

Build a Strong Academic Record

A solid academic record will show your capabilities in achieving success as a medical student and also helps you build a strong application. Also, it implies that you are motivated and hardworking, which are essential skills for studying medicine. 

Medical school admission officers also want to know that a candidate has the proper knowledge and skills for the medical degree and that the individual can handle the program's demands. 

Start by getting excellent grades during your undergraduate program and courses such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math, and more. These subjects are usually the prerequisites for medical school and are essential to your admission.

Also, it would be best if you also improve your critical thinking, verbal and written communication, decision-making, and more.

Get Research and Clinical Experiences

Your research and clinical experiences are one of the factors that will boost your application to medical school. 

In addition, these experiences show that you are actively engaging in the healthcare industry and are interested in pursuing a medical degree. 

There are types of clinical experience, including paid or volunteer. For paid clinical experience, you can work as an emergency room technician, pharmacy technician, phlebotomist, licensed practical nurse, emergency medical technician, emergency room scribe, paramedic, and more. 

For volunteer clinical experience, it involves volunteering for a different medical organization, such as in clinics and hospitals, and shadowing a physician. 

As for research experiences, it covers a wide range of basic and social sciences, clinical, and humanities research topics in which you can participate. 

Also, you can be involved in lab-based research so long as you have a solid background in the scientific method. 

Participating in such activities means practicing the profession while honing your clinical skills. It will also give you a better understanding of the nature of medicine and how doctors interact with their patients and help you prepare for admission to medical school.

Ask for a Strong Letter of Recommendations

A strong letter of recommendation plays a vital role during your admission. It will help round out your profile and provide significant insights into who you are as a person, student, and citizen in your community. 

The references of your letter should be from individuals who are likely to provide excellent data about your character, strengths, skills, experiences, and abilities. And they should be highly qualified in their respective fields, such as your professors and doctors you have worked with.  

Your references should show and prove that they know you well enough for them to write an effective letter of recommendation.

Ace Your Interviews

One of the most important things to increase your chance of being accepted to medical school is to ace the interviews. 

Consider practicing with sample interview questions and real-life mock interviews. Note that medical schools have different interview formats, including the traditional two-person interview format or the one-on-one interview

Also, some institutions may utilize multiple mini-interviews (MMI) formats, closed-file traditional interviews, open-file traditional interviews, and panel interviews

Some interview questions will revolve around your academic background, extracurricular activities, research activities, views on current medical health issues and other ethical issues, why you want to become a physician, and more.

It may also use scenario-based, policy-type, personal-type, acting-type, and drawing or building/collaboration-type questions. 

The interview committee members are composed of faculty members and admission officers. Also, the panel may have an upper-level medical student, community representative, and non-medical personnel.

Apply Early

Most medical schools will review and screen the applications as they come, so the competition is high. Thus they fill their slots on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Applying early increases your chance of getting a slot for admission. 

It will also give ample time for the admission officers to screen your application compared to submitting it later or beyond the deadline. And it will give you enough time to consider other medical schools if ever you get rejected.

6 Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to Medical School

Each medical school requires different admission standards for its applicants and only selects those eligible and qualified. 

However, there is no guarantee that you will be accepted even if you have complied with all the admission requirements for medical school. 

Note that the average acceptance rate for those nationally ranked medical schools in the country is 6.5%

And more than 50% of medical school applicants have been rejected occasionally. So it is not news if ever you got denied from applying to one. 

To avoid rejection, you should avoid some common mistakes when applying to any medical school.

Below Average MCAT Score and GPA

A high MCAT score and GPA is a must when applying to medical schools. It is best to know ahead of the MCAT and GPA requirements of the medical school you are applying. With this, you now have a benchmark on what scores you should be getting. 

Most medical schools' minimum GPA requirement is 3.5 and above. Note that the MCAT score requirement varies per institution. 

However, the average MCAT requirement is a score of 517 points and above for top-tier medical schools in the country. 

So your GPA and MCAT score should stay within the average required percentile, or it will jeopardize your chances of getting accepted. 

The highest possible MCAT score is 528, equivalent to the 100th percentile. 

And anything above the score of 523 still falls on the 100th percentile, while the lowest MCAT score is between 475 to 472 points with a percentile ranking of -1%. 

Poor Grades and  Did Not Complete the Prerequisite Courses

Getting into medical school is highly competitive, and your competitors might have excellent academic records that will increase their chances of getting accepted. That is why good grades, especially in those prerequisite courses, are essential for your application to medical school. 

Most prerequisite courses in medical schools include basic science classes such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics.

Some also have specific prerequisite courses for their different medical programs, including English, Biochemistry, Psychology, and Sociology.

Low grades on the above courses or subjects can sink your chances of acceptance. 

Medical schools are very particular with their prerequisite course requirements as they will determine your preparedness and capabilities to handle challenging science courses. 

Applying to Only Limited/Too Many Medical Schools

A common mistake of students applying to medical school is only sending applications to one or two institutions which often results in a slim chance of acceptance. 

The same goes for sending a lot, which can exhaust you, giving less attention to details and putting less effort per application. 

It is recommended to research different medical schools that offer the medical degree you want to pursue and one that fits your finances, location, ideal environment, and more. 

Also, it is best to consider your GPA and MCAT score to the corresponding requirement of the medical schools you are applying to. This way, you are not wasting time and effort on your application. 

The goal here is to apply to those medical schools where you can have a high and realistic chance of being accepted.

Lack of Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities are one of the crucial factors that admission officers look into in their applicants. These activities are essential since they can help you stand out among other applicants and help you demonstrate why you should be chosen for that medical degree. 

Certain activities will help you boost your application, including clinical experiences wherein you may work as a medical scribe, physician shadowing, volunteering at any healthcare facility, and more. 

You may also participate in research, teaching, community service, and other activities. 

In addition, an excellent clinical experience will give you a glimpse and an understanding of what it’s like to work in the healthcare industry before pursuing a medical career. 

In applying to medical school, you must emphasize what you have learned with your extracurricular activities and how you can relate these experiences to your desire to become a medical professional.

Weak Letter of Recommendation

A weak letter of recommendation includes using negative, general language, overly usage of descriptors, neutral or slightly positive tone. 

Avoid letters from your family members, clergy, and friends who know nothing about your professional qualities. 

A good letter of recommendation should be contextual with a concrete comparison of your performance and personality. It should also highlight your work regarding how excellent you are academically and in your extracurricular activities. 

And the letter should discuss your merits during research, especially when it relates to the medical field. 

A strong letter of recommendation is rich, enthusiastic, and convincing, fully supporting the applicant’s capabilities and dedication to pursuing a medical degree. 

Poor Performance During Interviews

A poor performance during an interview result from various factors, including no confidence, inconsistent answers, panic, minimal personalization of answers, superficial details, lacking information, and incomplete or too short answers. 

Also, it is usually a consequence of taking the questions literally and giving answers without an invitation to expand, and you have difficulty showcasing your good qualities and capabilities. 

To avoid flanking your interview, you should watch your body language, be enthusiastic in answering questions, show respect, be courteous, talk positively, avoid exaggerating your answers, and be confident.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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