How Many Medical Schools Should You Apply to?

November 22

Table of Contents

There are many medical schools in the US that you can choose from. And one of the most complicated choices for an applicant is how many should you apply to. And before you send out your applications, you must consider some factors when choosing the best medical school. 

In this article, we will help and guide you on how many medical schools you should send your applications to and other considerations you need to remember.

Applying to Medical Schools: 12 Factors to Consider for Determining the Right Number to Apply 

Admission to medical schools is one of the toughest to get into. There are many requirements you need to comply with and meet. In addition, many applicants are confused about how many medical schools they should apply to.

  • Is it reasonable to apply to fewer medical schools?
  • Or sending out applications as much as one can is a good choice?

Consider this, you can apply to a couple of medical schools, for example, one to five institutions, if you have a stellar MCAT score and GPA.

However, if your MCAT and GPA are not as good as they should be and you still want to pursue medicine, you can apply to many medical schools, such as ten and above. 

To help you further on what to do, below are things you need to keep in mind regarding how many medical schools you should apply to.

Compare your GPA and MCAT score with the Medical School Standards.

Both the MCAT and GPA are important determining factors when applying to medical schools. However, the average GPA and MCAT score admission requirement significantly varies per medical school. 

According to the recent report of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average GPA was 3.60 for those students who applied in the academic year of 2021 to 2022. 

And the average MCAT score was 511.9 for those applicants who applied in the same academic year. 

If your GPA and MCAT score does not meet the standard requirement or are lower than the average of the first medical school you are applying to, then it is best to consider sending more applications to other medical schools.

Weigh Your In-State and Out-of-State Options.

The location is a factor that most students look into when choosing a medical school. There are 157 medical schools in the country that offer MD programs. 

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) recognizes and accredits these institutions. 

Also, 61% of matriculants were admitted to in-state medical schools in the academic year of 2016. While there are 39% preferred to enroll in out-of-state medical schools

However, not all states in the US have independent medical schools. It includes the states of Delaware, Alaska, and Wyoming. 

Medical school applicants from these states are served under the University of Washington School of Medicine through the WWAMI Regional Medical Education Program

While some states only have one medical school, applicants have limited options, and they will resort to out-of-state medical schools. Also, in-state medical schools have a lot of advantages and prioritize their residents with lower tuition fees and more financial assistance programs. 

Some medical schools have higher tuition fees and low acceptance rates and may require more admission requirements from out-of-state applicants.

Strike a Balance Between “Safe”, “Target”, and “Reach” Schools.

It is good first to check the schools in terms of their medical program reputation, standard requirements, acceptance rate, and more. You can then categorize the medical schools you intend to apply to under the safe, target, and reach categories. 

For example, target schools are schools where your GPA and MCAT scores meet their standard requirements. It means that you are suitably qualified for its admission. 

The highest possible MCAT score is 528, with a midpoint of 500 points. While the highest GPA is 4.0, and the average range is between 3.4 to 3.6

While safety schools are categories of schools where you are overqualified, and your knowledge and skills far exceed the standard for medical school. In this category, you have a high chance of being accepted. 

For example, the top three medical schools with the lowest acceptance rates of 1.1% to 1.4% include Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, and Texas Christian University Burnett School of Medicine

While the top five medical schools with the highest acceptance rates of 13.1% to 17.6% include William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, and Lincoln Memorial University Debusk College of Osteopathic Medicine

The reach schools are prestigious institutions with high standards for their admission. 

Unfortunately, it is also the schools that receive a large number of applications from less-qualified students. 

However, it would be best if you still try to submit your application, as you might not know you can pass the admission process. 

Most of the medical schools in the US have an acceptance rate of 20% up to 3% depending on the institution.

One of the most selective medical schools is Florida State University with an acceptance rate of 2.1% last academic year 2020. 

Also, your choices of medical schools should be 50% attainable and aligned with your capabilities, knowledge, and skills. The other 25% should go to your safety schools category, and the additional 25% to the reach schools category. 

By doing so, you will have a high chance of being accepted and not wasting your efforts in the admission process.

Assess your Financial Situation

Another thing to remember when picking a medical school is your financial capacity. 

Make sure that the school you are applying to fits your budget; if you still need to, you may opt for budget-friendly institutions. Or you may avail of the school's financial aid programs and scholarships. 

The admission requirements of each medical school may cost you a lot, for example, the MCAT, which is USD 330

In addition, you also need to pay the primary application fees of USD 170, secondary application fees, college registrar services, acceptance deposit, and more which vary from school to school. 

According to the Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average cost of a four-year medical program in a public medical school is USD 250,222. In contrast, for private schools, it is around USD 330,180

The top five most expensive private medical schools in the US for the academic year of 2020 to 2021 are Midwestern University Medical School (IL), Midwestern University Medical School (AZ), Columbia University (NY), Brown University (Alpert), and Case Western Reserve University (OH).

Your Location.

It is good to check your preference in choosing the medical schools you want to apply to, not on the institution's prominence or fame. For example, the location of the medical school should be one of your priorities.

If it is far from home, can you handle the additional costs for board and lodging or the daily transportation expenses? Or do you have family members or relatives you can live with while studying? 

For example, Harvard Medical School offers on-campus medical students housing that costs around USD 16,655

While the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania's living expenses inside the campus costs around USD 19,200 for its room per semester, while another USD 7,176 for the boarding fee, which you need to pay on top of its tuition fee. 

Also, consider if you are comfortable living in a big city, suburban area, or a more rural area, in case the medical school you are applying to is located there. 

And check the weather of the place to see if it suits you. Remember that it is where you will spend at least six years of study. Make sure you are comfortable and happy living in the area, as it will affect your focus on your studies. 

Academic Standing/Reputation/Ranking of the Medical School.

Top-ranked medical schools are ranked for a reason. It is best to look into an institution with a good ranking and reputation regarding the medical specialization you want to pursue. 

These institutions are ranked based on their academic standing in specific medical programs. 

Here are some medical specialties where medical schools are ranked accordingly. It includes Research, Primary Care, Anesthesiology, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Radiology, Surgery, Most Diverse Medical Schools, and more. 

For example, the top 10 medical school in Research includes Harvard University, New York University (Grossman), Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, University of California - San Francisco, Duke University, University of Pennsylvania (Perelman), Stanford University, University of Washington, and Yale University

Also, getting into the medical school that ranked best for that particular specialization will give you a better education and opportunities to hone your skills and succeed in your chosen career. Your effort and money spent on the admission will be well-spent once accepted. 

Primary Application Considerations.

There are centralized medical school primary application services that applicants can choose to apply to different medical schools. 

You can use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) for medical schools application with MD-granting programs. And you should also consider the medical school you are applying to if uses the AMCAS. Since you only need to submit one online application and you can already apply to several medical schools. 

Also, the needed requirement for your AMCAS primary application includes official undergraduate transcripts, GPA, personal statement, extracurricular activities, and MCAT. 

Here is the list of medical schools that do not use the AMCAS as their application for the MD program. For these institutions, you need to comply with their primary application services. 
  • CUNY School of Medicine - The Sophie Davis Biomedical Education Program
  • Baylor College of Medicine
  • The University of Texas Medical School - San Antonio
  • The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School
  • The University of Texas Medical Branch - Galveston John Sealy School of Medicine
  • The McGovern Medical School/University of Texas Health Science Center - Houston
  • A&M University School of Medicine - Texas
  • Texas Tech University Health Science Center - School of Medicine
  • Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center - El Paso, Paul L. Foster School of Medicine
  • University of Texas - Austin Dell Medical School
  • University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine
  • The University of Houston Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine
  • University of Texas - Tyler School of Medicine

The primary application for DO programs uses the AACOMAS or the Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service

For Texas-based medical schools that offer MD, DO, Dental, and Veterinary Programs, you can only use the Texas Medical and Dental School Application Services (TMDSAS) for primary application. 

Your Extracurricular Activities.

Your extracurricular activities are one of the top things you must consider when applying to medical school. 

These activities should be impressive and help you demonstrate your commitment to a medical career, and provide growth opportunities for you to grow personally and professionally. 

The application process to any medical school is very competitive. The total applicant for the years 2021 to 2022 was approximately 62,443. And the first-year applications increased by 21% for the succeeding year. 

That is why your extracurricular activities play an essential role in securing your spot in admission. It must include medically-related experiences and exposure, physician shadowing, taking elective courses, volunteer work, research, community service, and more. 

Also, some universities may require specific activities in healthcare centers with several hours. These activities will also help admission officers know you better and help you stand out among other applicants.

Clinical Opportunities Offered by Medical Schools.

It would be best to consider medical schools' different clinical opportunities for clinical rotations and residency training programs upon admission. Check the various clinical rotation sites and electives of the medical schools you are applying for. 

These clinical opportunities may last several weeks or months, depending on the institution's offered program, and it varies from one medical school to another. During the pandemic, 17.4% of medical students are likely to extend another year in medical school. It is due to the prolonged suspension of clinical rotations. 

There are two types of clinical rotations, which include core and elective rotations. The core clinical rotations include the following disciplines Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Surgery, Psychiatry, Obstetrics, and Gynecology.

For elective clinical rotations, it depends on one's medical specialization program. And it usually includes rotations in Allergy, Immunology, Cardiology, Dermatology, Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, Pathology, Pediatrics, Rheumatology, Hepatology, and more. 

The Medical School’s Culture.

The school culture significantly affects student achievement, well-being, morale, fulfillment, sense of belongingness, and cooperation in school activities and is supported in all aspects. Also, it increases attendance rates and academic achievement of students.

For example, a survey of medical students' satisfaction with their school culture and method of teaching shows a 75% satisfaction rate. And a 63.5% improvement rate for their academic activities. 

Good school culture promotes professional development, effective teaching, improved student learning, and a strong relationship between students, administration, and faculty. 

A positive school culture exhibits the following characteristics: an excellent vision, mission, nurturing environment, strong camaraderie, facilitating the lifelong learning process, a growth mindset, and more.

The Acceptance Rate and Admissions Statistics of Medical Schools.

The acceptance rate and admissions statistics of medical schools will give you an overview of how competitive the admission process is. It will also give you a heads-up on whether you can get admitted based on their acceptance rates and admission requirements. 

And it should not intimidate and discourage you from processing your application as each institution differs in its acceptance rate and admission statistics. 

In the US, the average acceptance rate of medical schools is 5.5%

Also, the overall popularity of the school and the number of application received per academic year contributes to its acceptance percentage. 

The top five medical schools in the US with the highest acceptance rates are Lincoln Memorial University - DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (17.6%), Medical University of South Carolina (14.3%), the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (13.2%), Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (13.2%), and William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine (13.1%).

Different Financial Aid and Tuition Costs of Medical Schools.

Your financial options and capacity are significant factors when applying to medical school. Generally, medical schools are expensive, but they offer several financial aid programs to help students manage their tuition and other expenses. 

A medical student studying in a public medical school average, costs USD 38,947, while those attending a private institution cost around USD 61,023. And the average medical student debt is around USD 200,000, not including some of their undergraduate loans. 

Paying for medical school tuition fees is challenging for every medical student, which is why it is best to check first and compare the different costs per school. Also, ask for their various financial aid programs to reduce costs and avoid debts. 

Medical schools in the US offer a variety of financial aid options, including need-based institutional aid, federal loans, need-based grants, and other scholarship programs.

When Should You Apply to More or Fewer Medical Schools?

Most medical students apply to 15 medical schools. Still, it should depend on your preferences, the institution’s acceptance rate, admission requirement, and more. Also, it would be best to consider your chances of getting accepted. Therefore, be realistic with your list of medical schools. 

If your MCAT and GPA do not meet the standard requirement of most medical schools on your list or your scores are lower than the average, consider applying to more medical schools than you initially planned. 

A good MCAT score is 511 or higher, and also there should be no section score below 127 points. And a GPA of 3.0 or lower, which corresponds to the 75th or 80th percentile, is considered a low average score

The admission process is very tasking and requires much time and effort. So, you must deliberate carefully on how many medical schools you will send applications to. 

Suppose you are one of the above-average applicants based on your MCAT and GPA. In that case, consider applying to fewer medical schools. It is because you have a high chance of getting accepted. 

The maximum or highest MCAT score is 528 points. In contrast, the MCAT score of 517 was the median score of incoming medical students last academic year of 2021. And those highly selective medical schools may require a GPA of 3.7 and above to have a chance for admission. 

Also, having an above average MCAT and GPA scores, you are highly eligible for most financial aid and scholarship programs of the school.

Additional FAQs

Is Applying to 30 Medical Schools Too Much?

Applying to 30 medical schools is too much and will put more stress and pressure on the applicant. 

Also, it is excessive work complying with each institution's admission requirements and the process. And it is also very costly when applying to too many schools.

How Many Med Schools do People Apply to on Average?

With the high competition for admission to medical school, most applicants apply to an average of 16 medical schools. 

Also, it is best to consider the medical schools where you have a high chance of being accepted rather than focusing on those institutions where you have vague chances.

Is Applying to 10 Medical Schools Enough?

Yes, it can be enough as long as your MCAT and GPA scores are above average. 

The higher your MCAT and GPA, the fewer medical schools you can submit your application to because it gives you a high chance of being accepted.

How Many Med Schools are Too Many to Apply to?

Applying to more than 20 medical schools is considered too many since it is very costly and tasking. 

Also, the more schools you apply to, the more you are less focused and lax on complying with the different admission requirements. 

Therefore, instead of sending out too many applications, focus on those medical schools where your MCAT, GPA, and other admission requirements qualify for their standards.

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

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