Premed Journey Roadmap: Everything You Need to Know

August 17

Table of Contents

The path to medical school is not always smooth and straight. It is filled with complexity, nuances, and obstacles that even the most determined pre-medical students find challenging.

The internet has made researching and studying more accessible and more convenient. However, Reddit, YouTube, Instagram, and other websites sometimes include a lot of false information, which is unfortunate. 

Therefore, during their pre-med journey, many pre-meds provide poor letters of recommendation, have little clinical experience, or have a low GPA. These are challenging to recover from. 

This article will summarize the pre-med journey and everything you need to know to succeed

Pre-Med: What are the Steps Involved?

What does it mean when students say that they are pre-med?

Understanding what pre-med is and what pre-med students study is vital if you want to attend medical school and become a doctor.

People use the term "pre-med" to narrow their college course selection when they intend to attend medical school. 

Students identify themselves as pre-med to organize their path of study while in college and help others and advisors understand their professional objectives. 

You can major in biology, language, music, or any other subject and still take the required pre-medical courses.

Below is a comprehensive list of the pre-med requirements and prerequisites:


Make sure you complete all the essential curriculum needed for medical school as one of your top priorities as a pre-med. 

Every medical school has different standards, so as a college student, you should make sure you do your homework on every medical school you are interested in to ensure you are on track to satisfy all of their prerequisites.

However, generally speaking, most medical schools anticipate that you have taken the following courses:

  • One year of biology
  • One year of general chemistry
  • One year of organic chemistry
  • One year of physics
  • One semester or more of biochemistry
  • A math prerequisite (some schools require calculus, some require statistics, some require both)
  • One year of English

Remember that these are only the minimum classes you must pass to qualify for medical school. 

To fulfill the prerequisites for your major plus the requirements/recommendations of all the medical schools you are applying to, you will probably need to take much more coursework.

Also, remember that you should never settle for the bare minimum because admission to medical schools is competitive. 

You want to demonstrate to medical schools that you are eager to study as much as you can about medicine. 

Additionally, you want to show them that you are and will be well-versed in a range of areas when you enroll.


Of course, enrolling in these needed courses is not enough. It would help if you also did well in them. In general, candidates for medical school have excellent GPAs

GPAs in both their science and non-science courses are essential. The average GPA of admitted medical students last year was 3.8 overall and 3.65 in their science classes, according to the AAMC.

That is a relatively high GPA, given the demands of pre-med classes. The more esteemed medical schools will want to see you perform better than average.

Yet, suppose you have a good profile overall and need some time to acclimatize to college. In that case, the admissions committee may overlook a slightly lower GPA if you can convince them of your continued excellence.

Test Scores

Pre-med students take the MCAT. You will transmit your MCAT results to medical schools to demonstrate your command of many topic areas, much like you did with the SAT/ ACT.

The 7.5-hour MCAT is divided into four sections:

It would help if you strived for at least a 500 on the MCAT (out of a possible 528 points), the average MCAT score for applicants accepted into medical school.

Health-Related Extracurriculars

Almost every med school will expect you to have some scientific research experience and/or experience volunteering at a hospital or other medical setting. 

This shows them you are committed to becoming a doctor and have the skills to succeed.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation may have been required when you applied to college, and they are also crucial for medical school. 

At least three letters of recommendation are required when you use them, usually two from scientific teachers and one from a non-science teacher.

You may choose from the following:

Shadowing Physicians

Medical school hopefuls should spend time studying genuine doctors and nurses in a hospital. Also, shadowing a healthcare expert can assist you in comprehending what it truly means to be a healthcare professional.

Clinical Experience

Getting actual patient care experience is preferable to shadowing. Having first-hand clinical experience will help you focus your interests in medicine. In addition, it will also provide you with excellent material for your application essays.

Community Service

Likewise, as you prepare for medical school, do not neglect to improve your interpersonal abilities. Volunteering at a hospital, clinic, or shelter can give you valuable experience and make your application stand out from the competition.

Research Experience

Medical schools want you to have experience conducting original scientific research and practical work in hospitals. 

Your application will also be enhanced if you hold lab or research employment.

Gap Year vs. No Gap Year

The period between graduation and starting your health professional school is known as a gap year. If you apply after your senior year, you will take a gap year.

On the other hand, you will not have a gap year if you apply after your junior year. Instead, you will start health professional school a few months after you finish.

Refer to the comparison below to better understand the differences between taking a gap year and not. 

Gap Year

No Gap Year

You have four years of academic performance.

You have only three years of academic performance (only one year of upper-division coursework on your application).

You have more time to cultivate ties with professors.

You cannot submit letters from professors throughout your senior year.

You have more time to build the clinical practice, service, research, and leadership expertise.

You must immediately begin gaining experience (first year).

You have more excellent preparation time for the mandatory standardized test.

You have fewer hours to spend studying for the standardized test.

Interviews will occur while you take a gap year when you have more spare time.

Your senior year may include fall, winter, and early spring interviews.

Medical School Application

Most American medical schools participate in the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). This centralized, independent company handles and processes applications for medical schools. 

Most medical schools admit students on a rolling basis, meaning that slots in the program are made available to qualified applicants until all available ones are filled.

Although all medical schools have a similar fundamental application procedure, how each evaluates applicants differs significantly. 

The following information will help you stay on track when you submit your primary and secondary medical school applications.

Primary Applications

You will first submit a single application, typically using one of three centralized online application services:

  • AMCAS – for MD admissions 
  • AACOMAS – for DO admissions 
  • TMDSAS – for Texas med schools.

Your primary application gives medical schools enough details to conduct a preliminary applicant screening. A primary application that is finished includes:

  • Your transcriptions (undergraduate transcripts plus any for grad or post-bacc work)
  • Information from your most significant experiences (academic, research, clinical, and extracurricular activities)
  • Your MCAT scores
  • A short personal essay
  • Recommendation letters

The last day for applicants to submit their materials through the application service is independently determined by each medical school. We advise you to submit your application as soon as possible, regardless of these deadlines. 

Early cycle applications get assessed first and so have a better probability of getting accepted at almost all schools.

Secondary Applications

The admissions committees at your medical schools will evaluate your AMCAS file and either accept you or send you a secondary application

Some colleges send secondary applications to every candidate. Others undergo a first selection process typically determined by GPA and MCAT results.

You must fill out and submit each secondary application as soon as you receive it unless you have already decided not to apply to that school. 

The majority of medical schools will reject any late applications.

Secondaries often consist of a range of essays on given subjects. You can be asked to talk about your favorite book, describe a leadership position you have held, or provide specifics on your best academic performance. 

If you did not submit your letters of reference through AMCAS, you would also be required to do so.

You can call the school and ask for a fee waiver if the expense of returning secondaries is prohibitive. For instance, you might be qualified for a waiver from a particular institution if you were granted one by AMCAS.


After turning in your written materials in the autumn, you will have to wait to find out which institutions want to interview you. 

Depending on whether the institution uses a rolling or a conventional calendar, interview invitations and anticipated delivery dates for acceptance letters change.

If a school has invited you for an interview, you have already navigated a challenging selection process, but your work is far from over. You must ace your interview since prestigious medical schools seek outstanding communicators (because doctors must be able to impart their knowledge to others). 

Strive to effectively communicate your motivations for choosing the medical sector and your abilities and distinguishing traits.

If you feel anxious or quiet in similar situations, plan to practice with peers or mentors. Have them repeatedly ask you various interview questions to help you become accustomed to giving clear, reasoned responses to all of them.

Summary Table of Medical School Application Requirements

Medical School Application Requirements

Primary Applications

Your transcriptions (undergraduate transcripts plus any for grad or post-bacc work)

Information from your most significant experiences (academic, research, clinical, and extracurricular activities)

Your MCAT scores

A short personal essay

Recommendation letters

Secondary Applications


MCAT Scores


Be prepared for the chance of being interviewed by multiple schools.

Roadmap to Medical School

If you are reading this, you probably have some concept of what it takes to become a doctor. We have already discussed how long the road is. But how far does the route go?

Below is a detailed breakdown of the path you must take in medical school. 

High School

To become a doctor, you must successfully graduate high school. To think about a future in medicine, you must graduate high school with excellent grades. 

Here are a few tips on how you can ace your high school journey to med school:

  • Keep a competitive GPA and enroll in AP math and science classes. Take part in a pre-health track if one is offered.
  • Develop an academic plan with your high school guidance counselor, and frequently meet to ensure you are on track. When appropriate, request a letter of recommendation from your guidance counselor that details your commitment to pursuing a career in medicine.
  • Take humanities classes seriously (literature, history, foreign language, social sciences). Physicians must be skilled communicators, frequently fluent in multiple languages.
  • Build up your study and time management skills.
  • Join health-related groups as a volunteer (hospitals, the American Red Cross, nursing homes, hospices, etc.).
  • Look for internships or shadowing possibilities with regional healthcare providers, particularly over the summer.


To practice medicine in the US, candidates must get a bachelor's degree from an institution recognized by the country. 

Although the type of degree is up to you, there are specific course prerequisites for admission to medical school. Also, before applying, students must get a strong MCAT score

Those who plan to enroll in medical school right after college should submit an application during their junior year. 

The application process begins in the spring, and medical school begins the following fall, so it takes more than a year.

Enumerated below are a few tips you must remember during your college years. 

Undergrad – Year One 

  • Discuss starting a pre-med track and taking necessary classes with your advisor.
  • Keep your GPA high and, where possible, use tutoring and study groups.
  • Make a list of medical schools that interest you as you start your internet investigation for medical schools. Concentrate on the entry requirements and statistics for the typical student (average GPA, MCAT, etc.).
  • Participate in recruitment events and information sessions, and follow medical schools on social media.
  • Become a member of internet mailing lists for programs that interest you. This will be especially useful for learning about events and application fee waivers.

Undergrad – Year Two

  • Talk to your adviser about applying for internships and undergrad research roles.
  • Participate in voluntary and community service endeavors to acquire clinical experience.
  • Secure a board position in pre-health clubs that can help you to develop your leadership and communication abilities.
  • Obtain practice exams for the MCAT.

Undergrad – Year Three (Fall Semester)

  • Discuss acquiring letters of recommendation with your advisor.
  • Start putting real effort into your MCAT exam preparation since it is given between January and September every year. For official direction, use the MCAT preparation resources provided by the AAMC.
  • Draft an outline for your personal statement.
  • Choose your final choice of medical school for your application.

Undergrad – Year Four

  • Attend interviews when invited.
  • Fill out the application for financial aid or a loan.
  • Retake the MCAT if necessary.
  • Finish the necessary curriculum.
  • Whether you are accepted or not, think about your post-application plans. Remember that you do not have to settle if you do not get into your top-choice institutions.

Medical School

At least four years of medical school are spent in one big party at the library. In medical school, you will learn more than you can possibly conceive and more than your brain can process.

The first two years of most medical schools are dedicated to didactic or classroom instruction. 

During this time, students learn topics like anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathophysiology, and pharmacology.

Clinical rotations usually make up the final two years of medical school. It is when you will perform your first procedure and converse with your initial patients. It is a beautiful moment, full of knowledge gained from attendings, residents, nurses, and support workers.

You will feel overwhelmed and worn out, but you will enjoy it. You have always wanted to do this.


An "internship" is the term used to describe the first year of residency. 

The residency program in the selected specialization is started by interns. Some doctors will have a "transitional year" at a different institution. 

On the other hand, most doctors will complete their internships at the same program where they will also complete their residencies. 

Doctors conclude their residency after completing their internship. Depending on the expertise, residencies might range in length. 

Family medicine, for instance, requires three years of training, whereas neurosurgery requires seven. Physicians take their board certification exam after completing their residency to show proficiency in their chosen specialty.


Not everyone's work is successful after all that effort. The residency has been fantastic. You have to put in 80 hours per week of work and know your industry's fundamentals.

What if, however, you wish to specialize? It would be best if you obviously had more time.

For instance, even if you completed a residency and understood the fundamentals of internal medicine, becoming a cardiologist requires an additional four years of training. 

Suppose you want to specialize in treating heart failure patients as a cardiologist. In that case, you may need to wait another two years. Indeed, the road is very, very long.

Attending Physician

Physicians are called "attendings" after completing residency and perhaps a fellowship. They are fully licensed, board-certified in their specialty, and prepared to start their own practice.

You succeeded. Finally.

Summary Table of Roadmap to Medical School

Roadmap to Medical School 

High School

4 years


4 years 

Undergrad - Year One

Undergrad - Year Two

Undergrad - Year Three (Fall Semester)

Undergrad - Year Four

Medical School

4 years


3 - 7 years


1 - 3 years

Attending Physician


Do You Have the Personal Skills It Takes for a Career in Medicine?

The opportunity to work in medicine is rewarding, but choosing to attend medical school is a serious choice. Being admitted into medical school requires a lot of commitment, and you will have to put up with a demanding schedule for your career.

The following skills are necessary if you wish to succeed in this field.

1. Life-Long Learning Capacity

You will need to work as an intern for several weeks at the start of your medical career while studying at night. To practice medicine, you need to pass exams for several medical licenses like the MCAT and USMLE

You can attend USMLE step 1 preparation classes in your first year of medical school to raise your test scores on exam day.

To advance as a medical professional after medical school, you must keep learning about the human body, medical procedures, and illnesses. Because medical technologies and discoveries continue to advance throughout your career, you must have a strong learning capacity.

2. Emotional Intelligence

It would be best to communicate with your patients daily as a nurse or surgeon. Even when they are under intense emotional stress, medical practitioners need to be sensitive and diplomatic. 

Delivering bad medical news to patients' family members is vital to your job. You must have the emotional maturity to remain composed and professional.

Try to picture your reaction if you were informed by a doctor that your wife or husband was suffering from a fatal illness in order. 

Determine your response and the appropriate response for the situation. You will be better able to react to the scenario if you practice responding in different contexts.

3. Problem-Solving Skills

To come up with the best treatment alternatives, medical practitioners must think quickly, respond, and refer to their mental Rolodex of symptoms and diagnoses. 

A human can suffer from an almost endless variety of diseases, some uncommon or challenging to diagnose by testing. It is advantageous to be a natural problem-solver for this reason.

Several lecturers or upper-level students will quiz you on a patient's potential illness during your training. 

As a medical expert, you must be as precise as possible because giving your patient the incorrect prescription or therapy could have disastrous consequences. Being quick on your feet will make you a superb surgeon, technician, nurse, or doctor.

4. Leadership Skills

How frequently you employ your leadership abilities in the medical field depends on your job. Still, eventually, you will become the many expert patients turn to for assistance. 

Whether you work as a nurse or a technician, most individuals detest having several doctors. They prefer to stick with someone they feel comfortable sharing private information with.

Later in your career, you might even start mentoring more junior or aspiring medical students who would look up to you for your knowledge. 

Your peers are more inclined to trust you if you demonstrate your leadership abilities early on. If you're a terrific leader, other professionals in your field will want to follow your lead.

5. Teamwork Skills

A well-oiled team environment is required for all medical practitioners to work effectively. A single damaged or loose cog can cause a chain reaction of inaccurate information or stalling that could harm your patient. 

You probably already noticed that a team of nurses, doctors, surgeons, and technicians regularly communicated with one another before you decided to pursue a career in medicine.

Communicating and establishing relationships with coworkers and peers is crucial since doing so guarantees a positive working environment every day. 

Even when ill, your patients can sense when a relationship is off, or something isn't functioning. Make careful to have a private conversation if you have a problem with a teammate.

6. Communication Skills

Every profession requires strong communication abilities, but those in medicine can benefit from them. Every day you will interact with coworkers and patients. 

Suppose you do not have good communication skills. In that case, you might not be able to confirm a diagnosis or understand the available treatments. Even worse, you might be unable to express your concerns to a different team member.

To diagnose accurately during the initial diagnostic phases, you must ask your patient the right questions. 

You will probably miss something if you ask too many closed or loaded questions or do not elaborate on what your patient told you. You will suffer if you lack communication skills, and your patients who depend on you for advice will too.

7. Resilience

Everyone who works in medicine has the challenge of enhancing the comfort of a patient who is already uneasy, ill, or terminal. Working in a hospital will probably involve many challenging days. 

Therefore, it will be to your advantage to be able to persevere under pressure. You will consult with more patients appropriately if you are resilient.

Although being easily rattled by events isn't necessarily bad, being paralyzed by a poor encounter will affect your career. 

To be a valuable medical team member, you must learn to control your judgments and sensitivities. Resilience should come naturally as you get more accustomed to your career.

8. Attention to Detail

Forgetting even one piece of information, especially regarding drug allergies or medical history, can severely affect those around you. Before making a diagnosis, reviewing the patient's medical record is always important. 

However, you should always double-check the patient's allergy history to be sure nothing was missed. Even if a particular question has already been raised, technicians should still ask it.

Moreover, keep track of your patient's visits and medical history because you might see a pattern there. 

For instance, if a patient presents with scrapes and bruises on their body at the initial appointment, this can be a sign of clumsiness. But if the patient presents with the same symptoms throughout several visits, it might be a sign of a more severe problem.

A competent doctor is attentive to every detail.

10 Tips on Getting into Med School

Attending medical school might be difficult, but becoming a doctor is gratifying. You must fulfill several prerequisites to get accepted into the medical school of your choice, such as specific MCAT scores, a particular GPA, required courses, healthcare experience, and more.

Even if it will not be simple, attending medical school is unquestionably a worthwhile goal. It can be attained with enthusiasm, careful preparation, and a strong work ethic.

To better your chances of getting into medical school, we have gathered the best tips you must remember.

1. Understand Why You Want to Work in Medicine

The format of interviews for medical school admission varies by institution. You have the option of speaking to one individual or several. They could be academics, deans, community members, alums, students, or a mix.

Nevertheless, one question will probably always be asked during these interviews, regardless of the participants or the locations: Why do you want to become a doctor?

Be clear about what you truly want from this career: a good salary? Or is it your true passion?

2. Establish Trusting Bonds With Your  Fellow Students and Professors 

Establish ties as soon as possible in your undergraduate studies. Because of this, they can write you much better letters in support of your application. 

The letter will not say much if you ask your senior English professor, who only knows you through your work. Give your letter writers the resources to produce top-notch letters for you.

Make and keep friends. Enjoy yourself from time to time. Believe me when I say that the medical field is demanding. 

Having solid friendships will help you get through the application process. They are considerably more critical during medical school and the subsequent residency.

3. Choose a Major for College that You Genuinely Enjoy.

Choose a major you will excel in and one you absolutely like. Consider majoring in accounting if you enjoy it. Consider a music degree if you enjoy it. You should major in biology if you love it.

Make sure not to choose a major solely because it will "get you ready" for medical school. Being passionate about something increases your likelihood of enjoying it.

4. Recognize the Qualities that a Medical School is Seeking in a Candidate

Despite what would seem like basic sense, many applicants neglect to examine the specifics of what the medical school considers when choosing its candidates. 

Most medical schools emphasize the components of a candidate's experiences and/or qualities (character traits) that they find most crucial.

Examine these and decide if you will have proof to substantiate them in the application. If not, think about how you may show that you have the necessary experiences through your experiences, work, volunteer work, and what you offer in your writings.

5. To Be Considered, Make Sure You Satisfy the Conditions Listed by the Medical School.

Check the school's website for eligibility requirements, including prerequisite courses and timing, minimum GPAs and MCAT scores, degree requirements, state residency requirements and preferences, and other specifics. 

A medical school is serious when it specifies particular prerequisites. Spending money on an application in the hopes that they will waive your requirements is a waste of money.

6. Have a Humble and Zealous Attitude Toward the Profession.

Since you will be constantly challenged, you must be passionate about and fully committed to medicine. This will not be simple. Above all else, you must care for other people and be prepared to put their needs ahead of yours. 

Finally, despite your accomplishments, you must always maintain a humble heart. 

Always be humble. Particularly in medicine, a little modesty goes a long way. Realize that you are applying for a prestigious profession and realize that, like everyone else, you have much to learn.

7. Make Use of MCAT Study Tools

More applicants are taking test prep classes as admittance is getting increasingly competitive. Those that do not may suffer a severe disadvantage. One of the most often used methods for institutions to evaluate applicants is the MCAT. 

Get a strong MCAT score. The best course of action is to try it out once and succeed. Never regard it as "practice" or any other nonsense. Acquire study materials, plan ahead, enroll in a review course - whatever is necessary. 

As grading criteria and disciplines of study differ, it is the only way the admissions committees can make apples-to-apples comparisons.

8. Do Not Compromise Extracurricular Activities

Make it clear that you have interests outside of education. Medical schools prefer to see applicants dedicated to their jobs, athletics, or extracurricular activities.

While skipping out on extracurricular activities in favor of doing your studies and relaxing is more manageable, it will pay off in the long term. These encounters also, give you beneficial chances to meet individuals who can serve as letter writers of recommendation.

Choose activities based on what is most effective for you. Focus on quality above quantity.

9. Be Interview-Ready

Give yourself the best chance of success by extensively studying the frequently posed questions and developing some unique responses. Although if it is a great goal, no admissions member wants to hear the typical "I want to save lives" response.

Know your prospective professional route well to show you know about the field. And always wear work attire when in doubt!

To help you prepare for your med school interview, check out the links below:

10. Go After Your Goals

Notwithstanding your history, situation, obstacles, and/or struggles, if being a doctor is your ambition, go for it. 

Contact one or more medical schools to ask for advice on how to get ready to apply to medical school. You can contact them even if you are considering this career option.

The admissions committees at medical schools are eager to assist you because they are searching for the future's medical professionals. 

Also, medicine requires more ethnically diverse doctors to care for our increasingly varied patient population. In other words, medicine needs YOU!

Final Thoughts – The PreMed Journey

The route to obtaining a medical education is long and challenging to start too early. It takes a lot of time and effort to complete these requirements, including coursework, extracurricular activities, testing, and application.

Yet, you may take the pressure off by knowing when and how you intend to meet the standards. Having a well-thought-out plan can make all the difference in medical school!


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

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