If you’re interested in becoming a physician, you should have not only a general understanding of the profession but also a demonstrated interest in medicine. Be prepared to answer such questions as, "Why do you want to be a physician?" and "What do you think about the healthcare system in this country?"
Motivation, maturity, poise, integrity, inquisitiveness, perseverance, humility, responsibility to self and others, professionalism and excellent communication skills are desired attributes. Medical schools are looking for distinction in academic preparation, personal accomplishments, leadership, humanistic dedication and passion for medicine and research.
This page will help you begin to prepare for this process.
Choose Your Medical Path
You can choose to become either an MD or a DO. There are more than 136 Allopathic medical schools and 26 Osteopathic medical schools in the U.S.
Allopathic schools grant Doctorates of Medicine (MD) and participate in the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). Osteopathic schools grant Doctorates of Osteopathy (DO) and participate in the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS). Students can apply to both. Applying requires two separate applications, and you need a letter of recommendation from an osteopathic physician to accompany the osteopathic application.
Plan Your Premedical Studies
It is never too early to begin preparing for a career in medicine. We recommend you 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, be sure to take the science prerequisites. Plan your college courses to satisfy the academic requirements for many medical schools so that you increase consideration at multiple schools.
Be sure to meet periodically with your high school guidance counselor and undergraduate premedical/health advisor to discuss your career interests. Many prospective applicants choose to take the MCAT at the end of their third year and apply to medical school that summer. Others may prefer a gap year to prepare adequately.
Know the Requirements
In addition to the required science courses, a broad humanity and liberal arts background (psychology and sociology) is encouraged. Many medical schools also require English and calculus, which is often 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 schools discourage students from taking "all" of their science prerequisites at a community college. Taking upper level science courses is always a good choice. Contact the schools to find out their individual requirements.
Maintain a Competitive GPA
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 in order to perform well in college.
Unless you are disciplined, refrain from engaging in time-consuming extracurricular activities during the first year of college. Add those activities in subsequent years. Focus first on developing time management and study skills, and performing well academically.
Plan for the MCAT
Devote three to four months of preparation for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), with significant time allocated for practice exams. The AAMC website offers links to Khan Academy courses and other options for study in addition to practice examinations. The AAMC practice tests are highly encouraged. The MCAT is usually taken at the end of the junior year or just before the senior year. Take the real exam only when you feel most prepared to perform well. Schools have access to all scores, so do not use the real MCAT as just another practice.
Apply to Medical School
Begin the application process to medical schools early. When creating your “wish list” of schools, include schools you would like to attend and that meet your educational goals. You also should apply to schools where you feel you will be accepted as well as those you are interested in but feel you might not get accepted. Plan carefully, as the interview process is expensive. Consider doing a summer program at schools you are particularly interested in attending if they are available.
Applications must be completed carefully and submitted without grammatical and spelling errors. Make your personal statement meaningful. Ensure it reflects attributes and experiences that make you attractive to the medical school.
Gather 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 three to five letters of recommendation: one from a research advisor and at least two more from science professors. (Recommendation letters from teaching assistants (TAs) usually are not preferred.)
Request letters from people who know you well and can judge your performance, personal qualities and potential/suitability as a physician objectively (no family members or family friends). Obtain letters of recommendation during years two and three so you can apply early.
If your school submits a committee letter, ask if they can also include the original letter from which the summary was drawn. A separate letter should be included from the principal investigator of your most significant research project.
Get the Ideal Undergraduate Experience
Here’s what you should get from having the ideal undergraduate experience:
- Competitive GPA and MCAT
- Solid letters of recommendation
- Activities that helped you develop teamwork and leadership qualities (demonstrative of group experience)
- Health-related experiences (shadowing one or more physicians, or volunteering in a healthcare setting)
- Research experiences
- Community service activities that helped you demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice for others
- Extracurricular experiences
- Mock interviews
Tips for Applying to CCLCM
Here are ways to enhance your application to CCLCM if applying directly after college. Gap year(s) can be beneficial after college to further explore interests in medicine and research as well as to gain valuable work experience.
- 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
- Complete a long-term research project during your second or third year of college
- Do volunteer work
- Shadow one or more physicians
- Request letters in second and third year of college
- Take the MCAT in spring of third year of college
- Submit your application to medical school in June prior to your senior year
- Apply early! Interview slots often fill with earlier applicants
- Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)
- National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions
- The Student Doctor Network