Frequently Asked Questions About Applying to Medical School
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Shravya Kakulamarri in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
Are you interested in becoming a doctor? The path of an undergraduate pre-med can be very confusing and involves many years of study and focus to prepare for applying to medical school.
You can check out our complete guide to getting into medical school here, but you might find that there are still a few things you want to know. In this article, we’ll go over some common questions students have about applying to medical school and the application process.
Preparing to Apply
How is the MCAT? How much should you study for it?
The MCAT will usually involve about two or three months of solid, committed studying. This studying won’t be entirely new, however. In taking required pre-med courses as an undergrad, like chemistry and physics, you’ll be studying for the MCAT. It’s important to focus on and do well in these classes when you’re taking them, as they’ll help prepare you for the exam later on, and you’ll thus have less to study.
Though it’s a difficult exam, the preparation you’ve done before will make you realize that you’re capable of doing well on it. Once you’ve taken all required classes, studying for the MCAT will involve a lot of practice questions, and practice exams. You should work hard on these, but focusing on the knowledge you’ve already built will help to remind you of how much you’ve already learned and achieved.
How many hours of shadowing should you do as a medical school applicant?
You don’t need to show any hours of shadowing on your undergraduate applications, but you should have some hours of shadowing when applying to medical school.
There is no set number of hours for medical school applications. Rather than logging hundreds of hours, it is more important to show that you’ve explored different specialties. Look into different things: internal medicine, cardiology, orthopedics, surgery, etc. Getting a feel for many specialties will help you determine what interests you most, and will also show admissions officers that you’re serious in thinking about what you most want to pursue in the future.
The Medical School Application Process
How many medical schools do students apply to?
It depends. Some students don’t apply to too many schools; some students apply to as many as 40 or 45 schools. If finances permit it, some people will apply to a lot of schools.
Applying to medical school can be very unpredictable. The three major statistics that school admissions look at are your MCAT score, your overall GPA, and your science GPA. Your science GPA will be the GPA of all required pre-med courses, as well as any additional science classes you’ve taken. This is important because schools want to see that you have a strong background in the sciences, as you’ll be doing much more work in this field.
The acceptance rates of some medical schools are less than 1%. Despite having very good statistics, it can be hard to attain acceptance to medical schools. Applying to many schools may give you a better chance of gaining admission somewhere.
Are interviews required for medical school?
Yes, interviews are required. The first few interviews will definitely be nerve-wracking, but after the first one, you’ll begin to realize that the person interviewing you is just a physician, who wants to see if you’d be someone they’d like to work with in the future. Having these conversations can actually be fun, and sometimes you’ll just be speaking with an upperclassman medical student.
The length of the interviews varies. Some will be as short as 30 minutes, and some will be over an hour. Some schools may even ask you for two interviews.
Getting to the interview stage can be one of the hardest steps in the application process. Once you’ve reached this part, however, you’ll know that your chance of acceptance has significantly increased. At some schools, the post-interview acceptance rate can be as high as 50%. The interview is obviously very important, then, so it’s important to present yourself well and make a great impression on the person interviewing you. Try to remember that they’re a doctor or aspiring doctor, just like you, and that this work is something you’re excited to do!
For essays and personal statements, do you write a specific one for each school, or do you use the same one for all of them?
You will use your personal statement for every medical school you apply to. You won’t be changing this essay. For your personal statement, you will want to explain why you want to be a doctor, and what has confirmed your commitment to pursuing medicine as a career.
The supplemental essays for every school will be different, however. These additional essays will have different prompts. Often, they will ask why you want to go to that particular school, or what specific things you would like to pursue. They may ask you what makes you diverse, or what makes you stand out from others.
Some schools may also have interesting, more creative prompts. One could be: What’s your nickname? These could be a chance for you to show more of your personality, and have a bit of fun on your application.
General Questions About Admissions
What are the struggles you face when applying to medical school?
The process of applying to medical school can be very challenging, as it is often unpredictable. You can face uncertainty about where you’re going to get in, and about the strength of your application.
It is also a long process: after first submitting your application, you have to wait some weeks before sending supplementary materials, after which you may wait a while to hear about an interview.
After a few interviews, and even after your first acceptance, you can still struggle in feeling confident about your application. It’s important to remember that the entire application cycle will take a long time, but getting your first official acceptance will remind you of what you’ve been working towards. You’ll know that you will get to be a doctor one day!
How hard is it to get into medical school as an international student?
It varies. In the United States, it often helps to have attended an American university for undergrad. The process is a bit simpler, but it can differ from school to school.
Some medical schools have caps on how many international schools they can take. State institutions, in particular, often have to take a certain number of in-state residents or US residents.
Look at the websites of the schools you’re interested in, and do research into their processes on accepting international students. If you attend a university as an undergraduate that has a good medical school associated with it, this can help, as you can develop a relationship with the medical school while studying as an undergrad.