Medical School Preparation
Now that you’ve chosen a career in medicine, it is time to begin working toward your goal. Choosing a medical specialty and corresponding program, meeting medical school admittance requirements, applying and interviewing for placement, and selecting your future medical school requires a considerable amount of planning. We wish to help by providing links to and information from the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) Web site.
MSU PreMedical Committee
The Missouri State University Pre-Medical Committee is the primary link between undergraduate students and medical schools. The committee’s main task is interviewing potential medical school applicants. Based mainly on interview responses, grades, quality of coursework, campus involvement, MCAT scores, and social/service involvement, the Pre-Medical Committee writes a recommendation. The applicant will receive an “enthusiastically recommended,” “highly recommended,” or “recommended” evaluation if the committee feels that her or she will do well in medical school. However, if it is felt that the applicant will not do well in medical school, the committee may choose to “recommend with reservations” or “not recommend”.
Most students begin the Pre-Medical Committee interview process at the beginning of his or her senior year. This allows the Pre-Medical Committee time to make a fair and thorough assessment of the individual’s capabilities and passion to succeed in the medical field. The Pre-Medical Committee is recognized and respected by medical schools across the nation. Their evaluation of individual students often carries greater influence than other letters of recommendation. Please refer to the Pre-Medical Committee Interview Application to begin the interview process. You will also need to fill out a shadowing verification form to submit with your application (included in the Pre-Medical Committee Interview Application).
Choosing a Medical Specialty and Corresponding Program
An important step in pursuing a medical career is evaluating yourself. Your goals, interests, ethics, and background will help you to discover which field of medicine will provide a satisfying career. With a specialty in mind, you may search the AAMC Web site for MD medical schools that offer your particular program or you may browse their list of American and Canadian member medical schools. A list of DO medical schools can be found at the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) website. Each listing provides a link to the school’s Web site.
Meeting Medical School Admittance Requirements
While researching potential medical specialties, you should be engaged in meeting medical school admittance requirements. Beginning as an entering freshman through your senior year, you must ask yourself how your choices and performance are affecting your ability to enter medical school. The AAMC lists grade point average (GPA), Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores, coursework, and campus and community involvement as key factors in a medical school admittance decision. Each candidate has four years to prepare each of those areas for evaluation.
Grade Point Average (GPA)
Based upon current research by the Web site www.mcatscores.com, most American medical schools are seeking applicants with a GPA of 3.5 / 4.0. Of all medical schools in the United States, some schools allow students with GPA’s as low as 3.1/4.0 while others are more selective only considering students with a GPA of 3.8/4.0 or above.
Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
Pre-medical students begin taking the MCAT during their junior year of undergraduate study. The test can be taken as many times as the student wishes before applying to medical school. The test was amended in 2015 and runs for seven and a half hours. The new version is offered fourteen times this year, from April to September 2015.
MCAT subjects and scoring has been changed dramatically. The test will cover four standard areas:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavoir Science
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Students receive individual scores for each area as well as a cumulative score for the entire MCAT. A score of 528 is the maximum cumulative score available. MCAT scores receive varying degrees of importance in the application process.
Preparation materials are available through the AAMC Web site or you may directly contact the MCAT Program via mail at P.O. Box 4056, Iowa City, IA, 52243 or by telephone at (319) 337-1357. We also offer preparation resources on campus.
In order for medical students to excel within their medical school coursework, it is imperative that each candidate has completed certain prerequisites. Each medical school, therefore, establishes course requirements that are specific to their program. However, almost all medical schools require a basic pre-medical education:
- one year biology
- one year physics
- one year English
- two years chemistry including organic chemistry
Individual medical school Web sites will list the courses required for admission into their program. You should check this list early in your pre-medical education so that you may be sure to meet all requirements by the time you graduate.
Campus and Community Involvement
What you accomplish outside the classroom is just as important as what you do within it. Medical schools do not stipulate a certain number of medical-related experiences in order to be admitted to their program. They do, however, judge candidates based upon their apparent interest in the field and their development as an undergraduate student. Become a more qualified applicant by taking advantage of campus and community involvement experiences:
- Volunteer at a local hospital or clinic
- Find a part-time job within the medical field
- Take advantage of physician-shadowing opportunities
- Participate in service events
- Attend relevant meetings, conferences, and seminars
- Develop professional relationships with professors and physicians
- Seek out research opportunities through your department
Besides medical-related experiences, medical schools are looking for students that exhibit a strong work ethic and the ability to follow through on a goal. Extra-curricular activities including sports, music, and clubs as well as a part-time job reflect well on your ability to commit. Descriptions such as leader, punctual, friendly, team-oriented, compassionate, disciplined, motivated, charismatic, and dependable do not come from a course letter grade. Get involved in organizations on and off campus.
Applying and Interviewing for Placement
The process of applying to medical school may seem daunting. Actually, it is quite simple. Most medical schools require an application from the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) for MD schools and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) for DO schools. This centralized application processing service allows you to submit one set of application materials to them which they will then send to as many schools as you request. The AMCAS charges a $160 application fee for the first school and $30 fee for each additional school. Both provide a fee-assistance program.
The application process generally works in two cycles. First, you will submit your demographic information, MCAT scores, GPA, transcripts, resume, and personal statement. If a medical school is interested in your application, they will request your demographic information, letters of recommendation, essays, completion of prerequisites statement and additional fees.
The Premedical Committee will supply you with your most important recommendation. Other letters of recommendation should come from at least two science professors and one non-science professor. Be sure that your teacher knows you well and has sufficient time to submit the letter with your application.
Your application may result in an interview. Most medical school interviews are conducted in an open style in which the interviewers have read your application materials before the interview. In some cases, however, the interviewers will not know your background. Be sure to find out the style of your interview. It will determine how you respond to interview questions.
There are several ways you can prepare for your interview:
- Research the specific medical school
- Bring questions
- Dress for a campus tour
- Review your application materials
- Discuss the interview process with your pre-medical advisor
- Browse AAMC’s “31 Questions I Wish I Had Asked” article
Medical school interviews are the final step in the application process. Give them your best and wait for the school’s decision.
Selecting Your Future Medical School
Multiple letters of acceptance may leave you wondering which school to attend. Again you must evaluate yourself. What quality do you seek the most from your medical school? Do you want an allopathic or osteopathic degree? Consider the strength of the program, location of the college, and college demographics in terms of your satisfaction and success.
Financing may be the most important factor in your choosing a medical school. The AAMC offers financial planning tools for each phase of your medical education including financial aid forms, calculators, loan information, debt management resources, and a glossary of financial terms.
Financial aid comes in a variety of forms:
- Need or Merit-based Scholarships
- Service-Obligation Scholarships
Discuss your financial aid options with a medical school representative or financial aid advisor. You may also search for general scholarships at www.finaid.org or on the U.S. Department of Education Web site at www.ed.gov.
Good luck on your journey to medical school.