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Picking a Medical School in the US

In general, the process is like choosing any other graduate institution. The AAMC website has some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I prefer a small or large school?
  • Do I like a large class or a small class?
  • Am I interested in a career in research, in clinical practice or in academic medicine? While every school offers opportunities to prepare for careers in all areas, the variety of curricular experience varies from school to school. Try to select schools that best fit your career goals.
  • Which schools have a learning approach that emphasizes primary care, patient education, prevention, and preparation for community practice? What schools have a teaching approach that will work well for me?
  • What kind of financial resources will I need to attend medical school? What are the costs?
  • What types of financial aid are available at the schools I am considering?
  • Are the schools in a location that meets my needs?
  • Are the schools connected to a university or are they free-standing institutions?

Reference: http://www.aamc.org/students/considering/gettingin.htm#Choose
It is not only important to ask yourself questions, but also to ask the medical school you are considering questions about their curriculum, academic evaluation, the school's facilities, the amount of student support, financial aid, student involvement at the school and residency programs. A more detailed list of these questions can be found on the following website:http://www.stanford.edu/group/spa/meds/quest.html

A List of Medical Schools in the US

There are over a 125 medical schools in the United States. Many of them are part of bigger universities, while some are independent institutions. On the following website, the universities are ordered by state (alphabetically) and all the necessary contact information is given:
www.stanford.edu/group/spa/meds/mschools.html
On this website, the universities are listed both alphabetically and geographically: http://www.aamc.org/meded/medschls/start.htm

Universities in the United States are frequently ranked by magazines, journals, newspapers or other educational institutions based on criteria such as faculty to student ratio, research grants, and the quality of research, teaching, and facilities. US medical schools are also ranked annually. This can be helpful but make sure that you understand what the basis of the ranking process is.

Admissions Procedure to Medical Schools in the US

Of the 125 accredited medical schools in the United States, 113 are members of the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS).This means that you will only fill out one application form and send it along with your transcript to AMCAS. There, the service will check your application form and after verification, forward it to the schools you have applied to. For the few schools that are not members of AMCAS, you will need to contact them directly and send them your application materials personally.After the schools have received your applications, they will contact you and sometimes, even ask for additional information such as letters of recommendation.

On the AMCAS homepage, you will find more details:
http://www.aamc.org/students/amcas/start.htm
Here are also some links to medical school admissions websites:
www.aamc.org/meded/medschls/admissions.htm

What do Medical Schools look for?

Dr. Andrew S. Douglas, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, gives the following excellent summary:

"Medical Schools in the USA accept students on the basis of four major areas:

  1. Academic preparation: overall GPA, MCAT scores, BCMP GPA, academic major, reputation of university, choice of courses (rigor), etc...
  2. Preparation for a career in medicine: clinical experience and understanding of a medical career. This would involve experiences such as shadowing physicians, working as an emergency technician, assisting in clinical research, etc...
  3. Personal qualities: primarily, demonstrating commitment to assisting others through volunteer activities etc.; leadership in various organizations.
  4. Qualities that distinguish the candidate. For example, special talents in music, performing arts, writing, athletics, etc... "

By the way, if you are interested in Harvard Medical School, here are the specifics: http://www.hms.harvard.edu/admissions/html/selection_factors.html
Medical schools will only take those students who have all the necessary requirements fulfilled as an undergraduate and those who are top members of their graduating class. Have you heard this phrase before? Do you believe it? Well, medical schools can be a lot more flexible than many pre-meds think. On the following website, some common myths about getting into medical school have been set straight: http://www.stanford.edu/group/spa/gstart/pre-meduse.pdf

Prior Academic Requirements for Studying Medicine in the USA

During your three years at Jacobs, it will be necessary for you to take courses that the US medical schools require as prerequisites.
• One year of general and inorganic chemistry with accompanying lab course (9 credits)
• One year of organic chemistry with accompanying lab course (9 credits)
• One year of Biology with accompanying lab course (9 credits)
• One year of Physics with accompanying lab course (9 credits)
• One year of Calculus or Statistics (6 credits)
• One year of English (6 credits)

Reference: www.stanford.edu/group/spa/gstart/pcurric.htm

Specific requirements for Harvard are found under this link: http://www.hms.harvard.edu/admissions/html/requirements.html

At Jacobs, these requirements can currently (April 2003) be fulfilled in the Major programs Chemistry, Biology, Biochemistry and Cell Biology. It may also be possible to fulfill these requirements in the Biochemical Engineering, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Physics and other Major programs. If you are planning to fulfill the American premedical course requirements at IUB you need to plan your curriculum from the first semester.
• To do this, you should see your advisor, the faculty of your Major program, or the faculty advisor for premedical students at the beginning of the first semester.
• A premedical curriculum for Biochemistry and Cell Biology students is given in the Course Selection Guide of the School of Engineering and Science. This may also be the case for other Major programs.
• Biochemistry and Cell Biology students should also consult the "Enrolled Students" section of this website.

In general, your GPA will need to be above an American 3.3 (IUB equivalent of 2.00) for you to have a reasonable chance of getting admitted.

For some American medical schools (such as Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University) you have to have studied (and obtained a BSc or advanced degree) in the US or Canada before you can be admitted to the school. Make sure this does not apply to the institution of your choice, if you wish to attend there directly after your graduation from IUB.

The MCAT
The MCAT or Medical College Assessment Test is a standardized, multiple choice test similar to the concept of the SAT and ACT in that it helps the medical schools in their admission decision process. The MCAT was designed to assess problem solving, critical thinking, and writing skills in addition to the students' knowledge of science concepts and principles necessary for the study of medicine. You will be scored in each of the following areas: Verbal Reasoning, Physical Sciences, Writing Sample, and Biological Sciences. A detailed student manual with more information about the MCAT can be downloaded from: http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/about/start.htm
There are various organizations offering courses (mostly over the summer) to prepare for the MCAT. Some people find these courses useful, others have a mixed opinion. If you are interested in attending a course, you can look for them in the internet by searching for MCAT courses under Google or Yahoo! There are too many to list here.

Prior Medical Experience
To obtain prior medical experience, it would be useful to have worked in a hospital or in another health-related institution, preferentially in a position that includes witnessing or possibly even administering care (not filing, faxing, or copying). A perfect opportunity for you to gain this experience is during your internship, which normally takes place the summer after your second year at IUB. When the time comes to sign up and apply for internships, make sure that you specify to your professors that you are interested in working in a medical or related environment.

Application Essay
American Medical Colleges like giving their potential students essays to write. In fact, they like it so much that many of them will ask you to write an essay about the reasons you want to study medicine and why you are best suited for their school. These essays are to be taken seriously. Much money is being made by companies, such as EssayEdge (http://essayedge.com/medical/), by editing applicants' entrance essays. It may be a good idea to read through a few successful ones in order to get an idea of style and content.

Letters of Recommendation
These will generally be the last item on your list of things to complete for medical school admission. These are only needed if specifically required by the medical school you have applied for. There is some information on how to receive good letters from your professors at the Stanford pre-med site: http://www.stanford.edu/group/spa/admit/recom.html
In general, for any letter of recommendation, see to it early so that two or three of your professors know you well and can accurately describe and comment on the standard of your academic work. It is wisest to let the professors know a head of time, as they will want to do a good job for you.

Additional Information

If, after reading the information contained here, you have more questions that are not yet answered, you could conduct your own internet research. Some very helpful sites are


© Eva Thuenemann and Nina Schulze-Solce 2003; Sebastian Springer 2003-8. Please report broken links to Sebastian Springer. If you feel like giving back and contributing, please update your page in the Life Sciences Alumni Space and those of others you know. Thank you!

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