Frequently Asked Questions
What major should I select?
Pre-medicine is NOT a major and there is no "correct" major for pre-medicine. While most students major in a science area like biology, chemistry, or math, a major in science is not required. Because medical schools seek candidates with diverse interests who are capable of handling rigorous science courses, students with backgrounds in liberal arts and business are also successful. So the best advice is to select a major in an area in which you are interested and in which you can do well.
What courses are required?
All medical schools in the U.S. and off-shore have similar requirements for acceptance into their programs.
Those required courses are:
- 2 semesters of biology with laboratory
- 2 semesters of general chemistry with laboratory
- 2 semesters of organic chemistry with laboratory
- 2 semesters of physics with laboratory
These requirements are subject to change and in fact, a few schools have changed their requirements by adding specific biology courses and increasing the number of semester hours (15 hours that must include cell biology and genetics). The current trend is to require or strongly recommend biochemistry; this may become a requirement in the next several years.
In addition to the required courses above, there are several courses to consider which will prepare you for the coursework you will encounter in medical school. Courses to consider include cell biology, genetics, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, immunology, histology, and neurobiology. None of these are required for admission to medical school.
Do I need a grade point average of 4.0?
The grade point average (GPA) is an important component of the requirements for admission to medical school. It is not necessary to have a 4.0. Instead, it is probably better to have a solid GPA in the 3.60-4.00 range (on a 4 point scale) and participation in extracurricular activities to demonstrate interests beyond academics. If you have a poor first year but steadily improve in the following semesters, you still have a good chance of admission to medical school. However, if you start strong and then fade, your chances for admission could be diminished.
How do I apply to medical schools?
You should begin the formal application to medical school during the summer before you graduate because it takes about a year to complete the entire process.
Almost all medical schools in the U.S. participate in the centralized application service, American Medical College Application Service, (AMCAS). This is a computerized application process requiring students to designate the school(s) to which they are applying. Students will complete the application forms online. AMCAS verifies all the information and forwards the completed applications to the designated school(s). The school(s) review the application and determine if the student is qualified to receive a secondary application. The secondary application may be as simple as a request for letters of evaluation or as complex as another application. Once the secondary application is complete, the student will be invited for an interview.
Things to remember with this process:
- Be sure all of the information you enter on your AMCAS application is accurate. This includes the grades of every course taken at the college level and any courses in which you plan to enroll within the year.
- Request a transcript from all of your academic institutions and allow plenty of time for the institutions to process your request. All transcripts must be sent to AMCAS.
- The personal statement on the AMCAS is important. This is your chance to begin to portray who you are and to distinguish yourself from the thousands of applications each institution will review.
- Be sure to designate AMCAS as a recipient of MCAT scores. (For explanation of MCAT scores, see below.)
- Begin the process early! Most schools have rolling admission policies, which means slots are filled beginning in October, until the slots are filled. If you wait until October or November to complete your application, you have missed opportunities for several slots. Applications are accepted beginning June 1, but you should wait until you receive your MCAT scores to send the application.
- Give careful consideration before asking individuals to write letters of evaluation. Then allow plenty of time for them to write the letters so you aren't waiting until the deadline to receive them. When you ask for letters of recommendation, provide a mini C.V. so the person writing the letter can reference what you have done outside of their contact with you. It is good to provide stamps for your references.
What else do I have to do?
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required by almost every medical college. The MCAT is a rigorous, standardized exam and is a very important component of your application. Many schools will use the MCAT as the first cut for applicants.
This is a very important component of your application. Many schools will use the MCAT as the first cut for applicants. The average MCAT score for entry at IU School of Medicine is around 30. This has been steadily rising for the past several years. If you have a score below 8 in any one section, you should plan to retake the exam.
The MCAT is computer based and given multiple times during the year. If you have completed or have almost completed the coursework and are prepared to take the exam, it is best to take the exam in April of your junior year. The exam must be completed before applying to medical school.
When preparing for the MCAT, prepare as you would for any other course. There are good materials available from various sources to guide you in your preparation. An excellent source is AAMC who sponsors the MCAT. They have practice tests available at a reasonable cost.
For verbal reasoning, the best preparation is practice reading. Read the newspaper, popular press, or anything in print. Practice reading for speed and comprehension.
The science sections are based on the required courses. Reviewing that material should be helpful.
Although not required, some type of medical or clinical experience is strongly recommended. Spend time researching all you can find about the profession and consider how the demands of the career fit with your lifestyle. Occasional volunteer activities or summer work is another meaningful way to learn about the profession. If you have the opportunity, shadow a physician. While the importance of these types of activities varies with different medical schools, the experience you gain cannot be measured.
Knowing the specific requirements of the medical school (s) to which you plan to apply is also very important. Medical schools profess that they want well-rounded individuals, not just one-dimensional students. That means get involved, balance school with other activities, because it is true that all work and no play makes you a dull individual!