Getting into medical school represents a significant challenge for many undergraduate students. Medicine is a highly competitive field, and a relatively low number of students are granted admission to medical schools each year. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), less than half of applicants go on to become students. The strict requirements serve a purpose. Medical school is grueling, with academically challenging coursework and long hours.
Demand for Students
Nevertheless, there is a significant demand to increase enrollment numbers. The AAMC is working towards a 30 percent increase in first-year acceptance rates. Schools are rising to meet this demand by adding more classes, and new schools have applied for LCME accreditation. There are currently 125 fully accredited medial schools in the United States and 8 preliminary accredited institutions.
While some schools are more selective than others, it is critical to understand that they are also highly competitive with each other. Using objective data from the AAMC, it is apparent that there are two main areas influencing over 80 percent of acceptance rates: undergraduate grades and Medial College Admission Test scores. Secondary to these considerations is the race of the applicant and their area of focus.
Requirements for Admission
While it isn't necessary for an undergraduate to obtain a degree prior to applying, applicants do need to complete at least 90 hours of coursework. Some students are able to complete this in three years. However, a minimum GPA of 3.7 is required in all coursework. Bad grades are simply not an option. Students must stay ahead of the pack to be considered for medial school admission.
The Medial School Admission Test, or MCAT, is the other important factor schools use to evaluate prospective students. The majority of 2012 MCAT scores for all test takers fell between 20 and 30. A minimum of 27 is generally expected. The MCAT can be taken more than once, but ideally a student wants to pass this exam the first time around.
Opportunities for Minorities
For the few remaining students whose GPA and MCAT scores are not in the top percentiles, there is still some opportunity for minority races. Since schools encourage diversity in both race and gender, lower GPA and MCAT scores can be supplemented by an applicant's minority status. In particular, blacks and Hispanics are almost five times more likely to be accepted than whites and Asians with similar objective scores.
Historically, women were significantly under-represented among medical school applicants. During the 1980s, only 32 percent of matriculated students were female. Today, this number has grown to 47 percent of all enrollments. While there doesn't appear to be any significant advantage to being female, it may make admission a little more likely if combined with a minority status.
Getting into medical school is difficult but primarily a numbers game. Students in the top 20 percent of GPA and MCAT scores will get the first slots. While state universities may be less competitive than private schools, it is still advisable for potential applicants to begin planning years in advance. Staying on top of grades is crucial for optimizing admission rates.
Christian Spinney is a freelance writer who focuses on medical education, medical science, the medical profession, nursing, student issues and other kindred subjects; those curious about the nursing profession may want to take a peek at the resources from Vocational Nursing Online.