Medical School Application Process

Application Process

 

1. Requirements

Courses

  1. Chemistry—1 yr general Chem141-142; 1 year Organic Chem 301-302; Biochem (or Molecular bio)
  2. Physics—1 yr
  3. Biology—1-2 yrs (recommended courses include Molescules to Cells, Organismal Biology, Cell Biology, Animal or Human Physiology, Molecular biology, Human Anatomy, Microbiology, Genetics, Developmental Biology)
  4. Math—varies, but a safe bet is one year of college math, including one semester of Calculus Some schools may require stats.
  5. English—most schools want evidence of proficiency in writing and/or 1 year college English.
  6. Other—some schools require psychology (University of Nevada requires both a lower and upper division Psychology course) as well as a well-rounded assortment of humanities courses that you will satisfy by taking the PEAK curriculum.  University of Washington recommends a course in ethics, so consider taking either Bioethics or Ethics in the Philosophy Dept.

MCAT

This is the Medical College Admissions Test and is required by virtually all medical schools. There are 4 sections—verbal reasoning, physical sciences, biological sciences, and a writing sample. The first 3 of these sections are scored on a scale of 1-15. Average scores of successful applicants at the medical schools in our region are ~10 on each of these 3 sections. The exam is given at testing centers on several days, most of which fall in the spring or summer.  Students generally take the MCAT at the end of the junior year if applying for admission immediately after graduating. Register online .

Successful academic record

  1. One predictor of future academic success is past academic success. Average GPAs for successful applicants at regional medical schools is around 3.6-3.7. Remember these are averages—don’t panic if your GPA is slightly lower than this. Sometimes science GPAs are considered separately. Basically, the medical schools want to be sure that you have the basic science knowledge to move forward into more advanced and specialized areas of study and they want to make sure you are capable of handling a heavy and demanding academic load.

Experiences

  1. Medical—most medical schools want their students to have some experience in the medical field. Importantly, this should include direct patient contact. It is important that you are able to demonstrate (both on paper and in an interview) that you understand what a career in medicine means, so make sure you have some shadowing/internship experiences.
  2. Research—some medical schools require some type of research experience. It doesn’t have to be biomedical research—the idea is that you gain experience in analyzing data, an important skill for a physician. Local research opportunities are available on our campus as well as through the MSTMRI internship.  Speak with professors who are involved in research activities—see if they need some help.  Many research opportunities are available nationwide, as well.  The National Science Foundation sponsors an undergraduate research program at many universities around the country--these are known as REUs.  Many universities also have other summer research programs available.  For example, we have had several students accepted into Mayo's summer research program. For internship opportunites.
  3. Volunteer and/or Leadership Activities—medical schools seek students who have demonstrated a commitment to community service. Again, this does not have to be in a medical area—could be building houses in Mexico with Potter’s Clay or driving for Meals on Wheels or volunteering in a local elementary school.  Physicians are often expected to be leaders in their communities, therefore leadership activities are important. You don’t necessarily need to be president of the student body; you might be a coach for a little league soccer team.

2. Applying to medical school as an Idaho resident

As an Idaho resident, you have two good options for “affordable” medical education. The state of Idaho has established programs with the University of Washington (via the WWAMI program) and the University of Utah. UW accepts 20 Idaho students per year, while U of Utah takes 8 Idaho residents. If you are accepted to one of these programs, you pay in-state tuition and the state of Idaho makes up the difference. You can (and should) apply to other medical schools as well. University of Nevada at Reno saves a few spots for students from states without medical schools (Wyoming, Montana, and Alaska as well as Idaho); however, you pay out-of-state tuition.  In Nevada, you can gain residency after one year of medical school, thus the out-of-state tuition is only for one year.

There are also many private schools as well as public schools that do accept out-of-state students. In addition to University of Washington, University of Utah and University of Nevada-Reno, our recent graduates have gone to the following medical schools:  Oregon Health and Sciences University, Mayo Medical School, Harvard University, University of Maryland, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Drexel University.  Consider places you could live for 4 years, your goals (a career in research vs. primary care, etc), tuition, and the possibility of financial aid and/or establishing residency in another state to help you decide where to apply (the MSAR is a good resource--see below).

3. The application process

AMCAS application Most medical schools use a central application process.  The AMCAS application is done online and usually opens in May.  It is best to submit the application well before deadlines as it takes a while for the application to process.  You should plan to work on and submit your application in the first part of the summer.  For more information, see AAMC Site.  Be aware that there are some medical schools that do not use AMCAS.  The Texas schools, of which there are several, use their own centralized application system. Secondary applications Most schools will send you a secondary application if you meet their minimum standards.  This may vary from school to school, but often includes an essay that would be more focused than the personal statement in your AMCAS application. Letters of Recommendation The number and specific instructions on who should write your letters vary somewhat.  Typically, you are asked for either 3 individual letters or a committee letter.  We don’t  have a committee for this purpose, so you should plan on getting your letters from the faculty members who know you the best.  You may be asked for letters specifically from science faculty or research supervisors or physicians you shadowed.  Pay attention to these instructions for each of the schools to which you are applying so that you can ask your recommenders early (either before school ends in the spring or early in the fall).  The way in which letters are submitted is undergoing change (switching from snail mail submission to various electronic submission options).  Please see Dr. Koga for current details.   Keep in mind that any information you can provide to the letter-writers will help them to write a more personalized letter.  For example, you could give them a copy of your AMCAS application or selected parts of it like the personal statement and list of activities; you might want to remind them which classes you took from them and about any special projects you did in their courses; you may even ask them to comment on something specific like a project you did in their classroom or the extent and/or quality of research done on the Australia trip, etc.  The University of Washington has a list of components that should be covered in a letter of recommendation.  Providing this document to your evaluators might be helpful.

4. Other hints

MSAR

We have a book in the biology dept office called the MSAR (Medical School Admissions Requirements). It lists all the US and Canadian medical schools, their requirements, average MCAT scores and GPAs of the incoming class, etc. It is very useful and a quick way to peruse information for many different schools.

Attend seminars and join the pre-Health Professions club

Throughout the year there will be seminars or other activities that will help you learn more about the medical field.  Try to come to these even if you are a freshman. The earlier you begin to become familiar with issues in medicine, the better.  If you are not on the distribution list to receive the notices of this, please email: akoga@collegeofidaho.edu.

Go to the American Association of Medical Colleges website

They have lots of information and links https://www.aamc.org/.

 

If you are doubting your decision about medical school, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Koga to find out about alternative career paths in the health professions or see your advisor.