Applying to Medical School

Medical School Requirements and Prerequisite Coursework

You can increase your chances of being admitted into medical school when you know ahead of time what you are getting into. In general, the minimum course requirements to pursue a medical education include: 

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physics
  • General Chemistry

Every medical school in the United States sets its own admissions requirements and prerequisite coursework to attend its programs. Check the specific requirements of any medical school you plan applying to and make sure your course schedule lines up with their prerequisites.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) database is a helpful tool to determine the required courses you’ll have to take during your undergrad.

What Are the Requirements for Medical School?

The only requirement that is found throughout every school of medicine in the country is a Bachelor’s degree from an undergraduate institution. However, almost all medical schools require specific science courses, and most will want to see English or writing classes, too. 

Specific requirements to consider while you are working on your bachelor’s degree include:

  • Academic Prerequisites
  • GPA Requirements
  • MCAT Scores
  • Extracurriculars and Clinical Experience
  • Medical School Applications

Academic Prerequisite Courses

Prerequisite courses lay the groundwork for medical education. Admissions committees are looking for students with essential knowledge and skills to excel in a DO or MD program. 

As requirements may vary, we strongly advise pre-med students to visit their pre-medical advisors and check specific school guidelines to ensure they meet all prerequisites for their desired medical schools.

Here’s a breakdown of typical prerequisite courses required by most medical schools:

  • Biology — General biology, including labs, are almost always required. Biology courses provide a fundamental understanding of living organisms and may include specialized areas like cell biology, genetics, or immunology.
  • Chemistry — General chemistry and organic chemistry are both seen on most schools’ required coursework lists. These subjects provide a base for understanding how medication works. Some schools may also ask for a course in inorganic chemistry or biochemistry.
  • Physics — Principles like motion, energy, and waves help students understand medical technologies and are, therefore, often required.
  • Mathematics — About a quarter of medical schools require calculus or statistics. Higher math skills are important for many calculations you may need to perform as a physician, and even more so for students who plan to conduct research during their medical career.
  • English — Communication skills are incredibly important for future doctors. Medical schools usually require one or two semesters of English or writing-intensive courses to ensure applicants have these skills.

Taking specific courses during undergrad can give you a well-rounded foundation for a medical school application and education. These courses can add depth to your knowledge base, demonstrate intellectual curiosity, and help with MCAT preparation.

  • Biochemistry — For some schools, this may be a requirement, but even when it isn’t, biochemistry is a highly recommended course. It explores the chemical processes within living organisms, and the material you’ll learn in this class is an important topic on the MCAT and in modern medical science.
  • Genetics — Understanding the principles of genetics will allow future doctors to understand disease inheritance, risk factors, and personalized medicine.
  • Immunology — This college course covers the immune system, giving students an understanding of infections, autoimmunity, allergies, and even cancer treatments.
  • Cell Biology — Biology at the cellular level can deepen your understanding of many disease processes.
  • Psychology — Though not always required, psychology offers insights into human behavior and mental processes, which is essential in patient care. For students who may pursue a psychiatry specialty, an introductory psychology class and higher-level options that review neuroscience topics can provide a great foundation.
  • Sociology — Another behavioral science course that we recommend is sociology. Understanding societal structures and cultural influences can contribute to a physician’s cultural competence and make them better at what they do.
  • Public Health — Learning about population health and healthcare systems can provide valuable context for future medical practice.
  • Biostatistics — This course helps in understanding medical research, interpreting data, and evidence-based medicine.
  • Biomedical Ethics — A course in ethics can strengthen moral reasoning, essential in complex healthcare decision-making.
  • Anatomy and Physiology — To be a doctor, one should be educated in the human body’s structure and function.
  • Humanities and Social Sciences — Additional courses in humanities and social sciences can foster empathy, communication skills, and ethical considerations in medicine.
  • Research Methodology — Learning how to conduct research could be beneficial for those considering an academic or research-oriented medical career, like an MD/PhD.
  • Foreign Language — Learning to speak another language can often be overlooked, but foreign language courses can facilitate communication with diverse patient populations, especially in areas with significant linguistic diversity.

Which Major Is Best for Medical School?

Biological science majors such as biochemistry and molecular biology tend to be the popular pre-med majors. However, there is no required major to apply to medical school. 

The choice of a major should reflect both your academic interests and the broad competencies required for success in medical education and practice.

Science majors typically align well with the prerequisite courses required for medical school and the MCAT, but non-science majors offer broader perspectives and vital soft skills needed in the medical field. Choosing a major that you will excel in academically is the best pre-med major

Medical School GPA Requirements

A strong GPA reflects your academic ability and shows admissions committees that you have commitment, discipline, and readiness for medical school. Medical schools usually consider both an applicant’s overall GPA and their science GPA.

What GPA do you need for medical school? The minimum GPA for most med schools is 3.0, but medical school applicants tend to have high overall GPAs, typically around 3.6 or above. Requirements vary and can be significantly higher for top-tier schools.

Also, with the influx of medical school applicants, many schools have filters they use to make the number of applicants they assess more manageable. One of these filters is often GPA, and when used, it varies by school.

Science GPA

The science GPA includes grades from courses such as biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Medical schools weigh these grades heavier than the other coursework. 

In the 2022-2023 academic year, med school applicants had an average science GPA of 3.52, while matriculants’ average science GPA was 3.68.

GPA for Different Types of Medical Programs

MD programs on average have higher GPA requirements. A competitive GPA for most MD programs is usually around 3.7 or higher. Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine programs may have slightly more flexible GPA requirements, starting around 3.5 or higher.

If your GPA is not ideal, you can always look into a post-baccalaureate program to boost your numbers.

It’s also worth noting that medical schools look at the entire profile of an applicant. A less-than-ideal GPA can sometimes be offset by exceptional MCAT scores, meaningful extracurricular activities, strong letters of recommendation, or a compelling personal statement. 

Our Physician Advisors can walk you through the medical school admissions and application process for your best shot at getting into the school of your choice.

MCAT Scores, Tips, and Courses To Help You Prepare

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination that assesses problem-solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles. 

There are only a handful of circumstances where an MCAT score would not be required during the admissions process. That’s why studying for the MCAT and scoring as high as you can are such important parts of applying to med school.

Specific MCAT Score Requirements

Top medical schools usually require 517 or higher, while most medical schools will accept a score in the range of 510-516 for their MD programs. Some DO schools accept scores between 502-508.

The average MCAT score of applicants in 2022-2023 was 506.5, with matriculants scoring 511.9.

Preparing for the MCAT

Pre-med students will generally sign up for the MCAT after their sophomore year, and most applicants take the test by the January of their junior year. Knowing when you are going to take your MCAT will allow you to strategically choose and schedule your coursework.

For example, you can plan your schedule to have a lighter load when you know that you will be studying for the MCAT. You can also take courses like biochemistry, which is featured throughout the MCAT, well before your test — that way, you can be certain you have mastered the subject.

We can help you plan and study for taking your MCAT, boosting your score in the process. Our students raise their score by 12 points on average!

Make Time For Extracurriculars, Research, and Volunteering

Satisfying prerequisite coursework to prove your academic excellence to medical schools is only one part of your admissions journey. Admissions committees also want to see a well-rounded character. It’s important to plan for extracurricular activities during your undergraduate career that support your application and future career. 

Your extracurriculars may include:

  • Volunteering at community health initiatives or with local non-profits
  • Research experience in laboratories
  • Clinical experience in hospitals, medical internships, international medical volunteering, or shadowing
  • Teamwork and leadership activities like student government, athletics, or tutoring

Your extracurriculars show your dedication beyond the classroom and can be a way to make yourself stand out. While you can include up to 15 activities in the AMCAS med school application, the quality of your extracurriculars is far more important than the quantity.

Additional Medical School Application Requirements

Your academic performance and extracurricular activities aren’t the only requirements for getting into medical school. 

What is the application process for medical school? Outside of academics, test scores, and extracurriculars, additional elements that are typically included or considered in the medical school application process include:

Letters of Recommendation

You will collect 3-5 letters from professors, mentors, or supervisors who can attest to your qualifications and potential. Some schools specify who these letters must be from (e.g., science professors, clinical supervisors).

Personal Statement

Your personal statement is a reflective essay in which you discuss your motivation for pursuing a career in medicine. It’s the best way to express your unique passions, interests, and relevant experiences on a medical school application.

Secondary Applications

Most schools require additional essays or questionnaires as part of a secondary application process. Topics can vary widely but may include specific interests in their program, diversity considerations, or more detailed information on your experiences.

Background Check

Some schools conduct background checks to ensure that applicants meet the professional standards required for medical practice.


Traditional interviews are conducted to assess interpersonal skills, ethical thinking, and fit with the program. These interviews can be in-person or virtual. Many medical schools in the U.S. and Canada have shifted to Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs) to get to know their candidates.

Interviews are generally the last step in any one school’s application cycle before an applicant may be accepted to a medical program.

Additional State or School-Specific Requirements

Some schools or states may have unique requirements, such as state residency, mission alignment, or specific additional coursework. For instance, you must apply for Texas medical schools through TMDSAS.

Review the specific requirements for your desired medical schools through MSAR or in the database of prerequisites from our friends at MedSchoolCoach.

Considerations for Non-Traditional and International Applicants

International applicants are not citizens or permanent residents of the country where they are applying to medical school. In addition to the above-mentioned requirements for medical school, visa requirements and language proficiency, such as the TOEFL exam for English-speaking countries, may be required for international medical students.

The international student must ensure their transcripts and degrees from foreign institutions are evaluated and meet the requirements of the medical schools.

Non-traditional applicants may be those pursuing a medical career later in life, changing careers, with non-science majors, or who have taken a non-linear path to medicine. These applicants can leverage prior work, volunteer, or life experience relevant to a career in medicine.

If these students do not have all the prerequisite coursework completed, they can consider post-baccalaureate programs to satisfy the requirements. If these students attended a community college for their prerequisite sciences, it is recommended to take advanced courses related to these fields at a 4-year university. 

A Plan During Undergraduate Studies = Medical School Success

The sooner you know you want to be a doctor, the more time you have to plan your route to get there. Some students know in high school that they will be a physician one day. They can take advanced placement (AP credit) courses and finish their degrees in 3 years instead of 4.

Understanding, planning, and meeting the requirements for medical school will ease stress and allow you to excel in your studies. Your time management and organization will show admission committees that you are prepared and devoted to a career in medicine.

Schedule a free 15-minute consultation with MedSchoolCoach to learn how we can help boost your chances of success getting into medical school.

Renee Marinelli MD

Renee graduated magna cum laude from California State University San Marcos with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. While attending school, she worked for a neurosurgeon where she led clinical trials. Renee attended the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine where she served on the admissions committee and interviewed many applicants. In medical school, Renee met her future husband, a military scholarship student. After medical school, both Renee and her husband attended family medicine residency in Hawaii where she also served on the residency admissions committee. She has mentored and assisted many students in the medical school admissions process and brings a wealth of experience serving on both medical school and residency admission committees. She is excited to continue to provide guidance to students while spending quality time with her son.

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