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What Kind of Students are Successful in Getting into Medical School?

7 Differentiators You Need to Have to Succeed

What Kind of Students Are Successful in Getting Into Medical School?

Who are the people who are actually successful with getting into medical school? What traits do they share in common? What makes a successful medical school applicant? What are they doing that sets them apart and helps guarantee their success with being accepted to the medical schools of their choice? We have seven differentiators to share with you about who these people are and how you can be one of them.

Will Medical Schools’ Competitiveness Keep Increasing?

The likely answer is yes.

First, some context on why it’s so important that the U.S. keeps admitting and graduating exceptional candidates:

With the US population growing and aging, it creates an urgent need in the United States for a myriad of practicing physicians. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects the demand for physicians to grow by 3% in the next 10 years, with certain specialties such as psychiatry to grow at a whopping 13%. Despite the increased demand for practicing physicians in the future, acceptance into medical school is becoming more and more difficult. 

Why Is Getting Into Medical School So Difficult Today?

It’s the number of applicants.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people have realized the important work physicians do. This realization has led many to ultimately pursue a career in medicine. This phenomenon was coined the “Fauci Effect”. But of all those new applicants, what percentage of students get accepted into medical school? The AAMC has reported an 18% increase in applications for students applying to enter medical school in the fall of 2021, compared to the preceding year.

As matriculation into medical school will only become more difficult, this blog will highlight the seven key points that distinguish successful medical school applicants from unsuccessful ones.

What Makes a Successful Medical School Applicant?

1. Students Who’ve Demonstrated Clinical Experience Make Better Medical School Candidates.

What do medical schools look for in students? Having medical experience is crucial for becoming a successful applicant. Firstly, it allows you to truly understand what a physician’s day consists of. And ultimately help you decide if this is the career you want to pursue. You might have a preconceived notion about the career, and upon actually experiencing it for yourself, figure out it’s not for you. Admissions committees view students who’ve accumulated many hours of clinical experience as someone who understands the field of medicine and knows the career is for them.

2. Students Who’ve Excelled Academically Have Higher Chances of Getting Into Medical School.

By excelling academically, you’ve demonstrated to admission committees that you can handle the academic rigor of medical school. Medical school is no joke, it’s very tough, so admissions committees need to make sure that the students they admit will graduate from their program.

What major is most likely to enter medical school?

(Hint: this may be a bit of an accidental trick question). A common misconception is that students have to major in biology or something science related. This is completely false. You should major in what you’re interested in. So if that’s theology, so be it, become a theology major. 

The important takeaway is to choose a major in which you know you’ll succeed.

However, if students do decide to major in something not science related, they need to make sure they take the medical school prerequisite courses. The prerequisites are:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Biochemistry
  • Psychology/Sociology

3. Students Who’ve Demonstrated Volunteering Experience Are More Likely to Get Accepted to Medical School.

Admissions committees want well-rounded students. Students who devote a portion of their time to volunteer– despite their busy schedules– demonstrate great time management skills. Time management is crucial for medical students and physicians. Physicians are generally altruistic people. Many physicians go above and beyond for their patients to make sure they receive the best care possible. Having a considerable amount of volunteering experience demonstrates to the admissions committee your selflessness and service to others, two important qualities for a physician.

It’s important to note that while students are actively volunteering, they should be cognizant of their experience. Many students simply volunteer to check off a box and say they did it. Admission committees are well aware of when students do this. To avoid this trap, students must actively reflect on their experiences volunteering, so they can write about it with passion come application season.

Bonus tip: Keep a small journal or pocketbook on hand so you can jot down meaningful experiences as you volunteer.

Volunteering for long periods of time shows commitment. This is extremely important because admission committees need to make sure the students that are admitted into their schools, complete their program and go on to become working physicians. When a student holds themselves accountable to volunteer set hours every week, it fosters vital characteristics of a  future medical student and physician. 

4. Students Who Scored Well on the MCAT Have Higher Acceptance Rates Into Medical School.

Arguably the #1 factor in determining your success in getting into medical school is your MCAT score. Many schools have minimum cutoff scores and won’t even look at your application unless you score higher than the cutoff. The MCAT is weighted so heavily because it levels all applicants on the same level field. For example, we can all agree that achieving a 4.0 at a local community college and a 4.0 at MIT are no way near the same in difficulty. This leaves admission committees in a predicament: who are the students that can truly undertake the rigor of medical school? 

That’s where the MCAT comes in; it allows everyone who takes it to be assessed objectively and most importantly equitably.

5. Students Who Demonstrate Interests Outside Medicine Are More Desirable Medical School Applicants.

It’s obvious that pre-med applicants have an interest in medicine already. Admission committees are looking to admit students who will bring diversity to their classes. On your applications, focus on interests that make you unique, it will help you stand out from hundreds of applicants.

6. Students Who’ve Crushed Their Interviews Have Better Chances of Getting Into Medical School.

A good tip to know prior to starting your interviews is to research the school you’re interviewing at. And when I say research I mean extensive research. Having done research prior to your interviews demonstrates to the admissions committee your passion and commitment to that particular school. Another good tip is to always ask questions at the end of the interview. Incorporate what you gathered from your research into your question, and you’ll leave a memorable impression.

7. Students Who’ve Demonstrated Leadership Are More Likely to Get Accepted Into Medical School.

Physicians are valued highly in society, they are the leaders in their field. They receive reports from all sorts of healthcare professionals, and it’s ultimately the physician who has the final say on a matter. Admission committees are looking for applicants who demonstrate leadership qualities because It’s a good indicator to see who will become a successful physician. 

explore medical schools, MCAT requirements, GPAs, Medical School Acceptance rates and more. Browse secondary essays too!

Looking for the Best Medical Schools to Get Into Based on Your Unique Stats?

Look no further than MedSchool Explorer: the only free tool on the market that’s designed to answer that exact question while letting you search and favorite the schools you love most.

Want to Know How to Get Into Medical School With a Lower GPA?


There you have it! I hope these seven differentiators shed a little insight into what it takes to be successful in getting into medical school. Stay focused, stay encouraged, and keep Prospective Doctor bookmarked on your browser tab for more helpful tips for your journey to medical school and beyond!



Yaseen Elhag

Yaseen Elhag holds a bachelor's in Health Science. He has aspirations of becoming a physician and a deep passion for eliminating healthcare disparities. Some of Yaseen's hobbies include Mixed Martial Arts, traveling, and playing chess!

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