The prerequisites for medical school depend on the medical education standards established in the country where an applicant wishes to attend medical school as well as an individual medical school's own admissions criteria. In the United States, prerequisites for medical school include the completion of a bachelor's degree, taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), and meeting coursework requirements. Many medical schools also place a considerable emphasis on a student's character and commitment to public service and will want to see documentation of this during the application process.
Perhaps the most significant medical school prerequisite is a bachelor's degree. Medical schools in the United States require new students to have earned a bachelor's degree before they can begin school. There is no one major area of study that is better than another for admission to medical school, and many medical school admission committees openly acknowledge a preference for students with a well-rounded academic background. Academic prerequisites for medical school do include the completion of certain science courses, such as biology, physics, and laboratory chemistry. Some medical schools also recommend a strong grounding in communications and writing as well as training in a foreign language.
Academic achievement is also measured by the applicant's grade point average (GPA). Candidates are typically expected to have a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. In addition to good grades, medical schools in the United States require applicants to take the MCAT. Each medical school sets its own score requirement for the MCAT as well as its own policy for using the scores. A candidate's MCAT score may carry more weight in some schools than others, but may also be compared to a student's GPA in order to develop a more complete picture of a student's academic abilities.
The practice of medicine usually requires a strong sense of humanitarian concern. Application essays are common prerequisites for medical school, with many admission officers and committees paying a great deal of attention to a student's reasons for choosing medicine as a career. Many medical schools look for applicants who can demonstrate participation in extracurricular activities with an emphasis on service and leadership. Many schools look favorably on an applicant's past history of volunteer work, though volunteer work may not technically be among the prerequisites for medical school. In addition, the applicant should be able to provide letters of reference from professors, employers, and other individuals with whom she has worked describing the applicant's character, work ethic, as well as opinions as to the candidate's ability to succeed in medical school.