Requirements for medical school admission differ throughout the world, and even from school to school within one country. In the U.S. and other similar nations, however, most students follow the same basic path to medical school. They fulfill certain course requirements, often rounding out their educations with various extracurricular activities. After completing an accredited undergraduate program, the student typically submits a medical school application containing his or her academic credentials and relevant test scores. People applying to medical schools in the U.S. or Canada, for example, usually take the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®). Applicants may take advantage of additional opportunities, such as internships and research programs, to make themselves more attractive as candidates for medical school admission.
Someone who wants to become a doctor generally follows some basic requirements according to a suggested time line. Since medical schools in a few countries accept applicants without undergraduate degrees, interested individuals may want to start thinking in high school about medical school admission and potential careers. Otherwise, they can take the traditional route followed by students in locations such as the U.S. and Canada.
During the first year of college, a student usually meets with an adviser to explore medical schools and career options. Many people follow a traditional "pre-med” curriculum, taking courses in biology, general and organic chemistry, physics, and calculus. They also usually study English or whichever language they will use primarily. Foreign language skills are nearly always beneficial as well, as these skills can help a doctor communicate effectively in a multicultural area. Maintaining a high grade point average (GPA) throughout the undergraduate program is also usually important to be a competitive medical school applicant.
Aspiring medical students often take courses in subjects about which they feel passionate, even if they do not relate to medicine at all. Some medical schools appreciate the fact that applicants have dedicated time to earn a degree in a field that they enjoy, acknowledging that it makes them more well rounded, and therefore preferable, candidates for medical school admission. Some other important traits that schools look for in an applicant might include leadership skills and a desire to serve others.
During the summer after their first year, many students volunteer or work at a related job or internship, while taking any necessary summer courses. In the second year of college, they typically continue working with their advisers and completing required courses. The next summer, many pursue another medically related position, either as a volunteer or as a paid employee. Some students also perform focused research in order to gain more experience.
By the third year of college, most students have researched and scheduled the MCAT® or other nationally required entrance exam. They also try to determine each medical school’s particular entrance requirements and application procedures. They usually explore financial aid options, if necessary, including scholarship opportunities. At this point, most applicants are advised to decide on their medical focus and to research the curricula at different medical schools. For example, they might need to find out the specific requirements for a joint or dual degree, if interested.
The fourth year of college usually encompasses the final stages of the medical school admission process. Applicants arrange their interviews with medical schools and submit their completed applications. In addition to the interview, some other components of a med school application typically include recommendation letters from professors and supervisors, academic transcripts, a personal essay, and test scores.