Medical doctors make up many of the highest-paying jobs in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, the top 11 professionals require some type of medical education, including dentistry and psychiatry. Becoming a doctor requires you to invest plenty of time and money into your education. Doctors complete undergraduate degrees as well as medical school.
Although medical schools differ somewhat in who they're looking for in the next class, the courses, tests and activities you need are generally the same for most schools. In the 2016-17 school year, 53,042 American students applied for medical school. However, only 22,031 students (41 percent of those who applied) earned acceptance. High grades, high test scores and in-depth volunteer work are all needed to increase your chances of making a successful application for medical school.
Start the Path to Medical School as an Undergraduate
Take the following courses during your undergraduate career: a year each of calculus, general chemistry with a lab, organic chemistry with a lab, physics with a lab and biology with a lab. It is highly recommended to take upper division courses in biology. Many universities offer pre-medical majors in human biology and other related subjects. Students who do well in these programs sometimes find it easier to get into medical school and understand the courses when they are there.
Your undergraduate GPA should be above 3.5, especially in biology, chemistry, physics and math. At many universities, this is part of the medical school requirements. If your GPA for science and math courses is low, your chances of getting into medical school will be low even if you have a high undergraduate GPA for all courses. You should shoot for a GPA much higher than a 3.5 for the better medical schools or if your Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT, score is lower than average for the schools you're applying to.
If you have International Baccalaureate (IB) or Advanced Placement (AP) credit for the above courses, you are advised to retake those courses. Some medical schools do not accept IB and AP credit in lieu of taking courses in college.
Take the MCAT
Take the MCAT by the spring of your junior year. Most students take a MCAT preparation course beforehand and study intensively for the test. Try to score above a 30 on the MCAT. Unlike the SAT, it is generally frowned on to take the MCAT more than twice. You really need to prepare well for the MCAT the first time around. By taking the spring administration of the MCAT, you have time to retake the MCAT and take another preparation course if you do not achieve the desired MCAT score.
Volunteer at a Hospital
Volunteer at a hospital. To prove your genuine desire to enter medicine, you have to experience what it's like in the field through extensive volunteer work. This should start by the freshman year in college, although it's not a bad idea to start during high school if possible. When you volunteer, try to achieve depth in relevant volunteer work rather than simply racking up the hours.
The Association of American Medical Colleges recommends that you choose volunteer opportunities that relate to your eventual goals and pique your interests. For example, if you want to work with the aging population, you may look for volunteer opportunities in nursing homes. While medical schools appreciate applicants with varieties of interests, you're better off if you volunteer experience shows the passion you have for medicine and with a certain specialty.
Apply for Medical Schools
When you have your MCAT scores and some volunteer hours, you can officially apply for professional degree programs. First, check medical school requirements to see if you meet them. Rank the schools for which you meet admissions requirements by which ones you would most like to attend.
Consider the specialties that schools provide. For example, if you want to go into pediatrics, you should prioritize schools with these concentrations and that partner with pediatric hospitals. You may also consider factors like tuition rates and locations.
When you make your list, it's time to start applying. The Princeton Review reports that most medical school hopefuls apply for about 15 universities. The fierce competition means that you should apply for as many as you can afford the fee for.
Apply to Post-Baccalaureate Programs
Apply to post-baccalaureate (post-bac) programs designed to help college graduates who want another shot at entering medical school if you have not done well enough to get into your desired schools. Some of these postbac programs have links to medical schools that give preferential or guaranteed admissions for the top students in the postbac program. The links can help improve your chances of getting into medical school.