Medical schools seek students who possess solid foundations in the basic sciences and who also have a good distribution of courses in the social sciences and humanities. They particularly want applicants who can handle abstraction and who express themselves clearly both orally and in writing. Honesty, integrity and maturity are assumed, and demonstrated sensitivity and compassion are important.
Essentially, the successful applicant must show that he/she possesses the ability to succeed in medical school, and that he/she has substantial reasons to be interested in the profession. Careful planning will ensure that exploratory experiences can contribute to a student’s decision, then become assets in the application process.
Medical schools’ admissions processes vary widely. These elements are likely factors, though very few schools divulge the weights that are assigned as they screen applicants:
No priority is intended in the list.
- Academic performance in college
- Overall or cumulative grade point average (GPA)
- Grades in science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Math) courses
- Degree of difficulty of courses elected by student
- Summary letter of evaluation sent by the Health Professions Advisor and included letters sent to the Health Professions Office by professors and other evaluators
- Scores on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
- Personal interview at the medical school – A necessary step in the admission process, interviews are offered by invitation only.
- Extracurricular activities, particularly those reflecting maturity, ability to work with others and willingness to accept responsibility
- Experience in health care settings
- State of residence – Over half of the U.S. medical schools are publicly funded and show some preference to residents of a given state. Check with the medical schools in your state if there is any doubt about your residency qualifications.
Beyond a student’s academic achievements, admissions committees are looking for sufficient enthusiasm for medicine and impressive personal qualities. They want applicants who have gone beyond the minimum requirements. Few medical school will state that previous experience in a hospital is required for admission, but applicants with some significant exposure to the daily routine, often involving long hours and very difficult decisions, discouragement and tragedy, usually present as a more convincing applicant than those without this experience.
A Williams student with a B+ science GPA, an MCAT score of 32 or better, clear motivation and a reasonable set of extracurricular activities stands a very good (80%+) chance of admission in a given year. Nationwide, fewer than 50% of applicants are admitted in a given year.