How to Prepare for and Apply to Medical School
If you’re applying for medical school, you may be grappling with how to choose the right programs, how to make your application stand out – and how to pay for your education once you decide where to go.
We’re here to help. As an unbiased resource, U.S. News provides advice based on data and expert interviews to help prospective medical school students make informed decisions.
We use data to rank the Best Medical Schools
and particular specialties, like pediatrics
. We also have a profile on each school that features information such as the application deadline and popular residency and specialty programs. Sign up for a Medical School Compass account
to unlock all this data and more.
Explore U.S. News’ library of resources, which covers learning the difference between D.O. and M.D. degrees
, how to approach answering ethics questions in medical school interviews
, and when to update a medical school application
if you’ve been wait-listed.
Create a free U.S. News account
and use our My Schools tool, where you can save schools and track your application status.
How Long Is Medical School?
Medical school itself typically lasts four years
, but post-grad education is not finished at the end of those four years. After earning their degree, aspiring doctors usually complete a residency
in a specialty such as radiology or dermatology. If you intend to focus on a subspecialty, such as treating a specific kind of cancer
instead of becoming a general oncologist, you can also expect to complete a fellowship.
Altogether, medical school students can spend 10 years or more training to become doctors.
How to Get Into Medical School
Admission to medical schools is highly competitive
. Students must have good grades
– especially in science courses – and get a high score on the MCAT
, but other factors can help increase your chances of getting into top medical schools
. You should have strong recommendation letters; a resume
that includes research, community service and other extracurricular activities you’re passionate about; a personal statement that reflects your character and dedication; and a strong reason
for applying to medical school.
Be sure you know what to avoid
as well, such as applying to too few schools, selecting programs that aren’t the right fit with your career goals, and submitting too soon or too late.
Students hoping to pursue an M.D. apply for medical school through the American Medical College Application Service
, and those who wish to earn a D.O. apply through the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service
What Do You Learn in Medical School and Why Enroll?
Medical school students learn how to diagnose and treat patients by completing hands-on clinical rotations. Students also learn through lectures, building upon foundations from their undergraduate courses, and classes generally move at a fast pace. The medical school curriculum is rigorous
, and it’s not unusual for students to spend 60 to 80 hours each week on school assignments.
Learn what you can expect in your first year of medical school here
Is Medical School Worth It?Medical school might be worth it for you
if you have a passion for medicine and a grasp of the sacrifices and challenges that accompany being a physician. Medical school – and the medical profession – requires commitment. You shouldn’t consider this career simply on a parent’s or friend’s recommendation or because you see it as a way to earn a high salary.
Your reason for applying shouldn’t solely be to help people either; there are several career paths that allow you to serve others, including other opportunities in the health care field
. Before you apply for medical school, be sure you’re dedicated to the process and to the work you’ll do as a doctor.
Aside from a time investment, higher education is also a financial investment and will likely cause you to rack up student loan debt
How Much Does Medical School Cost?
Full-time tuition at some of the medical schools that top the U.S. News rankings can be upwards of $50,000 per year.
The price tag for medical school varies according to multiple factors, such as whether the school is private
and whether you’d be paying in-state
tuition. Scholarships and other financial aid
can also help alleviate some of these expenses
Students should also plan for other costs when applying to medical school
, including application fees, travel expenses for in-person interviews or campus visits, and acceptance deposits.
When Should I Apply to Medical School?
The AMCAS and the AACOMAS typically open their applications in May for the fall of the following year, and applying in the early summer
can be beneficial to you. If you apply early, you can be among the first to choose your interview
days, screeners can take more time to review your application and you’ll demonstrate your planning skills by showing you had all your materials ready.
You should start preparing for your medical school applications two to three years before you’re ready to apply. You’ll need to have time to study for and take the MCAT, pass prerequisite courses, and develop an understanding of the medical field by shadowing a doctor or getting clinical experience.
If you’re unsure what kind of medical school would best fit your goals or you have a busy senior year, consider taking some time
after completing your undergraduate studies to apply for medical school.
Following a month-by-month plan
can help you stay on top of deadlines and ensure you’re not scrambling to get everything done at the last minute.