How Hard is it to get into Medical School (2024)?

How hard is it to get into medical school? The answer is simple: It is very hard to get into medical school. Only the most driven and focused applicants are accepted.

This is why you will hear me say, repeatedly, that any medical school acceptance is an impressive accomplishment.

The stats are daunting: Just over 40% of applicants to allopathic (MD-granting) are accepted each year.

It is a journey fraught with challenges, high standards, and intense competition. Aspiring medical students must navigate demanding terrain, characterized by rigorous academic prerequisites, MCAT test preparation, and extracurricular and scholarly achievement. Applicants must also embody the personal qualities and characteristics that medical schools seek.

The path to medical school is a test of resilience, dedication, and perseverance. Cliche but true, it is a marathon and not a sprint.

In this article I will shed light on the multifaceted question: “How hard is it to get into medical school?” I will delve into the factors that make the medical school admissions process a rigorous and highly competitive endeavor, offering insights and guidance for those aspiring to join the ranks of future physicians.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Factors

The best way to understand how hard it is to get into medical school is to understand the difference between the qualitative and quantitative elements of your candidacy.

Quantitative Factors in Medical School Admission

Quantitative factors will be considered first when determining your competitiveness. The reason I am listing these first is because without these factors, the admissions committees won’t even consider your qualitative factors. 

What are the quantitative factors that are evaluated:

  • MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) scores: The MCAT is a standardized test that assesses problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles. Your MCAT scores are a crucial quantitative factor in medical school admissions.
  • Science GPA: In addition to your overall GPA, medical schools may also consider your GPA in science courses, including biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. A strong science GPA is essential because it reflects your ability to handle the rigorous science curriculum in medical school.

Qualitative Factors in Medical School Admissions

Assuming your quantitative factors are competitive, admissions committees will then consider the strength of your qualitative factors. 

In medical school admissions, qualitative factors are non-academic aspects of your application and personal characteristics that are considered when evaluating your suitability for a career in medicine. These qualitative factors provide insight into your character, values, motivations, and potential to become a successful and compassionate physician. Here are some of the key qualitative factors considered in medical school admissions:

  • Medical School Personal Statement: Your personal statement is an essay that allows you to convey your motivations, experiences, and aspirations in a narrative form. It provides the admissions committee with insight into your passion for medicine and your unique perspective.

  • Letters of Recommendation: Strong letters of recommendation from professors, healthcare professionals, or mentors can provide qualitative insight into your academic abilities, work ethic, and personal qualities. These letters often highlight your character, teamwork skills, and potential as a future physician.

  • Extracurricular Activities: Involvement in extracurricular activities, such as volunteer work, leadership roles, research, and community service, can demonstrate your commitment to helping others, your leadership abilities, and your ability to balance multiple responsibilities.

  • Diversity and Life Experiences: Many medical schools value diversity and seek applicants with a variety of life experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives. Your unique experiences, cultural background, and exposure to different populations can be assets in the admissions process.

  • Communication Skills: Effective communication is a critical skill for healthcare professionals. Your ability to communicate clearly, empathetically, and respectfully can be assessed during interviews and through your written application materials.

  • Medical School Interviews: Interviews are a crucial qualitative component of the admissions process. During interviews, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your interpersonal skills, ethical reasoning, and your commitment to the field of medicine.

  • Altruism and Compassion: Admissions committees look for applicants who genuinely care about the well-being of others and who have a strong sense of altruism and compassion. Your experiences and motivations should reflect a genuine desire to help and serve patients.

  • Resilience and Adaptability: Medicine can be demanding, and admissions committees seek applicants who demonstrate resilience and adaptability in the face of challenges. You can showcase these qualities through your experiences and how you’ve overcome obstacles.

  • Ethical and Moral Character: Being a physician often involves making ethical decisions. Your application should reflect a strong ethical foundation and a commitment to upholding the highest standards of professionalism and integrity.

  • Knowledge of the Healthcare System: An understanding of the healthcare system, healthcare disparities, and the challenges facing the field of medicine can demonstrate your awareness of the realities of a medical career.

Medical School Acceptance Rates: Understanding the Nuance

Medical school acceptance rates are a critical factor in understanding the competitiveness of gaining admission. These rates typically hover around single-digit percentages for each medical highlighting how competitive the process is.

However, when digging deeper into the data, students will find that, for example, the acceptance rate at their in-state medical school might be much higher.

Let’s say you are from Georgia. 

The Medical College of Georgia, a state school, would be one of the “safest” schools to apply to. MCG interviews nearly 40% of in-state students who apply. And, of those, 46% matriculate. Therefore, one can assume that even more interviewees are actually accepted since no medical school has a 100% yield (everyone accepted actually attends).

In contrast, if you want to go to Stanford Medical School, which is private, you need to keep in mind that only 6% of applicants receive interviews! 

Of those, only 18% actually matriculate. 

Only 1.2% of applicants to Stanford Medical School end up matriculating!

Average GPA and MCAT for Medical School Applicants and Matriculants

The bottom line is that premeds are a driven, smart, and intense bunch of people and many of those who start out as pre med in college end up dropping it. We have all heard of weeder classes and they do serve a purpose!

Therefore, when it comes time to apply, you are left with the most driven and outstanding students all applying to the same limited number of medical schools in the United States.

When applying to medical school it is important to look at the average MCAT and GPA of the schools you are most interested in, but it is also important to know national averages.

Below are the most recent average GPAs and MCAT for medical school MATRICULANTS (2023):

National Average Total Total GPA  National Average Science GPA National Average Non-Science GPA National Average MCAT
3.75 3.64 3.84 511.9


So, to be a competitive medical school applicant, we recommend your metrics be close to these national averages.

For reference, and to understand that perhaps some students who are not competitive for medical school admission apply anyway, let’s look at the average data for medical school applicants.

Below are the most recent average GPAs and MCAT for medical school APPLICANTS (2023):

National Average Total Total GPA  National Average Science GPA National Average Non-Science GPA National Average MCAT
3.62 3.52 3.76 506.5

Making Time for Everything You Need Before Applying to Medical School

The most difficult part of the medical school admissions process based on what we have seen during the 15+ years we have been advising students, is that it takes a lot of time to gain all the experiences necessary to be a competitive applicant while earning a high GPA and making time to prepare for the MCAT. 

This is why making a strategic medical school application timeline is essential. Be realistic about what you can accomplish based on your goals. 

A higher percentage of students every year are taking at least one gap year between college and medical school for the simple reason that it is so hard to fit in everything necessary to get in! Most premeds find they need this time to gain the experiences they need to present a compelling application and candidacy.

RELATED: Getting into a Top 20 Medical School

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RELATED: Osteopathic Medical Schools: Top 10 Statistics

Medical School Strategy Questions

  1. Should I take a gap year to improve my chances? How many medical school applicants take a gap year?

Based on the most recent Medical Student Questionnaire issued by the Association of American Medical Colleges, 70% of first year medical students had taken at least one gap year.  

Most students find that gap years allow them to delve more deeply into experiences that may distinguish them, have more MCAT preparation time, and more medical school application time by taking at least one gap year.

2. How many medical schools should I apply to?

There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question and so much depends on how competitive you are, what your goals are, and what state you are from and if you would be happy attending those state medical schools. 

On average, students apply to 25-30 medical schools but this number can be higher or lower depending on a student’s individual circumstances.

3. When in the admissions cycle should I apply to medical school?

Applying to medical school when the application system opens in late May is an absolute necessity to be the most competitive. 

We often advise students to postpone an application to the following year if they cannot submit an application by early July at the latest.

4. If I attend an elite college, won’t that help me get into medical school?

This is disappointing to many but where you go or went to college has little impact, in and of itself, in the medical school admissions process. 

You won’t get into medical school because of where you went to undergraduate college; you will get in because you excelled at that college and took advantage of the opportunities available to you.

MedEdits Medical Admissions Founder and Chairwoman, Jessica Freedman, MD

JESSICA FREEDMAN, M.D., is a former faculty member and admissions committee member at the Icahn School of Mount Sinai and is the founder and chair of MedEdits Medical Admissions. She is also the author of the MedEdits Guide to Medical Admissions and The Medical School Interview which you can find on Amazon. Follow Dr. Freedman and MedEdits on Facebook and YouTube.

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