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How to get into Harvard Medical School (2020-2021)

Understand Harvard Medical School (HMS) requirements, acceptance rate, and medical school admissions statistics to increase your chances of acceptance.

How to get into Harvard Medical School

Introduction

For most medical school applicants, getting into Harvard University Medical School (HMS), ranked #1 for research by US News and World Report is considered a lofty goal. Harvard is a reach school for every student who applies. A private medical school in Boston, Massachusetts, Harvard is not only an institution where you will get a fantastic medical education, but, you will also have the opportunity to live in a vibrant city. We will review the requirements for Harvard Medical School, the average acceptance data, and what you can do to increase your chances of acceptance.

If you are interested in applying to Harvard, it is important to know the medical school’s requirements for admission. They are as follows:

  • Inorganic Chemistry with lab – full year (AP credit will satisfy one semester)
  • Organic Chemistry with lab.- full year
  • Biology with lab – full year
  • Biochemistry – one semester
  • Biostatistics/Statistics – one semester
  • Calculus – one semester (AP score of 4 or 5 will satisfy requirement) (HST applicants should take higher level math courses
  • Physics – one with with lab preferred (HST applicants should take calculus-based physics)
  • Writing – one year (humanities or social sciences)

Beat 6,917 applications and gain acceptance to HMS

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Harvard Medical School Acceptance Rate (2020-2021)

The Harvard Medical School acceptance rate was 3.3% for the most recent 2019-2020 entering class. This number does not vary much from year to year.

Here is the data broken down:

  • Harvard received 6,815 medical school applications.
  • Harvard conducted 948 medical school interviews.
  • Harvard accepted 227 applicants or 24% of applicants interviewed .
  • There were 165 medical school matriculants.
  • The overall Harvard Medical School acceptance rate is 3.3%.

Harvard accepts international and out of state students.

It may seem obvious, but, Harvard medical school values and expects academic excellence in applicants. Therefore, if Harvard is your goal, be sure to challenge yourself in your undergraduate coursework as much as possible.

When reviewing Harvard’s acceptance data, realize that the numbers are averages! Not everyone who gets into Harvard has a perfect GPA and MCAT! Below is the data for accepted students.

Harvard Medical School Average MCAT

  • Average MCAT Score – 519 (range 513-525)

RELATED ARTICLE: LEARN MORE ABOUT MCAT SCORES

Harvard Medical School Average GPA

  • Average GPA – 3.9 (range 3.75 – 4.0)
  • Average BCPM GPA – 3.93 (range 3.69 – 4.0)

Related Video: Medical School Admissions Statistics – Tips to get into Medical School 2020-2021

Harvard Letters of Recommendation Requirement

Harvard allows applicants to submit up to six letters of reference with the following specifics from Harvard Medical School’s website:

At least two (2) letters should be from professors in the sciences with whom they have taken classes.
At least one (1) letter should be written by a professor who is not in the sciences.
We should receive letters from all research supervisors for applicants to the MD-PhD program as well as applicants to the MD program. Applicants may exceed the six (6)-letter maximum if the additional letters are from research supervisors.
If applicants wish to supplement a premedical advisory committee evaluation packet with additional letters of recommendation, they should count the packet as one (1) letter toward the six (6)-letter maximum.
We do not require letters of recommendation from employers, but if applicants have been out of school and working they should have a letter sent from their place of employment.

Related Articles: Best Medical Schools by State

Harvard Medical School Curriculum

Harvard’s more traditional and primary medical school curriculum is called the Pathways Program in which 135 students enroll annually. This is a case-based medical school curriculum with early clinical exposure that culminates in a scholarly project.

In addition, Harvard has a joint program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) called the Health Sciences and Technology (HST) program which is a rigorous curriculum designed specifically for students with an interest in quantitative science and enrolls 30 students per year.

Harvard also offers the following combined degree programs:

Harvard Medical School Tuition

HMS Tuition = $64,000

70% of students receive financial aid.

Harvard Medical School Personal Statement

Harvard participates in the centralized medical school application service called AMCAS. Therefore, you will not write a personal statement specifically for Harvard. Harvard will receive the personal statement you write for AMCAS which must adhere to the following instructions:

  1. The character limit for the AMCAS personal statement is 5,300 characters with spaces.
  2. The AMCAS personal statement instructions are as follows:

“Use the Personal Comments Essay as an opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Consider and write your Personal Comments Essay carefully; many admissions committees place significant weight on the essay.”

Click here to read more about some questions that you may want to consider while writing the essay.

Harvard Medical School Work and Activities

Harvard Medical School does not ask you to submit a CV or resume. Instead, Harvard requires you to submit a centralized AMCAS application which requires you to write about your accomplishments in detail. These “work and activities entries” as they are called, are sent to Stanford as well as any other medical schools to which you apply through AMCAS.

Below are a few things you should know about the AMCAS work and activities.

AMCAS work & activities entries give you the chance to let medical schools know how much you’ve accomplished during your premed years.

  1. This section of the AMCAS application offers the opportunity to write about up to 15 activity descriptions that are up to 700 characters in length
  2.  You can then select three of those activities as most meaningful activities which gives you an additional 1325 characters to elaborate on the activity.

We encourage you to use this space to your advantage, elaborating as much as possible about your roles, responsibilities, the insights you gained, as well as what you have learned from the experience. You should also write in detail about the impact or “difference” you have made through the experience.

Click here to read more about AMCAS Work & Activities Section (With Examples): The Ultimate Guide.

Getting into Harvard Medical School

The key when trying to get into Harvard medical school or any extremely competitive medical schools is to have deep, long-standing, and meaningful involvements where you have made significant contributions and had exceptional levels of achievement. Ultimately, Harvard is looking for applicants who show tremendous promise to become leaders in medicine. So, assuming you have the stats to be considered for Harvard Medical School, in what activities should you excel to distinguish yourself in the admissions process?

Research

A whopping 98% of Harvard first year medical students had research experience which makes research a requirement for Harvard applicants. And, the more sophisticated your research the better chances you will have of standing out in the admissions process. Demonstrating national or world-wide recognition though publications or presentations, is a bonus.

Medical/Clinical Volunteer or Community Service Experience

By the same token, 89% of students had experiences in this category so, to be competitive, we suggest deep involvement in medically related community work, work with different populations, and work with underserved populations.

Clinical Experience/Physician Shadowing

82% of students had done physician shadowing. Therefore, gaining as much exposure to different specialists in different medical settings will help distinguish you. Even though Harvard is a research-focused school, they like to see exposure to primary care as well.

Community Service

Finally, 76% of students had other types of community service work.

Harvard Medical School Application and Timeline

So, what can you do to set yourself apart in the application process? Be sure you write a thoughtful AMCAS personal statement and work and activities section. You should also make composing your Harvard secondary essays a priority. Interestingly, Harvard’s secondary essay prompts are not very specific and ask you to write about what you have done if you have already graduated and to explain any important aspects of you background and identity not addressed elsewhere in your application.

  • June: Submit AMCAS Application
  • July: Harvard starts sending out secondary applications. Click here to view Harvard Medical School secondary essay prompts.
  • September: Interviews Begin
  • October 15: Final AMCAS deadline
  • October 22: Final supplemental materials deadline
  • October 31: AMCAS transcript deadline
  • January: Interviews conclude
  • Early March: All admissions decisions released
  • April 30: Admitted students planning to enroll at HMS must select the “Plan to Enroll” option on the Choose your Medical School tool in their AMCAS application.*

Harvard Medical School Interviews

In addition to an orientation, lunch, and tour and class observation opportunities, applicant will have two traditional one on one interviews. Students applying for the HST and MD/PhD programs will have a total of four interviews. Based on our students’ experiences, Harvard interviews are low pressure and conversational. Interviewers typically ask questions about your background, experiences, and motivations. In fact, one of our applicants who recently interview at Harvard said is was the most enjoyable experience he has had on the interview trail thus far.

Final Thoughts

Harvard Medical School obviously has the luxury of selecting students from an outstanding pool of applicants. If your MCAT and GPA are excellent (517 and 3.8 or higher) or there are other extenuating circumstances about your background that distinguish you, try applying. Many people in medicine consider HMS the best medical school in the country so do what is within your control to make yourself a competitive applicant!

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