How to get into Harvard Medical School


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.

Harvard Medical School Requirements

If you are interested in applying to Harvard, it is important to know the medical school’s requirements for admission. Harvard is moving towards competency-based admissions and values interdisciplinary coursework which is prevalent in today’s undergraduate curriculums. That said, Harvard Medical School still requires or prefers to see certain courses:

  • Chemistry/biochemistry with lab – two full years. Must include inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. AP credit can substitute one semester of chemistry but must be substituted with a higher level course.
  • Biology with lab – full year. If college credit earned using AP coursework, must take a full year of higher level biology with lab.
  • Math – full year. Harvard encourages one semester of calculus and one semester of statistics (biostatistics preferred). (HST applicants should take higher level math courses – differential equations/linear algebra)
  • Physics – full year. Physics with with lab is preferred (HST applicants should take calculus-based physics). AP credits can be used for one semester but must be substituted with one upper level semester.
  • Writing – full year (humanities or social sciences). AP credit not accepted.
  • Behavioral science coursework is encouraged.

Beat nearly 8,000 applicants and gain acceptance to HMS

Harvard Medical School Acceptance Rate and Harvard Medical School Interview Rate

Harvard Medical School interviewed 11% of applicants last year. As you can see, simply getting an interview is a huge accomplishment!

The Harvard Medical School acceptance rate was 2.7% which reflects the most recent data available. This number does not vary much from year to year.

Here is the data broken down:

  • Harvard received 7,796 medical school applications.
  • Harvard conducted 857 medical school interviews.
  • In the past, Harvard accepted 222 applicants or 26% of applicants interviewed.
  • There were 164 medical school matriculants.
  • The overall Harvard Medical School acceptance rate is 2.7%.

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 Undergraduate Majors

  • Biology, chemistry, math, engineering: 58%
  • Social sciences: 20%
  • Double major: 16%
  • Humanities: 6%

Harvard Medical School Race/Ethnicity

  • Underrepresented in Medicine: 24%
  • Asian: 45%

Harvard Medical School Gender Identity

  • 92 Women
  • 62 Men
  • 3 Different Identity

Harvard Medical School Sexuality

  • 24% LGBTQ+

Harvard Medical School Average MCAT 

  • Average MCAT Score – 520 (range 515-525)


Harvard Medical School Average GPA 

  • Average GPA – 3.9 (range 3.79 – 4.0)
  • Average BCPM GPA – 3.95 (range 3.74 – 4.0)

Related Video: Medical School Admissions Statistics – Tips to get into Medical School 2023-2024

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.

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 = $67,610

72% 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?


A whopping 99% 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, 93% 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

88% 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, 81% 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!

The Ultimate Guide Getting into Medical School ebook

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 Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is the founder and chair of MedEdits Medical Admissions and 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.
(914) 909-3915 Free 15 minute advising session
phone Free 15 minute advising session