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What is Medicine?

Medicine is an occupation aimed at protecting, promoting, and restoring good health with a focus on identifying, diagnosing, and treating illnesses using evidence-based therapies. Western medicine techniques are commonly known as allopathic medicine. Allopathic medicine involves the use of medication and surgical techniques to achieve health, well-being, and promote the prevention of illness. The scope of medicine extends beyond the clinical setting to include: biomedical research, psychotherapy, genetics, and more. The primary concern in the medical profession is delivering individualized patient care, transmitting scientific knowledge, and being a life-long learner.

Things to Consider When Searching for a Medical School:

Doctorate of Medicine (MD) Program Search:

  • Diversity:

    • Although numerous MD programs will emphasize diversity and inclusion, it is important to understand what that means. During your search, don’t be afraid to ask “what does diversity look like within this program?”, “what efforts has this program made in the last 3 years to show your commitment to a diversified student body and administration?”, “what resources are in place to maintain a diverse academic environment, both inside and outside of the classroom (implicit bias training, workshops/ lectures on diversity-related topics, community outreach, clinical rotations, inter- and intra-disciplinary collaborations, etc.)?”. Students often forget that while programs are assessing if you are a good fit for them, it is equally as important for YOU to assess whether that program is a good fit for you. Medical School is rigorous, so make sure that you are selecting a program that is committed to your success, supports you, and provides you with the resources and tools you need.

  • Cost:

    • Important factors to consider in regards to cost include expected tuition increase based on the yearly budget, scholarship opportunities, as well as living expenses. Some institutions offer merit scholarships as well as need-based scholarships that will cover some portion of tuition—you typically will not have to do anything additional to apply/qualify for this scholarship, your initial application will be sufficient. Furthermore, check out the Financial Aid & Scholarships section below.

  • Class Dynamics:

    • If you have not, be sure to purchase access to the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR). MSAR provides data that is compiled from AMCAS applications, MCAT exams, and medical schools; thus, it is self-reported data. However, this data is useful in accounting for previously accepted AND matriculating classes cohort dynamics, number of men vs. women, number of African American students, number of non-traditional students, the average age of cohorts, and information on medical, volunteer, and/or research experience of applicants.

      • If you purchase an MSAR subscription, it is good for several other reasons beyond class dynamics. MSAR includes detailed profiles for each MD-granting medical school in the U.S. and Canada. Gives the most up-to-date information on dual degree opportunities, tuition and financial aid information, waitlist data, required and recommended prerequisite coursework, important application dates, and more. This is a great resource to utilize before and after taking the MCAT to assess whether the schools you wish to apply are realistic – but judge using the “accepted students” feature.

  • Other Factors:

    • It is also important to explore the structure of the curriculum, board pass rate, and dual-degree opportunities. In addition to the program overview, the program’s website may also have a student ambassador-run blog or FAQs addressing various topics for prospective students. Questions to consider in evaluating program curriculum:

      • Does the curriculum seem innovative and/or progressive? When was the last time there was a change in curriculum? Is there a mandatory research component built into the curriculum?

      • Do you prefer traditional lectures, online learning, problem-based learning, case studies, or another method? Does this curriculum offer a learning style that works for you?

      • Will you receive letter grades or Honors/P/F?

      • When will you have your first patient interactions as a medical student? (Some schools offer as early as the first or second week of learning. Some schools wait until clinical rotations.)

      • What is the 5-year pass rate for USMLE Step 1 and Step 2?

      • Does this medical school offer various dual-degree opportunities?

        • If this is something you are interested in, for MD/Ph.D. programs you must apply simultaneously. For most other dual-degree opportunities you are allowed to apply/express interest prior to matriculation.

        • There are also dual-degree BS/MD programs. Click here for more information. 

      • Do you prefer to work/study independently or to work with classmates on projects? (Programs aim to distribute learning evenly among both methods, but ultimately utilize one more than the other at various stages in the curriculum.) 

Things to Consider

Tips for Prospective Students

  • Being a Strong Applicant: 

    • MCAT Prep: The AAMC’s MCAT Official Prep Products, are a great study tool—the practice questions are very similar to the actual MCAT as it is created by the testing company. After working through a question, whether getting it correct or incorrect, the AAMC offers you an explanation on each answer choice and for mathematic problems—walks you through step-by-step. I found the online bundle coupled with Kaplan books to be the most effective study materials, as this information is presented concisely. For scholars who are retaking the MCAT, Blueprint (formerly known as NextStep) is catered specifically towards you; however, for first-time test takers blueprint is also a great resource. 

      • Additional resources include: Examkrackers, Princeton Review, and MCAT-prep.

      • Unfortunately, all of the aforementioned preparatory material will cost hundreds of dollars if you are interested in free or low-cost materials, the AAMC does resources available here.

    • While MCAT scores and GPA are important factors, being a well-rounded applicant plays a significant role (volunteer experiences—clinical and non-clinical, extracurricular activities, shadow experiences, professional, and life experiences, in addition to academics).

      • Work on your interpersonal skills as this will help with communicating with patients and with your bedside manner.

    • Letters of Recommendation (LORs): Having STRONG LORs is important—the content of your LOR is equally as important as the title of your reference. Be sure that your references can advocate for you strongly and positively speak to your experiences.

      • Most medical schools will require two science professors to write your letters of recommendation and/or a doctor. If you are a career changer, it is critical for you to form meaningful relationships with your science professors as you will not have these professors for as long as the average hard science major. 

    • Clinical Experience: While having a multitude of previous experience working or volunteering in the clinical setting is STRONGLY recommended, lack thereof does not exclude you as an applicant. Shadowing in various medical disciplines is another option to gain experience, make sure that these are experiences you can confidently speak to. A bonus of shadowing in multiple specialties allows you to confirm what specialties are or are not for you. However, the takeaway here is that interviewers want to see that you have explored the profession to make an informed decision, and you are motivated to pursue a medical degree.

    • Research: This is recommended, however, not required, but something that will boost your application. It is even better if you have presented your research or have your name on a publication, that you can accurately and confidently explain in interviews. Some medical schools have a required bench-top research component as a part of their curriculum; previous research experience will help. Research experience shows your ability to think critically and problem solve. These are skills that a good healthcare provider possesses and will be looked for in an applicant.


  • Enter ALL courses on your transcript EXACTLY as they appear in order of the semester.

    • What happens if you do not?

      • This will increase the processing time of the verification of your application, and timing is CRITICAL when applying to medical school. 

  • The more experiences the better! Break apart experiences, make an exhaustive list of all experiences you have participated in since graduating high school, clinical and non-clinical, volunteer, research, publications, and study abroad opportunities. Even if you do not think these experiences are significant, pick the 13-15 best variety of experiences that highlight who you are as a person.

  • What if I have recently changed or want to change my career path to medicine?

    • Please check out the Non-Traditional Student section below for more information! ​

  • For pre-med advising, application editing, and general application assistance please click here.

Non-Traditional Students

Non-Traditional Students

Medicine was not my first choice, what now?

  • There are numerous programs catered towards the non-traditional student, be it your need for completing additional pre-requisites before matriculation or degree and non-degree-granting programs in which to increase your GPA before applying to medical school. Please see a cumulative list of these programs here.

  • Being a career changer does NOT reduce your chances of obtaining an interview or admission to medical school; however, you need to work ten times as hard to prove to the admissions committee your dedication to medicine. This needs to be conveyed in your application via mastery of the core competencies as defined by the AAMC and through a strong personal statement.

Gap Year

  • If you are taking a gap year or two, whether to retake the exam, retake courses to strengthen your GPA, or just to get a breather – that is perfectly normal! The average age of the matriculating medical student is 24 years old. Be sure to make these years count, get involved in research, continue to shadow, continue to show your commitment to service and medicine, and focus on your why.

Financial Aid &  Scholarships

  • Some programs will pay your full tuition, housing, books, stipend, etcetera, upon your committing to serve in/with a specific patient population. However, be very careful in accepting and committing to one of these scholarship programs as you are contractually obligated to fulfill the terms of service post-graduation and residency completion. If you, at any point, deviate from the contractual agreement you have committed to, you are 100% responsible for immediate payback of all money that has been received by you. ​​

    • Health Professional Scholarship Program – military

      • This scholarship program is offered by most branches of the military. 

      • The U.S. Army can help pay for your advanced medical degree with one of the most comprehensive scholarships available in the health care field — The F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program.

    • National Health Service Corps Scholarship

      • The National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program (NHSC SP) awards scholarships to students pursuing eligible primary care health professions training. In return, scholars commit to providing primary care health services in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).

    • State Department of Public Health scholarship

      • Check your local department of public health for more information in regards to this scholarship option.

    • VA Health Professionals Scholarship Program

      • HPSP awards scholarships to students receiving education/training in a health care services discipline. Awards will be offered on a competitive basis and are exempt from Federal taxation. In exchange for the award, scholarship program participants agree to a service obligation in a VA health care facility.​

  • The College of Medicine’s financial aid office is often the best resource for inquiries about loans, grants, and scholarship programs.

    • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

      • FAFSA will very likely be your primary source of tuition coverage for medical school. Unless a scholarship is granted through the university or you commit to serving with a specific patient population and receive one of the aforementioned scholarships, FAFSA will be your sole source of income and tuition coverage.

Fin Aid & Scholarships
Additional Resources

Additional Resources

  • Black Girl White Coat: a social media initiative aimed at providing motivation, mentorship, scholarship, and representation for aspiring healthcare professionals who identify as a member of a race/ethnic group traditionally underrepresented in healthcare.

  • Chasing Medicine: Offers pre-med advising, application editing, and general application assistance 

  • American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC)

  • American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)

    • While most of this information focuses on allopathic medical education, please know that osteopathic medicine offers a very similar quality of education and patient treatment. 

  • American Medical Association (AMA)

  • American Medical Student Association (AMSA)

  • National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME)

  • National  Medical Association (NMA)

  • Student National Medical Association (SNMA)​

Contributions by: Tyona Golden, MSMS, MD Candidate

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