Tips for Medical School Applicants

downloadable pdf


If you aspire to be a physician, this fact sheet will give you some background information about the requirements you must fulfill to apply to medical school, and how you can meet those requirements at Elmira College.

Admissions requirements

Most allopathic or osteopathic medical schools have the same general requirements for admission.

Pre-requisite courses – you must take these courses

Freshman Composition/Communications

Biological Concepts with labs (major’s level)

General Chemistry with labs (major’s level)

Organic Chemistry with labs

Physics with labs

Calculus (as a pre-requisite for physics)


Other courses that our alumni have found to be extremely helpful:


Animal Physiology                                   


Molecular Biology

Other courses that will help with the MCAT as well as Medical School:



You may major in anything, as long as the pre-requisite courses are taken.  Most applicants choose a science major because there are quite a few science pre-requisites and most students have a strong interest in science, although having a major in another area may get you a second look, as it is a bit unusual.  Successful applicants have a wide variety of majors, so choose a major you are truly interested in rather than one that you think will look good on an application.


Test scores and GPA

The exam that medical schools require is the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test), taken spring of junior year.  See for details about this exam.  It has four sub-sections that examine skills in  1) biological and biochemical foundations of living systems  2) chemical and physical foundations of biological systems  3)  psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior, and  4)  critical analysis and reasoning skills.  It has been revised for students taking it in 2015, so the scores here refer to the current version.  As an example of the kind of score you should strive for, the national average MCAT score for recent successful applicants to medical school was 31.  There is a range of scores for successful applicants, and the average score is not the only factor that is considered.

The GPA (grade point average) that is typical for a successful applicant is generally 3.4 or higher.  The overall recent median was around a 3.7  GPA.

Development of personal attributes

While a high degree of academic success is necessary, it is not sufficient for admission to medical school.  For example, some students with extremely high academic strengths, such as a 4.0 GPA and 40 on the MCAT, may not gain admission.  Dedication to duty, altruism, interpersonal skills, and integrity are all part of developing what you need for a strong physician-patient relationship.


Cultivating outside interests and activities is critical.  It is less critical what you spend your time doing, but much more critical that you show passion for something.  Length of time invested, depth of the experience, and lessons learned are three key criteria for evaluating outside activities.  For example, one week of shadowing experience with a surgeon will be less developmentally useful than reading to children in a daycare once a week for 4 years.  Your passion does not have to be science-related but should be something you care about deeply.  Active involvement versus passive resume-building is always more instructive for your own growth and learning as well as others with whom you have interacted.


Experience in a health care setting

Successful applicants have experience in some type of health care setting.  Experience may include assisting or shadowing, paid or volunteer work.  Some students become certified nursing assistants, some become EMT’s, some spend summers vaccinating children in Central America, some volunteer at their local nursing home, public health clinic, or community hospital.  As you can see, a wide variety of experiences can be useful.  You need to explore the various professions and be educated about your decision to become a doctor versus another member of the health care team.  At Elmira College, this requirement can be met through community service or the internship experience, although you are advised to seek out more than this minimum amount of experience.  Be aware that most colleges of osteopathic medicine ask for a letter of recommendation from a DO.  Consider this when choosing shadowing experiences.

Research experience

While not a requirement at every medical school, research can give you an academic edge.  Some colleges do factor research experience into their admissions formulas to a greater extent than others.  Regardless, research can give you insight into how science works outside the classroom setting.  In addition, your professors can get to know you better and thus be able to write meaningful letters of recommendation.  If you are considering an MD/PhD degree, then undergraduate research becomes more critical.  Students can conduct research at Elmira College during the academic year or can apply for the summer undergraduate research program.  Many deadlines across the country for research internships close in early February.


Pre-health professions advising ANGEL page

Send an email to Dr. Gillie, pre-health advisor at, and she will enroll you in this group if you are an Elmira College student.  Information and handouts for the many health professions are found on ANGEL.  Schedule an appointment to discuss pre-health advising for your particular interests.  Do this during the first term to get a good start.

The Association of American Medical Colleges


This association has a central distribution, collection, and processing service for applications to medical colleges.  Many colleges require that you use this service when you apply.  There is a vast amount of information for students interested in medicine.


The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine

This is the central distribution, collection and processing service for applications to osteopathic medical colleges.  Please check out their student profile page.


Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences Pizza Lunches and premed Speaker Series

Attend as many presentations as you can.  Important information that can help with the application process will be shared at pizza lunches.  These sessions also educate you about various health care professionals you will be working with some day. 

Special Programs 

Elmira College has articulation or affiliation agreements with several professional schools for entry into health care professions.  Check the prehealth website at for an updated list of articulations.

For the MD, we have an articulation with SUNY Upstate for early admission to medical school whereby we can recommend up to 2 freshmen per year.

For the DO, we have an articulation with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine for early admission whereby we can recommend up to 5 freshmen/sophomores per year.  We also have an early admission program for high school seniors with LECOM.

Common Questions

Why is getting into medical school so competitive?

There are often well over 45,000 applicants for approximately 19,500 positions.  Even well-qualified students can be turned away.  MCAT scores, grades, the letter of recommendation, the application essay, personal attributes, relevant experience, and the interview are all weighed in making the final decision.


Must I be a resident of a particular state to go to a public medical school there?


The answer is almost always a yes.  Most schools have a very few slots for non-residents, and competition is fierce, as well as having higher tuition for non-residents. There are some exchange programs for states that do not have a public medical school.  Always check the specific schools you are interested in.  Private schools have a wider geographic base, but are more expensive.  Check their scholarship programs, if any.


How do I choose a medical school?


Borrow a copy of the MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) from Dr. Gillie.  You could purchase your own through the AAMC.  Research their admissions data to see if your profile fits within their range of applicants.  Find out what their mission is and if it fits your own goals and aspirations for medicine.  For example, some are dedicated to serving rural and underserved populations, others have a mission to serve a particular geographic region, others have a research-focused mission.  Be aware that very few have tours, unlike undergraduate school.


How do I succeed on the MCAT?


Fully invest yourself in learning all the prerequisite coursework, and any additional courses that are relevant.  Set aside 6 months to really study for it.  Read, read, read (and not just science).  Take practice exams under test conditions - this is critical!  Borrow a copy of “The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam” from Dr. Gillie.  You can purchase your own through the AAMC.  You do not have to pay for a prep course, if you are motivated and disciplined to study regularly on your own. Some students who need the extra motivation and structure chose to use a prep course, although they are expensive.  Choose what best works for you and your learning style.