Everyone takes a different path to medical school, but there is a general guideline to follow to meet medical school requirements. Here, I wish to give you an outline of how to go from high school to medical school and to explain common terms that will surely soon become part of your lingo if they aren’t already.
1. Get in to college. An undergraduate degree is a requirement for medical schools in the United States. Ideally, you should take the ACT or SAT by the end of your junior year or the beginning of your senior year of high school. These are tests that are required to get into undergraduate programs. Which one you need to take is dependent on the school. After taking this test, you will be able to apply in the fall of your senior year. Your high school advisor is a great resource for learning more about the process of applying to college.
- ACT website: http://www.actstudent.org/
- SAT website: http://sat.collegeboard.org/home
- College planning website: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/?navid=bf-cp
2. Go to college. After you are accepted to a school and you graduate from high school, the real fun begins – college! As someone planning on going to medical school, you are defined as a pre-medical student. Pre-medical, or pre-med, refers to a particular track offered by colleges that prepares students for medical school including pre-med coursework, volunteer activities, clinical experience, research, and the application process. Most colleges do not have pre-med as an option for a major or minor. Instead you may pick a major in any field of study. There is no certain major more fitting than others as you can read about in my post: Undergraduate Curriculum.
- A general pre-medical description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-medical
- A GREAT resource for pre-medical students: http://www.medicalschoolhq.net/premed/
3. Prepare to apply to Medical School: Once you’ve completed the undergraduate course requirements, volunteered/shadowed in a hospital, and maybe done medical research, you need to take the MCAT. MCAT stands for the Medical College Admission Test, which you should take before you apply; therefore, during or before the spring of your junior year of college if you intend to go straight from undergrad to medical school. It is a standardized test offered by the Association of American Medical Colleges. Over the next few years, this test is transforming from three sections pertaining to physical sciences, biological sciences, and verbal reasoning with a writing section to include a natural/behavioral sciences section including psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior, as well as the new Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills sections. The writing section is also disappearing.
- Medical College Admission Test website: https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/
4. Actually apply to medical school! When you feel that you will be a competitive applicant for medical school, you apply via the American Medical College Application System, AMCAS for short. The medical schools in Texas have their own system called the Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service, TMDSAS for short. The application becomes available in May each year with submission first available in early June. The earlier you apply, the better. After submitting your primary application through either AMCAS or TMDSAS, you will likely receive secondary applications from each school to which you apply. After submitting these applications in a timely manner, you may begin to receive interview invitations, which are required for acceptance to a program.
- American Medical College Application Service website: https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/amcas/
- Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service website: https://www.utsystem.edu/tmdsas/
5. If you don’t get in or don’t feel you’re competitive enough to apply to start right after undergrad, there are options to help you strengthen your application. One of these is a post-baccalaureate program, post bacc for short. If you would like to know more about these kinds of programs, there is a wonderful post on goingtomedschool.com which you can find here: http://www.goingtomedschool.com/2013/06/17/what-is-a-premed-postbac-program/.
Well, that’s the general sequence. I hope that I helped you understand a little bit more about the process of getting to medical school. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask me through my contact form, on my twitter at @MDPhDToBe, or in the comments below. Best of luck!