Medical school admission committees consider a number of factors when reviewing candidates for their program.
Factors differ by school but will probably include academic credentials, Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) scores, a personal interview, and letters of evaluation as well as demonstrated knowledge of and commitment to the profession and perhaps knowledge of the school and its program. Some schools interview only those applicants meeting certain initial requirements such as residency, grade point average (GPA), and MCAT standards.
The Indiana University School of Medicine states: "Students are offered places in the class on the basis of scholarship, character, personality, references, performance on the Medical College Admission Test, and personal interview."
Your Home-State School
Typically, state-supported schools show a preference to residents of their state but often leave a certain number of spots for nonresidents. The IU School of Medicine typically offers places to 40 or more nonresidents per year. Ball State students with good academic records are encouraged to apply.
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) Score
The Medical College Admission Test is a standardized test that measures aptitude and achievement in science and other areas related to the study of medicine. We strongly suggest that you review the MCAT Student Manual (published by the corporation that gives the test) as early as your sophomore year in order to plan a thorough review of materials encompassed by the test. Memorization of certain areas is not enough to prepare for this test.
Understanding what skills the test measures might influence the way you study in your course work. For instance, many students assume that science skills are tested but are not aware that reading comprehension and writing skills are tested. The test has four sections: verbal reasoning, physical sciences, writing samples, and biological sciences.
The verbal reasoning section of the test measures your ability to "...understand, evaluate, and apply information and requirements found in prose texts." If your SAT verbal score showed a possible weakness in this area, you should pay special attention to preparing for the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT by taking reading courses, for instance.
Within the science portion, the test measures your ability to think critically and analytically, employing science concepts.
You should take the MCAT in the spring prior to the year you apply to medical school. For example, if you apply for the entering class of 2010, you should take the MCAT by June 2009, and repeat it in the fall if necessary. We suggest that the last time you should take the test, in time to apply for the following year, is the late summer of your senior year.
Academic evaluations indicate knowledge of your abilities in comparison to other students and can be extremely important.
You should start asking faculty about their willingness to write letters of evaluation in your sophomore and junior years at the conclusion of a course, rather than sometime later when the professor may not as accurately recall your performance. If you have had particularly noteworthy achievements in a freshman class, these too may provide a valuable evaluation.
We strongly encourage you to enroll in smaller size or seminar-type classes in which you work closely with your professors. Make yourself known to instructors if they have time to talk during office hours. Taking more than one small class from a professor may be helpful. A small upper-level class in which you have demonstrated exemplary work may be ideal in terms of an evaluation request. For more information see your advisor.
Community and Research Involvement
In addition to high levels of academic achievement, medical schools look for many traits in applicants, including motivation, evidence of humanism, responsibility, maturity, leadership, breadth of interests, and ability to manage multiple tasks.
You may develop these attributes in activities beyond the classroom. We encourage you to participate actively but not to substitute activities for academic excellence. Moreover, a list of organization memberships means little to experienced committees. A committee will want to know what you contributed to organizations and activities.
Ball State has many volunteer activities. For more information contact the Student Volunteer Services office.
Community activities that relate to social concerns or health issues, such as adult day care centers, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Community Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, hospice, and many more, may be of particular interest if you are pursuing a health care profession. Undergraduate research and campus activities may also yield opportunities for service and leadership.
When you apply to medical school, you will be asked about achievements during your undergraduate years related to accomplishments inside and outside the classroom. Admission committees will expect you to talk about more than your grade point average, your social life, and the television schedule.
How to Apply to Medical School
Applying to medical school can seem confusing. It is by far the most complex admission process of all professional schools. Below is an outline of events that describes this admission process from when you take the MCAT to medical school acceptance.
The application process takes approximately 12 to 15 months from the time you take the MCAT to the time you enter medical school in the fall of the next year.
1. Prepare to take the MCAT
You should begin preparing for the MCAT no later than the fall of your junior year.
- Be prepared. Take the exam once you've completed the required chemistry, biology, and physics courses.
- Take practice tests to learn the mechanics of the exam.
- Plan ahead. It is a difficult, long exam. Some sophomores have done well while some have to sit out for a year (or possibly finish a second major) during their application year. Even as a junior, taking the exam for the first time in August or September will delay your application in that year's cycle.
2. Apply online for a test date
Check the MCAT registration Web site for the most current registration and test dates and locations.
3. Take the MCAT exam
Plan to take the MCAT in spring of your junior year or summer/fall of your senior year or on an available test date after you've completed all courses needed to prepare for the test. If you plan to apply for early admission you will have to take the MCAT before you submit of your application, i.e. the previous spring, winter or fall.
4. Write your personal essay
You should write your personal essay the spring semester of your junior year. Be sure your essay explains who you are and portrays you as a real human being who is capable, interesting, and caring. Reviewing sample letters is a great way to get an idea of what to write.
5. Complete and submit application (including evaluations/recommendations and supplemental applications) the summer between junior and senior year but no later than early fall of senior year.
- Carefully and thoughtfully complete the application of the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), a clearinghouse that forwards your application to all participating schools that you have indicated you would like to apply.
- A few schools (for example, most medical schools in Texas) do not participate in AMCAS, so you must apply separately to those schools on their application forms.
- The number of schools to which you apply will depend on your budget for application fees, your MCAT scores, and your home state. Consult with the pre-medical advisor for individual guidance about this.
- Submit online to AMCAS.
6. Early admission
You can apply for early admission to one medical school. You submit your application very early (before August 1). Some schools, including Indiana University, have minimum requirements that become more limiting every year.
After you complete and submit a supplementary application and an interview, you should hear from the admission committee about the status of your application by October. If you are not accepted in October, you will be considered for regular admission at that school, but it would also be wise to apply to a few additional schools at that time.
7. Regular admission
If any of the schools that you indicated interest in on your AMCAS form are interested in you as an applicant (your MCAT scores must have arrived via AMCAS for schools to make this decision), they will send you a supplementary application and may arrange a time for an interview appointment for you with the admission committee.
Supplementary applications vary from school to school in length, complexity, and expense. Some require additional essays; all request that your recommendation letters be sent. Some have forms for these, others do not.
You will have to ask your professors individually to write letters of recommendation for you. The professor writing the recommendation will need to send the letter separately close to when you will submit your supplementary application. When you ask a professor for a recommendation, be sure to describe yourself and your desire to go to medical school to the professor, so he or she can have an idea of you as a student, a citizen, and a person. Don't be shy. This will help the professor speak about you from knowledge. It is helpful to provide your professors with a brief resume and a copy of your AMCAS application essay.
8. Go to interview
You will attend an interview in the fall or winter or spring of your application year.
- You must dress professionally.
- Your application file with the medical school where you will interview should be complete at the time of the interview.
- You may hear from the medical school within one month of your interview that you have been accepted for the following fall term, but you may not hear for several months. If you apply late in the application year, your chances for rapid acceptance are fewer, and you may be placed on an alternate admittance list and may not hear until late May or June about your application.
For more information about the admissions requirements of other medical schools and other helpful information, visit the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Web site. AAMC represents the 125 accredited U.S. M.D. granting medical schools and the 17 accredited Canadian medical schools. For information about osteopathic medicine and schools, visit the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.