Career planning for PreHealth

Find a list of the PreHealth advisors and their specialty areas as well as the drop-in hour schedule.

Explore PreHealth

Explore this guide to help you apply to medical school:

Choosing a Major

Students anticipating medical school admission may choose any major(s) that are of interest to them. However, those interested in admission to MD/PhD programs tend to major in the natural sciences.

Regardless of major, medical schools and other healthcare programs require completion of a series of “pre-med” courses which most often includes coursework in biology, biochemistry chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, mathematics, English, sociology and psychology. It will be necessary to check the course requirements for each of your target schools as the requirements may vary.

Making the decision to apply

Professional programs place the highest importance on an entering student’s ability to complete the curriculum and pursue a professional practice. Successful applicants demonstrate to admissions committees that they have thoroughly investigated their chosen profession and possess the requisite attributes and skills to thrive in med school and in the practice of medicine. The Washington University PreHealth and career coaching teams provide assistance as students evaluate whether or not to pursue a health care profession. The Center for Career Engagement works with students who are exploring and considering any career path.

Admissions perspective

Schools want to admit applicants who will have a high probability of success completing a rigorous program and passing licensing exams. Although specific requirements of schools may vary, most look for these components:

  • Clinical and community service experiences that demonstrate an understanding of the role of a physician, motivation to fulfill the duties and responsibilities and an orientation toward service.
  • Personal attributes that demonstrate the ability to interact with others effectively and apply the core competences for entering medical school –
  • Strong science GPA. It’s recommended that applicant’s GPA is within the middle 50% for at least 8 schools on their application list.
  • Strong MCAT score. It’s recommended that applicant’s score is within or above the middle 50% of at least 8 of schools on their application list.
  • Well written personal statement.
  • Solid letters of recommendation. We recommend that applicants secure 3 letters: 2 science faculty and 1 non-science. Requirements may vary by school. Check the requirements of your State and target schools.
  • Research experience – generally speaking, is not a requirement for med school admittance, however applicants who plan to apply to high-ranking research-oriented schools, should have research experience.

Please keep in mind the evaluation process is holistic. If you have concerns about any aspect of your application, speak with your PreHealth advisor to discuss strategy.

Students should begin building an attractive portfolio early in their college career that includes: genuine community service, relationship building with mentors and professors for future recommendations, strong grades, clinical experiences and meeting with a PreHealth advisor.

GPA and entrance exams

Given the competitive nature of admission to medical school, a strong cumulative and science GPA is important.

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a required entrance exam. MCAT scores are valid for 2-3 years, depending on the school.  Check each of your target school’s requirements including your State Schools. If you are considering multiple gap years, taking the MCAT before April of your Junior year may limit the schools you can apply to without retaking the MCAT.

To prepare for the exam, assess your learning style and past standardized test taking history and choose a study plan that will be most effective for you. Options include test prep courses, sample tests, practice exams, books, etc. Check out the AAMC How to Create a Study Plan for the MCAT® Exam Booklet.

Letters of recommendation

Compelling letters of recommendation [LINK] are a cornerstone of your application portfolio. Recommendations should be from someone who really knows your caliber of work and capabilities, as well as your personality. Many programs will insist that two of your letters be from science faculty. A few may even require that your have a letter from a health care practitioner. Be aware of the requirements for your target schools.

Begin developing relationships with professors, supervisors and mentors early in your college career. The PreHealth team offers various workshops throughout the year to advise you on how to map out a strategy for how you will seed the groundwork for securing excellent letters.

Personal statements

The personal statement is a means of giving your admissions reviewers a real picture of you. Use this space to communicate a strong narrative of what is important to you and how that relates to your career goals.

Be sure to convey the following:

  • Why do you want to become a physician?
  • What concrete experiences are central to your motivation and have confirmed that medicine is for you?
  • What traits/characteristics do you possess that would make you a good physician and give you a sense of the type of physician you would be?
  • You have made an informed decision because you have successfully gone through a process of careful reflection and self-examination. Don’t only describe your experiences, elaborate by sharing your takeaways and what you learned.
  • 20% description; 80% reflection.

The Writing Center reviews drafts of personal statements. Every fall, they offer Medical School Personal Statement Workshops also. PreHealth advisors and career coaches can review drafts as well.

Deciding where to apply

Choosing a list of schools to apply to is a personal decision. To assist you in the decision making process:

  • Talk to current med students and recent grads.
  • Read content on medical schools’ websites and social media.
  • Purchase a subscription to the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) a year before you apply. MSAR is an online database that enables you to browse, search, sort, and compare information about U.S. and Canadian medical schools and more. 1- and 2-year subscriptions are available. See information in the Application and Fee Assistance section about MSAR fee discounts for qualifying applicants.

Prioritize your needs and consider factors that are important to you and help you assess fit. Some considerations might include:

  • Mission and values
  • Location
  • Class size
  • Curriculum and pedagogy
  • School culture
  • Community service
  • Diversity
  • Research
  • Study abroad/exchange programs
  • Patient populations
  • Support Services
  • Cost/aid
  • Combined degree offerings

My prehealth system and strategy meeting

At least a year before you plan to apply, you should set up a MyPrehealth account, and enroll in the noncredit Canvas course, A Reflective Guide for Prehealth Students. Upon completion of this course, you will be assigned a prehealth advisor.  At least six months before application, enroll in the noncredit Canvas course, Getting Ready to Apply.  Complete this course before you schedule a MyPrehealth strategy meeting with  your assigned prehealth advisor (spring semester) and submit required materials to your account at least one week prior to the meeting. You must complete a strategy meeting by April 1 so it should be scheduled well in advance of this date.

The purpose of this process is for you to self-assess, discuss your readiness to apply with your prehealth advisor and ensure you are putting your best food forward. If you opt out of our process, we will not be able to offer our support in the form of a cover letter (institutional letter of endorsement).  You will still be eligible for premed advising. To learn more, visit the prehealth website.

Primary application and fee assistance

Most U.S. medical schools use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) as the primary application process service for their first-year entering classes.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) offers some fee assistance programs from qualifying applicants, which may provide some financial assistance with MCAT prep materials and registration fees, MSAR subscriptions and AMCAS fees. We recommend that you apply within the first 2 weeks of June. There is a correlation between early application and acceptance rates.

Secondary application and Casper tests

After medical schools receive your verified AMCAS primary application, many will invite you to complete their supplemental (secondary) application, which is a set of 2-5 essay prompts. We strongly recommend that you complete this application within two weeks of being invited to do unless the school has an earlier deadline.

Also, many will require applicants to take the Casper test, which is an online, open-response situational judgment test that evaluates aspects of applicants’ social intelligence and professionalism.

The admissions interview

An essential phase in the application process is a successful interview. There are different kinds of interview formats, such as video, in-person, one-on-one, group (a panel of interviewers or interviewees) and multiple mini interviews (MMIs). The Center for Career Engagement offers individualized med school mock interviews for traditional interviews and MMI’s as well as group practice sessions. Interview resources can be found on the PreHealth and AAMC websites.