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Is It Hard to Get Into Medical School?

Is It Hard to Get Into Medical School?
Rebecca Safier
Rebecca SafierUpdated January 4, 2023
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Getting into medical school is notoriously difficult, and it’s becoming even more competitive. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), over two dozen medical schools reported a 25% increase in applicants in late 2020 from the previous year. That’s more than eight times the typical year-over-year growth of 3%. Medical school admissions rates now average just 5.5%, and some are even lower. That said, certain medical schools are easier to get into than others, and applying with a strong transcript and high MCAT scores can boost your chances. If you’re wondering, how hard is it to get into medical school, read on for a closer look at today’s admissions rates plus information that might help you get accepted. 

Applying for Medical School

Admission to medical school is based on a number of factors, including your GPA, transcript, MCAT scores, essays, and interviews. The higher your GPA, the greater your chances of being accepted. While only 30% of applicants with a GPA between 3.4 and 3.6 get accepted into medical school, that number rises to 47% for applicants with a GPA between 3.6 and 3.8. For applicants with a GPA of 3.8 or higher, the number jumps to 66%. While you may have applied to about six colleges for your undergraduate study, the advice for applying to medical school is to spread a much wider net. The average medical school student applies to 16 schools, and some experts recommend applying to 30 programs or more to help improve your chances of getting into one of them 

When Should I Apply to Medical School?

Many medical school students go directly from undergraduate college into medical school. The timeline for applying will vary depending on whether you’re applying by early decision (ED) or regular decision.Early decision deadlines often fall on August 1, so you’ll be applying before the summer of your senior year as an undergraduate. That means you’ll need to have written your essays, collected your recommendation letters, and gotten your MCAT scores by that date. When you apply by early decision, you’re agreeing to attend a school if you gain admission. You can typically apply to just one single medical school by ED. Regular admission doesn’t have these restrictions. Regular decision deadlines often fall between September and December. However, some schools offer rolling admissions, so the earlier you can apply, the better. Many prospective medical school students apply in the spring of their junior year of college.Some medical schools also offer early assurance programs. These will give you early admission to a program without necessarily requiring MCAT scores, and may ask you to apply as early as your sophomore year of college.  


Medical school has been getting more competitive as more students apply. According to the AAMC, the total number of medical school applicants grew from 48,014 to 55,118 between the 2013-14 and 2022-23 academic years, which is an increase of almost 15%. In 2013-14, a total of 20,055 applicants matriculated, or 42% of all who applied. In 2022-23 however, 22,712 applicants matriculated. While that’s a larger number, it’s a smaller percentage of all applicants at 41%. Even though more students are applying to medical school, the number of available spots hasn’t necessarily increased. That leads to more competition. 

Easiest and Hardest Medical Schools to Get Into

Admissions rates vary widely among medical schools, which is why it’s a good idea to apply to 15 or more. Here are some of the most selective — and hardest to get into — medical schools in the country: 
SchoolAdmission Rate 
Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine0.5%
New York University (Grossman)1.1% 
University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences Pritzker School of Medicine1.4% 
Duke University School of Medicine1.6% 
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine 1.6%
Yale School of Medicine1.9%
And here are some schools with far less competitive admissions rates: 
SchoolAdmission Rate 
University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences28% 
University of Massachusetts Medical School23%
University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine20%
LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport 20%
University of Nevada Reno School of Medicine12%
Recommended: 7 Tuition-Free Medical Schools

Medical School Requirements

Medical school requirements vary by school and program, but generally, you’ll need a strong GPA and MCAT scores to compete with all the other applicants. 


Most experts recommend a minimum GPA of 3.5 when applying to medical school. Some schools will be significantly more competitive. If you’re wondering how hard it is to get into Harvard Medical School, for example, the average GPA is quite high — among the class of 2025, it was a 3.9. In comparison, at the T.H. Chan School of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts (UMass), the average GPA is 3.76. 

MCAT Scores

MCAT scores range between 472 and 528, with 501.5 marking the 50th percentile. According to the AAMC, the average MCAT score for applicants for the 2021-22 entering class was 505.9. The average score among matriculants was 511.9. Medical schools often share the average GPA and MCAT scores of students in their entering class. At Harvard Medical School, the average MCAT score among students was 519.46. At UMass, it was 515, or the 88th percentile. 

Medical School Application

Your medical school application isn’t solely based on grades and test scores. You’ll also need to provide a personal statement, letters of recommendation, your transcript, and information about meaningful experiences, including any research, extracurricular activities, or clinical work you’ve done. Medical schools often review your information and invite selected applicants to submit a secondary application. This application may ask you to write essays on a variety of topics. You might be asked about your greatest academic achievement or roles in which you’ve demonstrated leadership, for instance. Your essays and recommendation letters are a way for admissions committees to get to know you outside of your GPA and MCAT scores. Spend time writing thoughtful responses and gathering excellent reference letters. Those things can go a long way toward helping you stand out from the other applicants. It’s also essential to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to put yourself in the running for federal financial aid, including FAFSA grants. You might also explore types of student loan forgiveness programs for healthcare professionals, including medical school loan forgiveness programs, to see your options after graduation. 

Common Medical School Application Mistakes

Given how competitive it is these days to get into medical school, it’s important to ensure you’re not making any mistakes that could sink your chances of admission. Here are some common missteps to avoid: 
  • Not applying to enough schools. Experts recommend applying to a minimum of 15 medical schools. Some even suggest applying to as many as 30 schools to boost your chances of getting into one of them. 
  • Applying to the wrong schools. Do your research to make sure you’re applying to programs that align with your interest and goals. Check out a school’s average GPA and MCAT scores of accepted students to ensure that it lines up with your credentials. Finally, consider how much medical school costs to check that the programs make financial sense for you. 
  • Rushing through your essays. Your essays are a chance for admissions committees to get to know you. Spend enough time writing and revising them to help your application stand out from the rest. 
  • Sending generic recommendation letters. Reference letters play an important role in your application, so do whatever you can to get great ones. Speak to the people writing recommendation letters for you about your goals and experiences to ensure they provide lots of personalized details in their letter. 
  • Not having enough hands-on experience. Volunteer work, community service, internships, research projects, and clinical work can all help boost your chances. 
  • Not preparing for interviews. Many medical schools hold interviews with prospective graduates. By preparing your answers to common interview questions beforehand, you can help make sure yours goes well. 
Recommended: Guide to Scholarships for Medical School

Increasing Your Chances of Getting Into Med School

Applying to 15 or more schools is one way to increase your chances of getting into medical school. You’ll need to start the process early to make sure you’re taking the required pre-med classes for the programs you’re interested in. Study hard for the MCAT, and leave yourself enough time to take it more than once if you need to improve your scores. Do your research on programs and their admissions requirements to find ones that would be a good fit. Devote plenty of time to writing your essays and collecting stellar recommendation letters to help yourself stand out from the pack. Gaining hands-on, practical experience through internships or volunteer work can also increase your chances of getting into medical school. If you get accepted to more than one medical school, compare costs to see which one makes sense for you financially. The average student loan debt in the U.S. is $1.7 trillion, an amount that’s owed collectively by about 45 million Americans. Doctors, individually, have quite a bit of student debt. In fact, the average student loan debt for doctors is over $241,000. Finding an affordable program could help you minimize the debt you’ll owe. Recommended: How Much Student Loan Debt is Too Much?

The Takeaway

More students are now applying to medical school than they were in previous years. Schools aren’t necessarily opening up more spots, however, so more applicants means increased competition for admission. Strong grades and a high MCAT score will raise your chances of acceptance, as will applying to multiple programs that appear to be a good fit with your academic credentials, interests, and goals. While there’s no guarantee of admission into medical school, you can improve your odds by researching what medical schools are looking for and preparing your application materials accordingly. 

3 Student Loan Tips

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Frequently Asked Questions

What GPA do you need to get into a med school?
What's the easiest medical school to get into?
How much harder is it to get into medical school now?
Photo credit: iStock/Roman Valiev

About the Author

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier has nearly a decade of experience writing about personal finance. Formerly a senior writer with LendingTree and Student Loan Hero, she specializes in student loans, financial aid, and personal loans. She is certified as a student loan counselor with the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC).
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