What do Medical School Admissions Committees look for in an applicant?
- Can the student handle the academic rigors of medical school?
- Why does the student want to be a doctor? Do they want to be in the profession for the “right” reasons and know the dedication the career entails?
- Do they have a diverse set of skills necessary to be a doctor?
How does Penn State Behrend help the student succeed?
There are two major types of practicing physicians. Both are fully licensed to practice medicine in all 50 states. However, they differ in philosophy:
- Doctor of Medicine, M.D.: Traditional physicians and surgeons who practice medicine, and are concerned with promoting, maintaining, or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments including invasive treatments.
- Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, D.O.: Fulfill all the roles of an M.D. within the philosophy of Andrew Taylor Still. Osteopathic physicians use all conventional diagnosis and treatment methods, but are trained to place additional emphasis on the achievement of normal body mechanics as central to maintaining good health.
Both have nearly equivalent expectations for undergraduate preparation.
No medical school specifies an undergraduate major. “Pre-med” majors at other institutions are repackaged biology degrees. All medical school programs require a specified set of prerequisite coursework that is offered at Penn State Behrend. Due to the advanced biology requirement at many medical schools, a biology or biology-related major is often pursued. Prerequisite courses for most medical programs include:
- General Biology: BIOL 110 and BIOL 240W
- Molecular Biology: BIOL 230W
- General Chemistry: CHEM 110/112
- General Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 111/113
- Organic Chemistry: CHEM 210/212
- Organic Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 213
- Biochemistry: CHEM 472 and B M B 402/403
- Anatomy: BIOL 421
- Physiology: BIOL 472/473
- Physics: PHYS 250/251
- Calculus: MATH 140/141
- Statistics: STAT 250
- Psychology: PSYCH 100
- English (3-6 credits): ENGL 15, 202C
- Sociology (3-6 credits): SOC 001
Students interested in the health professions are encouraged to take SC 201: Medical Professions.
The purpose of SC 201 is to:
- Provide students with an overview of various health professions
- Enhance students' understanding of potential careers
- Discuss the academic preparation for specific professions
- Review the application process for admission to health-profession schools
The Health Professions Option of our Bachelor of Science degree in Biology covers all of these prerequisites. However, other biology, chemistry, and physics degree programs can be customized to meet these requirements. At Penn State Behrend, you will have a dedicated, personal Pre-Health Adviser who will guide you through the process!
Please note, the student needs to check the specific requirements of the individual programs for which they are applying.
Benchmarks and Standards
The more rigorous the academic preparation in the sciences, the more prepared students are for advanced coursework in a medical school program.
The student must:
- Demonstrate a consistent and high GPA (mean GPA >3.4)
- Perform well on the MCAT (minimum MCAT score above 50th percentile)
- Apply to multiple schools
- Obtain and record 100+ hours of shadowing/clinical experience in a medical setting
Shadowing and Volunteering
To answer the question of “Why do you want to be a doctor?” a student must do the following:
- Observe a doctor at work for as many hours as you can schedule. Most medical programs are taking a holistic “whole candidate” approach to admissions. Simply having a high GPA and MCAT score is no longer sufficient for acceptance.
- Shadow different doctors that work in the various specializations in the medical profession. Most schools are looking for at least 50-100 hours of shadowing/clinical experience.
- Keep a record of the time you spend in each experience and the type of knowledge you gained from it.
- Make sure at least one letter of recommendation is from a physician whom you observed/worked with.
- Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to show your dedication to helping people! Finding volunteer opportunities will require some research on the student's part. Here are some local options:
- Nursing homes
- School for children with special needs
Opportunities for Leadership and Scholarship
To determine if the candidate has a diverse set of skills necessary to be a doctor, admission committees look for evidence of leadership, involvement in professional organizations, and participation in scholarly activities like research. At Penn State Behrend:
- Students have access to the small-class size of a liberal arts college with the research facilities of a larger university.
- Students have opportunities to conduct research with a faculty mentor who is an active researcher in their field of expertise.
- Many of our students who participate in undergraduate research present their work at local and national conferences.
- Students have access to a vibrant and diverse set of student organizations that offer leadership opportunities. We have the Behrend "Scrubs" Club for students interested in health degrees.
- Other clubs and organizations organize and participate in many philanthropic activities that you can become involved in.
To start your journey to medical school, it is highly recommended that you visit the following links, where you will find guidelines for the application process, statistics on application and acceptance rates, and strategies to become a competitive applicant.
Resource Links for Students
- Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)
- American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS)
- American Association of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)
- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS)
- Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
For other questions, please contact the Pre-Health Committee at [email protected].