In the United States, being a doctor has always been an enviable, high-paying career. They are widely considered as the pinnacle of knowledge and status. However, the road toward this coveted career is long and arduous. Not only does it require a long and expensive education, but aspiring doctors would have to undergo seemingly endless intensive training and testing. They would have to pass the Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and complete several years of residency in a hospital, which is only the tip of the iceberg!
Can international students attend medical schools in the US?
Despite the longer and more competitive process, US medical schools are sought after by many international students. However, not all schools can enroll them. For private institutions that do enroll international students, the tuition fees will be higher by comparison.
The US medical school admissions process differs from China’s in that students can only apply once they finish their bachelor’s degree. There are no restrictions on which undergraduate program a student can take so long as they complete the required pre-medical courses and meet the requirements.
According to the latest statistics from AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), 44 of the 157 medical schools in the United States enroll international students. We have listed 8 "high-profile" medical schools that international students can apply for below:
It may seem like that international students have many choices, but each school has its own specific requirements that may complicate the application process. For example, Boston University requires applicants to complete their pre-med courses in universities within the United States or Canada. As such, if students want to go to medical school in the U.S., they need to start planning at the undergraduate stage.
California and Massachusetts are popular among international students because these states have excellent medical school resources. In addition to the above-mentioned Boston University and Harvard Medical School, the following medical schools also accept applications from international students:
Stanford University School of Medicine
Tufts University School of Medicine
UC Davis School of Medicine
UCLA - David Geffen School of Medicine
How competitive are medical school applications?
Medical school applications are highly competitive because of the limited number of slots per residency program. Therefore, the American Medical Council strictly controls the number of students admitted to medical schools and the number of doctors put on the market each year.
If we look at the admission guidelines for Harvard Medical School, we get a glimpse of how demanding the application process can be. They do not just look at one’s academic achievements but also their integrity, maturity, ability to care for others, and leadership potential.
Aside from the basic requirements of a high GPA, MCAT scores, supplementary essays, recommendation letters, and a list of extracurricular activities, applicants must preferably have relevant work, volunteer, and research experience in the medical field.
Each applicant is required to submit at least 3 and at most 6 recommendation letters. If there is a research supervisor, they can exceed the limit. This requirement is trickier than one might think. If a student’s professors are not impressed by their performance, they will have difficulty finding someone to provide reference.
Another important factor is the MCAT score. The highest score a person can get on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is 528 points.If you can get 511 points or more, it is considered a good score. However, only less than 20% of the candidates have been able to reach 510 points or more, and less than 10% can reach 515 points or above. Looking at the average MCAT scores at the Top 10 Medical Schools by US News (before all medical schools jointly withdraw from the ranking), we can see that the level of competition can be quite daunting.
What to study in College to get into Med School?
Although US medical schools do not have requirements for undergraduate majors, they still have strict requirements for curriculum.
For example, for Harvard Medical School, applicants need to complete six courses during their undergraduate period. In addition to mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics, students must also complete writing courses and are encouraged to undertake courses in behavioral sciences, such as psychology, sociology, etc.
In a study conducted by Zippia, a platform that specializes in career planning and consulting services, they analyzed the resumes of about 7.5 million doctors and determined the top 10 undergraduate majors for doctors.
Top 10 Undergraduate Majors for Doctors
Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology
Not surprisingly, most people who became doctors chose to study biology during their undergraduate. However, when it comes to majors with the highest acceptance rate to medical schools, biology majors only rank fifth.
Undergraduate Majors Ranked by Acceptance Rate in Medical School Applications
As can be seen from the figure above, among all medical school applicants, those from biology-related majors account for as much as 40%! But their admission rate is lower than that of those who majored in the humanities and social sciences.
If you're thinking about applying to med school in the future, consider doing a major that you enjoy now. Who knows? you might find something you like even more. Even at Harvard, one-third to two-thirds of pre-med students give up the idea of pursuing a medical career before graduation.