The medical field is one of the most competitive professional domains in the world. Medical aspirants far exceed the total number of medical seats or colleges, even in developed nations like the USA and Canada.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average acceptance rate of students into medical colleges in the US is around 43%. Another AAMC report suggests a 17% increase in the number of applicants in 2020 without a matching increase in the number of seats.
The list of medical school requirements is quite stringent and extensive for most renowned medical colleges.
Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the common medical school course requirements beforehand so that you can enhance your applicant profile.
What are the requirements for medical schools in the US and Caribbean?
While the admission criteria can differ among schools, here are some common medical school admission requirements.
1. Undergraduate degree in a relevant major
Doctor of Medicine or MD degree is a post-graduate program, therefore, an undergraduate or bachelor’s degree is typically required to apply. Your undergraduate major can be an important factor in your medical school application. While some schools prioritize students with relevant majors in biology or pre-medicine, others consider students with non-science degrees.
2. An acceptable GPA score in an undergraduate degree
Your GPA score is a significant factor for medical school acceptance. Many medical schools have minimum standards for GPA scores to ensure that their applicants have established academic skills.
A poor GPA can negatively affect your chances of getting into a good school even if you have exemplary pre-medical experience.
According to AAMC data, the average qualifying undergraduate GPA score for medical applicants in the US was 3.75 in 2019.
3. Pre-requisite courses
Medical school curriculums generally include a large number of medical and biological subjects that are covered in-depth. Therefore, students are expected to have preliminary knowledge in at least some of the subjects.
All medical school admission criteria include prerequisite coursework requirements which can differ among medical schools. Here are the most common med school prerequisites:
- One year of general biology
- One year of inorganic chemistry
- One year of organic chemistry
- One year of English
4. Good MCAT score
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized medical school entrance examination conducted by the AAMC. The exam evaluates your knowledge of medicine as well as your problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
According to MCAT statistics released by AAMC in 2018, the median MCAT score for accepted medical applicants was around 512.
5. Previous research experience
While it is possible to get accepted into a US medical school without a research background, your acceptance probability increases when you can demonstrate research experience.
You should be able to demonstrate that your previous research has yielded significant results, and that you can apply what you learned throughout medical school.
6. Clinical and volunteer experience
Previous clinical and volunteer experience can help demonstrate that you have a good knowledge base and are committed to learning and service within the community.
Most colleges require at least 50 hours of clinical experience and relevant volunteer work, including shadowing, educating underserved communities, medical mission trips, etc..
7. Letters of recommendation
Letters of recommendation from important people are another mighty bow in your quiver that can dramatically improve your chances of acceptance. These letters act as a validation of your skills and your character for the selection committee from reputable sources.
It is advisable to include at least two letters of recommendation with your medical school application, with one ideally from a medical doctor.
8. TOEFL or IELTS score
Most reputed medical schools in the US and the Caribbean use English as the medium of instruction. Therefore, international students must prove that they would be able to follow the lectures in English, especially if they come from other language backgrounds.
Most Caribbean schools accept a valid English language proficiency exam score like TOEFL or IELTS.
9. A valid CASPer score
Apart from medical expertise, a good doctor is also expected to demonstrate kindness, empathy and motivation towards their patients. Therefore, many medical schools have begun to assess the presence of these skills in their applicants through a test called CASPer.
CASPer stands for Computer Based Sampling of Personal Characteristics. The test is an online situational judgment test used to assess different personal attributes like communication, empathy and ethics. Medical colleges use CASPer to determine if an applicant can be called for an in-person interview.
What kind of skills do medical schools expect from their candidates?
Most medical schools also expect applicants to have relevant skills which can help them sustain a hectic work life in medical college. The AAMC have identified the following 15 competencies or skills that should be present in all medical school aspirants.
The skills are usually divided into four categories—interpersonal, intrapersonal, science, and thinking and reasoning.
- Service orientation
- Social skills
- Cultural competence
- Oral communication skills
- Ethical responsibility
- Resilience and adaptability
- Reliability and dependability
- Capacity for continuous improvement
- Written communication skills
- Spirit of scientific inquiry
- Quantitative reasoning
- Critical thinking
- Applied knowledge of human behavior
- Comprehensive knowledge of different living systems
A comprehensive medical school curriculum can help you in honing these skills further along with your medical expertise. Practical-based MD programs with low student-to-teacher ratios can provide additional opportunities to develop your medical knowledge.
You should include reputed medical schools in the Caribbean in your consideration list since they often offer a more affordable education. Good Caribbean medical colleges are also known to have similar academic standards as the U.S and Canada.
The Saba University School of Medicine, located on Saba Island in the Caribbean, can be an ideal choice. The school offers a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio that promotes an enhanced learning experience and personalized attention.
Additionally, Saba University School of Medicine is renowned for its impressive USMLE First-time Pass Rate of 99% between 2015 and 2020. Past placement data also reports that 94% of Saba graduates landed residencies with prestigious hospitals in the US from 2019 to 2021.
For prospective students
Saba is committed to supporting prospective students with any questions or queries throughout the application process. Please see the following links for detailed information about each topic:
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