Premed students notoriously stress over grades and the MCAT. For both of these components, poor results will easily eliminate you from the application pool. Keep in mind, medical school admissions committees receive thousands of applications. Most programs do not have the resources to deeply evaluate every single application, so GPA and MCAT scores can be used to eliminate a certain group. Acceptable scores will vary between programs as wells as your status as an in-state or out-of-state applicant. I recommend picking a handful of programs you are interested in joining, then checking their average GPAs and MCAT scores of incoming students. Some programs will list their minimum and competitive GPAs and MCAT scores. Your goal is to be at or above the figures listed as “competitive.”
It’s easy to look at the minimum requirements and feel good that you’re above those minimums; DO NOT fall into this trap! Every year students get accepted into medical school with low MCAT scores and poor GPAs, but I guarantee those students have done something incredible to justify their admission. By incredible, I don’t mean they were president of a random club or intramural champions… I mean they started a non-profit that brought clean water to a rural area in Africa, they conducted novel and significant research which has made the world a better place, or they have medaled in the Olympics (seriously). Do you have to invent a cure for cancer to get into medical school? No, unless your GPA and MCAT scores are in the lowest 10th percentile of accepted medical students.
Take your grades and MCAT seriously and let statistics from accepted students guide you. Here is a list of MCAT scores and GPAs of 2016-2017 applicants and matriculants. From this link, you can see the average MCAT score of applicants was 501.8, but the average MCAT score of matriculants was 508.7. Similarly, the average GPA of applicants was 3.55 while the same figure for matriculants was 3.70. Score higher than 508.7 and earn higher than a 3.70 to be competitive, but again, look at specific programs of interest to get a better target. Here is a similar list of MCAT scores and GPAs broken down by school. Also, pay attention to in-state vs out-of-state. Out-of-state applicants typically have a higher average GPA and MCAT score due to the competition for relatively fewer seats.
So which classes should you be taking? Most undergraduate degrees will cover the general education requirements of English, Writing, Fine Arts, Humanities, Behavioral Science, and Diversity. Work with your premed counselor to ensure your coursework will satisfy these requirements. In addition, science classes are required by many schools: Principles of Biology, Cell Biology, General Chemistry I & II with labs, Organic Chemistry I & II with labs, General Physics I & II with labs, College Algebra, Trigonometry, and Biochemistry. While not all schools have requirements for these classes, you will need all of them for the MCAT. Here are a few additional courses recommended and required by some programs to prepare for medical school: Genetics, Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Psychology, Sociology, and Statistics. Schedule these courses to be completed before your MCAT. Anatomy and Physiology are the only two courses that can wait until after the MCAT if you are trying to take the MCAT a year before graduation and need extra room in your schedule.
Parting words of advice: study hard and take effective notes during your premed courses. Your preparation will greatly aid your MCAT studying when the time comes. As always, good luck and let us know if you have any questions!