Preparing for Medical School

"By far the greatest asset to Roanoke College's pre-med experience was the personal attention I received from my professors and advisors. Their advice helped me to more realistically approach the application process, and the Health Professions Advising Group provided structured deadlines and tools that helped me make sure I was ready for the MCAT and interviews."
-Gabriel Spring, Roanoke College Class of 2004, Medical Student at the University of Virginia

Components of the Successful Medical School Application:

1. Coursework
Undergraduate students can major in any academic discipline, but most medical schools require the following courses be completed for admission:

  • 2 semesters of general biology (with lab)
  • 2 semesters of general/ inorganic chemistry (with lab) 
  • 2 semesters of organic chemistry (with lab)
  • 2 semesters of physics (with lab).
  • 2 semesters of English
  • 1 semester of biochemistry (with lab; strongly recommended)

Additional recommended coursework

  • Microbiology   
  • Physiology
  • Genetics   
  • Cell biology
  • Immunology   
  • Developmental biology
  • Histology   
  • Behavioral sciences

*HPAG strongly recommends that prospective dentistry students take medical ethics - Soci 223 and Health, Healing, and Illness - Soci 323.

As early as possible, students should contact schools that interest them to request information about each specific program and admission requirements.  Most schools recommend that students apply as early as possible for placement in the osteopathic school class following graduation from an undergraduate program.

This coursework should be completed by the spring of your junior year so that you will be ready to take the MCAT then.

2. GPA
Medical schools look closely at your GPA in the required science courses and your overall GPA. Although most programs do not advertise minimum GPAs in these categories, to be competitive your GPA numbers need to be as high as possible.  The average GPA for 2005 matriculants was 3.6 for allopathic programs; it was slightly lower for osteopathic programs.

3. MCAT Score
Admissions officers use scores on these national exams to normalize GPAs among varying colleges.  You should take this test in the spring semester of your junior year, and you should prepare for this test thoroughly!  You should consider MCAT preparation as a course you’re taking in the spring semester of your junior year.  Plan your course schedule accordingly.  Kaplan frequently offers a prep course here at Roanoke.  We have a link that will be of great service to our Sophomores, Freshmen and future students as they prepare for the 2015 MCAT.  The videos are free:  https://www.khanacademy.org/science/mcat.

The average MCAT scores for students entering allopathic programs in 2005 was 30.2 (9.7 Verbal recognition, 10.1 physical sciences, 10.4 biological sciences) and a P on the writing section.   For osteopathic programs, the 2002 MCAT data for matriculants was 24.72 (8.10 Verbal recognition, 8.08 physical sciences, 8.54 biological sciences).  

4. Familiarity with the Profession

Basic knowledge of the profession to which you aspire is expected.  You need to volunteer, intern, or work in an appropriate position to gain this familiarity.  Your experiences in this category may be brought out in your personal essay, your letters of recommendation, or your admissions interview.  Many issues related to health care in America are covered by our sociology department in their courses Ethics and Medicine and Medical Sociology.  HPAG recommends you take one of these courses.

5. Letters of Recommendation
By the early spring of your third year, you will need to identify several faculty and health care workers who can write letters of recommendation for you.  It is important that you connect with such people in a way that allows them to be advocates for your admission.

6. The Personal Essay
Part of your application will be a personal essay.  This is your chance to paint a picture of yourself for the admissions committee.  Think carefully about what you want to say and have several people proofread and critique your essay.