Medical School Admissions, Explained

Clinical Experience in Medical School Admissions

When I ask admissions committee members “Why do people not get in to medical school?” And you would think the answer would be, “Because they didn’t have a good GPA or MCAT.” But that’s not true. The answer they gave was that the most common reason pre-meds do not get into medical school is because they don’t have enough clinical experience. This initially shocked me. But it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

Basically, these applicants have not proven to the admissions committee they knew what it is like to be a physician. Becoming a doctor is extraordinarily difficult and it’s a very, very hard job. And you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. So clinical experience simply means finding physicians whom you can shadow, working in a hospital, spending time with sick people, working in a clinical research opportunity and anything you can do to be around patients and doctors.  And figure out what it’s really like. We see these TV shows, we see “House,” we see “Scrubs,” we see “E.R.,” and we think we know what’s it like to be a doctor. Those shows don’t give a clue. It is a very, very hard profession. It’s a wonderful profession but it’s a very hard profession, and I’d speak from experience as I am a practicing physician myself. You need to know what you’re getting yourself into.

And so what the admissions committee is saying is go figure it out, go call up the surgeon and watch a surgery or go hang out with an internal medicine doctor, go work in the E.R., go scrub down beds, work as a tech, whatever it takes for you to figure it out that you really want to be a physician and prove it to us. Prove it to us through your activities. So this is the bucket that must be filled, and I have noticed in my clients is the one that’s often the most lacking.

Are your PreMed Stats Competitive?

Get the Free Medical School Calculator

iPhone App!
Click here or search for:

Medical School Calculator in the App Store.


As you well know, academics are a huge part of the medical school admissions process. This Academics Bucket is filled with items weighed by the medical school admissions committees when assessing your readiness to excel academically in medical school. These include: GPA, MCAT, undergraduate/graduate school strength, course strength, and major. I am often asked, “What GPA and MCAT do I need to get into Harvard Medical School.” I always answer, “It depends.” Many pre-meds think it takes a 4.0 GPA and 45 MCAT score to get into medical school. They are wrong. Pre-meds with 4.0 GPAs and 45 MCAT scores used my consulting services after they were NOT accepted to medical school. Sure, you generally need good grades and a decent MCAT score to get into medical school, but there is no exact GPA or MCAT score that guarantees admission. Medical school admissions committees look at a pre-med’s "whole package" when deciding who gets into medical school. Great grades and MCAT scores, a top-20 school pedigree, upper level classes, and a challenging or unique major are not enough to get into medical school. You need to be well-rounded and stand out among the other 40,000 applicants.