The Formula for a Successful Med School Applicant

Learner Series:

The Successful Applicant

Table of Contents

The Ideal Med School Applicant

Doesn't exist. Or rather a single ideal student doesn't exist. Every student has the potential to be an ideal applicant. Even the ones that may not have perfect 4.0 GPA's. This lecture will give you the tools and insight you need to turn yourself into the strongest and most compelling applicant you can be!

The Winding Road to Medical School

The Path to Medical School

Some lucky students will follow a straight path from point A to B directly into to medical school. However, for most students, this writer included, the road will be a little more winding. We’ll work with you to become an ideal med school applicant by highlighting key characteristics. Your medical school goals will absolutely be aided by cultivating these. 

One thing to keep in mind is that all of these matter. Excelling in one area can help you make up for poor performance in another. For example, a lower MCAT score can be offset by great grades, low (but competitive) grades can be offset by a compelling work history, and so on. It may take a lot of extra work to make up for especially bad marks, but it is possible. 

A High GPA

Perhaps the single most important thing on this list. You need to maintain a high GPA and sGPA while going through your undergraduate courses. (Not sure what your GPA or sGPA is? Read our article!) Prioritize this above all else, but not to the exclusion of everything else. What does that mean? If your grades are slipping cut back on other activities and spend more time studying and getting tutoring. If your grades are in the A to B range (aka competitive), make sure you are getting in other E.C.s… which leads us to…

Avoid Problems: Keep that GPA high from day 1 of school! If it’s already too late, talk to your advisor about ways you can boost your GPA. 

Be Realistic: Sometimes a really bad GPA may take years of effort to improve. Again talk to your advisor, or a mentor, about options. 


Easily the 2nd most important stat on your application. A great MCAT score will get your foot in the door, whereas a bad one will keep doors closed. The MCAT is largely based on content from your premedical classes, plus some psychology, and social science material. Most people take the MCAT shortly before applying, sometime in their Junior year of college. A highly competitive applicant will have an MCAT score in the 90th percentile which, as of this writing, is 514 – 517. 

Did You Know: We have a group on our site created to share MCAT resources!


Join the Group Here!


Work experiences are very important but ignored by many! Let’s look at a few here, but keep in mind that just about any work experience that features leadership, responsibility, teamwork, and being organized is ideal.

EMT: A popular choice, especially amongst people that are drawn to emergency medicine. This job shows you can be organized, a team player, cool under pressure, intelligent, and have an interest in medicine. You can get started by seeking out volunteer positions locally.

Scribe: Another very popular choice. Honestly, very similar to what you’ll be doing during your third year of medical school. Will give you insight and exposure to medicine at a very on-the-ground level. It may even give you a bit of a head start with terms and differentials when you begin medical school.

Lifeguard: A job filled with medically-relevant training and responsibility. Actually being in charge of the safety and wellbeing of people is a great work experience.

Teacher / Camp Counselor: Both great jobs! Shows responsibility, teamwork, organization, and leadership. This is a great example of a common job that many people may overlook. 

Whatever you do, make sure you can tie it to leadership, teamwork, organization, and responsibility!


I’m only going to talk about research very briefly here. We have a whole piece about it for you to read more. Never forget that being a doctor means being a scientist. Doing research helps to show that you understand and have contributed to the scientific process. Does it matter what kind of research you do? Not so much. What matters is that you were an active participant and can talk about the research that you did.

Orgo Scientist


Volunteering is very important and a great opportunity for you to both show that you can make a positive social impact on your community and be a leader. Look for any opportunities, but especially look for opportunities in areas of need. We recommend looking here!

Clubs & Leadership

You should ABSOLUTELY join your college’s pre-health clubs the first week of Freshmen year. As you move into your Junior year, you should be trying to take on a leadership role. Any leadership position is good, you don’t have to be president of everything. In fact don’t be president of everything. Show that you are a team player! 

A Compelling Story

The last thing I’ll highlight is the importance of building your story. You have a unique story, don’t forget that. Every decision you make, including being here on this mentoring site, is another page in that story. Keep track of your story, I think you’ll naturally find it compelling – but always look for more opportunities to give the story of you more chapters!

The Path to Medical School Can Feel Long And Unclear

But never forget that we’re here to help. Do you have a question about something you just read in our BreakThru Learner Series?

Use the BreakThru Feed to Ask and Inspire others with your questions. Our Medical Student Mentors are always here to help you, for free, anytime.

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