Medical School

Researching Programs

Since medical school requires significant time and financial commitment, it's worthwhile to research your options thoroughly. Consider:

  • The reputation of each school you are looking at
  • The program location and setting
  • The cost of the program
  • How well the program will support your career goals

The Association of American Medical Colleges website provides good general information about what medical school entails, what it takes to be accepted, and how to find programs.

Application Requirements

The materials you need to apply for medical schools will differ by institution. However, most programs require the following, at a minimum:

International students may also be required to provide evidence of English language proficiency, including the results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

Many medical schools begin reviewing applications as early as October of the previous year. It's in your best interest to apply early, if possible.

Personal Statement

Most medical schools will require you to submit a personal statement—a short essay that describes your motivation for wanting to pursue a medical degree and outlines your career goals—as part of your application.

Your personal statement should include:

  • Your motivation for pursuing a career in medicine or medical research
  • Experiences you have had that relate to medicine, including volunteer work
  • What you hope to do with your medical degree

Your writing should be clear, organized, and concise, with flawless grammar and spelling.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation for medical school should focus on your character and the qualities you have that would make you successful as a healthcare professional, including reliability, strong interpersonal skills, teamwork skills, adaptability, integrity, altruism, and motivation.

Academic references (from professors) are usually preferred over personal or business references. Different medical schools may specify what types of references you should use for your recommendation letters. In any case, your references should know you and your work style well. Provide them with information that will help them write a strong recommendation letter, including a summary of your professional goals. Give references at least three weeks' advance notice that you need a letter.

Make sure you follow any instructions about how your letters should be submitted; most medical schools require that recommendation letters be submitted through the AMCAS Letter Service rather than directly from your references.


You may be invited for a medical school interview prior to acceptance. An interview offers you the chance to connect with key faculty and admissions staff, learn about the program, and—if you are interviewing on-site—get a first-person look at the institution and facilities.

As with an interview for a job, your medical school interview is an opportunity to sell yourself as a candidate. On interview day:

  • Be respectful of everyone you encounter in the interview process, including administrative assistants and student helpers.
  • Be able to discuss in depth the information in your personal statement, providing specific details about your personal strengths and experiences and how they will help you contribute to the field of medicine.
  • Have a list of questions prepared to ask your interviewer about the institution and/or the program. 

The interviewer will write an evaluation of you based on your interview and it will be considered in the admissions process.


Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

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The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032