How to get into medical school
The path to becoming a doctor of osteopathic medicine
You might be wondering how hard medical school is, but figuring out how to get into medical school can seem just as difficult. Navigating the application process can be complicated, but we can help.
You’ve been preparing for this moment for years, and you’re ready to take the next step toward your career in osteopathic medicine. Here are 14 things to do and consider as you navigate how to get into medical school, from how much it costs, to how long it takes to complete — and everything in between.
14 tips on how to get into medical school
- Understand what qualities institutions are looking for
- Choose the program that's right for you
- Demonstrate how well-rounded you are
- Ensure you meet prerequisites for admission requirements–including undergraduate degrees
- Research admission requirements
- Gather letters of recommendation
- Determine your ultimate “why"
- Develop your “why” into a powerful personal statement
- Prepare for your interview
- Broaden your experience
- Study and prepare for the MCAT
- Shadow physicians and other healthcare professionals for a closer look at your future career
- Practice promoting yourself
- Write a letter of intent to your top school choice
1. Understand what qualities institutions are looking for in quality applicants
Are you service-oriented? Do you demonstrate consistent consideration for others’ While knowledge and skills are important attributes to highlight as you navigate how to get into medical school, institutions are also interested in your character.
Get acquainted with the character traits recruiters are looking for. Then, demonstrate your work ethic, empathy, and more through your schoolwork, test scores, and extracurricular or volunteer activities.
2. Choose a program that’s right for you
Throughout the admission process, you’ll need to communicate why you’re interested in osteopathic medicine. Consider programs that align with your interests and goals, and then investigate other factors that matter to you such as how long their programs are or how much it will cost for you to attend.
How long is medical school?
How many years you spend in medical school will depend on the program. Most D.O. programs typically last four years, followed by a residency and perhaps a fellowship.
How much does medical school cost?
The total cost of medical school will ultimately vary depending on the college or university you choose. According to a 2020 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the median cost of four years of medical school in 2019–2020 was $250,222 at public institutions and $330,180 at private colleges. The average cost of four years of the D.O. program at Des Moines University is around $233,000 while still producing some of the best outcomes of any D.O. program.
3. Demonstrate how well-rounded you are
Medical school admission goes beyond academic metrics. In addition to excellent grades and test scores, your experiences and attributes are important, too. You can become a competitive applicant by keeping a record of your activities, volunteer work, and any leadership roles. Given how intensive medical school is, this shows institutions that you can juggle rigorous curriculum with other responsibilities over a long period of time.
4. Ensure you meet all prerequisites–including undergraduate degrees
When you review course and degree requirements for your program of interest, pay attention to minimum grades, prerequisites, and whether those prerequisites — including the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) — have any expiration dates. To be considered for DMU’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine program, applicants must also have a bachelor’s degree and a minimum cumulative grade point average of at least 2.8. The DMU class of 2025 had an average GPA of 3.57. To learn more about prerequisites, see DMU’s full list of admission requirements.
5. Research admission requirements and deadlines
The steps you need to take to get into medical school will vary by college or university. Research these details early on in your application process to make sure you have the information you need while also meeting deadlines. Getting your admission requirements completed on time will help you begin your studies as soon as possible.
6. Gather letters of recommendation
No matter where you apply, you’ll need letters of recommendation. Reach out to instructors and mentors who can speak to your character, potential and perseverance. This will show the institutions you apply to that no matter how hard medical school might be, you’re ready and prepared for the long haul.
7. Determine your ultimate “why"
Much of getting into medical school hinges on why you want to practice medicine in the first place. Throughout the application process, you’ll be asked everything from why you’re drawn to medicine to why you should be chosen for a program.
8. Develop your “why” into a powerful personal statement
Whether you’ve always dreamed of becoming a doctor or you found passion for medicine later in life, take notes on your thoughts and experiences to convey a strong personal statement. Show the institutions and programs you are applying for that you’re up for the challenge. Consider the length and cost of medical school; will the journey be worth it to you? Not only will your answers help the college or university get to know you better, but they might also set you apart from other applicants.
9. Prepare for your interview
During the admissions process, you should be prepared to answer questions about problem solving and critical thinking, ethical questions and scenarios, your experiences, and your philosophical viewpoints.
Colleges and universities want to get to know you, assess your communication skills, learn more about your leadership experiences, and gain a deeper understanding of your ability to provide compassionate care and demonstrate your knowledge.
10. Broaden your experience
While you figure out how to get into medical school, look for opportunities to participate in summer programs and research to gain more experience in healthcare and medicine. This experience can increase your exposure to the field, and displaying your initiative will show colleges and universities that you are committed to pursuing your career in medicine.
Related: Learn about DMU’s summer Mentored Student Research program and our Health P.A.S.S. program.
11. Study and prepare for the MCAT
The MCAT covers a wide range of information and skills, from critical analysis and reasoning skills to the biological and biochemical foundations of living systems. To nail an excellent score and show you can keep up no matter how hard medical school is, study, take practice tests, use your results to help you determine where you need more work, and study some more.
In recent years, the maximum possible score for the MCAT has been 528. The DMU class of 2025 had an average MCAT score of 509.
12. Shadow physicians and other healthcare professionals for a closer look at your future career
Spending time with a physician or another healthcare worker not only gives you a closer look at the profession, but it also shows the schools you’re applying to that you have put in the effort to investigate your career choice.
13. Practice promoting yourself
Shying away from self-promotion is a key barrier for advancement. While you’re working on how to get into medical school, think of the ways in which you can promote yourself and your accomplishments in a positive way.
14. Write a letter of intent to your top school choice
If you have a specific university or program in mind after attending interviews, you may be able to improve your chances of getting into medical school by sending the admissions office a letter of intent. Include information about your goals, what you’ve learned about the program, and mention the people you met during your interview process.
How to get into medical school at Des Moines University
At DMU, we review applications and make selections based on the mission of our university. Our goal is to recruit and admit students who:
- Demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, compassion, and empathy
- Show evidence of being service and academic leaders
- Are future professionals with potential to help sustain local and global communities
Should you be concerned with the cost of medical school, there are a variety of scholarships available for incoming and current medical students in the College of Osteopathic Medicine.
DMU’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree program will help you develop the clinical, interprofessional, and communication skills required to work with colleagues in delivering the best quality care for your patients. Through our D.O. medical school program, you will be prepared for your residency, the national board exam, advanced education, and a successful, fulfilling career as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.