Physician: Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best majors for medical school?
Medical schools do not require a particular major although they have science requirements such as biology, chemistry, and physics. According to Dr. Case, chair of the admissions committee at the University of Mississippi medical school, there is no advantage for one major over another as far as being admitted into medical school. Admission committees are typically indifferent as to an applicant's major. At UMC, biology is the most popular major among medical students. Some students have degrees in chemistry or physics. Other students majored in non-science disciplines. The vast majority of medical school students major in a science area, e.g., biology, chemistry, physics, for the practical reason that by the time they have met the science requirement for medical school they have satisfied a large portion of required course work for a science major. The best strategy is to major in a subject matter that you enjoy, but be mindful that you need a solid science background before entering medical school. Many students choose to take advantage of the unique curriculum at MC, offering an array of medical school level courses such as gross anatomy, physiology, etc. For those students, the biology pre-medical degree track has the greatest emphasis on the type of courses that are seen in medical or dental school.
What are undergraduate courses required by medical schools?
Each medical school has its own requirements. Check the requirements of the medical school that you are interested in. The University of Mississippi Medical School requires 6 semester hours in each of the following disciplines: English, mathematics, biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and 6 additional semester hours in upper-level science/mathematics courses, e.g., biology, chemistry, physics or mathematics.
What kind of GPA and MCAT score do I need for admittance to medical school?
Accepted average GPA's and MCAT scores vary among medical schools. Most of this information from medical schools can be found in the AAMC publication Medical School Admission Requirements. You can order this book from the AAMC web site: http://www.aamc.org. Admission committees prefer consistency across the verbal, physical sciences and biological sciences. In other words, they would rather see 9's in each category than two 11's and one 6. The admissions committee looks very closely at the number of difficult science courses that you took and your hour load per semester. They are most interested in how you did with difficult upper-level science courses taken in the same semester. A GPA of 3.6 with heavy semester loads and difficult science courses is viewed much more impressively than a GPA of 3.9 with light semester loads and easy courses. Taking easy courses to nurse a high GPA is a mistake.
What is AMCAS?
AMCAS is a centralized application processing service developed to facilitate and standardize the process of applying to medical schools. When you apply to medical school, you must do it through AMCAS. Your MCAT scores, college transcripts, essays and letters of recommendation will be sent to AMCAS. AMCAS will send all your application material to the medical schools you have specified. Spring semester of your junior year you will need to fill out an AMCAS application form.
For additional information, you may contact AMCAS at:
American Medical College Application Service
2501 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037-1300
You can also find more information on the AMCAS website.
When is the deadline for application to medical school?
AMCAS reviews applications received between June 1 and November 1 for consideration for medical school acceptance for the following fall. Upon receiving student information from AMCAS, the school(s) will request additional information from the student directly. Deadlines for that information varies among schools. The University of Mississippi Medical School requires that all additionally requested material (which includes letters of recommendation) must be received by January 15. Do not wait until the last minute to request letters of recommendation. If a letter of recommendation is missing by the deadline, your application will not be processed and you will not be eligible for medical school admission for the ensuing fall term.
What is the Early Decision Plan and when is the deadline?
The Early Decision Plan (EDP) should be considered by applicants with high MCAT scores and GPA's. You may apply to only one medical school and acceptance by that medical school precludes entry into any other medical school. You will be notified by October 1 on whether you have been granted admission into that medical school. To be eligible for EDP, AMCAS must receive your application by August 1. The University of Mississippi Medical School requires that all additionally requested material (which includes letters of recommendation) must be received by September 15.
How do I get letters of recommendation for medical school?
Go to Hederman Science, Room 104 and see Mrs. Graves or Caldwell. She will give you a form to fill out. On that form, you will indicate which professors you want to write letters for you. Those letters will be sent to AMCAS. Please note: It is very important for the student to develop a relationship with his/her professor. Students need to extend themselves to allow their professors to get to know them. Having a professor for a couple of classes is NOT enough.
What kind of courses will I be taking in medical school?
Medical school has two parts. The first two years you take science courses. At the end of your second year you will take a national board exam, the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) Step 1. The board exam covers the science courses you had in the first two years of medical school. You must pass this exam before you are allowed to start your third year. During your third and fourth years of medical school, you rotate through various clinical specialties such as family practice, surgery, OB/GYN, as well as others. During your fourth year, you will take the USMLE Step 2 exam, which covers your clinical training. Graduation from medical school is contingent upon passing the USMLE Step 2 board. After graduating from medical school and receiving an MD degree, you are still not licensed to practice medicine. Post-MD students are required to enroll in a one-year intern program. At the end of that year, the student will take the USMLE Step 3 exam. Upon the successful completion of the intern residency and passing the Step 3 board, a medical license is granted. From that point, the licensed MD will start his/her chosen residency specialization, e.g., family practice, surgery, etc.
At the University of Mississippi Medical School you will take the following courses:
- Gross Anatomy
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
- Preventive Medicine and Public Health
- Introduction to Clinical Medicine.
Third-year: (clinical rotations)
- Family Medicine
- Obstetrics and Gynecology
Fourth-year: Students do clinical rotations of their choosing
What is the MCAT and what subject matter does it cover?
The MCAT is the Medical College Admissions Test. Almost all medical schools require it. It is a four-part exam: Verbal Reasoning, Physical Science (Physics and Inorganic Chemistry), Biological Science (Biology and Organic Chemistry), and Essay Writing. It is 5 hours and 45 minutes in length and is given twice a year in April and August. Before you sit for the MCAT you should have taken at least two semesters each of biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. Some advanced courses in these areas may be beneficial before taking the MCAT. Students are encouraged to take a look at the subject matter outlined in the MCAT Student Manual, Outline of Biological Sciences and Outline of Physical Sciences. You should be looking at this manual your sophomore year to help you in selecting your courses.
How can I get information and the registration form for the MCAT?
For the MCAT information packet and registration form write to:
MCAT Program Office
P. O. Box 4056
Iowa City, IA 52243
For more information check out the MCAT web page on the Association of American Medical Colleges website.
When is the MCAT given and when is the deadline for registration?
The MCAT is given many times during the year. Check the AAMC MCAT website for specific dates as well as other information. Test results are usually mailed approximately 30 days after the test date.
When should I take the MCAT?
You should not take the MCAT until you have completed the basic science requirements, e.g., 2 semesters of biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. Most students take the MCAT the spring semester of their junior year. Usually, premed students are completing the second semester of physics in their junior year. Other advanced science courses may be beneficial for the MCAT.
Where can I get practice MCAT exams?
For the Student MCAT Manual and MCAT Practice Tests write to:
Washington, DC 20055
Telephone: (202) 828-0416
FAX: (202) 828-1123
How many times can I take the MCAT?
You can take it 3 times without any special provisions. You will have to obtain special permission from the MCAT registration to take it a fourth time. The admissions committee does not penalize you for taking the MCAT multiple times. They will consider your best score on any given exam. They do not combine scores from the various sections of different exams.
What non-academic things do I need to do that would help my medical school application?
It is very important that you get experience in a clinical setting. This can be accomplished by doing volunteer work at a hospital or getting a job at your local emergency room. Spend time with a physician in your area and see what it's like to be a physician. Admission committees want to see whether you have made the effort to learn about the medical field. If you go to your Medical school interview with no clinical experience, the committee may very well ask you "How do you know that you want to be a doctor when you don't know what it's like to be one? You've never spent time with one." Medical school admission committees like to see applicants that are well rounded educationally and socially. Make an effort to get involved with campus life and non-academic activities. Do more than just join a bunch of organizations. You need to take on the mantle of responsibility and leadership. The committees need to see evidence of a person with good interpersonal skills, someone who works well with people and can function in leadership roles.
What is the difference in an MD and a DO?
A doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) has all of the rights and privileges as a doctor of allopathic medicine (MD). There are 19 accredited schools of osteopathic medicine in the United States. Osteopathic medical school curricula are very similar to curricula found at allopathic medical schools. The first two years are science courses, e.g., gross anatomy, histology, neuroscience, medicine, pathology, etc. The third and fourth years are clinical rotations in a hospital, e.g., family practice, OB/GYN, surgery, etc. Upon graduation, you will enter a residency program at a medical university, the same residency programs that MD's participate in. For example, a family practice residency at a medical university may have a mix of MD's and DO's in it. DO's can do a residency program in any of the specialties, e.g., pediatrics, family practice, surgery, OB/GYN, etc. Osteopathic medical schools require that applicants take the MCAT. For additional information on specific requirements, contact the osteopathic schools that you are interested in.
You can find more information by visiting the following sites:
- American Osteopathic Association
- What is a DO?
- What is Osteopathic Medicine?
- Mississippi Osteopathic Medical Association
- Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)
How many years do I have to train from the time I begin medical school until I start my own practice?
Medical school is 4 years. Upon completion of medical school, you will do a residency. The first year of that residency is your intern year. At the end of that year, you become a licensed physician. The number of additional years training depends on which area you want to go into. Family practice residencies are typically 2 years after your intern year. Neurosurgery residencies are usually 6 years after your intern year. Other specialties have a timeline somewhere between 2 and 6 years. So from the time you begin medical school to the time you start your practice can be from 7 to 11 years of training, depending on your specialization.
What kind of salary will I make as a physician?
Physicians have among the highest earnings of any occupation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median pay for physicians was $187,200 in 2012.