Allopathic Medicine


There are many pieces to the medical school application, including your GPA, MCAT score, personal statement, list of experiences, letters of recommendation, and biographical information. Use the navigation below to explore each aspect of preparing for medical school.

What is an allopathic physician?

Becoming a Doctor

Prerequisites for Allopathic Medical Schools

Medical Colleges Admissions Test (MCAT)

Pre-Medical Experiences

Applying to Medical School:

Personal Statement
Letters of Recommendation
Supplemental Applications
Choosing Schools
International Students

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an allopathic physician?

  • Allopathic physicians receive a medical degree, or M.D.
  • Allopathic physicians treat patients in a wide variety of specialties using prescription drugs, surgery, and preventative measures.
  • See the AAMC's Deciding if Medicine is for You

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Becoming a Doctor

Becoming a physician is a lifelong commitment to continuing education and in many cases a demanding lifestyle. In general, the path to becoming a doctor includes the following steps:

  1. Obtain a bachelor's degree and complete all pre-medical requirements, including prerequisites, the MCAT, and experiences (4+ years)
  2. Attend medical school (4 years)
  3. Complete residency (3-5 years)
    1. Optional: Complete fellowship (length varies)
  4. Become licensed in the state you wish to practice
  5. Maintain certification & complete Continuing Medical Education (ongoing)

For more information about each of these steps, see the AAMC's Road to Becoming a Doctor

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Prerequisites for Allopathic Medical Schools

Myth: If I'm going to get a C- in a class, I should intentionally get a D or F in that class in order to retake it for a better grade.

Fact: Do not fail a class on purpose in order to retake it for a better grade. Even though the lower grade will not be included in your UC Davis GPA, it will remain on your transcript and most centralized applications will count that first grade into your application GPA.

Additionally, the health profession schools will still see it. It is better to have a C- in the course and improve through other courses in the same discipline than to take a D or F.

Most health professional schools require all prerequisites to be completed with a C or higher. Although you cannot repeat the C- at UC Davis, you will need to repeat it somewhere else either over a summer or after graduation.

If you need to discuss this or any other academic difficulty futher, please make an appointment with a staff advisor. 

allopathic prerequisites venn diagram

Med School Prerequisites at UC Davis

Most schools require:
General Chemistry (CHE 2ABC)
General Biology (BIS 2ABC)
Organic Chemistry (CHE 118ABC)
Physics (PHY 7ABC)

Some schools may also require:
Biochemistry (BIS 102/BIS 103 or 105)
Statistics (STA 13 or 100)*
Calculus (MAT 16ABC, 17ABC, or 21ABCD)*
English Composition (3 quarters of ENL, COM, or UWP classes)

Some schools recommend:
Upper division biological science coursework
Social sciences & humanities

See the Allopathic Medical School Prerequisite Chart  for a sample list of medical schools and their requirements.

Note: The above courses are only suggested, not absolute. 

*Check your major requirements before choosing classes.

  • To prepare academically as a pre-medical student, you'll need to take the medical school prerequisites and coursework to prepare for the MCAT. School prerequisites and MCAT prep coursework overlap but are not the same. See the courses HPA recommends students to take before the MCAT.
  • Each medical school has different prerequisites. Some schools don't require any courses and instead use competencies (see the University of Michigan Medical School's admissions page as an example). 
  • You can choose any major and apply to medical school. If you choose a non-science major, you still have to take the science prerequisites required by most schools. Always cross-check your major requirements and the medical school requirements when choosing classes.
  • HPA recommends that pre-medical students maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0, although many medical schools will have GPA averages above this minimum.
  • Complete all of your prerequisite courses for a letter grade - DO NOT take any of them P/NP.
  • In the application process, medical schools look at your overall GPA as well as your science, or “BCPM,” GPA. Your BCPM GPA includes all Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math grades. Learn more about AMCAS course classification.  

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The Medical Colleges Admissions Test (MCAT) is...

Save $200 on MCAT Prep!

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  • required by all medical schools.
  • over 7 hours long.
  • includes four sections:
    • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
    • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
    • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
    • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
    • Learn more about what’s on the MCAT.
  • a content-based test.  

Health Professions Advising recommends that students take the following courses before studying for the MCAT:

  • Biology (BIS 2ABC)
  • Chemistry (CHEM 2ABC)
  • Organic Chemistry (CHE 118ABC)
  • Physics (PHY 7 or 9)
  • Biochemistry (BIS 102 & 103, OR 105)
  • Physiology (NPB 101 or 110ABC)
  • Psychology (PSC 1)
  • Sociology (SOC 1, 3, or 154 recommended)
  • Statistics (STA 13 or 100)
  • CARS Preparation (HIS 2/STS 2, PHI 5, or PHI 15)
  • See HPA's Guide to Standardized Tests to learn more. 

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Pre-Medical Experiences

Myth: I can do a lot of meaningful experiences to make up for a weaker GPA.

Fact:  Having many meaningful activities will NOT make up for a low GPA.

You must focus on your grades during your undergraduate years, earn at least a 3.0, and then begin adding experiences. You can always take a year or two off after graduation to gain more experience. It is better to graduate from UC Davis with a higher GPA and less experiences than lots of experiences but a low GPA. 

Pre-Medical Student Organizations at UC Davis

Student organizations are a great way to obtain health experience and network with peers and professionals. Pre-medical clubs at UC Davis include:

UC Davis Pre-Med AMSA

Undergraduate AMWA at UC Davis

Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students

  • Asking, "Will this look good on a medical school application?" is the wrong way to approach your pre-medical experience. Medical schools will see who you are and what you care about through experiences that align with your interests, goals, and passions (See more about Work/Activities on AMCAS). Whatever you choose to do, be sure you are dedicated, passionate about it, and motivated to pursue it for the right reason!
  • HPA recommends that you first build a strong GPA and gradually build up your experiences. This may require that you take some time off after graduating before you apply, but it is much better to apply later with a strong GPA than to apply early with lots of experience but a weak GPA.

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Applying to Medical School

AMCAS Instruction Manual

Before applying, read through the AMCAS Instruction Manual. You are responsible for knowing this information. 

AMCAS (Primary Application)
  • The American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®) is the first stage of your medical school application. It is also referred to as your “primary application.”
  • AMCAS opens in early May, but the first day you can submit your application will be in early June. 
  • You must apply the year before you plan on starting medical school. (For example, if you plan to start medical school in the fall of 2020, you must apply in the spring of 2019.) 
  • There are 9 sections of your primary application:
    • Identifying Information
    • Schools Attended
    • Biographic Information
    • Course Work
    • Work/Activities
    • Letters of Evaluation
    • Medical Schools
    • Essay(s)
    • Standardized Tests

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Personal Statement
  • Your personal statement should answer the question "Why do you want to go to medical school?"
  • AMCAS allows 5300 characters for your personal statement.
  • Your personal statement should not be a list of experiences. The Work/Activities section will be a list of your experiences. Use your essay to tell them something they do not already know about you.
  • The personal statement is your first chance to provide medical school admissions committees with subjective information about your qualifications and your reasons for choosing a particular career. In other words, the personal statement is your initial opportunity to present yourself as an interesting and unique applicant who deserves a closer look.

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  • AMCAS allows you to report up to 15 meaningful experiences in the Work/Activities section of the application.  
  • You will have 700 characters to describe each of these experiences. 
  • Of the 15 experiences, you will choose 3 most meaningful experiences that were especially impactful. You will have an additional 1325 characters to describe these experiences. 
  • Experiences can include paid or volunteer clinical experiences, community service, extracurriculars, hobbies, publications, research experience, work experience, shadowing, leadership, and awards. 

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Letters of RecommendationAMCAS Letters of Recommendation Diagram
  • Most medical schools will require at least three letters of recommendation.
  • Often times schools will ask or recommend that your letters come from specific people, including:
    • Science faculty (Usually schools ask for 2 letters from science faculty)
    • Non-science or major faculty
    • Non-academic professionals
    • Physicians or other health professionals

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Supplemental Applications (Secondary Application)
  • Supplemental applications are sent by each school you've applied to after the primary application has been submitted.
  • Some medical schools will send a supplemental application to every applicant, while others will pre-screen the applicant pool and only send them to those who are most qualified.
  • In most cases, supplemental applications contain additional short essays specific to that school. They can also include questionnaires, ask for a resume, or ask for a professional headshot.
  • While each school's supplemental essays will be different, some common questions include:
    • How would you bring diversity to this medical school?
    • Why have you chosen to apply to this medical school? 
    • Given our mission statement, what makes you a good fit for our medical school?
    • If you are currently not a matriculated student, please indicate what you have been doing since the time of graduation until now.
    • Is there anything else you would like us to know?
  • Supplemental applications cost anywhere from $50-$120 per school.

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  • Most medical school interviews take place between September and February.
  • There are different types of interviews, including:
    • Traditional interviews
      • One-on-one interviews with a medical school faculty member, admissions officer, or medical student. Questions can range from "Tell me about yourself" to in-depth questions about specific information in your application. Some traditional interviews are open (the interviewer has your full application), while some are closed (the interviewer knows nothing about you). Sometimes it is partial (parts of your application are missing, such as test scores/GPA). If you are going to a traditional interview, be sure to know your application VERY well.
    • Multiple mini interviews
      • The MMI typically consists of six to 10 very short interviews that revolve around a specific scenario. Scenarios might include interactions with an actor, essays, short traditional interviews, teamwork stations, ethical scenarios, and rest stations. The MMI is designed to measure communication skills, specifically verbal and nonverbal skills that cannot be measured using standardized written exams or by reviewing coursework transcripts. 
    • Situational judgement Tests
      • SJTs present hypothetical scenarios through a variety of formats, including text, video, or live standardized patients. They ask applicants how they would respond or behave in that situation. The scenarios are based on one or more competencies, and the test taker’s responses provide insight into his/her ability within each relevant competency. Many schools are employing standardized patients (paid actors trained to exhibit medical ailments) during interview days to test applicants' communication skills and ability to problem solve. There is little you can do to prepare other than be a strong communicator, be flexible and able to think on your feet.
    • Behavioral interviews
      • These interview questions aim to identify how you would behave or what decisions you would make in a given situation. They may catch you off guard, but if you answer honestly and thoughtfully, you will show them that you make informed, rational decisions based on strong ethics. Example questions might include:
        • Tell me about a time you led a team with members who did not agree with your decision-making. How did you resolve the situation?
        • Walk me through a difficult decision you recently made. What factors contributed to your decisions?
        • What has been your best idea so far?

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Deciding Where to Apply

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International Students
  • International students are those requiring a student visa to remain in the United States to study.
  • Applying to medical school can be more complex and challenging for international students, but Health Professions Advising and other campus resources like SISS can help you achieve your dreams of becoming a physician. 
  • Some things international students should keep in mind:
    • Not all medical schools accept international students. 
    • Most medical schools require citizenship or permanent residency and a Bachelor's degree from a U.S. or Canadian institution.
    • Schools will usually only accept a very small number of international students each year, so the applicant pool is very competitive.
    • International students cannot receive federal financial aid such as Direct Stafford, Direct PLUS, and Perkins Loans.
  • Learn more about applying to allopathic medical schools as an international student

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Frequently Asked Questions

Becoming a Doctor

What's the difference between an M.D. and D.O.?

M.D.s attend allopathic medical school, while D.O.s attend osteopathic medical school. 

Both M.D. and D.O. physicians are licensed in all 50 states. They receive identical medical educations, except that D.O.s also learn osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), which involves hands-on care to treat, prevent, and diagnose disease. Both M.D. and D.O. students can enter any specialty of medicine. 

Learn more about applying to osteopathic medical schools

I am considering an MD/PhD. What do I need to know?
  • If you apply as an MD/PhD applicant, you will follow the same application procedures. However, when you choose your program type in AMCAS, you will be asked to complete an additional essay describing your research. You should have significant research experience when applying MD/PhD. This can include:
    • Multiple summer projects
    • Senior thesis research
    • One or more years pursuing research activities after undergraduate degree
  • There are over 100 MD/PhD programs, but not all are fully funded.
  • MD/PhD degrees can take as long as 8 years to complete. A typical MD/PhD pathway includes:
    • Years 1-2: Preclinical years (some PhD work); Complete the USMLE Step 1 exam
    • Years 3-6: Medical sciences & explore research opportunities (lab rotations); Complete research
    • Years 6-8: Clinical rotations; Complete MD degree
    • Apply to residencies
Do I need to know what specialty I want to pursue right now?

No, you do not need to know what specialty of medicine you want to pursue right now. In fact, when asked what you want to be, you should simply say "a physician" or "medical doctor." Before you specialize, you first must

  1. be admitted to a medical school
  2. complete the first two years of medical school
  3. take the Step 1 Boards (and score well on the boards)
  4. finish your third year of medical school
  5. interview for residencies during your fourth year of medical school
  6. and finally match to a residency, which will determine your specialty

You do not simply "sign up" for the career in medicine of your choice. If you are interested in learning more about residencies, visit the AAMC. However, you are not responsible for this information as a pre-medical student. 

I am an international student. What do I need to know?

Applying to medical school can be more complex and challenging for international students, but Health Professions Advising and other campus resources like SISS can help you achieve your dreams of becoming a physician. 

Some things international students should keep in mind:

  • Not all medical schools accept international students. 
  • Schools will usually only accept a very small number of international students each year, so the applicant pool is very competitive.
  • International students cannot receive federal financial aid such as Direct Stafford, Direct PLUS, and Perkins Loans.

Learn more about applying to allopathic medical schools as an international student

Classes & Prerequisites

Which classes count towards the science GPA?

You can see which courses count towards the science GPA calculated by AMCAS here

To calculate your science GPA, pull up your Academic Record in OASIS. Along the left side of the course list, you will see boxes. Check off the boxes for the courses you wish to be included in the GPA calculation on the right side of the page.

What courses satisfy the English requirement for medical schools?

Lower and upper division English (ENL), UWP, and Comparative Literature (COM) courses will satisfy the English requirement for medical schools. You may also take similar classes at a community college. 

Note: Testing out of the upper division UWP course requirement via the Upper Division Composition Exam (UDCE) for graduation does not count towards the medical school requirement. 

Many pre-health students take UWP 104F (see course description here). This is a great option because in this class you will produce a personal statement draft. Consider waiting to take UWP 104F until your junior or senior year, or closer to when you will submit your application.

If I repeat a course, does it affect my AMCAS GPA?

Every class that appears on an official transcript with a grade is calculated into your AMCAS GPA. For example, if you get an F in organic chemistry but retake it for an A, both grades will factor into your AMCAS GPA. 

Should I take BIS 102 & 103 or BIS 105?

Either BIS 105 or BIS 102/103 will adequately prepare you for the MCAT. Check your major requirements before choosing one over the other. 

Do medical schools accept AP Credit or Pass/No Pass courses?

Medical schools are not consistent in how they handle AP Credit. In general, pre-medical students should take all prerequisite courses at a college level. 

Most schools will not accept P/NP classes to satisfy prerequisites. 

Can "study abroad" courses count as prerequisites?

If your study abroad program was through UC Davis Study Abroad or UC Education Abroad (UCEAP), then your coursework will be on your official UC Davis transcript and fullful prerequisites. If you studied abroad directly through a foreign institution, then your coursework will be on a "foreign transcript," which AMCAS does not accept. Learn more about entering study abroad coursework in AMCAS. 

What should I do if I'm going to get a low grade in a class?

Although no one wants a C, it is not the end of the world if you get one or two C’s. You can still get into a medical school. HPA recommends taking other courses in the same discipline to make up for a low grade. For example, if you do poorly in BIS 2A, take BIS 101 and do well in that. 

You may have heard that if you know you'll get a C-, you should take a D or F intentionally in order to repeat the course. HPA does not recommend failing a class on purpose in order to retake it for a better grade. Even though the lower grade will not be included in your UC Davis GPA, it will remain on your official transcript, will factor into your AMCAS GPA, and will be seen by medical schools. 

UC Davis will not allow you to repeat any courses in which you earned a C- or higher. However, you can retake the course through UC Davis Open Campus after you graduate or at another situation. Please keep in mind that you will not be eligible for financial aid through the FAFSA if you repeat classes this way; you must either pay out-of-pocket or apply for a private loan. 

Can participating in more experiences make up for a low GPA?

In most cases, no. This idea is a common myth among pre-health students, but unfortunately no experience can make up for a GPA lower than 3.0. 

Most pre-medical experiences aren't going anywhere - you can always take a gap year (or more!) to do research, work as a scribe, volunteer, etc. - but you really only have one chance to do well in your classes here at UC Davis. It is much more valuable to graduate with a higher GPA and less experiences than lots of experiences and a low GPA. Taking classes to improve your GPA after you graduate is often a time-consuming and expensive process. 

Make an appointment with an advisor if you'd like to discuss your academics in more detail. 

Do I have to complete all of the prerequisite coursework before applying?

No, you are not required to complete all of the required coursework before applying unless a school states otherwise. However, you should complete a majority of the science coursework before you apply. You must complete all of the coursework before you start at the health profession school.


When should I take the MCAT?

You should begin studying for the MCAT after you have taken all of the coursework that HPA recommends students take before the MCAT. Many students take the MCAT the summer before they apply to medical school. Consider making an appointment with an advisor to create an application timeline. 

See the AAMC's MCAT Testing Calendar for this year's testing dates.

When should I start studying for the MCAT?

When you are taking your prerequisite courses, you are essentially studying for the MCAT. You should formally begin studying for the MCAT after you have taken all of the coursework that HPA recommends students take before the MCAT. 

Keep in mind that the new MCAT is 7.5 hours long. The test is a content test, but it is also an endurance test. You need to practice reading efficiently and coherently for long periods of time. If you struggle with reading comprehension or test anxiety, we strongly recommend that you address those areas before you attempt the test, such as through a SASC workshop.

Do I need a test prep course?

According to the AAMC, about half of MCAT examinees report that they used a test prep course to prepare for the test. Whether or not you need a course depends on how you study. If you prefer to study at your own pace, there are many resources available online to help you prepare for the test without using a company. 

Learn more about studying for the test

Applying to medical school

When should I apply?

You will apply to medical school the spring of the year before you wish to start. For example, if you want to start school in Fall 2020, you must apply to AMCAS in spring 2019. 

There is no right or wrong time to apply, but you should apply when you feel most confident about your application. When you choose to apply is a very personal decision, and we encourage students to talk out their plans with an HPA advisor before settling on a timeline.

What is a gap year?

The term "gap year" refers to the time after your undergraduate education and prior to entering a health professional school. What you decide to do if you take a gap year is up to you. Students spend their gap year(s) doing a variety of activities, including (but not limited to):

  • working and earning money to finance their professional/graduate education
  • pursue things they didn't have time to do as a student (i.e. study abroad, Teach for America, etc.)
  • completing post-bac classes or a master's degree
  • volunteering pursuing community service projects
  • research

Your gap year is a chance to expand and develop in areas you were unable to develop during your undergraduate years. 

What are the advantages of taking a gap year (or years)?

Benefits of a gap year include:

  • An extra year of coursework towards your GPA
  • An extra year to gain experience (both work and life experience)
  • An extra year to build relationships with faculty for letters of recommendation
  • Having more time to take MCAT prep coursework
  • Not missing classes to travel to interviews during your fourth year of college
  • Not being stressed out worrying about acceptances, financial aid, finding housing during your fourth year of college
  • Working and making some money before starting your next step
What is holistic review?

"Holistic review is a flexible, individualized way for schools to consider an applicant’s capabilities, providing balanced consideration to experiences, attributes, and academic metrics. These factors are considered in combination with how the individual might contribute value as a medical student and physician. The use of holistic review by schools has increased in recent years and is becoming more and more common."

- AAMC, Holistic Review in Medical School Admissions

What does "verification" mean?

"Once you submit your application to AMCAS, you will receive an acknowledgment of its receipt via email (provided you have included a valid email address). Such acknowledgment does not indicate that your materials (i.e., official transcripts) are complete or that deadline requirements have been satisfied.

The AMCAS Verification process starts when your application has been submitted and your official transcripts have arrived at AMCAS. Once all your materials have been received, your application joins the verification queue. Processing can take up to 6 weeks from the time that your application and all required official transcripts are received.

During the Verification process, AMCAS verifies your coursework against your official transcripts, ensuring that the course information entered in your application matches that on your official transcripts.

AMCAS may return your application to you—which could result in missed deadlines—if major errors or omissions in course listings are found during verification. AMCAS will stop verifying your materials and send an email notification if any missing or incomplete transcripts are discovered during verification."


When should I start writing my personal statement?

The personal statement should be a reflective, well-polished document. You can create your first draft as soon as you want. The more time you give yourself to get feedback and revise the better. The advisors at Health Professions Advising are happy to read your essay and give you feedback, but please make the appointment at least a month before your deadline. 

Please bring a printed draft of your personal statement to appointments and drop-in advising.

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