302-831-3030 CPHPS-FAQ@udel.edu


At UD, there are two distinct pathways by which students can gain admission to a medical school. One is open to all majors and requires a basic knowledge of science and mathematics (see Pre-Med coursework). Students taking this option are evaluated by the Health Professions Evaluation Committee (HPEC) which writes a University of Delaware recommendation to medical institutions of the student’s choice. In addition to required coursework, students must participate in volunteer work and shadowing. However, to be seriously considered, students should participate in other important activities.

While the Freshman and Sophomore years are devoted primarily to building a strong academic foundation and building relevant experiences, students in Junior year who are applying to medical school without gap year(s) must complete their HPEC files, be interviewed by two HPEC committee members in preparation for the University’s evaluation of the student’s record, and take the standardized medical admission exam, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This exam is sponsored by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). There are many commercially available review books with practice examinations as well as prep courses available — seek out options on our study/exam prep LinkTree. During Senior year, students apply to medical school, travel to medical schools for interviews or interview virtually, and receive decisions on their applications.

The other Pre-Med pathway, the Medical Scholars Program (MSP), is open only to those admitted from the competitive application process in Fall of Sophomore year (or third semester if the student brought in college credit as a Freshman). MSP is an early admission program with Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA; Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Philadelphia, PA; and Rowan Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ. The program leads to a B.A. in Liberal Studies from the University of Delaware and an MD or DO from the medical school.

Advice for Future Physicians — AAMC and AACOM also have good timelines for suggested activities for Pre-Med!

Freshman and Sophomore Year

During the Freshman and Sophomore years, students should make an effort to determine if medicine is a good career option. Students should set the following goals:

  • Obtain excellent grades: Medical school admission generally requires high grades (3.5+ for allopathic schools and 3.3-3.4+ for osteopathic schools in both overall and science GPAs). Science GPA is generally calculated with “BCPM” courses — Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math.
  • Get to know your professors: If you want the professor’s recommendation, be sure to stay in good contact with them via office hours, bring in your resume so they know what you’re involved in outside of their class, and consider getting involved in research or a Teaching Assistant role with them. See AAMC’s guidelines for letters of evaluation and share the printable PDF on that page with them when you make the ask for a letter of recommendation.
  • Give careful consideration to your choice of career by shadowing and volunteering: Getting involved in a healthcare setting during this time is invaluable in letting you know that medicine is the field for you. In addition, start shadowing physicians — both allopathic and osteopathic.
  • Officially open an HPEC file— submit the Scheduling/Question Form and select “Health Professions Evaluation Committee (HPEC)” as the reason for advisement. Pre-Med HPEC files must be opened no later than the mid-semester deadline in Fall if you’re being evaluated that coming Spring. See the HPEC home page for the exact date.

The state of Delaware is part of the Physician Shortage Area Program (PSAP) at Sidney Kimmel Medical College. The program includes the states of Delaware and Pennsylvania. Priority for the PSAP Program is given to Pennsylvania and Delaware residents and to students from the seven undergraduate institutions in Pennsylvania and Delaware that are part of the PSAP Cooperative Program which includes the University of Delaware. Additionally, Delaware residents with advanced medical/dental degrees or mid-level degrees are eligible to apply for Delaware State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) awards. Each applicant must commit to two years of full-time employment in a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).

These programs are designed for medical students from Delaware who plan to become physicians in critical need specialties within high need geographic areas. PSAP provides special mentoring and rural clinical experiences as part of the normal M.D. training at Thomas Jefferson University. There is a small amount of need-based financial support but it is very limited. Students applying to Thomas Jefferson University who indicate an interest in this program are given special consideration for admission to the university. If you are interested in being considered as a PSAP applicant, be sure to read the information on their website and to identify yourself to us when you open your HPEC file or earlier.

Junior Year

This is a very busy and important year! HPEC will be making their evaluations by Summer — To be evaluated, you must inform the Center for Health Profession Studies that you want to be evaluated that year and submit your HPEC portfolio on or before the deadline — see the HPEC requirements page for portfolio details and deadlines. This is also the year you will take the MCAT. You should be writing a personal statement and allowing plenty of time to make several drafts. Run your drafts by the UD Writing Center, sources for letters of recommendation, and people who know you well (so it sounds like you and is authentic). You need to succinctly answer why medicine?, highlight key insights along your journey of Pre-Med development, reflect on key elements of your identities and experiences, and develop a memorable narrative that invites the reader to delve further into your application. Do not let this be a retelling of your resume or activities section!  See our tips for writing a personal statement and attend personal statement workshops. The Graduate Assistant in the Center for Health Profession Studies can also offer assistance — submit the Scheduling/Question Form and select “Personal Statement/Resume Review” as the reason for advisement.

Senior Year

Finally, you will need to apply to medical schools. This is initiated with an online application to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) or the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS). When you submit your primary application matters a lot. Be sure to account for a month of lead time to report MCAT scores as well as 2-4 weeks for application verification in both AMCAS and AACOMAS. Primary applications should be both submitted AND verified before September 1st to allow the best chance of being invited to an interview which will happen sometime during the Fall or Winter semester. Most students are admitted to medical school between November and April; however, some students are admitted as early as October or as late as August.

What are Secondary Applications?

Once AMCAS/AACOMAS have transmitted your applications, you can expect to receive secondary application requests from medical schools directly. There is quite a range of possibilities here — A few schools do not bother with a secondary application and use only the primary and other schools will send anyone who applies a secondary application request. This can be very rudimentary or quite complicated, often requiring additional essays and information as well as another application fee. Some schools include the average MCAT scores and GPAs of the previous years’ class for you to compare to yours. Weigh your chances based on these metrics against the expense of applying. There are some very selective schools that do a pre-screening of their primary applications and send a secondary application only to those students who have some chance of admission. Consider yourself complimented if you receive one of these applications. Realize, however, that it is still extremely difficult to be accepted to medical school and the steps after your secondaries still matter.

Complete the secondary applications very carefully, but swiftly. Similar to primary applications, you give yourself the best chance of moving forward by submitting early in the cycle. If you wait until near the deadline, you are more likely to be denied or put on the waiting list. Medical school wait lists can be as large as 1,000+ students. It is best to have completed secondaries before the start of the Fall semester of your Senior year. That means you should submit all secondary applications no later than the end of August ideally. If not, definitely submit no later than the end of September. See this American Medical Association article on secondary applications.

An increasing number of medical schools are requiring applicants to complete a situational judgement test (SJT), a psychological test that is designed to determine behavior and assess how people act in certain situations. Applicants are given hypothetical scenarios and asked to identify the most appropriate response or to rank the responses in the order they feel is most effective. A number of SJTs are available; a commonly used SJT by medical schools is CASPer. Some schools require an SJT of all applicants while in some cases it is part of the secondary application process. While the SJT is likely a much shorter exam (around 30 minutes), similar to your MCAT prep, you should be taking full length practice exams for any required SJT to get used to the exam format and experience exam administration before exam day.

MD or DO/PhD Applications

MD or DO/Ph.D. applicants will do all of the above (including AMCAS/AACOMAS). In addition, when you receive your secondary applications they will include an additional application for Ph.D. students. Sometimes, only one secondary application will be needed that replaces the usual application. Often, however, you will need to complete two separate applications: one designed for review by the medical school admissions committee and one for review by the Ph.D. admissions committee. Both are complex and require a considerable amount of time to complete. You can expect to be asked for additional recommendation letters for the Ph.D. portion in addition to those already requested for the medical school portion. You should be seeking these from those you’ve assisted in research.

Applying to Osteopathic Schools

Most osteopathic schools will want a letter of recommendation from an osteopathic physician. There are significant differences in practice for osteopathic physicians and they want to know that you’re well versed in these details through observation and interviewing a D.O. If you have not obtained one as part of your HPEC file or via MSP, be sure to seek out this specific letter of recommendation. Applicants to osteopathic schools must also take the MCAT. See AACOM’s page on Admission Requirements and individual programs on the ChooseDO Explorer.

Where to Apply

There is often considerable misinformation in the minds of most college students about medical school admission. This is understandable. The admissions process you are most familiar with is the one you have just experienced as an undergraduate and medical school admission is significantly different. These differences stem from the very regional acceptance preferences of medical schools. Unlike college where most non-state schools are looking for students from other parts of the country to have diversity in their student populations, medical schools show tremendous preference to students from their own state and region of the country. This is true even for many private medical schools. There is a good reason for this:

  1. It is very costly to educate a medical student. Much of the money to do so comes from the state where the school is located.
  2. The school would like to maximize the chances that the students they are educating will remain in that state or region to practice medicine.

Many private medical schools say they show no preference for in-state students, but if you look at the in-state vs. out-of-state statistics for accepted students it becomes obvious that very few schools show no preference. Your state medical schools offer you the best chance of admission. Most state schools fill classes with better than 90% state residents. There are a few that have a lower percentage than this (University of Maryland and Penn State are examples) but they still have significant preference for students from their state. An exception to this regional preference are the MD/PhD programs at many schools which often do not have a regional preference for acceptance.

Delaware has no state medical school. What do I do?

Delaware residents are at a disadvantage here. They have no state medical school. However, 20 places are reserved at Sydney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and five at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine for Delaware residents. All Delaware residents should seriously consider applying to Thomas Jefferson University. All Delaware residents are automatically in the Delaware Institute for Medical Education and Research (DIMER) program and will be sent a DIMER application upon submission of their medical school applications simply by listing their state residency on their applications.

Applicants must complete a very short form with biographical information that is signed by their parents (or themselves if they are independent) stating that they have paid Delaware income taxes in the previous year. This will allow them to be considered for one of the seats set aside for Delaware residents.

In addition to medical schools within your state, you should also look at schools in your region. Private schools in the state of Pennsylvania often show some special consideration for Delaware and New Jersey residents, for example. You may even be able to get an acceptance at one of the state schools in your region if you are a very competitive applicant. All students should begin their selection process in this way. Then things become more individualized.

Honestly Examine Your Profile

  • If you have a GPA, both science and overall (3.5 or above) and also have a high percentile score on the MCAT, you can apply to any school in the United States that interests you. It will still be uncertain if you will be accepted at a particular school, but academically you have a chance.
  • If you do not have this kind of record, apply to the private schools that are less selective. The average MCAT scores and GPAs are published annually and can be obtained from the AAMC website. It’s much better to pursue the medical school that is the best fit for you than the most prestigious ones based on rankings.
  • In the long run, that is the most important thing: By all means, apply to any school you think you might have a fighting chance to get accepted to, but be reasonable. The cost and the time required for every additional application is considerable. Make the most of your choices.

Potential applicants should begin looking into schools during Sophomore year. The Princeton Review and the U.S. News and World Report publish yearly guides to United States Medical Schools which are very helpful. Curriculum, innovations, location, grading system, availability of institutional financial aid, housing, etc. are all factors to be considered when making your choices, but only after you have looked at your state and regional schools.

There is also the option of applying to foreign medical schools. If you are thinking along these lines you should contact these schools to learn their application procedures, etc. There have been some reports in the media that residency slots after medical school will become increasingly difficult to obtain, especially for graduates of foreign medical schools. You should consider this when making your decision to apply outside the United States.

The Interview

Congratulations! You have received an invitation to be interviewed at one or more of the medical schools to which you have applied. Virtually all schools require an interview and receiving one is a significant hurdle to have passed in the acceptance process. Most applicants do not receive an interview. However, the acceptance rate after interview is still quite low. It ranges from 10% to about 50% depending upon the school. Therefore you will want to have a good interview experience and present yourself well. If you are a competitive applicant and have applied to schools in a variety of locations, the interview part of your application process could be costly depending on requirements for in person versus virtual interviews. A few regional interviews are offered by some schools but this is not the norm. Therefore, you might be flying around the country or otherwise traveling significant distances. Medical schools will either allow you to choose from a range of dates to interview or will be quite dictatorial and assign the date to you, indicating it will be a great inconvenience for them if you want to change it. Each school is different. Feel comfortable calling the admissions office at each school and asking for a change of date if you feel you absolutely need to change it, but do not do so for a trivial reason. These interviews are the last in the series of steps you need to go through to obtain your goal and should be a priority. If you have applied to several schools in the same area, say New York City, and have received an interview at one, it is acceptable to call the admissions offices at other schools and see if there is any chance that they could interview you near that time. If, however, the school that has offered you an interview is considerably less selective than the one that you have not yet heard from, it may be better not to call. You will know best about this if you have accurately evaluated your level of competitiveness.

Suggestions for the Interview

  • Obviously, the interview process will interfere with your coursework, especially if you are very successful and are traveling to many places. To allow for this, try to make first semester Senior year as flexible as possible since that is when you will go to most of your interviews if you have followed our suggested timeline for applying. If you have to miss classes, talk to the professor ahead of time and explain why. They know that this is important and will likely be flexible.
  • Dress professionally and neatly for your interviews. There is no prescribed “right outfit,” but try not to draw attention to yourself and away from your application by how you present yourself on interview day. You cannot know how your interviewers or others at the medical school will react to daring fashion choices.

What is the Interview like?

The interview process varies depending upon the school. Most schools will describe it to you when they request the interview or soon after. There are also descriptions available in published materials available commercially. Expect to be asked just about anything. There is no formula we can give you that can prepare you for all possibilities, but mock interviewing can certainly help build your skills and confidence. A major consideration is to show yourself as an articulate person who is well-read, informed about current issues, and has ideas and opinions that can be supported with rational arguments. You do not have to agree with everything your interviewer feels or says. Use this as an opportunity to ask questions about the medical school that show you really have an interest in attending there. It’s difficult to know whether you have had a good interview or not and most students underestimate how well they have done. You are likely to have different experiences at different places — you might really click with a certain interviewer by sharing interests that lead to a lively and enjoyable conversation or you may have an interview that feels a lot more formal and hard to read. By having a number of interviews, you should be able to gain acceptance at one or more schools where you’d be happy to attend. If you feel that you have had an unfair or biased interview, you must inform the medical school that same day. You might be able to convince them that you deserve another interview, but this should be a rare request. Many schools include more than one interview as part of the interview process, which minimizes this type of problem.

A few schools use the multiple mini-interview system (MMI). These are a series (4-7) of scenarios that the student is presented with and then questioned about for a very short amount of time. Most schools, however, still use the traditional interview process.

Many schools give you the opportunity to converse with a current medical student before or after your interview. This is an excellent opportunity for you to get an insider view of the medical school from that student’s experiences. Ask about housing, the community, and other aspects about life in medical school that you want to hear from their perspective.


Depending upon the school, admissions decisions might be made monthly, two or three times throughout the year, or all at once in February or March. Whatever the situation, you will be expected to respond within one or two weeks to the offer of acceptance. Usually this is only a note sent back saying you accept. Sometimes a nominal fee is required as well.

What if I get several acceptances?

Obviously, you have preferences. In order to allow students the opportunity to choose from a number of schools that offer them admission, the AAMC has guidelines that the medical schools follow. You can hold multiple acceptances until sometime in May. If you have not made a decision by then, you might have to forfeit your place everywhere. You must officially withdraw your place in writing to other medical schools once you have made your decision. You will probably receive a note from the medical schools in March or April listing all of the schools that have accepted you and seemingly forcing a decision, but you have until May to decide. Some schools have scholarships that are not decided upon until April and you deserve to have the complete picture before making your decision. Once you have, however, you should withdraw from the other schools immediately. You can continue to hold any waiting list slots you may have.

What should I do if I’m not accepted?

First, remember that admission is highly competitive. A denial does not mean you are not “good enough” to become a physician. It simply reflects the overwhelming number of applicants for a small total number of openings.

If you are not successful in gaining admission, you must seriously reconsider your profile. Are your grades a little too low? Pursuit of an advanced degree or matriculation at a post-baccalaureate program designed to strengthen your preparation for medicine have sometimes proven successful in the past for subsequent admission of students with lower GPAs. Is your MCAT score not competitive? Retake the test after serious and intense preparation. If you have been put on the waiting list at a medical school but not admitted, consider re-applying to that school under their early acceptance program. You have already been deemed “acceptable” by being put on the waiting list. By committing yourself to that school, you increase your chances that they will accept you.

Also, feel free to call the schools that did not accept you to get feedback about your application. Most admissions committees will discuss this with you.