A graduate degree in medicine is obtained by attending an allopathic medical school and earning a medical doctor (MD) degree or by attending an osteopathic medical school and earning a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree. Both types of graduates are fully eligible to become board certified in any specialty and practice medicine in the U.S. Admission to medical schools is extremely competitive, so it is important to have an individually appropriate and competitive academic plan.

Although osteopathic programs tend to have slightly lower admissions standards, it is not appropriate for an applicant to pursue admission to an osteopathic school as a “backup plan” in the event of rejection by an allopathic school. It is best for applicants to make a deliberate decision about pursuing an M.D. or O.D. degree, as the two professions seek to train practitioners who fully embrace their own approach to healing. In general, allopathic (or traditional) medicine values drugs and surgery in the treatment of illness. Osteopathic medicine also relies on advanced medical technology but favors a more holistic view of illness that includes more “hands-on” treatment.

Both types of medical schools consider the following factors in selecting applicants for admission:

  • High grades in both science and non-science courses, showing an upward trend.
  • High scores on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
  • A favorable letter of evaluation from the SPU PPHS Committee.
  • Exposure to a variety of clinical settings, with a letter of recommendation from a medical professional.
  • Other support letters highlighting extracurricular, leadership, and service experiences.
  • A strong interview with the medical school admissions committee.

Appropriate majors for pre-medical students include Biochemistry and Physiology. Many other majors are suitable, but students may need supplemental courses at SPU or after graduating. Because coursework requirements vary from school to school, it is essential for students to become familiar with the specific prerequisites of the medical schools to which they intend to apply. Additional courses that are often recommended or required include Calculus, English, Ethics, Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Psychology.

Most pre-medical students apply for admission in the summer after their fourth year or later. Because medical schools prefer applicants who demonstrate competence in a variety of areas as well as a deep understanding of the challenges of a career in health care, applicants with less than four years of undergraduate experience almost never gain admission to selective schools.