Guide to the Best Pre-Med Preparation, Programs & Study Options

To become a physician is to embark on one of the most challenging academic paths available. 

Getting into medical school has never been more competitive: for the 2021-2022 school year, the number of medical school applicants rose by a record-setting 17.8 percent, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), while acceptance rates only rose by 2.6 percent. 

But the path to medical school starts long before the application process, and those who know how to best prepare themselves through pre-med programs and other study options stand the best chance of being accepted to the medical school of their choice.

How to Prepare for Medical School

One of the most important steps on the way to medical school is an aspiring doctor’s undergraduate degree. The most common type of undergraduate program for those planning on applying to medical school is a pre-med program, which follows the recommendations of the AAMC and includes the requirements for medical school in its curriculum. 

These programs will generally also have mentors and counselors to assist individual students in the medical school application process, from mock interviews to research and internship experiences to studying for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). 

Typically, pre-med programs have a major in the hard sciences: biology, biomedical engineering, or biotechnology. However, there is more than one path to medical school. Students who have graduated with a non-science undergraduate degree can look to post-baccalaureate certificates and master’s programs that are specifically designed to meet the application requirements of medical schools. 

Like undergraduate pre-med programs, faculty and staff are on hand to personally assist students in the medical school application process. In some cases, these programs can also help science-related undergraduate students who seek to improve their overall GPA before applying to medical school. 

GPA isn’t the most important factor, though. Medical school applicants will also need letters of recommendation, medical experience (volunteer, research, and/or paid), extracurricular activities, a personal statement, and a successful interview. Well-rounded applicants are in high demand, and aspiring medical school students should seek to gain experiences from high school through college and beyond.

The Best MCAT Study Options

No matter what one’s educational background is, medical school applicants will need to pass the MCAT. 

While it’s far from the only factor considered by application boards, it is one that’s scored in black and white. Each of the test’s four 95-minute sections consists of between 53 and 59 multiple choice questions and is scored on a scale of 118 to 132. The sections cover: 

  • Biological and biochemical foundations of living systems
  • Chemical and physical foundations of biological system
  • Psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior
  • Critical analysis and reasoning skills 

For 2022, the average total score was 511.9. 

How to best study for the MCAT will vary from person to person, but almost everyone seeks out some level of assistance. Most pre-med programs will include access to resources that help one prepare, but there are additional online and in-person study options that one can seek out. Whether you want one-on-one tutoring, scheduled group classes, or self-paced learning, there are study options that can help you get a higher MCAT score. 

The Princeton Review

The Princeton Review is a test preparation company that’s worked with over 400 million students since its founding in 1981. For aspiring medical school students, they offer several MCAT prep options: a simple online prep program for $2,349; an in-person program for $2,949 that “guarantees” a 513 or better score (i.e., you can get a refund if your score falls short); or an online immersion program for $6,800 that guarantees a 515 or better. 

The immersion program includes over 860 hours of instruction, personalized advising, 16 full-length practice tests, and on-demand tutoring. Students can also opt for a-la-carte private tutoring at $183 per hour.

Blueprint

Blueprint is a test preparation company solely focused on the MCAT, offering both hybrid and online courses. The online course has been created by instructors who scored in the 99th percentile on the MCAT, and the average participant increases their MCAT score by 13 points. 

In the online course, students will access 160 learning modules, a customizable study planner, six revised and updated MCAT prep books, 15 full-length MCAT exams, 1,600 flashcards, and unlimited access to office hours with MCAT experts five days a week. The hybrid course includes much of the same, along with 40 hours of live instruction. Packages start at $1,999 for six months of access. 

MCAT Self-Prep

If the prices of major MCAT preparation companies have your head spinning, consider a service like MCAT Self-Prep, home of the free MCAT prep course. The free course includes ten content modules, 300 hours of video content, study tips, and personalized support. 

More advanced (and more expensive) options are also available, ranging from $199 to $1,999, with a satisfaction guarantee. Aspiring med school students can also sign up for private tutoring, which costs $149 per session, with all tutors having scored above the 97th percentile.

Featured Pre-Med Programs

In selecting the best pre-med programs, we sought out a mix of undergraduate, graduate, and certificate options presented in online, hybrid, and on-campus formats. All of the selections have programs that align with recommendations from the AAMC and include content used on the MCAT. 

Furthermore, each program provides additional support and mentorship specifically focused on getting students into the medical schools of their choice, and have high medical school acceptance rates for their graduates. 

Arizona State University (BS Biological Sciences)

ASU Online offers an online bachelor of science in biological sciences degree that can prepare students for medical school. The curriculum aligns with recommendations from the American Medical Colleges and the Howard Hughes Medical Committee. 

In 2021, two ASU Online graduates—one from the biological sciences program, and one from the biochemistry program—were admitted into prestigious American medical schools, an important milestone for online-only undergraduate students. 

Online students at ASU also have access to academic and pre-health advisors who can help them connect with research experiences and clinical internships. Labs are in-person but can be completed at either ASU’s Tempe campus or another accredited institution. The program consists of 120 credits.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Duration: Four years
  • Tuition: $14,822 per year
  • Format: Online

George Washington University (BS Biology)

GW’s Columbian College of Arts & Sciences (CCAS) offers an on-campus bachelor of science in biology degree that can be specialized to meet students’ goals and interests While CCAS does not offer an official pre-med track, students have access to GW’s pre-health advising program, which provides guidance and helps students fulfill the requirements for medical school, and many graduates do indeed go on to become physicians. 

The curriculum can be customized with one of three concentrations; pre-med students will likely opt for the general biology concentration, and take an additional course in physics to help match medical school requirements.

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Accreditation: MSCAS
  • Duration: Four years
  • Tuition: $1,885 per credit
  • Format: On-Campus

Johns Hopkins University (BS Molecular & Cellular)

JHU’s Department of Biology offers an on-campus bachelor of science in molecular and cellular biology degree with a rigorous curriculum that prepares students for advanced study. The program emphasizes a nuanced and detailed understanding of biology, integrating knowledge at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels.

Students in undergraduate biology programs at JHU may also pursue the pre-medical advising track, which helps students meet the necessary medical school requirements and prepare to take the MCAT. Each biology student is assigned an advisor when they declare their major, and those faculty advisors are available to answer any student questions. 

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Duration: Four years
  • Tuition: $60,480 per year
  • Format: On-Campus

Drexel University (Certificate)

Drexel offers an online pre-medical certificate that’s designed for those with a non-science undergraduate degree who want to pursue a medical career. The curriculum includes the prerequisite science courses needed for admission into medical school and helps graduates build a strong foundational understanding of the science topics needed as health professionals. Labs are completed in person, in the evenings, and combined with online instruction. 

Taught by faculty from Drexel College of Medicine, the program also offers students free MCAT preparation. The program consists of 32 credits.

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Duration: Two years
  • Tuition: $1,018 per credit
  • Format: Online

George Washington University (Certificate)

GW has an on-campus post-baccalaureate pre-med program designed for individuals who are seeking a medical career but have not completed the prerequisite core science courses. Hosted at GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus (VSTC), this is an intensive, year-long program that prepares students for the medical school application process. Approximately 94 percent of graduates are accepted into medical school.

 Led by expert health sciences faculty and clinician leaders, it includes access to personalized advising, MCAT prep, and clinical and research experience. The program consists of 37 credits.

  • Location: Ashburn, VA
  • Accreditation: MSCAS
  • Duration: One year
  • Tuition: $44,025 total
  • Format: On-Campus

Johns Hopkins University (MS)

JHU offers a post-baccalaureate health science intensive that prepares graduates for medical school admission and culminates in a master of science in biotechnology degree. It includes a  medical school-focused curriculum, with courses in biotechnology, molecular and cell biology, problem-solving and innovation, leadership, sociology, and the psychosocial determinants of health. 

Students may choose to study on-campus, online, or a mix of both. They will also receive personalized medical school advising, application assistance, mock interviews, and MCAT preparation. Graduates of the program have gone on to be accepted by the top medical schools across the country. 

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Duration: One year
  • Tuition: $50,080 total
  • Format: Hybrid
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog

Writer

Matt is a writer and researcher from Southern California. He’s been living abroad since 2016. Long spells in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America have made the global mindset a core tenet of his perspective. From conceptual art in Los Angeles, to NGO work on the front lines of Eastern Ukraine, to counterculture protests in the Southern Caucasus, Matt’s writing subjects are all over the map, and so is he.

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