Parents FAQ: Introduction »

How successful are Penn’s pre-med students in gaining admission to medical school?

Penn is a premier school for pre-medical students and medical schools know that it is a rigorous institution where students are well prepared for professional success. Penn students have access to excellent research and clinical volunteer opportunities, which enhance their medical school applications. Every year, Penn students fare well above the national average in applying to medical school, as you can see from our medical school admissions statistics.

How do students prepare for medical school?

Part of the preparation for medical school is academic. Students may pursue any major and they complete a standard “pre-med curriculum,” which consists of introductory biology, general chemistry, introductory physics, organic chemistry, labs, biochemistry, English, and math.

Students also take the MCAT, which tests basic science knowledge and its application, critical reading abilities, and knowledge of psychology and sociology. Our pre-health advisors support students with how to prepare for the MCAT and when to take it. Penn applicants to medical school consistently score higher than the national applicant pool. However, students need more than strong grades and MCAT scores to fare well in the admissions process. Aside from academics, students demonstrate their commitment to the medical profession through clinical volunteer work and research. With four hospitals in walking distance of campus as well as a numerous clinical opportunities within Philadelphia, Penn is an ideal place to learn about the medical profession.

Do pre-medical students need to pursue a science major?

No. Pre-medical students can major in any discipline. Medical schools do not require or prefer a particular major, and if a student pursues a non-science major, the pre-med courses fit into their curriculum. Medical schools expect students to pursue a balanced, well-rounded education. Medicine is an interdisciplinary field; it requires not only a sophisticated understanding of science, but also an ability to communicate and empathize with others.  Students who do not major in science are encouraged to take one or two advanced courses in biology.

How can I support my child along the pre-med path?

In addition to being academically challenging, the pre-med path requires a great deal of maturity and flexibility, in terms of finding time to do volunteer work, research, and other kinds of extracurricular endeavors. It is not unusual for students to feel they need to be “doing more” even when they are doing plenty.  Students are encouraged to make use of resources at Penn that provide useful support. The Weingarten Center offers tutoring for all of the pre-med science courses, schedules learning consultations with a STEM specialist, and holds many programs to support students with STEM learning. Student Health & Counseling with Wellness at Penn can help students with test anxiety, or with other physical or mental health issues.  Students may be hesitant contact professors and teaching assistants, but find office hours quite helpful once they do.  Overall, open connections with advisors and other University staff, friendships, a healthy lifestyle, and growth mindset will go a long way towards sustaining your student.

My child wants to take “time off” after graduating from Penn, to pursue something else for a couple of years before applying to medical school. Isn’t that frowned upon by the medical schools?

In recent years, about 75% of Penn applicants admitted to medical school took 1-3 gap years first. Students who take time before applying are not at a disadvantage. Medical schools admit qualified applicants, whether they apply directly from college or wait 1, 2, 5, or even 10 years before applying. Many students need extra time to complete required course work or to prepare for the MCAT exam. Some want to work before starting medical school while others pursue service work. a research fellowship, or graduate degree.  Frequently, a student may want to bolster their application with more exposure to clinical care.  The important thing is that students apply when they are ready, both emotionally and intellectually, to go to medical school.