Frequently asked questions for parents


Supporting your daughter throughout the medical school admissions process can be challenging and confusing at times. For this generation of students, the admissions process has become highly competitive, demanding, and time consuming. It is quite common for students interested in medical school to apply one or more years after graduating from college in order to take time to participate in extracurricular activities of interest and to build a solid record of achievement. As you work with your daughter throughout this process, these frequently asked questions address some common themes on parents' minds.

How does Bryn Mawr help students and graduates prepare for admission to medical school?

Bryn Mawr is an excellent place to obtain a strong liberal arts education and to lay the foundation necessary for medical school. Faculty at Bryn Mawr are dedicated to teaching, and small class sizes ensure that students develop close working relationships with their faculty in all disciplines. Students participate in extracurricular and volunteer activities both on and off campus which enrich their understanding of the world around them. Students interested in pursuing medicine take advantage of many local opportunities to expand their exposure to healthcare. Successful Bryn Mawr applicants to medical school demonstrate the ability to handle a rigorous load of science courses, a deep commitment to service, and an informed perspective on a career in medicine. See the Admissions Statistics section for detailed information on admissions statistics for Bryn Mawr's medical school applicants.

What is the premedical curriculum at Bryn Mawr?

Students are welcome to pursue any academic major of interest while completing the standard premedical core curriculum. This consists of one year each of biology and physics with labs, and two years of chemistry with labs. Medical schools also require two semesters of English, one of which is fulfilled by the Emily Balch Seminar. In addition, some medical schools have additional requirements in mathematics, and some require or recommend upper level biology courses such as biochemistry, microbiology or genetics.

In the next few years, changes are expected to the coursework required by medical schools in response to the 2009 report entitled Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC ) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) recommending new approaches to premedical education and the 2011 report from the AAMC (MR5: 5th Comprehensive Review of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) proposing changes to the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). 

The changes to the MCAT will be implemented in 2015.  The Bryn Mawr Provost, science faculty, and prehealth advisors have been working on plans for these coming changes, and the prehealth advisor will continue to keep students informed as new information becomes available.

What other kinds of requirements do medical schools have?

Applicants must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which tests their mastery of the basic sciences and verbal skills. The MCAT consists of three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Physical Sciences, and Biological Sciences. The three sections are graded on a numerical scale from 1-15; the highest overall score an applicant can receive is a 45.

For the 2012 entering class, the national average MCAT scores of applicants accepted to allopathic medical schools were 9.8 in Verbal Reasoning, 10.5 in Physical Sciences, and 10.9 in Biological Sciences and for applicants accepted to osteopathic medical schools, the national average MCAT scores were 8.63 in Verbal Reasoning, 8.74 in Physical Sciences, and 9.48 in Biological Sciences.

Allopathic medical school data from the AAMC Applicants and Matriculants Data

Osteopathic medical school data from the 2014 Osteopathic Medical College Information Book.

As noted above,the format for the MCAT will change in 2015. Consult the "The MCAT 2015Exam for Students" section of the AAMC web site for the most up-to-date information.


Does my daughter need to major in the sciences in order to apply to medical school?

No – students interested in medicine can major in any discipline of interest. Medical schools do not require a science major, and students majoring in something other than the sciences can complete their premedical requirements as electives. Medicine is an interdisciplinary field that requires not only solid knowledge in the sciences, but also interpersonal communication skills, excellent writing skills and an empathetic attitude toward others. Students often find that majoring in the social sciences or humanities enhances these skills.

For students potentially interested in pursuing an MD/PhD, keep in mind that those programs are looking for students who have extensive research experience, which is generally best obtained through majoring in the sciences.

How can I best support my daughter along the premedical path?

As your daughter begins her academic career at Bryn Mawr, encourage her to get to know her faculty and the prehealth advisor, to seek help with classes when needed, and to get involved with activities on campus, whether medically related or not.  Be aware that the premedical process is time-consuming and can be stressful,   The coursework and accompanying labs are time-intensive and academically challenging.  Students are striving to excel academically while trying to find time to shadow physicians, do volunteer work, and perhaps get research experience.  This juggling act requires maturity, time management skills, and flexibility.  This may make some students stressed and nervous about the process, and they may at times question their decision to pursue medicine.

Students at Bryn Mawr tend to have done very well in high school, and sometimes these challenges are new. Students do not know where to turn for assistance, or feel that asking for assistance means they are not “cut out” for medical school.

As a parent, you can play an important role in helping your daughter to cope with this stressful and challenging time.  Encourage your daughter to speak with the prehealth advisor and her dean or faculty advisor for additional advice and support.

My daughter wants to take time off after graduating before applying to medical school. Is there any benefit to this? How will this affect her chances of admission?

A generation ago, almost all medical school applicants were seniors in college. This has changed significantly over time, and the mean age of an entering allopathic medical student is 24. In addition, a recent survey by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports that in 2011 50% of entering medical school students had a "gap period' of at least one year between graduating from undergraduate college and starting medical school. (Source: 2013 Medical School Admissions Requirements Getting Started, published by the Association of American Medical Colleges, page 15.  Also see the FACTS section of the AAMC web site for a collection of comprehensive data tables on medical school applicants, matriculants, and medical school graduates.)

Today, the majority of Bryn Mawr’s applicant pool consists of alumnae instead of current seniors. The time between college graduation and matriculation in medical school is often referred to as a glide year(s).  Students who take time for other experiences after graduation before applying to medical school are certainly at no disadvantage – and in some cases, may be at an advantage in that they are able to show a complete picture of their four years at Bryn Mawr, including any graduation honors, senior thesis, or leadership and extracurricular accomplishments.

Students choose to wait to apply for a wide range of reasons. Some want to take additional time to complete the coursework necessary to apply to medical school. Others want to gain additional experience or to earn money before beginning their medical studies. Students are increasingly choosing to do some sort of service (Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Teach for America, etc.), which both enhances their service record and gives them excellent life skills. Whether she applies as a senior or takes 1, 2, or 10 years off, it is important that your daughter is ready to begin medical school. Note that medical school advising and other services from the Office of Health Professions Advising are available to alumnae, regardless of when they graduated from college.

For graduates who did not major in the sciences as an undergraduate and need to complete the premedical coursework, postbaccalaureate programs are an excellent option. The prehealth advisor can provide more information about postbac programs.

Even though my daughter has lower grades and MCAT scores, should she still apply and see what happens?

There are some serious implications to applying to medical school when she does not have the necessary academic credentials. When students are rejected initially and reapply at a later date, they then have to overcome the initial negative impression of their records by medical school admissions committees. Applicants need to show that they have made significant improvement over their last application. It is advisable, therefore, for students to apply when they feel they are "putting their best foot forward."

What challenges do international students face regarding admission to U. S. medical schools?

Unfortunately it is extremely difficult for international applicants who are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States to gain admission. Nationally, approximately 1% of medical school students are international students.
(See Table 4 at https://www.aamc.org/data/facts/applicantmatriculant/ )

Many state-supported medical schools do not consider international applicants for admission, and those private schools that do accept applications from international students very often require international students to place in escrow the amount of one to four years’ tuition and fees (up to USD200,000 or more). To qualify for U.S. government sponsored loans, students must be citizens or permanent residents and there are exceedingly few scholarships available for medical school.

International students also face similar challenges in gaining admission to and accessing financial resources for other U.S. health professional schools.