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Medical School for International Students: Admission Policies and More

majors
college application
advice for students
By Shorelight Team
Published on April 26, 2021

Learn how to study in the United States to become a doctor.

A female international student in medical school in the US wears scrubs and a stethoscope and smiles while holding a clipboard

Before you can become a doctor, you must study for years and complete residency programs at hospitals — it is a long, hard road for any student. However, getting into medical school for international students is even more challenging, as only a fraction of the accredited medical schools in the United States accept F-1 visa holders. But do not be discouraged — if you are motivated, you can do it! There are plenty of opportunities at US medical schools that accept international students. 

Can international students apply for medical school in the US? Yes, they can, and we will show you how. Read on to learn more about the requirements for F-1 student visa holders, the MCAT exam, and which schools in the United States are welcoming to international students. 

Medical School Requirements for International Students

When it comes to medical school for international students, the requirements for applying to medical school are different for international students at most universities in the United States; however, both domestic and international students start with the American Medical College Application Service’s (AMCAS) centralized application. 

Almost every first-year student at US medical schools applies with the AMCAS application, including international students. However, the AMCAS service does not accept foreign transcripts unless they have been accepted already by an accredited institution in the United States. If your international transcript has already been accepted at a different US school, then you should include your transcript letter from that university as well when applying with the AMCAS. 

Regarding medical school admission policies towards non-US citizens, international students are encouraged to study in the United States before entering medical school, if possible. Not only does it make it easier to share your grades on your medical school applications, but it also shows program admissions officers that you are familiar with and comfortable learning in the US educational and curricular system. This may give you a competitive edge at medical schools that accept international students.

How Do I Fill Out the AMCAS Centralized Application?

There are nine sections to the AMCAS application that cover the following seven areas: 

When applying to medical schools that accept international students, keep in mind that it costs $160 for the first school and $38 for each additional school you apply to, using the AMCAS centralized application. Secondary applications’ average cost is $100 each, according to Kaplan

Other Medical School Admissions Requirements for International Students

In addition to the AMCAS centralized application, you will likely submit a secondary application specific to each of your universities. These applications cover much of the same material as the centralized application, but may ask more specific questions related to the university program and your interests. You may also use the secondary application to submit your transcripts from international schools. 

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average amount of medical school debt for the class of 2020 is $200,000, and very few financial aid opportunities are available to international medical students. So, if you are interested in medical school for international students, it is a good idea to start getting your financial documents together, especially as you begin the visa application process. The US government will likely ask you how you plan to pay for medical school.

In addition, you should have a valid passport. Once you arrive in the US for your program, you will be eligible to train as part of the optional or curricular training programs. For more information on working while in the United States, visit uscis.gov and travel.state.gov.

Learn how Shorelight offers visa assistance to international students >  

MCAT Exam and Scores

In addition to submitting transcripts, personal statements, and applications, students who wish to attend medical school in the United States are required at most universities to take a computer-based standardized test called the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). 

Read Shorelight’s guide to other standardized tests >

The MCAT exam for international students and domestic students is the same. It consists of 230 multiple choice questions that you must answer in six hours and 15 minutes. The MCAT exam is broken into four sections, each scored from 118 to 132 points, with a median score of 125. The four sections of the MCAT exam are:

MCAT Section: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems 

This section tests your knowledge of biology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, and inorganic chemistry concepts. In addition to your understanding of science, you demonstrate how well you know basic research methods and statistics concepts applied to the natural world. 

Questions: 59 questions 

Time: 95 minutes 

MCAT Section: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

In this section, you have to solve chemical and physical conceptual problems using your scientific inquiry and reasoning skills. This section tests your understanding of human tissues, organs, and organ systems and their mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions as well. 

Questions: 59 questions 

Time: 95 minutes 

MCAT Section: Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior

This section tests your understanding of how psychological, social, and biological factors influence perceptions and reactions to the world. In this portion of the MCAT, you show how well prepared you are to tackle the human and social aspects of practicing medicine. 

Questions: 59 questions 

Time: 95 minutes 

MCAT Section: Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

This section is different from the other sections of the MCAT; it was developed to measure the analysis and reasoning skills you will need to succeed in medical college. Here, you will be asked to read 500–600-word paragraphs and answer questions that show your reasoning, comprehension, and analysis skills. 

Questions: 53 questions 

Time: 90 minutes

What Is a Good Score on the MCAT Exam? 

A good MCAT score for international students depends on many factors, including your understanding of the concepts, your ability to reason, and your ability to communicate in English. It is important to develop a strong study plan, carefully considering how much time you have to prepare before your scheduled test. You should start your exam prep by taking a practice MCAT exam for international students. There are many free MCAT practice exams available online. Take one to see on which sections you need to practice most. 

Learn more about the MCAT exam below: 

  • What is the MCAT total score range? 472–528

  • What is the average MCAT total score? 500

  • How much is each of the four MCAT sections worth? 118-132

  • What is the average MCAT score? 500, according to Kaplan

  • What is a highly competitive MCAT total score? 514–528 is the 90th percentile, while 508–513 is the 75th percentile

Read Shorelight’s broken down guide to the MCAT exam >

Which Schools Accept International Students?

Can international students apply for medical school? Yes: Of the 179 accredited schools in the United States listed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), 43 accept international students. The AAMC listed 1,890 international applicants who applied to programs in the United States: 325 were accepted, and 272 attended medical school. 

There may be fewer opportunities at medical schools for international students in the United States, but they do exist. Twelve of the top 25 clinical medicine programs in the world, according to U.S. News & World Report, are based in the US and accept international students. US universities with friendly medical school admission policies towards non-US citizens include Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Utah

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$66,000

Average MCAT Score

517

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$68,000

Average MCAT Score

517

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$68,000

Average MCAT Score

519

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$64,000

Average MCAT Score

516

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$53,000

Average MCAT Score

515

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$70,000

Average MCAT Score

515

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$65,000

Average MCAT Score

512

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$67,000

Average MCAT Score

518

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$49,000

Average MCAT Score

502

Estimated Tuition and Fees

N/A

Average MCAT Score

519

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$59,000

Average MCAT Score

519

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$70,000

Average MCAT Score

515

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$48,000

Average MCAT Score

503

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$65,000

Average MCAT Score

519

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$66,000

Average MCAT Score

518

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$70,000

Average MCAT Score

514

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$69,000

Average MCAT Score

512

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$59,000

Average MCAT Score

512

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$60,000

Average MCAT Score

512

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$64,000

Average MCAT Score

518

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$67,000

Average MCAT Score

512

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$61,000

Average MCAT Score

508

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$68,000

Average MCAT Score

511

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$67,000

Average MCAT Score

515

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$66,000

Average MCAT Score

513

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$68,000

Average MCAT Score

511

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$55,000

Average MCAT Score

509

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$52,000

Average MCAT Score

508

University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences The Pritzker School of Medicine

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$58,000

Average MCAT Score

520

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$78,000

Average MCAT Score

512

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$78,000

Average MCAT Score

511

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$73,000

Average MCAT Score

510

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$84,000

Average MCAT Score

512

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$63,000

Average MCAT Score

512

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$61,000

Average MCAT Score

515

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$63,000

Average MCAT Score

507

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$79,000

Average MCAT Score

510

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$60,000

Average MCAT Score

518

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$62,000

Average MCAT Score

520

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$66,000

Average MCAT Score

521

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$66,000

Average MCAT Score

508

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$63,000

Average MCAT Score

519

Estimated Tuition and Fees

$66,000

Average MCAT Score

518

Steps for Applying

Applying to medical schools is not an easy process, and many students begin preparing years in advance. Applying to medical school for international students is even harder, given the restricted number of opportunities available in the US.

There are many things you can do to give yourself a better chance of getting accepted. Attending undergraduate school or getting a master’s degree in the United States are great ways to show that you can succeed in a US medical school. If you are new to the US, try showing how it would be difficult to train to be the type or quality doctor you want to be if you stay and study in your home country. If you have plans to stay in the US after graduation, explain how you see your career unfolding as a doctor in America. 

Here are the high-level steps to applying to medical school for international students. In addition to the application steps below, it is very important that you can prove you have the finances necessary to pay for medical school. 

Take note: There may be specific requirements depending on where you are coming from, which medical schools you are applying to, and other personal information. Be sure to check with an advisor before you start the application process. 

  1. Take the MCAT exam

  2. Secure recommendations for your application

  3. Fill out the centralized AMCAS application

  4. Fill out any secondary university-specific applications

  5. Attend a medical school interview

How Shorelight Can Help

Understanding the process of applying to medical school for international students can be complicated.

If medical school in the US is your goal, Shorelight can first help with your undergraduate or graduate studies. Our expert counselors offer graduate school application assistance for international students, visa assistance, career development assistance, support with English language exam preparation, and more. 

Discover how Shorelight can help you study in the United States >

*Shorelight does not currently offer medical programs for international students in the US. Please speak with a Shorelight representative to learn about available degrees at our university partners that can provide the foundation for medical school.