Applying to medical school can be a complicated process so the Admissions Office at the KU School of Medicine has compiled this application toolkit, which we hope you'll find helpful. This information is intended for both applicants and advisors. We encourage you to read through the information carefully and reach out if you have additional questions.
What Qualities Make a Good Physician?
As you prepare to apply for medical school, it would be best to first examine the qualities that make great physicians.
First, ideal candidates will embody a service mindset - as in, serving your fellow humans is a core part of who you are and will always be a part of who you are, regardless if you are a physician or not. Longitudinal and dedicated community service and altruism are important pieces that demonstrate this strength. Good opportunties in this area might include volunteering at a local hospital, earning and using a certification such as CNA, EMT, or Phlebotomy, working or volunteering in a nursing home or skilled care facility, or working or volunteering as a medical scribe.
Good prospective physicians have mastered excellent time management skills. They also have learned how to communicate clearly with many different types of people, how to handle constructive criticism, and how to manage stressful situations. Can you clearly state why you want to be a physician? Why is this path the right one for you over any other pathway? Can you have differening viewpoints from another and still maintain an air of professionalism?
We also look for prospective applicants who have explored different areas of medicine via shadowing. Having a good understanding of the daily life of a physician, of the challenges of the field from a local, state, and national level, and of the different fields of medicine are critical in you making an educated answer to the question of "Why Medicine." Our preference is for in-person shadowing, but we do accept virtual shadowing hours if in-person is not an option.
Holistic review is an admissions process that considers each applicant individually by balancing their academic metrics with experiences and attributes. These factors are viewed in combination to consider how an individual might contribute value not only as a medical student, but also as a future physician.
KU School of Medicine Diversity statement:
The University of Kansas Medical Center, School of Medicine is committed to maintaining a diverse and inclusive environment and all that we do will reflect this commitment. Diversity in our classrooms, trainees, faculty, and staff invigorates our efforts to achieve excellence, enhance the quality of life and serve our community and nation.
An inclusive environment improves health for all by fostering effective teaching, encouraging the vigorous exchange of ideas, promoting life long learning, and supporting high quality scholarship. The University of Kansas School of Medicine is committed to developing culturally proficient physician leaders who are prepared to join the current and future workforce and global economy.
KU School of Medicine Mission statement:
The University of Kansas School of Medicine commits to enhance the quality of life and serve our community through the discovery of knowledge, the education of health professionals and by improving the health of the public.
A statement for Out-of-State-Applicants:
The University of Kansas is a state-supported institution that gives primary consideration to Kansas residents and those with strong Kansas connections. Out-of-state applicants should review the following paragraph to determine your interest in pursuing a position in the KU School of Medicine:
While we will only accept candidates who are academically qualified to meet the intellectual rigors of a medical career, our focus on out-of-state applicants is to select those who will contribute to the depth and breadth of backgrounds and life experiences of the entering class. We carefully consider those personal characteristics deemed necessary to develop into a highly competent and compassionate physician. We seek applicants who have a sound awareness of issues in medicine and who have demonstrated their commitment to serve others. For the 2020 entering class, KU received 3,000 applications for a class of 211. Of the 2,500 non-resident applicants, 165 were interviewed and 25 matriculated.
A note from the SOM Admissions Office regarding Systematic Racism in medical school admissions:
The KUSOM Office of Admissions recognizes and takes responsibilty for past practices that have enabled and prolonged bias against minority communities in applying to medical school. We are committed to addressing these issues fully and do so mindful of the community voices bringing the issues to light.
We are continually reviewing our processes and are taking steps to correct past issues and make future cycles equitable, fair, and more in line with the true face of the community we serve.
Our faculty are also reviewing the curriculum for anything that contributes to the harm caused by race-based medicine, as well as looking for anything that perpetrates racism or other forms of bias through the use of the SUNY Upstate Bias Survey to screen teaching materials and in faculty development.
We are committed to exanding and reinforcing the content needed for effective race-aware medicine, and have recently expanded administrative structures that are working to improve student and faculty diversity and the comfort and success of students and faculty from underrepresented in medicine groups in the school.
We recognize this is a long-term committment since this is a long-standing cultural problem that will not be solved with minor tweaks here and there.
The Admissions Office is committed to continually reviewing and improving our process to eliminate bias in the interview process.
You can find more information on our programs for underrepresented students in medicine here:
Applying to medical school typically takes a full year. The year prior to the term you wish to enter, you will submit your AMCAS application between June and October. You must take the MCAT prior to applying.
If you are applying to the Early Decision Program, you will need to submit your application by August 1st.
Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Early Decision interviews will take place in September. Regular Decision interviews will take place between October and January. Final accceptances will be sent out by March, and medical school will begin in mid-July.
Once you submit your application, we will review it and determine whether or not to extend an invite to interview. For the 2021-22 cycle, we will hold all interviews virtually to help keep travel associated costs down for all prospective students.
Minimal Course Requirements:
Biological sciences at the level of a biology major - 2 semesters
Inorganic (general) chemistry (with lab) - 2 semesters
General organic chemistry (with at least 1 lab) - 2 semesters
Physics (with lab) - 2 semesters
English composition or writing-intensive courses (sufficient credit for bachelor's degree) - 2 semesters
Your university may have a different sequence of courses to fulfill a degree requirement. However, our prerequisite courses are expected for all entering medical students regardless of your degree program's requirements.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to diversify their undergraduate education. While not required for admission to the School of Medicine, several courses and subject areas have been found helpful in preparing for the medical school curriculum. Suggested courses and disciplines include:
Immunology (strongly encouraged)
Behavioral and social sciences
Oral and written communications
Social determinants of health (strongly encouraged; examples include cultural or social anthropology, public or population health, epidemiology, environmental health, health economics, health policy, history of medicine or public health, ethics related to health care)
You should review the content of the MCAT exam to ensure you are taking coursework to best prepare you for the necessary content. https://students-residents.aamc.org/prepare-mcat-exam/prepare-mcat-exam
Students required by their college or university to accept a Pass/Fail or Credit/No Credit grade for the 2022 application cycle will not be penalized by the School of Medicine. The School of Medicine does accept Pass/Fail and Credit/No Credit grades for course prerequisites, but prefers to see letter grades. Students with the option of accepting a letter grade or a Pass/Fail or Credit/No Credit grade in the 2022 application cycle may want to consider the impact on the overall science GPA and cumulative GPA if a course does not have a letter grade.
Online Coursework and Labs:
Online coursework and labs are acceptable.
Selecting a Major in College
The KU SOM does not have any preference on your choice of college major. It should be something you are interested in, perform well in, and would study even if medicine were not on the table. If you elect to major in a non-science field, you may need to take additional coursework to meet admission and MCAT preparation requirements.
Community College coursework:
The SOM accepts coursework taken from a community college. While not all premedical requirements can be completed at a 2-year institution, we will accept lower division coursework from a community college.
The ACE Curriculum
The goal of the ACE (Active, Competency-based, and Excellence-driven) curriculum is to graduate physicians focused on improving the health and well-being of Kansans and the global community. To meet this goal, physicians trained in the ACE curriculum emerge as life-long learners who quickly adapt to continuous changes in the practice of medicine brought about by scientific and clinical discoveries. Our physicians are trained to understand the healthcare systems that influence patient care and how to engage those systems to better serve those who seek help. Graduates of the ACE curriculum know that much of medicine requires working in inter-disciplinary teams employing complex technology, but that the physician-patient relationship remains the foundation of healing. From individuals to communities to populations, ACE-trained physicians are given the tools to seek better understanding of health and disease and to advance the health of all.
Every medical school has different requirements and missions so the information listed here may not carry over to another program, and we encourage advisors and students to do their due diligience and research each individual program.
Writing a Personal Statement:
A personal statement to medical school is your opportunity to clearly state your whys - why do you want to be a physician and why are you the best candidate for a position in medical school. You don't need to be gimmicky in your statement, but you do need to focus on being clear, concise, and have a clear understanding of your pathways. If you can't communicate that clearly in writing, then you should spend some time working with resources that can help you with that clarity. We also encourage you to work with someone to proofread your statement and catch any editing errors.
Letters of Reference:
KU SOM requires 3-5 letters of reference from professionals and/or instructors who know you well. You should seek out those who can speak to your work or study ethic, your professionalism, and your strengths. We do not require a premedical committee letter, but if your institution provides them, you may choose to submit that. If the committee letter contains 3-5 full letters, you would not need to submit additional letters, but if your committee letter does not then you would need to submit additional letters until you have the required 3-5.
Letters should be submitted directly from your letters writers through the AMCAS Letter Application System.
Preparing for the MCAT
All students matriculating into the KU School of Medicine are required to obtain an acceptable score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
The MCAT exam is offered through the Association of American Medical Colleges. This is a 7.5 hour test offered in a one-day format and will test over the following four areas: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.
Your MCAT score, combined with your undergraduate science GPA, is the best indicator of future success in medical school. KU School of Medicine takes into high consideration your score on this exam, and so it is in your highest interest to follow the steps below and prepare to the best of your ability.
The MCAT has scores for each of the four areas listed above ranging from 118 (lowest) to 132 (highest). The total of all four areas is your total MCAT score, which will range from 472 (lowest) to 528 (highest). The national mean MCAT score for the 2019 year was 500.5. The mean score for the 2019 entering class for KU medical students was 510.
The two most common mistakes for students with low MCAT scores are underestimating the amount of study preparation time, and not taking enough practice exams. There are many helpful resources for you on the AAMC website, including an MCAT PrepHub. Those links will be provided at the end of this document.
It is recommended you budget at least 300-400 hours of thoughtful, well-planned, and strategic study time to prepare for the MCAT. This means you should begin studying at least one semester before you take the real exam.
Additionally, we recommend taking at least two full-length practice exams. These can be purchased for a nominal fee on the AAMC site. These practice exams are important because of the physical and mental endurance needed to complete a 7.5 hour exam. We find that students may know the material in the comfort of their own home but struggle to perform their best on a test day when they are tired, hungry, and/or mentally drained. Taking practice exams will help you perfect strategies to counter these effects.
A note on practice exams: it is common to score roughly 5-10 points higher on a practice exam than the real exam. You should add this buffer in as you take your exams and plan accordingly.
The following courses are typically recommended for basic MCAT content knowledge: your school's equivalent of Biology for Majors I and II, General Chemistry I and II, Organic Chemistry I, Physics I, Biochemistry, Genetics, and one social science course such as Psychology or Sociology. You can find more in-depth content on the AAMC site.
While you can retake the MCAT, our recommendation is that you take practice exams until you are prepared enough to take the official test once.
You are limited to taking the MCAT 3 times in a single year, 4 times over a consecutive 2-year period, and 7 lifetime total exams. Again, we recommend you take the test once, after you have prepared ahead of time.
AAMC offers a Fee Assistance Program which includes access to all official preparation material, practice tests, and reduced application fee costs to students who qualify. You can find the link at the end of the document.
Fall semester, junior year: You should create a comprehensive study plan and build in time for practice exams and review. A practice exam early on can help you identify weak areas and provide you with a roadmap on what information you need to focus on.
Spring semester, junior year: Continue working your plan, and take your second practice exam to gauge where your score lands on a practice exam. Use this time to address weak areas. Review methodically and consistently. Spend time evaluating errors and error patterns (this is an extremely important strategy).
Summer semester, junior year: If you are fully prepared, you should take your MCAT exam in May/June/July/August after your junior year. It will take 30 days to receive your official score from the AAMC.
Test Preparation services:
We recommend you reach out to your premedical advisor to see what resources you may have through your undergraduate institution. Some schools have preparation programs, others do not.
Some students elect to use a paid test preparation service. This is optional and is a personal decision driven by your study needs and styles. We do not endorse any one service over another, but suggest you do research on the company and ask to speak with other students who have used those services to obtain their opinions.
AAMC: Taking the MCAT exam https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/taking-mcat-exam/
AAMC: Preparing for the MCAT exam: https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/taking-mcat-exam/prepare-mcat-exam/
AAMC: Fee Assistance Program: https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/applying-medical-school-process/fee-assistance-program/
AAMC: Free Planning and Study Resources: https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/taking-mcat-exam/prepare-mcat-exam/free-planning-and-study-resources/
Preparing for an Interview
The KU SOM extends interviews on a rolling basis between September and January. Interviews consist of two 30-minute back-to-back sessions with members of our Selection Committee, facultly, 4th year medical students, and select community members.
An interview is time for you to get to know us, and us to get to know you outside of what is listed on the AMCAS application. We ask questions - some standardized and some not - over different areas to assess who you are, why you are on the path, how much medical exposure you've had, and if you're a good fit for the program.
Good interviews are conversations between you and the interviews rather than memorized scripts about what you think medical schools want to hear. You'll want to work on being clear in your oral communication skills. There are no trick questions or weed-out questions, but rather questions to get to know you as a person.
We encourage everyone to do mock interviews as preparation for the real thing. Medical school interviews are hard to prepare for in that it is hard to replicate the pressure and environment consistently. But if you do enough mock interviews either through your institutution or some other resource, you can have experience answering a variety of questions and having a good grasp of explaining your path.
After Your Interview
After interviews, the Selection Committee will meet to review the applications of those who were interviewed during this interview block. Each application will be presented individually, with the presenter primarily providing information on your experiences, interviews, and letters of recommendation. Data that can easily be pulled from the database and printed in a succinct manner (e.g., legal residence, colleges attended, GPAs, MCATs, majors, degrees earned) will be provided for each Selection Committee member. Following the presentation and a period of discussion, the chair will ask each committee member to vote. The votes cast are numerical.
After all interviewees for your interview block have been discussed and voted upon, an average score (the "committee score") will be calculated for each interviewee. Based upon the committee score, applicants are rank ordered, highest to lowest, on a list that will not be completed until the last interviewees have been discussed, usually early to mid-March.
At the beginning of each admissions year, two committee score thresholds will be set and used throughout the interview season. Because we know we will have many strong applicants interview with us throughout the year, the acceptance point is set high enough to allow us to conservatively offer acceptances after each interview block. If your position on the rank-ordered list is at or above the upper threshold set by the Committee, you will receive a letter offering acceptance.
If you do receive an acceptance letter, please note that, during the fall/winter admissions/interview season, we will be very busy with 3000 other applicants and will not send any additional information to accepted applicants until the spring. At that time, we will detail pre-matriculation requirements.
If your position on the Selection Committee's rank-ordered list is below the lower score threshold set by the committee, you will be sent a denial letter. Following most interview blocks, approximately one-third of interviewees receive a denial. Receipt of a denial letter should not be interpreted to mean that you are a poor candidate or that you will never be accepted to medical school. It simply means your application to KU this year was ranked low enough by the Selection Committee that we know you will not be offered a position in the 2022 entering class. We choose to provide you early notification so that you might consider your next steps earlier rather than later.
Interviewees whose committee score places them between the acceptance and the denial points on the ranked list will receive a "pending" letter, which means we will not know the final disposition of your application until after we finish our interview season. If you receive a pending letter, you will next hear from us in mid-March. In March, those highest on the list rank-ordered by committee score will be accepted to the point that our entering class is filled (and then overfilled by about 20 applicants). The next applicants on the committee score list will be placed on the rank-ordered alternate list. Finally, those remaining in the pended group will be sent a denial letter. If you are moved from "pending" status to a position on the alternate list, you will be notified in March of your alternate number.
Campus assignments will be made in March-eight accepted students to the Salina campus, 28 to the Wichita campus, and 44 to the Kansas City/Wichita track. This assignment will be based, in large part, upon information you provided in your KU supplemental application. To the greatest extent possible, campus assignments will favor applicants' stated preferences. The committee will also rank order a reasonable number of alternates for each campus. Applicants will be notified of their campus assignments by the first week of April. Please do not secure housing before your campus assignment is known.
Denial of Admission:
If you are denied admission, you may request a feedback call with a member of the Admissions Team. They will discuss broad points about where you can improve your application and what concrete steps you can take to prepare for another application, should you choose to reapply.
We realize that applying to medical school is a complicated process, but we are happy to answer questions and offer guidance as best we can. You can reach out to us at email@example.com, or you can drop into our virtual Open Office Hours every Thursday between 1 - 3 PM CST via the Zoom link below:
Meeting ID: 961 3837 8117
On behalf of the KU SOM Office of Admissions, we wish you the best of luck on your journey to medical school!