Are you interested in pursuing a career in medicine? The field of medicine has three main degree tracks - Medical Doctor (MD), a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO), or physician scientist (MD/PhD). All require you to go to medical school, and all have the same preparatory coursework.

Preparing for Medical School

In 2008 over 500,000 applications were generated for approximately 17,000 first year medical school slots. How can you stand out? Medical schools consider not only academic ability such as grades and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores but also personal qualities and attributes. Did you demonstrate leadership, an ability to work with others, self-discipline? Did you volunteer to work in your community or spend a summer working with a local physician or at a hospital or in a research laboratory? Medical schools will scrutinize your entire academic record, MCAT scores, personal statement, and letters of recommendation looking for ability, motivation, integrity, and emotional maturity.


You are not required to be a biology, chemistry, or biochemistry and molecular biology (BMB) major at Cornell to go to medical school. However, you must have enough background in these areas to do well on the MCAT and to complete the prerequisites for medical school.

Choose a major that interests you, but remember that admissions committees will examine the difficulty of your academic program, evidence of academic achievement beyond regular course work, and evidence of your intellectual growth. The overwhelming majority of Cornell students attending medical school in recent years were BMB majors, and many had a double major in another area. Following this path can really strengthen your application as it allows you to meet the prerequisites required by medical schools and sets you apart from other applicants. If you want to double major, DO NOT DOUBLE MAJOR IN THE SCIENCES! Choose majors such as biology and art or BMB and English. You need to also consider your future if you don’t get into medical school or if, at the end of four years at Cornell, you decide not to apply. Choose your major(s) with alternative careers in mind. There are many health-related careers outside of medicine!


Students interested in practicing medicine must naturally have a strong background in the physical and biological sciences, but equally important are those courses in the humanities and social sciences. Few schools specifically list humanities and behavioral/social science courses; however, medical schools are looking for students with a well-rounded education -- exactly the liberal arts education Cornell offers. Specific admission requirements for the 125 allopathic (MD) and 18 osteopathic (DO) medical schools in the U.S. and the 16 schools in Canada can be found in materials in the Dimensions Resource Center, 102 West Science.

Click here to see what most schools require.
Click here to see a sample Cornell College course timeline.

International Students Interested in Attending Medical School

In the health professions application process, non-U.S. citizens holding permanent residency in the U.S. (i.e., green card holders) are generally treated in the same way as U.S. citizens.  Opportunities for medical education in the U.S. are not as available for international applicants, that is, non-U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents. While some medical schools do allow applications from international students, the numbers admitted yearly are quite small.  Most acceptances are offered by private health professions schools. Many American students finance their medical education, at least in part, through government loans.

U.S. government loans are not available to international students who are not permanent residents. Therefore, many medical schools will require international students to document their ability to independently pay for a medical education. In some cases, students may be required to demonstrate adequate funds in an escrow account prior to enrollment. If you are interested in pursuing a career in health care, you should research the admissions requirements for health professions schools in your home country before deciding whether to pursue a baccalaureate degree in the U.S. The National Association for Advisors of the Health Professions provides additional information regarding medical school admissions policies relative to international student applicants.  

Internships and Summer Research

You need a realistic, not romanticized, view of what the life of a practicing physician is like today. Internships or summer jobs in health care facilities such as hospitals, clinics, or laboratories will expose you to the more practical side of the health profession and allow you to judge your potential in that profession. They also like to see students with research experience.  In addition, medical schools need to be assured that you are well aware of the exigencies of the health profession and that you are committed to a career as a physician.

If you need help finding an internship or research placement, speak with your advisor, visit the Career Engagement Center , and the Dimensions Resource Center. Also, Dimensions has funds set aside to support student internships and independent research projects.

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

All medical schools require the MCAT administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).  Click here to see information about the MCAT.

The Medical School Application Process

The primary source for information when you reach the planning stage for your application is the Dimensions Resource Center.  Click here to see how the application process works and to see how Dimensions can help you apply.

Other helpful links about becoming a doctor:

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) Homepage

Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Homepage

Student Doctor Network

Explore Health Careers

Application: American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) Application

Application: Association of American Medical Colleges Application Service (AMCAS) Application