Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses and address health maintenance. Physicians examine patients, take medical histories, prescribe medications, and order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests. They often counsel patients on diet, hygiene and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones, diseases, such as cancerous tumors, and deformities, such as cleft palates.
There are two types of physicians, with similar degrees: M.D. (Medical Doctor) and D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Both use the same methods of treatment, including drugs and surgery, but D.O.s place additional emphasis on the body's musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine, and holistic (whole-person) patient care. D.O.s are most likely to be primary care physicians, although they work in all specialties. Learn more
Note: It is not recommended to self-advise. There are many things to consider besides the required courses such as prerequisites and course sequencing, balancing your schedule, building in time for volunteering, shadowing, research, entrance exam preparation, and planning for the application cycle. See the Director of Pre-professional Advising for individualized long-term planning.
Students who are planning to apply to medical programs will need the following:
- Bachelor’s degree with a competitive cumulative and science GPA
- Required prerequisite coursework which can vary from school to school
- Research experience
- Clinical experience and service
- Communication and leadership skills
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
- Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
- CASper and AAMC PREview Exam
- Understand the application timeline
- Illinois medical programs
- Pre-medical resources
A baccalaureate degree is required in any field as long as the prerequisites are met. Biology and Biochemistry majors can meet all prerequisites within their programs. Other majors will still need to take the prerequisite courses in addition to their major and degree requirements.
To be a competitive applicant students must have a strong grade point average (GPA). Professional programs will look at several GPAs:
- Cumulative GPA: all courses and from all schools attended including repeats, remedial courses, and possibly graduate-level courses
- Science GPA: includes biology, chemistry physics, and often math (or BCP/BCPM)
- Prerequisite GPA: calculated only on the prerequisites necessary for that particular professional school program.
- All other GPA: calculated on all courses except your science courses
Professional schools do not honor “grade forgiveness” or “grade replacement” for repeated courses. All grades count and repeats are averaged together. There is also no expiration date on courses taken many years ago.
The following list indicates the most common classes required or highly recommended by most medical schools. Applicants should always check directly with each program they are applying to and see the Preprofessional Advisor for more information.
|Writing I & II
|ENG 101 & 102
|Biology I & II
|BIOL 201 & 202
|General Chemistry I & I
|CHEM 211 & 212
|Organic Chemistry I
|Physics I & II
|PHYS 201L & 202L
|PSY 100 or 200
|Organic Chemistry II
|Anatomy & Physiology I & II
|BIO 318 & 319
Additional courses to consider
Organic Chemistry II, Calculus, Cell Biology, other advanced Biology, Computer Science
and additional Social/Behavioral Sciences
- AP and IB credits are generally not accepted toward prerequisites.
- Community college credits can be viewed differently by each program. Check before applying.
- Some programs do not accept international courses to meet prerequisites. Check before applying.
- Online lab courses are not accepted toward prerequisites. Some programs will not allow any online coursework. There may be some exceptions for courses taken at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Check before applying.
- Too many withdrawals (W's) on your transcripts can reflect negatively on your application.
- Some programs have expiration dates on their prerequisites. Make sure you have taken them within the program's time requirements.
Undergraduate research is required for admission by several medical schools, but not all. However, they all value the experience and it can make an applicant stand out. Always check with the medical schools you are planning to apply to. According to the AAMC, about 60% of accepted students participated in some kind of laboratory research. Subjects can include basic science, biomedical, and clinical research, as well as social science and health systems research. Although a full year of research, preferably in a lab setting, makes your research background stand out. You can reach out to the Student Center for Science Engagement for help finding research opportunities.
Experiences should be meaningful to you on a personal level and reflect your professional goals. Remember that you will be expected to write thoughtful descriptions of your experiences in the application process. Quality over quantity is most important. Programs would rather see commitment and dedication over time than hopping from one short-term experience to the other. Keep a journal not just to document your hours, but to express how various interactions impacted you and your long-term goals.
Shadowing/Clinical Experience (100+ hours)
Ask a practitioner to observe their work. This will give you a glimpse into their daily routine and allow you to see if you’re really a good fit for the profession. Shadowing opportunities are notoriously hard to find, so start looking as soon as possible. The most common way to find shadowing opportunities is through networking: ask family, friends, and colleagues if they know a professional that would allow you to shadow them. Another option is to engage in clinical experiences first. If you are volunteering in a hospital or clinic, working as a CNA or EMT, etc., ask the professionals you work with. The more they know about your aspirations as a future health professional, the more likely they are to take you on for shadowing or refer you to a colleague who will.
Professional schools like to see as much hands-on, direct patient care as possible. Competitive applicants complete 100-200 hours of shadowing and medical experience combined. Many students find physicians to shadow through volunteer experiences at medical facilities. You should shadow both M.D. and D.O. doctors. Competitive applicants shadow three to five different physicians, spending at least 8-10 hours with each, and have a good balance between primary care and non-primary care physicians.
Volunteer/Community Service (100+ hours)
You are preparing for a "helping" profession and it is assumed that you care about those you are planning to serve. Therefore, it is important to have volunteer experiences demonstrating a commitment to service. This should be ongoing throughout your college years. Medical professions often play a big role in the community. Getting involved in your community is a great way to experience this. You can volunteer at a church or other religious facility, community centers, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, etc.
Volunteering in a health setting will give you exposure to various practitioners working with patients. Look for opportunities to assist, be part of a team, make decisions, and lead others. There are many ways to volunteer in the health setting such as hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, nursing/retirement homes, doctors’ offices, public clinics, suicide hotlines, hospice centers, crisis centers, or study abroad experiences like medical mission trips.
Get involved on campus through student government, honors programs, or student organizations that are related to your major or future profession such as the Future Health Professionals Club. Get involved by participating in their events. They often conduct enrichment programming and even community service. Try to become an officer in an organization to gain leadership experience. You must take this role seriously though and live up to the commitment you make. You can search all of NEIU's Student Organizations to find others that are a good fit for you.
As a health professional, you will be a leader and team member with your patients, staff, colleagues, and in your community. Other ways to gain leadership experience include offices held in organizations, committee work, leadership in religious activities, coordinating a project; managing, training, and supervising at work, teaching or training experience of any kind, tutoring, as well as peer counseling or mentoring.
You will need at least two to three strong letters of recommendation ideally from science faculty and/or relevant professionals that have supervised you in a work, internship, research, or volunteer setting. You will need to give them at least two months’ notice so be sure to research the letter of recommendation requirements for each program you're planning to apply.
Get to know people from these categories so you will feel comfortable asking them to write excellent letters for you.
- Science professor
- Non-science professor
- Health professional
- Research professor/supervisor
- Work/volunteer supervisor
- Mentor or advisor
Learn more on how to request letters of recommendation. Please note that Northeastern does not offer a committee or composite letter.
You will have to write a personal statement/essay as part of your application. It should be about two pages double-spaced and discuss how your life has led you to your desired career. While most personal statements are general in nature and can be used for multiple applications, some programs want applicants to follow specific guidelines and answer prompts that they will provide. Check with the schools you’re applying to and make sure you’re following directions. Look up examples of personal statements and have several people read yours before submitting it. If you would like to talk about why you’re interested in a particular program you can write several statements and customize them as needed.
This is also your opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are beyond your GPA, test scores, and experiences. It communicates what is important to you and explains in-depth your reasons and motivations for pursuing professional school. Additionally, a personal statement can help explain any gaps in education or experiences, as well as any weaknesses in an application.
Learn more about how to write personal statements.
The MCAT Exam is administered in January, and March through September. Taking the exam by spring will enable you to apply earlier. The MCAT, developed and administered by the AAMC, is a standardized, multiple-choice examination created to help medical school admissions offices assess your problem-solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.
The MCAT is divided into four multiple-choice sections:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Living Systems
- Psychological, Social/Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Almost all U.S. medical schools and many Canadian schools require you to submit MCAT exam scores. Many schools do not accept MCAT exam scores that are more than three years old. You can obtain the most updated information on the AAMC website.
MCAT preparation resources
- Prepare for the MCAT Exam
- Khan Academy
- BluePrint Prep
- The Princeton Review
- Manhattan Elite Prep
- Chad's Prep
The Altus Suite, which includes CASPer Snapshot, and Duet, is a multi-part assessment that evaluates applicants for people skills in a fair and reliable way while giving applicants multiple opportunities to showcase their unique personal and professional strengths. It's an online, open-response situational judgment test (SJT) required by some medical schools. It asks what you would do in a tough situation, and more importantly, why. This helps determine the behavioral tendencies of applicants pursuing people-centered professions. Not required by all medical schools and some may only require CASPer and not the other evaluations in the suite.
CASPer assesses for 10 characteristics: Collaboration, Communication, Empathy, Equity, Ethics, Motivation, Problem-Solving, Professionalism, Resilience, and Self Awareness. It is a 60- to 90-minute virtually proctored assessment, made up of 12 sections. Each section contains a video-based or word-based scenario and three open-ended questions. Test takers have five minutes to type their responses to all three questions. Visit the CASPer website.
The AAMC PREview Exam (formerly SJT) for US medical schools measures medical school applicants' competencies based on AAMC PreProfessional Competencies. AAMC PREview is 75 minutes and is scored from 1 (low) to 9 (high). AAMC PREview.
The application cycle for medical school begins about 15 months before you intend on enrolling, in the summer of the year prior to enrollment. However, the exact timing depends on when you will take the MCAT, complete prerequisites, etc. Meet with your paraprofessional advisor to develop a long-term plan for applying. Keep in mind that course scheduling, extra-curricular activities, exam preparation, and even your personal and family life can all contribute to the need of having flexibility in your timeline.
Primary Applications are processed through central processing services and are sent to every school affiliated with that service. There are three centralized application services processing primary applications for US medical schools.
- AMCAS: for applying to MD medical schools
- AACOMAS: for applying to DO medical schools
- TMDSAS: for applying to schools in the University of Texas System
These services are very similar and open online in May. You can begin the primary application process and start submitting on or around June 1. You should have selected which medical schools to apply to, have contacted those who will write letters of recommendation for you, ordered official transcripts from all colleges attended, and completed your personal statement by this time. Deadlines vary between services and also by school and range from October-March. Application services verify primary applications and notify applicants of verification or problems.
- University of Illinois/Chicago
- University of Illinois/Rockford
- University of Illinois/Peoria
- University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign
- Loyola University/Chicago
- Midwestern University/Downers Grove
- Northwestern University/Chicago
- Rosalind Franklin University
- Rush University
- Southern Illinois University
- Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)
- Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR)
- The Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students (AAMC)
- Taking the MCAT Exam
- CASPer website
- AAMC PREview
- Fee Assistance Program (FAP)
- Summer Health Professions Education Program
- Pre-Med Webinars (AAMC)
- Aspiring Docs
- The Student Doctor Network (sdn)
- Careers in Medicine - Specialty Profiles
- American Medical Association (AMA)
- Length of Medical Residencies
- National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA)
- Medical Organization for Latino Advancement (MOLA)
- American Osteopathic Association (AOA)
- Occupational Outlook Handbook - Physicians and Surgeons