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Factors To Consider

A. State Residency

Where you live is a major factor in the medical school application and selection process. You should always apply to schools within your own state or to schools that give special consideration to residents of your state. In 2021 about 60% of new matriculants went to medical schools in their own states.

Residency is not something about which you can equivocate. It is a term that is interpreted differently by different states, and even by different medical schools within a single state, but it is taken very seriously. A corollary to this is that as you file your application you must be completely open and honest with the medical schools. You can only claim residency in one state. The medical schools have sophisticated ways of discovering false information and dishonest applicants are likely to be eliminated from consideration by all medical schools. If you have any question about whether you qualify as a state resident, call the admissions office of the medical school and ask for a copy of their guidelines on how residency is determined.

B. Age

The mean age of matriculants nationally in 2021 was about 24. Most of the people who apply through the Health Sciences Office are alumni/ae who have graduated within the last two years. In fact, it is a wise strategy to wait until your credentials are at their strongest; medical schools are very interested in candidates who have the experience and maturity that comes from being out in the work world or graduate school for a few years. This can sometimes compensate for somewhat lower grades and MCATs, particularly for candidates who have worked in a health care setting.

C. Gender

The application-acceptance ratio is similar for both sexes. Over the years, women have constituted about half of the Swarthmore applicant pool and of our accepted applicants. Nationally, they comprise more than half of the entering class. 

D. Increasing Medical School Diversity

There are a number of racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population. These include four historically underrepresented groups — Blacks, Mexican-Americans, Native Americans and mainland Puerto Ricans. These designated groups have recently been expanded to include a broader range of ethnicities and a greater focus on regional and local demographics so as to improve the cultural competencies of graduating physicians and improve access to care for underserved populations. These students and students from rural or disadvantaged areas are often accepted into medical school with GPAs below 3.3 or 507-512 MCAT scores.

E. International Student Status

It is extremely difficult, although not impossible, for international students (not U.S. citizens or permanent residents) to enter American medical schools. Most medical schools will not even consider their applications. International students who have extremely high MCATs and grade point averages and impressive extracurricular experiences may be accepted, but they will be ineligible to receive the standard financial aid package. In recent years, fewer than 300 first year places across the entire U.S. went to international students.