Good grades in biology certainly help. But getting noticed by the admissions committee at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine may mean learning Spanish and spreadsheet design, or doing a volunteer stint at a local hospital. The medical school, which receives more than 5,800 applications annually for its 121 slots, wants well-rounded candidates who can do more than earn high marks in math and science.

UCLA's medical school seeks well-rounded candidates.
UCLA's medical school seeks well-rounded candidates.

Good grades in biology certainly help. But getting noticed by the admissions committee at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine may mean learning Spanish and spreadsheet design, or doing a volunteer stint at a local hospital. The medical school, which receives more than 5,800 applications annually for its 121 slots, wants well-rounded candidates who can do more than earn high marks in math and science.

Core Requirements

In terms of completed undergraduate studies, the medical school requires one year of English writing composition and one year each of physics and general biology. You'll also need two years of both organic and inorganic chemistry, as well as credits in calculus and statistics. All science courses must have a lab, and for advanced biology courses, the school recommends opting for genetics rather than anatomy.

Although there are exceptions, nearly all candidates must have a bachelor's degree. Even those who hold a doctorate must satisfy all prerequisites.

Grades

Grades do count. In 2009, most of the applicants whom the UCLA medical school deemed competitive had an overall grade point average of at least 3.9. The school regarded any GPA below 3.4 as noncompetitive. The school urges applicants to retake any science core class for which they received no higher than a C.

Admissions Test

Before sending in your application, register to take the Medical College Admission Test ( MCAT). Administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the exam assesses critical thinking skills in areas of problem solving, scientific knowledge, comprehension and writing. The AAMC recommends retaking it if your score is below average for the medical school to which you're applying. Top UCLA medical school candidates admitted in 2009 received a composite score of 35 or higher.

If you retake the test, submit both scores with your application. Like most medical schools, that of UCLA accepts only test scores that are less than 3 years old. To prepare for the test, the AAMC offers a study guide with two practice exams.

Letters of Recommendation

UCLA's medical school requests two letters of recommendation, each from an academic adviser or a professor, that attest to your academic ability. A third letter of recommendation should be from someone who will praise your personal attributes.

Life Experience

If you lack health care experience, volunteering in your town's free medical clinic may score points with admissions representatives. It shows dedication to the profession and demonstrates your ability to work well with diverse populations.

Advance Preparation

To preview what the UCLA medical school and similar programs are looking for in a candidate, order a copy of "Medical School Admission Requirements." Published by the AAMC, it includes GPA statistics, entrance exam scores, medical school class profiles, and application procedures and deadlines.