Students may apply to medical school in two ways: through a linkage program agreement or through the general admissions process. Information regarding linkage admissions is available in the Linkage Admission section of the website.
Information on committee letters of recommendation, the MCAT, and interview feedback is applicable to students regardless of their pathway to medical school.
Getting Ready to Apply
It is never too early for students to begin familiarizing themselves with the medical school admissions process; they are likely to be more confident if they are well informed about what awaits them. Toward that end, the Postbac Program conducts sessions on developing the Prehealth Porfolio, a resource students are encouraged to begin working on early in their time at Columbia.
The Premedical Office hosts mandatory meetings during the fall semester for those who plan to apply to medical school over the following summer. Their purpose is to give an overview of and introduction to the application process. Topics covered include completion and submission of the Prehealth Portfolio, the common application, supplemental applications, standardized admissions examinations, letters of recommendation, committee support, interviewing, resources, and the timeline for the application process to medical, dental, and veterinary schools. This overview prepares students to consult individually with their advisors about the optimal application strategy.
Students are also encouraged to consult the following resources:
- Internal Applicant Forms
- Application Guidelines
- School-Specific Interview Feedback from Current and Former Students
American Medical College Service (AMCAS)
Most schools of allopathic medicine in the US participate in AMCAS, the American Medical College Application Service. Students complete a single common application, including a composite academic record and a personal statement, which is submitted directly to AMCAS. After AMCAS verifies the contents of the application (a four- to six-week process), it is forwarded to each school designated by the applicant. For information about individual schools, including their admissions processes and requirements, students should purchase a subscription to the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR), a web-based resource updated annually by the AAMC.
Note: The AMCAS application is available beginning in early May. Transcripts should be sent to AMCAS at that time; however, it is recommended that applicants wait for spring grades before sending their Columbia transcripts. Columbia transcripts can be transmitted to AMCAS electronically. Applicants may begin submitting their AMCAS applications in late May or early June.
To apply to a non-AMCAS allopathic medical school, students must complete each school's proprietary application online (or, in some cases, request a paper copy from a school’s admissions office). Applications for non-AMCAS schools are typically available by May, so students should make requests in mid-April. Schools of osteopathic medicine have their own common application, AACOMAS, as do all Texas state schools. These are just the principal exceptions to the AMCAS application process.
Because many medical schools select their entering classes on a rolling basis, it is to a student's advantage to submit applications as early as possible.
AMCAS begins accepting applications in late May or early June.
It takes up to six weeks for AMCAS to verify an application before sending it on to the schools designated by the applicant. At that point (sooner in some cases), the applicant will begin to receive supplemental applications from the schools. Although many schools' application deadlines are in late fall, it is in the applicant's best interest to submit all supplemental applications within two weeks of receiving them.
Once medical schools receive a student's verified AMCAS application, many will then send secondary applications to complete (some may even send the secondary application as soon as the applicant submits the AMCAS application). In some cases, schools will use the AMCAS application to screen applicants to determine whether or not to send the secondary application. Generally, students should aim to complete and return secondary applications within two weeks of receipt (some schools may expect to receive them in under two weeks' time). The essays for the secondary applications provide another great opportunity for students to persuade medical schools that they are worth interviewing.
Students who have completed coursework in the Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program and are receiving a committee letter in support of their applications are required to be enrolled in Maintenance of Status (fee associated) for both terms of their glide/application year, unless they are enrolled in Columbia courses. Registration for Maintenance of Status for these students is done automatically and requires no action on the students' part.
Reapplicants are re-enrolled in Maintenance of Status, but do not pay the fee.
Students who are eligible for support, but who, upon completion of their studies, elect to defer their application, will be enrolled in Maintenance of Status during the deferral year and again during their application year. They will be charged only for the first year of Maintenance of Status.
Students who are not required to register for Maintenance of Status, but who would like continued access to Columbia and Postbac Premed resources, must register prior to the beginning of the term in order to avoid a late registration fee. There is no refund of the Maintenance of Status fee if canceled after the end of the Change of Program period.
International students are advised that enrollment in Maintenance of Status will compel them to enroll in the Columbia University Student Health Insurance Plan.
Undergraduate premed students are ineligible for Maintenance of Status, even if they have graduated.
Students enrolled in Maintenance of Status will continue to enjoy the following resources:
- Access to a Postbac Premed advisor
- Administrative support for the medical school application process
- Receipt of the weekly Postbac Premed newsletter, which provides announcements about clinical and research positions; notification of lectures, meetings, information sessions, and workshops related to healthcare, the medical school application and interview process, and financing medical education; and invitations to special events for Postbac Premed students
- Use of Columbia's student services such as computer labs, libraries and health services, as well as use of the Center for Career Education, and an active University email account
- Invitations to all Premedical Association (PMA) activities
- Access to Columbia discounts (e.g., computers)
Students who register for Maintenance of Status have the opportunity to purchase a student membership to the Dodge Physical Fitness Center and to enroll in the Columbia University Student Health Insurance Plan, but are not automatically enrolled in either.
Students begin the process of applying to medical school as they finish the required premedical course work. Generally, a full year is required between the submission of applications to medical school and matriculation. This year is known as the “application year” or “glide year.” Students do not pay tuition during their glide year, however, students who are receiving a committee letter in support of their applications will automatically be registered for Maintenance of Status (fee associated) for both terms of their glide year, unless they are enrolled in Columbia courses that will also satisfy this requirement.
During this period, Postbac Premed students are required to be enrolled for Maintenance of Status, unless they are otherwise enrolled in coursework at Columbia.
International students should consult the academic policy on how to maintain their immigration status during the glide year. They are also advised that enrollment in Maintenance of Status will compel them to purchase the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan.
Throughout the application year, students should consider it their responsibility to keep their advisor informed about the progress of applications. They should also consult with their advisor about upcoming interviews and effective strategies to pursue after all applications are submitted.
As a part of the medical school application process during the glide year, students may be invited for interviews at medical schools. Students are encouraged to share their feedback with their fellow students by completing and submitting an Interview Feedback Form after each interview.
Current students interested in reviewing interview feedback from other students should visit the Interview Feedback page.
Glide Year Options
During the glide year, students should devote themselves to activities that affirm their interest in and commitment to a career in medicine. Some Postbac Premed students hold clinical, research, or health policy positions, others take an upper-level course or two, and some undertake an additional degree program. In anticipation of the glide year, Postbac students should attend a Glide Year Planning Workshop or consult with their advisor before the end of the orgo/bio year.
Note: Students should plan to be in the United States and available for interviews from late September until April of the application year. Students planning to be out of the country during the application year should let schools know this when submitting secondary applications. We also recommend that they budget for a return trip to the U.S. toward the end of the fall, and notify schools in advance of their availability for interviews at that time. Students who plan to be out of the country during the application year should meet with their advisors to discuss how to manage their applications under such circumstances.
Taking Additional Courses
Postbac students who plan to take additional courses are generally not required to take them at Columbia University so long as they have completed the required curriculum of premedical studies. We recommend that students consult with their advisors about the pros and cons of taking additional courses at Columbia or elsewhere.
A separate biochemistry course is required by a number of schools and recommended by many more. Biochemistry is offered at Columbia during the fall and spring semesters. Fall is the recommended time to take it. Some medical schools recognize that Contemporary Biology (BIOL F2401/2402) provides good exposure to biochemistry and will therefore exempt applicants who have completed this course from their requirement.
For a list of schools that recommend taking biochemistry, students should purchase a subscription to the Medical School Admission Requirements online database.
As veterinary physicians like to say, the only real difference between MDs and vets is that the former are limited to treating just a single species. To prepare to apply to veterinary medical school, prevets must complete not only the curriculum in premedical sciences, but also additional prerequisite course work, depending on where they are applying. Generally these additional courses can be completed after the orgo/bio year and while applications are under review.
Coursework and Curriculum
The extra prerequisites typically include biochemistry and microbiology. Prevets who completed a statistics course in a business or social science department before coming to GS may need to take a pure statistics course, if required by the school. Because there is so much variation in the additional course work required by veterinary schools, it is recommended that prevets begin identifying the schools to which they plan to apply in their first year at Columbia, and in so doing determine what additional course work they will need to take. In addition to the websites of individual veterinary schools, there are two important resources for information about the preveterinary curriculum:
- The Veterinary Medical School Admissions Requirements
- The VMCAS Prerequisite Chart on the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges website
Some of the additional prerequisites (e.g., biochemistry and genetics) are offered at Columbia; others are not. Advisors will help students identify schools in the area where those courses are offered. Enrolling in courses as a non-degree student can be challenging; it is best to plan this well in advance of the semester when the course will be taken. Because students must remain continuously enrolled at Columbia, a student who takes classes outside Columbia in a semester in which they are not also enrolled in course work here will incur a registration fee at Columbia.
Veterinary schools expect the applicant to have gained extensive experience working with animals. The number of hours will vary by school, but it is not unusual for a school to require as much as 600 hours. Furthermore, many schools will require that the applicant gain experience with more than one type of animal (e.g., large and exotic animals or large and small animals). Some will accept work with animals that is not medical in nature; others will not. Letters of evaluation from these work sites are extremely important.
Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS)
Most non-profit veterinary medical schools in the U.S. participate in VMCAS, as do a number of schools outside the U.S. This web-based common application allows applicants to initiate application to multiple schools at the same time; upon receipt of the common application, schools may send the applicant a supplemental (school-specific) application. Information about VMCAS is available on the AAVMC website.
The small number of schools that do not participate in VMCAS includes Tufts, a school to which many Columbia prevets apply. Students must communicate separately with these schools to acquire their application forms.
In most cases, veterinary school applicants take the Graduate Record Examination, preferably by the end of the summer in which they submit their applications.
Letters of Evaluation
Except for non-VMCAS schools, veterinary schools will receive letters of evaluation through VMCAS. The design of the electronic letters of the evaluation section of VMCAS requires that referees submit their letters directly. Consequently, prevets are not required to have copies of these letters on file in the Postbac Program Office. Because schools have varying requirements in letters of recommendation, applicants should become acquainted with them as early as possible.
The Postbac Premed Office writes committee letters for those prevets who have met the eligibility requirements. Eligible prevets are encouraged to confer with their prevet advisors concerning this, in light of the requirements of the schools to which they plan to apply and of the format of the common application.
As healthcare increasingly aspires to a holistic approach, oral health has become recognized as integral to individual well-being. Not surprisingly, there is extensive overlap in the training of future dentists and physicians. This begins in the predental years when the curriculum is identical to that for premedicine. Along with mastery of science and life science, future dentists must demonstrate strong interpersonal skills, fine motor dexterity, and a keen aesthetic sense.
To satisfy the requirements of most dental schools and to be eligible for support of the GS Premedical Committee, predental students should complete the following coursework:
- 2 semesters of math beyond precalculus (usually calculus and statistics)
- 2 semesters of physics (with labs)
- 2 semesters of general chemistry (with lab)
- 2 semesters of organic chemistry (with lab)
- 2 semesters of biology (with lab)
Some dental schools may have additional requirements (e.g., biochemistry or anatomy). To check for specific requirements by individual school, please refer to the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools.
A successful dental school applicant must demonstrate, through work and extracurricular experiences, commitment towards pursuing a career as a healthcare provider. Therefore, prospective applicants should seek out dentistry-related clinical experiences; however, since these can be difficult to find, some dental schools are receptive to applicants who have volunteered in a hospital and have also shadowed a dentist.
Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS)
The Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) is the centralized application service for most U.S. dental schools. You can access the application by visiting the AADSAS website.
Prospective applicants to U.S. dental schools must take the DAT (Dental Admissions Test), a standardized test covering natural sciences, perceptual ability, reading comprehension, and quantitative reason. Information about the DAT is available on the American Dental Association (ADA) website.
The GS Premedical Office writes committee letters for those predents who have met the eligibility requirements.
As the need for more healthcare providers increases, there is growing interest in Physician Assistant (PA) programs. While PAs do not perform surgery, they participate in many other facets of medicine and work closely with the physician. Strong academics, especially in the sciences, are essential for a successful application.
- Introductory Psychology
- Developmental Psychology
- Microbiology with Lab
- Introductory Biology with Lab
- General Chemistry with Lab
- Anatomy and Physiology with Lab
- English Composition
*Anticipated courses and number of semesters required. Students must verify individual program requirements.
Anatomy and Physiology
Occasionally, some of the academic prerequisites for a given PA program are not offered at Columbia. In such cases, pre-PA students should plan to complete the necessary coursework at another institution. For example, while Columbia offers an undergraduate physiology course, it does not offer a two-semester integrated sequence of anatomy and physiology often required by PA programs. Listed below are New York City colleges and universities that offer courses in anatomy and physiology. Visit the schools' websites below for details including application fees and deadlines, specific courses offered, and possible prerequisites.
Schools will often list the minimum GPAs and GRE scores required to apply for their PA programs, and will also sometimes list the average scores of their admitted classes. A competitive application should be accompanied by comprehensive letters of recommendation, strong grades in rigorous courses, and impressive practical experiences.
Some programs may require supplemental courses (e.g., psychology, sociology, or a language requirement). It is the responsibility of the student to research the admissions requirements for each PA program, including supplemental requirements.
Clinical experience is the most important factor in admission to PA programs. Schools may require that as many as 1,000 hours of direct patient care be completed by the time of application. The following are examples of positions that may fulfill this requirement. Schools may vary in what they deem relevant experience; students should check with the respective admissions office to confirm.
- Athletic trainer
- Clinical health educator
- ER technician
- Hospice volunteer
- Licensed practical nurse (LPN)
- Medical assistant
- Medical corpsman
- Medical technician
- Nursing assistant
- Occupational therapist
- Patient care technician
- Peace Corps volunteer
- Physical therapist
- Physical therapy assistant
- Registered nurse (RN)
- Respiratory therapist
- Surgical technician
- X-ray technician
Note: It is also a good idea to shadow a current physician's assistant or another medical professional, but this may not count toward the hour total for direct patient care.
Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA)
The Central Application Service for Physician Assistants is a service of the Physician Assistant Education Association. CASPA allows applicants to use a single application to apply to multiple PA programs. Visit the CASPA website for more information, including application fees.
Letters of Reference
Three letters of reference are required to complete an application for PA programs. Requirements vary by institution, but an application should typically include two letters from medical professionals (including a current PA) and one from a professor or academic advisor. References are initiated with an email prompt from CASPA, and must be uploaded electronically by the referee.
For non-CASPA participating schools, students should refer to individual policies for the preferred delivery method for letters of reference.
Committee Letters of Recommendation
The Premedical Committee does not provide committee letters for PA program applicants.
Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs are growing in popularity, and an increasing number of programs accept postbac students with nontraditional backgrounds. Strong academics, especially in the premedical sciences, are essential for a successful application.
- Human Anatomy
- Upper Level Biology
- General Biology with Lab
- General Physics with Lab
- General Chemistry with Lab
- Anatomy and Physiology (lab recommended)
*Anticipated courses and number of semesters required, based on average program requirements. Students must verify individual program requirements.
Students take either one semester of anatomy and one semester of physiology or a two-semester combined course of anatomy and physiology.
Anatomy and Physiology
Occasionally, some of the academic prerequisites for a given PA program are not offered at Columbia. In such cases, pre-PA students should plan to complete the necessary coursework at another institution. Thus, for example, while Columbia offers an undergraduate physiology course, it does not offer a two-semester integrated sequence of anatomy and physiology often required by PA programs. Listed below are New York City colleges and universities that offer courses in anatomy and physiology. Visit the schools' websites below for details including application fees and deadlines, specific courses offered, and possible prerequisites.
Some programs may require supplemental courses (e.g., CPR, ethics, or public speaking). It is the responsibility of the student to research the admissions requirements for each physical therapy program, including supplemental requirements.
Requirements vary by program, but it is widely recommended that students accrue at least 100 hours in a physical therapy, chiropractic, or orthopedic office.
Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS)
The Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service is a service of the American Physical Therapy Association. PTCAS allows applicants to use a single application and one set of materials to apply to multiple PT programs. For more information about PTCAS, including application fees, visit the website.
- PTCAS may be submitted before the GRE is taken or before scores are reported
- Courses and GPA take 4-5 weeks to verify, after which the application is sent to designated schools for review
- As a general rule, prerequisite coursework should have been completed in the past ten years; some schools require it to have been completed in the past five years
- Students are encouraged to apply to up to five physical therapy doctoral programs
Letters of Reference
Most physical therapy programs will accept a letter of reference from an academic advisor, but students must verify individual school policies. It is essential for students applying to DPT programs to get at least one letter from a PT.
Students may submit up to four letters of reference. Letters of reference may be submitted via PTCAS in two ways:
- Electronically: Enter the evaluator's email address and a prompt will be sent from firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "PTCAS Reference Request". This is the preferred method as it is quickest to process.
- Paper: Student is responsible for printing the PTCAS Reference Form and delivering it to their evaluator(s). PTCAS will email the student once the form has been received and verified.
For non-PTCAS participating schools, please refer to their individual policies for the preferred delivery method for letters of reference. Some schools have internal recommendation forms that are required for admission.
Committee Letters of Recommendation
The Premedical Committee does not provide committee letters for PA program applicants, as they are not accepted by DPT programs.
Some medical schools now require applicants to submit a Dean’s Certification Letter from any college or university that they previously attended. Students should contact the Dean of Students office at their previous institution(s) to request that they generate such a letter indicating whether they were a student in good standing, and if not, to explain the circumstances.
This letter can be kept on file in the Postbac Premed Program Office and then included in a student's future application packets. Not all medical schools require a Dean’s Certification Letter and the Postbac Premed Program does not require students to submit these letters in order to matriculate.
Letters of Certification may be sent to:
Columbia University School of General Studies
Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program
404 Lewisohn Hall, MC 4109
New York, NY 10027