There is a lot of data out there on what percent of premed students who apply to med school actually get in. However, this is only a small piece of the puzzle. What if we want to know the percentage of students who start college claiming to be “premed” and actually end up getting into med school?
There are a lot of factors that play into this. Students drop out of their premed programs for all kinds of reasons. Of the students that remain, only a certain percent get into med school before they ultimately give up.
Based on our research, we have determined that around 7% to 10% of students who start off as premeds freshman year of undergrad eventually get into med school. This is backed by the majority of current premed and med school students who have indicated they felt this low percentage was accurate.
You are probably thinking, that seems like a very low number. Kind of discouraging. But there is a lot more to it and I highly recommend you keep reading to understand how we came about determining this percentage.
There were essentially two steps to calculating this percentage:
- Finding out what percent of premed students drop out of their premed programs (AKA stop being premed students and move on to a different major) based on a published study.
- Discovering what percent of med school applicants and re-applicants get accepted into med school.
Combining these 2 data points together, we have a pretty good idea of how many premeds actually make it.
(Survey) What Percentage Of Students Who Declare Themselves “Premeds” Actually Become Doctors?
Turning to the internet, we surveyed premed students to see how many premed students they think actually become doctors. Current premed students have an understanding of what the general premed atmosphere is like.
Therefore, it makes sense to ask students’ opinions on what percent of students who start out as “premed” actually end up in med school and beyond.
Much like the results from our research, most students believed less than 20% of self-proclaimed premeds actually end up going all the way. Here are the results:
As you can see, the majority of students believe it’s 20% or less and only a small percentage think 40% or more.
Sure this survey is based on opinions but it helps to get confirmation from people in the trenches before we go over the data.
What Percentage Of Premed Students Drop Out?
There is a study by Charlene Zhang, Nathan R. Kuncel, and Paul R. Sackett that followed 15,442 students who started out as premed to see who actually ended up applying to med school and who dropped out.
According to this study, 16.5% of students who initially showed interest in premed studies actually finished their medical school prerequisites. The other 83.5% of premeds dropped out of their programs into other areas of medicine or completely different subjects.
This is obviously a huge percentage of premeds that don’t go on to become physicians. To some people, this might be demoralizing.
However, there is a huge caveat here.
A large amount of these premeds dropped out early on. Therefore, most of these students were not very serious about being premed from the beginning. If becoming a physician is truly your passion and you are struggling to get through, you already have a huge advantage over the 83.5% of students that didn’t make it.
What Percentage Of Applicants Are Accepted Into Med School?
After we have filtered out the premeds that dropped out, how do the remaining students fare with actually getting into medical school?
According to the AAMC’s official records, about 36% of applicants for the 2021-2022 cycle matriculated into medical school. About 25% of students applying are reapplicants. At this time there is no data that shows what percentage of reapplicants end up matriculating.
These numbers are down from previous years due to the influx of students applying to medical school in the last few years.
The percentage isn’t everything though. A lot of premed students reapply, often multiple times, and eventually get in.
Because of this, we know that the percentage of students that apply to med school and get in will be higher than 36% when we account for multiple application cycles. How much more? Well, there is no data out there so it’s really going to be speculation.
If 25% of the total applicants are reapplicants, that would be 15,611. If 36% of those reapplicants got it, that would mean around 5,620 reapplicants got in, or about 9% of the total applicant pool.
It’s not perfect math by any means but if we add 9% to 36% it gives us a very rough estimate of how many students get into med school if we count multiple application attempts. Therefore, around 45% of students who apply to med school one time or multiple times eventually get in.
Reasons Why Premed Students Stop Pursuing Med School
There are many reasons why premed students stop pursuing med school but here are the most common ones:
- Lack of drive. A lot of premed students start undergrad with a passion for becoming a physician. However, when they realize how difficult being premed is, they lose that initial drive. The process of getting into med school is partly designed to weed out students who are not 100% committed.
- Bad grades. The transition between high school and undergrad can be very difficult. Because of this, a lot of students end up failing a course or ending their freshman year with a poor GPA. No matter how terrible you did at the beginning of your college years, there is always a chance to improve.
- A new interest develops. There’s a reason why most students start undergrad as “undecided.” That’s because your academic interest can change while you are a student. Often times premeds will find something else that they are better at and more interested in.
- A bad MCAT score. After spending a lot of time studying, it is very demoralizing to receive a bad MCAT score. Although this will make getting into med school more difficult, students recover from a <500 MCAT score all the time.
- Realizing medicine is not for them. Getting clinical experience and shadowing physicians are very important. This is because you want to know if medicine is something you hate before going through 4 years of med school.
Further Reading: How To Get Into Med School With A Low GPA?
What percentage of Ivy League Premeds Get Into Med School?
As you can imagine, the percentage of Ivy League premeds that get into med school is above the national average.
There aren’t any official studies on this topic. However, this study done by Berkeley shows a significant increase in students sticking to their premed studies throughout undergrad.
Students that get into Ivy League schools are going to be very serious about whatever they are studying. These schools are very difficult to get into and very expensive. So it makes sense that we have a lower percentage of premed dropouts.
Which Pre-med Major Has The Highest Chance Of Acceptance?
Statistically speaking, the physical science majors have the highest acceptance rates among all majors. However, this has nothing to do with the major itself. Students who major in physical sciences tend to do better academically than others.
As long as you do well in the medical school prerequisites, it doesn’t matter what major you choose.
What Percentage Of Med Students Become Doctors?
So now that we have a rough idea of how many premed students actually get into med school, how many actually get through med school and become doctors?
Well, the good news is that the percentage of students who make it through med school and become doctors is much higher than the percentage of premeds that make it into med school. On average, the graduation rate of a medical student is around 81% to 85% according to the AAMC.
The study also points out that more med students left for non-academic reasons as opposed to academic ones. It’s safe to assume that if you got into medical school, you have what it takes to get through the curriculum.
Even though the data points out that an overwhelming majority of premed students won’t end up becoming doctors, it’s important to note that these are just statistics.
The students that end up leaving the premed journey are probably happy they did so. It was just not right for them.
If you are motivated and committed to becoming a doctor, you will eventually get in. It all comes down to how much work you are willing to put in.