10 Top Best Medical Schools in California: How To Get In

Admissions into the medical schools in California are hard due to being some of the top-ranking medical schools in the nation with a high number of applicants and low acceptance rates. In this blog post, you will learn strategies to make your entry less difficult. Let’s begin.

The US state of California is the most populated in the country with an estimated 38 million people, making up to 12% of the entire US population. And why are these stats mentioned in an article that says “best medical schools in California”? This is to give you, aspiring medical student, an insight into how large the state is and just how many people would be applying for the medical programs.

Yes, there are going to be a lot of applicants annually as you may have already guessed. The large state population and a massive number of applicants to California med schools increase the competitive stats which makes admission incredibly hard to get.

But why California?

Firstly, California houses some of the best medical schools, like the Stanford University School of Medicine and UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and offers a wide variety of disciplines in the United States. This makes the state a common choice among premed students.

There is also a low tuition rate for in-state students at public universities, idyllic weather, cultural diversity, and a business-centered environment. You can find some of the highest-paying jobs in California.

Thousands of students are applying for a pharmacy program in California or one of its accelerated nursing programs, and many other medical disciplines. And if you are just starting your journey into the medical field, you may consider starting at one of the pre-med colleges in California to boost your chances of getting accepted and beat the competition when going to med school.

The psychology programs in California are also among the best in the country and equally top-ranking in the world’s list. And those who want to pursue an engineering degree in California can qualify for scholarships. Just in case you do not know the medical disciplines offered in California, the list below should help you.

The medical programs offered at California med schools are:

  • Anesthesiology
  • Geriatrics
  • Pharmacy
  • Psychology
  • Hospital medicine
  • Hematology
  • General surgery
  • Child and adolescent psychiatry
  • Hand surgery
  • Infectious disease
  • Endocrinology
  • Nursing
  • Cardiology
  • Internal medicine
  • Neurology
  • Emergency medicine
  • Pathology
  • Family medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

How To Get Into Medical Schools In California

While I stressed earlier how hard it is to get into one of the medical schools in California, you might have wondered how anyone manages to get in. Fortunately, there are strategic approaches that you can take to gain a seat at one of the California med schools and they have been exposed in this section.

Strategy I: Meet Admission Requirements

For any program you want to pursue, you must meet the admission requirements to be considered for a seat in that program, and the med schools in California are no different. However, you equally need to understand that these requirements vary from school to school, it might be the MCAT score, GPA, or several recommendation letters.

For example, Stanford University School of Medicine requires an average GPA of 3.9 and an average MCAT score of 510 while the California University of Science and Medicine – School of Medicine requires an average GPA of 3.0 and an average of 504 on the MCAT. So, they are different and you MUST satisfy them.

Below are the general requirements for medical colleges in California:

  • You must have completed a 3 or 4 years undergraduate degree in a pre-med program preferably in the sciences like biology. The pre-med colleges in California will be best for you and increase your chances of acceptance into med school in the state.
  • To satisfy prerequisite course requirements, they are usually biology, English, chemistry, math, physics, and humanities.
  • Gain medical or clinical experience to boost your chances and beat the competition
  • Meet required MCAT scores and GPA
  • Complete the American Medical Colleges Application Service (AMCAS) application before the deadline.
  • Recommendation letters (amount varies from school to school, minimum of 2 and maximum of 6)
  • Meet all the technical standards of your host institution
  • Complete essays or personal statements or statements of purpose, whichever is required.
  • International applicants must verify the residency status of the school before applying. Most medical schools in California do not accept international students.

Strategy II: Do An In-depth Research To Know The Right Med School in California For You

Before concluding that all the med schools in California are hard to get into, you must take a data-driven approach to know which school is right for you by doing in-depth research on each of the schools before adding them to your list.

According to our findings, students often add certain schools to their list “just because” or because “it can’t hurt” even though the data clearly shows that you have zero to slim chances of getting in. You have to be realistic about your admission odds based on your GPA and MCAT scores.

If your grades fall below the requirements do not apply, well, unless you have made an exceptional impact or contribution in the medical field.

For every medical school you are applying to, you need to write high-quality secondary essays which takes a lot of time and energy, therefore, it is best to prioritize schools where you have a better chance of getting into rather than waste all your time and resources on one where you clearly won’t be accepted but want to “try your luck”.

Strategy III: Focus On The Objectives and Unique Features of Each of the Medical Schools in California

This is more like a tip than a strategy but an essential tip that can boost your chances to get a seat in one of California’s med schools. Every medical university in California has its unique mission statements, opportunities, curricula, selection factors, and features, as well as, specific areas that they excel in and are proud of.

Take these and use them to tailor your secondary essay to what they are looking for. For instance, the UC Irvine website boasts of research grants, research discoveries, and information on upcoming grand rounds, on the other hand, Loma Linda’s website promotes its commitment to service, to the community, and to promote Christian values.

Another example, the selection factors of Stanford include research-intensive, scholarly concentrations program, and MMI interview formats while the selection factors at UC Davis are multiple PRIME tracks, plenty of research, and California-only.

It is no that the medical programs at Loma Linda are not research-oriented (they do) nor that UC Irvine does not care about community service (it does), but rather that the kind of students they aim to recruit differs.

So, be sure to show that your secondary application fits with each school’s stated and present objectives. The same approach is applicable whether the interview is for a medical school in California or elsewhere.

The answers you give during MMI interviews can still show how your values connect with each school’s objective, even though there is less place for clear remarks about your dedication to a particular community in California.

Apply these strategies to your med school application whether in California or anywhere else along with other helpful tips below to increase your chances of getting accepted.

Helpful Tips To Get Accepted Into Medical Schools in California

  1. Get excellent recommendation letters that you can
  2. Get to know science professors early on
  3. Gain quality research experience
  4. Exposure to underserved communities
  5. Take up a leadership role
  6. Take Spanish lessons
  7. Show dedication to helping a Californian region that is underserved
  8. Acquire a California residency
  9. Consider attending DO schools
  10. Do well in the application process

Let us take a quick look at the average cost of medical schools in California before diving into the breakdown of the profiles for the schools.

Average Cost of Medical Schools in California

Typically, medical programs are expensive and it is even higher in cost when it is a top-ranked medical school, especially in a place like California. The cost of medical colleges in California varies from school to school and student’s residency status. Public schools are less expensive and out-of-state students pay more compared to in-state students.

The cost of medical programs in California at public universities ranges between $35,000 and $59,000 for in-state and out-of-state students. While at private universities, it can go as high as $66,000 to $68,000. These values are given at an average.

medical schools in California

Profiles of Best Medical Schools in California

There are a total of 16 medical schools in California offering widely recognized degree programs in various medical disciplines such as pharmacy, surgery, neuroscience, and many more. However, we will list and discuss only the top 10 according to the rankings from the US News & World Report stats.

Now that you know the three strategies and tips to apply to gain a seat at one of the medical schools in California, provided details for each of the schools will give you further insight into their specific operations. You can also take into account their location, curriculum, and competition which will further determine the best school for you.

  • Stanford University School of Medicine
  • California Health Sciences University College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine
  • David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
  • Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
  • California Northstate University College of Medicine
  • USC Keck School of Medicine
  • Loma Linda University School of Medicine
  • UC Davis School of Medicine
  • Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific

1.     Stanford University School of Medicine

I had to put Stanford first because of its global prestige in offering world-class education and its achievement of being the site for the first successful human heart transplant in the US and the first combined heart-lung transplant in the globe. It is a research-intensive institution that promotes diversity and empowers future leaders with adequate adaptable and resourceful skills.

It is ranked 8th position for best medical schools by the US News & World Report. Stanford Medicine, as it is commonly referred to, integrates a premier medical school with top-notch hospitals to promote human health.

To get into Stanford University School of Medicine, you need to get an average GPA of 3.89 or higher and an average MCAT score of 518 or higher with an outstanding application. Tuition is $64,868 for in-state and out-of-state students.

Visit School Website

2.     California Health Sciences University College of Osteopathic Medicine

CHSU College of Osteopathic Medicine is prestigious as being one of the three osteopathic medical schools in California and also the only med school located in Central Valley, California. Therefore, one of its objectives is to train physicians that will work in this underserved area.

Its innovative curriculum highlights a systems-based, clinically integrated model and includes medical Spanish, culinary medicine, population health research, and interactive technologies. Applicants are required to meet average grades of 3.5 GPA and 507.4 MCAT scores. Tuition is the same for in-state and out-of-state students at $59,125.

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3.     Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine

Fully The Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine is one of the top medical colleges in California ranked at No.6 in the category of Most Diverse Medical Schools by the US News & World Rankings.

With just 50 acceptances annually, this school has one of the lowest acceptance rates for medical schools in the US but its free tuition may appeal to students entering the primary care specialty.

The integrated curriculum at KPSOM is a case-based, interactive, small group approach that lets you study biomedical, clinical, and health systems sciences across all four years. Students join a clinical care team almost immediately after they arrive. Physicians are trained to work in under-resourced, underserved, and culturally diverse regions.

The average GPA is 3.83 or higher and the average MCAT is 517.

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4.     David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

The David Geffen School of Medicine is the medical school of the University of California, Los Angeles. The US News & World Report ranks the school at 19 for best medical schools in the research category and 13th for primary care. The medical program is research-focused and excels in preparing students for clinical practice.

Additionally, the medical school emphasizes lifelong learning, a “firm commitment to the humanistic, ethical, legal, and cultural aspects of medicine.” Applicants are required to have an average GPA of 3.81 with a minimum MCAT score of 516 or higher. The tuition for in-state students is $40,585 and $52,830 for out-of-state students.

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5.     Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science

This is a private historically black medical school in Willowbrook, California to develop physicians that will promote healthcare in underserved regions. The school accepts only 24 students annually and offers joint programs with UCLA.

Its curriculum is based on five specific pillars of research, social justice, international exposure, experiential education, and health policy.

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6.     California Northstate University College of Medicine

This is a private, for-profit medical university in Elk Grove, California, and one of the best medical schools in the country. It is a fairly new medical school founded in 2015 but has grown to become popular for its world-class medical programs. The objective of the school is to advance the art and science of medicine through education, service, scholarship, and social accountability.

Its 6 core values are excellence in medical care, professionalism, ethics, compassion, social accountability, and innovation. average GPA and MCAT scores are 3.81 and 514 respectively. Tuition is the same for in-state and out-of-state students at $64,445.

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7.     USC Keck School of Medicine

Keck School of Medicine is the medical school of the University of Southern California located in Los Angeles. It was founded in 1885 and is one of the oldest medical schools in the state. This school is fully into research and clinical training and from its mission statement, requires students with excellent academic performance and impact on their various communities.

The required average GPA is 3.79 or higher with a minimum of 517 MCAT or higher. The tuition is the same -for in-state and out-of-state students at $68,487.

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8.     Loma Linda University School of Medicine

Loma Linda University School of Medicine has been training and producing medical professionals in the country and the world since its establishment in 1909. This school is committed to Christian service and combines medical science with caring and Christian compassion.

Its curriculum is based on human behavior, religion, and ethics which students spend their first 2 years studying.

You will need to get an average GPA of 3.91 and a minimum MCAT score of 512 with a strong application to be considered for admission. The tuition is the same for in-state and out-of-state students at $63,404. Preference is given to Christians.

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9.     UC Davis School of Medicine

This is the medical school of the University of California at Davis with a commitment to care for underserved communities. It is consistently ranked by the US News & World Report among the top schools in the nation for primary care training and research. This makes students from rural areas of who aim to practice in rural areas preferable for admission.

To get in, you need to target an average GPA of 3.63 with an MCAT score of 511 or higher. The tuition for in-state and out-of-state student is $42,648 and $54,893 respectively.

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10.  Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific

Founded in 1977 as a private, non-profit medical school for osteopathic medicine in Pomona, the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific is aimed at addressing a shortage of primary caregivers in the western US to “produce in a humanistic tradition, healthcare professionals and biomedical knowledge that will enhance and extend the quality of life in our communities”.

Its selection factors include stressing inter-professional cooperation, focusing on primary care, recommending letters from DO, and returning secondary quickly. The average GPA and MCAT requirements are 3.67 and 508 respectively. Tuition is the same for all students at $59,560 per year.

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These are the top 10 prestigious universities and colleges in California for medical programs and I hope you can find one that meets your academic needs. Employ the strategies and tips for any of the medical colleges you will be applying to.

Medical Schools in California – FAQs

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One comment

  1. Hallo und danke für diesen interessanten Beitrag! In meiner Jugend habe ich auch davon geträumt, in Kalifornien Medizin zu studieren. Aus diesem Traum wurde nichts. Als ich jedoch Jahre später meinen Mann in der Handchirurgie kennenlernte, wusste ich, dass das Leben einen anderen Plan mit mir hatte.


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