Part 1: Introduction

The David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California in Los Angeles is among the finest of the Ivy Leagues. Being one of the finest also makes it one of the most difficult to get into. Indeed, UCLA Medical School doesn’t even accept three percent of the hopeful applicants who submit a secondary application. Not only does this make getting accepted into UCLA Medical School a huge accomplishment, but it makes the entire admissions process a stressful, unnerving experience.

But don’t worry! That’s why we wrote this guide for you. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare is half the battle. We’ve broken it down for you into five different parts, covering everything from information about UCLA as a school, to the admissions process, academic requirements, cost of attendance, deadlines and sample essays. This guide is comprehensive. We recommend going through it slowly, several times to make sure you don’t miss any important details. Between our guide and the UCLA Medical School website, you’ll be prepared to submit the best secondary application possible. Good luck getting started! 

Part 2: Medical Programs

Like most other Ivy Leagues, UCLA Medical School has several programs for prospective students.

  • MD Program
  • Medical Science Training Program (MSTP)
  • UCLA PRIME
  • UCLA/Charles R. Drew Medical Education Program

MD Program

UCLA Medical School offers the standard, four-year program that will award you with an MD degree. This program has been around for a long time and, for the past several years, UCLA has been working to improve it. Beginning with the 2021-2022 academic year, students will be introduced to a “new curriculum for a new age”.

However, some of the current elements of the MD program will remain the same. Students will enter Phase 1 and complete the Human Biology and Disease coursework that focused on how diseases form and develop in the body. Phase 2 ups the ante from Phase 1 and introduces students to their clerkships. Clerkships cover:

  • Ambulatory Internal Medicine (1 month)
  • Family Medicine (1 month)
  • Inpatient Internal Medicine (2 months)
  • Neurology (1 month)
  • Obstetrics & Gynecology (6 weeks)
  • Pediatrics (6 weeks)
  • Psychiatry (1 month)
  • Surgery (3 months)

Then, Phase 3 moves students into special colleges where they can choose what they want to study. 

  • Acute Care
  • Applied Anatomy
  • Academic Medicine
  • Primary Care
  • The urban underserved

UCLA Medical School and Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program

UCLA Medical School partnered with Caltech to create this innovative program, focusing on science, research and medicine. Students will spend their first two years at UCLA Medical School, followed by four years of PhD grad training at Caltech, and then two more years of medical school at UCLA. The program takes an average of eight years to complete and prepares students to be doctors and scientist with an MD-PhD degree. 

UCLA PRIME-LA

The PRIME program at UCLA Medical School is specifically focused on treating underserved and uninsured people who need medical treatment in Los Angeles, California. Students in this program go through the regular MD program and then spend their clerkship time working in clinics where the underserved go. Then, during their third year, they go through a series of clerkships covering:

  • Internal Medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Surgery
  • Family Medicine
  • Psychiatry
  • Neurology
  • Obstetrics
  • Gynecology and Radiology

The fifth and final year of the PRIME program consists of UCLA Medical School courses, seminars and electives that will prepare them for their residency experiences and future careers as doctors. 

UCLA Medical School/Charles R. Drew Medical Education Program

This program is very much the same as the regular MD program, but with one major difference. While students matriculating into the regular MD program study medicine for the general public, students in the Drew program focus on the underserved, disadvantaged minorities. This is a keystone of the program. If you are admitted, you are expected to practice medicine in this area. So, if this isn’t your plan, apply for the regular MD program. 

All of the programs that UCLA Medical School offers are at the Ivy League level and will provide you with a fantastic education. The program you apply for will depend on your field of study. We wish you good luck in making these decisions!

Tuition Costs

Tuition alone costs $43,726 per year or $21,863 per semester. When you add in living expenses, textbooks and other costs, you’re looking at around $78,046 each year. While this adds up, it’s actually significantly lower in cost than other Ivy Leagues that run close to $100,000 per year. 

For students who are in sticker shock, rest assured that financial aid and scholarships are available. These scholarships cover students who can’t afford to attend school on their own, as well as students whose grades are excellent and merit reward. Well over 100 UCLA-based scholarships are available. So, don’t allow cost to deter you on your medical journey. 

Part 3: The Numbers Tell The Story: Getting into UCLA Medical School

Not all their numbers are posted online for the public to see, but the information that is readily available shows the high standard that UCLA Medical School holds its applicants to. Out of 14,000 applicants, UCLA Medical School only accepted 2.4%, amounting to 175 positions for all four programs. 

The Numbers You Need to Get into UCLA Medical School

  • Minimum GPA: 3.4
  • Minimum MCAT score: 512
  • Mastery in English reading and writing
  • Adequate math and science skills
  • Interpersonal communicative skills to relate to colleagues and patients

In order to meet these requirements, UCLA Medical School recommends taking the following courses:

  • Biology and physiology, with emphases in cellular and molecular biology and genetics
  • Chemistry, biochemistry and the physical sciences, with emphases in organic and inorganic chemistry, metabolic biochemistry and relevant labs
  • Humanities, with emphases in literature, history, religion, ethics, etc.
  • Mathematics and stats, with emphases in biomathematics, computer science and matrix algebra

Other important elements to a UCLA student include:

  • Prior clinical experience
  • Research experience
  • The politics, ethics, law, science and public health aspects of medicine
  • Diversity

If you’re looking for opportunities to meet these requirements, check out Medical Aid. We offer a wide variety of internship opportunities that will provide you with the experiences you need to qualify for medical school, as well as amazing experiences to write about in the essay prompt section. 

Application Time Frames

First, your primary application to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) is due no later than October 15. However, the AMCAS application opens in June, and UCLA Medical School highly recommends that you submit your application then. Next, they recommend submitting your secondary application within two weeks. We completely agree. 

Like many other Ivy League schools, UCLA Medical School employs a rolling admissions system. This means that they go through several rounds of interviews and admit students after each round. So, the sooner you apply, the sooner you’ll know if you got in. If you need help planning your timeline out, Shemmassian Consulting has a great article with good timeframes for submitting all the paperwork associated with your application.  

Whatever you do, ensure that your secondary application is submitted to UCLA Medical School by the deadline: October 30th. 

Part 4: Secondary Application Essays (with samples) for UCLA Medical School

Before you score an interview with UCLA Medical School, you’ll need to write excellent responses to the essay prompts in the application. In this section, we’ll go over the essay prompts and break them down into bite-size pieces. Every question has a category, and there is an effective way to answer each question with excellence. 

Questions vary, and so does the allotted word count for each question. Of primary importance is the need to answer questions briefly but clearly. You don’t want to confuse the admissions committee, but you don’t want to be long-winded, either. They have a lot of applications to go through. Your goal should be to quickly impress them and leave them wanting more. Wanting more will hopefully lead to an interview!

Additionally, don’t feel like you have to write enough words to fill the character count. The character count is there to make sure you don’t write too much. The less you write, the better, as long as you fully answer each question.

Now, let’s dive in.

The first three questions ask the same thing, just in different ways. For each question, focus on one activity. That way, you’ll have shared three different experiences, all from different viewpoints. You can choose to write about medical or non-medical experiences, according to what you want the admissions committee to know. Be sure to tie each experience back to UCLA Medical School, and why you should be accepted into the program of your choosing.

Question #1 Share an experience with the admissions committee that didn’t involve academics but was very important to you. (800 characters)

An 800-character response allows you to write about two paragraphs. Be certain to follow the instructions here, and avoid discussing academics. 

Here’s an example:

I come from a musical family, but I have no musical talent of my own. Instead, I was good at gymnastics. I loved gymnastics because of the power it gave me. I learned how to move my body precisely to get it where I wanted it to go, how I wanted it to get there. It was both liberating and satisfying. I was also able to connect with my family through gymnastics. When I had competitions, they helped me choose the music for my routine. My dad even bought the rights to a music file that we edited and tailored to my routine. 

While I stopped doing gymnastics in junior high, it brought me and my family together and taught me the self-discipline, control and precision that a gymnast needs to succeed. Those skills have stayed with me and will help me to become a great doctor.

This response comes in at 777 characters. With 33 characters to spare, it thoroughly and concisely answers the question. 

Question #2 Out of all the experiences you’ve had, describe a time when you got to be a leader, use entrepreneurial skills, or engage others in activities. (800 characters)

There are no requirements or restrictions for this question. Pick something you’re proud of that you can describe in under 800 characters. 

Here’s an example:
I was born with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It was tough during my elementary and junior high years because I had a hard time making friends and being around other people for long periods of time. I was able to make some acquaintances but not many friends.

I was able to share this experience at an autism conference that took place in my hometown at my high school. It was an amazing experience to sit on a panel of people and share my experiences and how I persevered. My favorite part was getting to talk to the parents of children who were worried about their own children’s success.

This experience taught me that I wanted to continue pushing through my challenges and encourage others to do the same.

This response is 704 characters. It answers the question and still relates to UCLA Medical School. Note that you can subtly tie it back. You don’t have to state “this is why I want to be a doctor” in every essay response. Pushing through your own challenges and inspiring others to do the same is something every doctor needs to be able to do.

Question #3 Describe a meaningful volunteer experience that you were part of. (800 characters)

While I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, I’ve also enjoyed acting as a hobby. A wonderful volunteer opportunity that I was a part of took place at my local community center. We put on a play to raise money for a Christmas party for some of the kids who had cancer and who couldn’t go home for Christmas. 

While they were stuck in the hospital receiving treatment, they spent their spare time writing the play. Then, we put it on as a production, and all proceeds went to buying decorations and presents for the kids. It was a special experience to be part of, and one that I will remember forever.

This response is well under the character limit (589 characters) but beautifully describes the experience. It feels special just reading about it. A response like this shows heart and passion, both of which are valued and needed in the medical community.

Question #4 Please explain the reason for any gaps that you have had or anticipate having in your education and when you plan to begin your medical schooling? (300 characters)

If you don’t have any gaps in your education, just say so, and move on to the next question. If there is a gap in your education, explain it in a few sentences. There’s no need to defend why you took the gap. Just give your reason why. UCLA Medical School wants to know how you’ve spent your time. 

Here’s an example:
I graduated from Virginia Tech in the spring and chose to take a gap year, so I could work as a research assistant to Dr. Charles Montgomery, who works in Immunology and Oncology. Working with him gave me experience studying cells and how to effectively treat a patient without causing excess damage to their cells.

Question #5 Describe the most important honor you have ever received, and why this particular honor was so important to you. (300 characters)

I was formally inducted into Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society after my first semester of college. Knowing that my grades needed to be superb if I wanted to get into medical school, this honor gave me pride in my commitment and was a sign of what I was accomplishing.

Question #6 Share with the admissions committee about a scholarly project that you’ve been a part of. Limit your explanation to one experience and provide specific details concerning when, where, and under whose mentorship you worked. (300 characters)

For this answer, pick a project that required significant work and resulted in a finished product, like being published in a research journal.

Question #7 Explain an unexpected hindrance in your life. Describe how it hindered you, how you overcame it, and how this process has affected you as a person. (500 characters)

This question is a spin on the classic adversity essay. We recommend tailoring another essay you’ve written to UCLA Medical School.

Question #8 If you have worked during your undergraduate studies or since you graduated, please list it here. Include any type of work. (4000 characters for each work experience)

It’s important to list everything here. Some students work in fast food or janitorial positions and that might be embarrassing to list when you want to be a doctor. But working steadily is a great example of how strong your work ethic is and how determined you are to make it through medical school. You should be proud of all of your work. 

It’s also okay if you didn’t work. Many students focus full time on their studies, so they can focus on earning high marks and mastering the material. 

Question #9 If you have experienced any difficulties that have significantly impacted your ability to prepare for medical school, and if you would like the admissions committee to take this into consideration with your applicant, please explain. (500 characters)

It’s okay to leave this blank if you don’t have anything to share, or if you’re not comfortable sharing what you’ve gone through. However, this is a great opportunity to explain a significant challenge to the admissions committee. If you’re comfortable with it, we recommend answering this question. 

Here’s an example:

My parents supported our family with their Chinese restaurant. They couldn’t afford to hire enough employees to keep up with the dinner and weekend rushes, so I had to help them. This impacted my ability to complete my homework, which in turn negatively affected my grades. I couldn’t choose between my family and my schoolwork, so I tried to juggle both. Doing so was difficult, but it taught me that some situations will be hard, and enduring through them as best I can is the answer.

Question #10 What do you want to do for your career upon graduation? Describe the process that led you to this point. (500 characters)

This question is popular. It’s so popular that you can probably tailor it to UCLA Medical School, based on another essay. If you know what type of medicine you want to practice, go ahead and describe that here. But if you aren’t sure, you can discuss a specialty that interests you. It’s okay if this changes over time. Just be sure to tie UCLA in, and discuss how UCLA Medical School will help you fulfill your medical dreams.

Here’s an example:
I want to be an OB/GYN. My interest began when my little brother was born. I was ten years old and got to accompany my mom to several of her doctor’s appointments. My interest remained at that level until high school when I got to interview an OB/GYN during my senior year. I even got to shadow her for a day. Because of this, I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Women’s and Gender Studies. The education I received taught me about the strengths and weaknesses of the current healthcare system, and how I can be the kind of OB/GYN that patients seek out.

Question #11 COVID-19 has negatively affected everyone. Describe here how the pandemic has affected your efforts to apply to medical school. Explain scholastic, personal, monetary or professional problems you have faced. Included all relevant information. (500 characters)

Since COVID-19 has taken the world by storm, there’s a good chance it has impacted you. However, you need to be careful with how you answer this question. Avoid using it as an excuse for letting your grades suffer. If everything went remote, don’t complain about a slightly lower score since this is something everyone has gone through, regardless of whether they want to be a doctor.

Instead, discuss problems like not being able to take the MCAT on time. This is a real problem since testing centers administering the MCAT were closed for a long time, and once they re-opened, they were backed up for months. A global pandemic is completely out of your control. So, even if you perfectly planned out your schedule, the UCLA Medical School admissions team will understand hindrances of this nature. 

Part 5: Your Interview at UCLA Medical School

Congratulations if you’ve made it to this point! You’re either reading ahead, or you’ve landed an interview at UCLA Medical School. Good for you for reading ahead. Being prepared is great. But congratulations if you’ve scored an interview! You are among the very few who UCLA has selected to go through the interview process.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all interviews are taking place virtually. UCLA Medical School has a two-part interview process: the AAMC VITA, followed by a one-on-one live interview. 

If your interview is taking place after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, UCLA will likely use the Multiple Mini Interview process with you. This process consists of six, 10-minute interviews, where you know what questions you will be asked in advance and you have two to three minutes to decide how to answer. 

Either way, you can prepare for your interview by rehearsing your answers to a wide variety of questions. This will prepare you for both types of interviews. We also highly recommend going through the UCLA website and learning everything there is to know about the medical program. This will help you more closely/carefully align yourself with UCLA’s mission and convince the admissions committee that they should accept you. 


Congrats! You’ve made it to the end of this guide. We hope that the information provided will help you on your medical school application journey. International Medical Aid is here to help. If you want additional assistance, check out our website for more details. We provide one-on-one, personalized help for med school applicants. 

We wish you the best of luck as you pursue your medical degree. Applying to an Ivy League school can be a nerve-wracking experience, but you’ll never know if you can get in unless you apply!