The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine is located in the beautiful and historic downtown of Richmond Virginia. It’s one of the top 50 best medical schools for primary care and has a vibrant network of training sites and research facilities.
What does it take to get into the VCU School of Medicine? This article covers everything you need to know to craft a compelling application and navigate the admissions process. If you’re thinking about applying to VCU, consider bookmarking this article for easy reference.
Be an Informed Applicant
Medical schools are highly competitive, highly selective institutions. They receive thousands of applications each year and can only accept a small fraction of those students. To be a competitive applicant, you’ll need to do your research and understand what it takes to get in.
Institutional identity, curriculum, selection factors — there are so many things that can help focus your application once you learn about them. Additionally, every medical school has different admissions requirements. Understanding what these requirements are and how they relate to your application is critical.
This article covers:
- VCU Medical School Ranking and “Why VCU?”
- Doctor of Medicine Programs at VCU School of Medicine
- Selection Factors and Admissions Requirements (GPA, MCAT, etc.)
- VCU Medical School Acceptance Rate and other Admissions Statistics
- VCU School of Medicine Tuition and Cost of Attendance
- AMCAS Primary Application and VCU Medical School Secondary Application
- VCU School of Medicine Secondary Application: Essay Prompts, Sample Answers, and Advice
- VCU School of Medicine Interview Questions and How to Prepare
- Medical School Admissions Consulting
- Pre-Med Internships
There’s a lot to cover about the VCU School of Medicine. First, we want to let you know that we offer personalized guidance for medical school hopefuls. Our medical school admissions consulting services are designed to help you every step of the way, from planning and strategizing your application to editing your essays.
Our consultants have decades of experience in medicine and education. We’ll work with you one-on-one to help you get into the school of your dreams.
Now, let’s learn about the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and how to get in.
Why Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine?
The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine (VCU SOM) is a top public medical school with an outstanding reputation. It’s well-known for its primary care program, which trains students to become excellent primary care physicians.
The school also offers unique opportunities for research and clinical training. For example, the school has strong partnerships with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These partnerships give students opportunities to conduct research and get involved in clinical trials.
VCU SOM is also one of the most diverse medical schools in the region. The school is committed to creating a supportive and inclusive environment for all students. Students have the opportunity to learn from faculty who come from a variety of backgrounds and are passionate about teaching.
The VCU School of Medicine is located in downtown Richmond, Virginia. The school is part of a large and vibrant medical community that includes several hospitals, clinics, and research institutes.
VCU Medical School Ranking
The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine holds the following rankings:
- #62 in Best Medical Schools: Research
- #48 in Best Medical Schools: Primary Care
- #91 in Most Diverse Medical Schools
- #78 in Most Graduates Practicing in Medically Underserved Areas
- #89 in Most Graduates Practicing in Primary Care Fields
- #115 in Most Graduates Practicing in Rural Areas
Additionally, the Virginia Commonwealth University is:
- #1 in Nursing-Anesthesia
- #5 in Healthcare Management
- #70 in Public Health
MD Programs at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine offers a traditional four-year MD program as well as several dual degree options.
The MD program at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine is divided into four phases: Scientific Foundations of Medicine, Applied Medical Sciences, Core Clinical Concentrations, and Advanced Clinical Concentrations.
There are three longitudinal themes studied and revisited throughout the entire curriculum: The Physician, Patient, and Society, Practice of Clinical Medicine, and Population Health and Evidence-Based Medicine.
Phase One: The Scientific Foundations of Medicine spans the first semester of medical school at VCU and focuses on the study of the foundational knowledge necessary to understand organ systems. This phase covers Hematology and Oncology, the Musculoskeletal Systems, Gastrointestinal System and Metabolism, Endocrine and Reproduction Systems.
Phase Two: Applied Medical Sciences takes place in the second and third semesters of the VCU MD program. This phase includes a deep study of organ systems and disease and treatment. The second half of this phase covers Cardiovascular, Pulmonary and Renal Systems and Mind, and Brain and Behavior (Behavioral Science and Neuroscience).
The USMLE Step 1 exam is taken at the end of the third semester.
Phase Three: Core Clinical Concentrations sees students begin their rotations in clerkships of Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Neurology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Surgery. The hands-on clinical training is supplemented with lectures and presentations. This phase lasts a year and begins in the fourth semester.
Phase Four: Advanced Clinical Concentrations comprises the final year of medical school at VCU. Acting Internships, an Urgent Care elective, a teaching requirement, and an integrated Clinical Care experience are all required in Phase Four. The remaining credit hours are open for students to explore and specialize in their areas of interest through electives.
The USMLE Step 2 examinations are taken before graduating and attending residency.
MD/PhD and Dual Degrees
The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine offers MD students the following dual degrees:
- MD/MHD (Dual Degree in Medicine and Health Administration) – This dual degree program takes five years to complete and is designed for medical students interested in pursuing leadership roles in medicine. MD students apply to the program after completing the first three years of medical school. The MD/MHD program is offered in collaboration with the VCU College of Health Professions.
- MD/MPH (Dual Degree in Medicine and Public Health) – The MD/MPH program takes five years to complete and includes 36 credit hours of public health courses at the VCU Department of Family Medicine and Epidemiology. MD students interested in studying how to analyze, diagnose, and prevent population-based health issues are encouraged to apply after completing three years of medical school.
- MD/PhD (Dual Degree in Medicine and Science) – This highly competitive program admits six to eight students a year. Students receive annual stipends while pursuing education and research experience in one of the many fields of clinical science. VCU emphasizes retaining clinical skills during the graduate phase of this program, which takes an average of eight years to fully complete.
Selection Factors: What VCU Looks for in a Candidate
The admissions committee of the VCU School of Medicine weighs GPA, MCAT score, volunteer experience, and patient exposure when evaluating a candidate.
VCU abides by the AAMC Holistic Review Process E-A-M Model of evaluating Experiences, Attributes, and Metrics. This is a process of reviewing medical school applicants in a flexible and individualized way. To quote the AAMC manual linked above, this process provides “balanced consideration to experiences, attributes, and academic metrics. These factors are considered in combination with how the individual might contribute value as a medical student and physician.”
Additionally, the VCU School of Medicine gives preferences to candidates with a passion to contribute to the VCU School of Medicine’s mission — namely, “to develop more effective health care practices to address the needs of the diverse populations we serve, and to provide distinguished leadership in the advancement of medicine and science”
Finally, the VCU Admissions Committee has identified six attributes that help make a competitive applicant:
- Evidence of academic preparation for a rigorous medical school curriculum
- Dedication to serving others
- Ability to work in teams toward a shared goal or mission
- Excellence in an activity that shows commitment, drive, and passion
- Competence for delivering quality care in a global society
- Understanding of the medical field and what it takes to be a physician
Admissions Requirements for VCU School of Medicine
GPA and MCAT Requirements for VCU School of Medicine
The minimum GPA required to be considered by VCU School of Medicine is 3.3. The minimum acceptable MCAT score is 503.
The average GPA of accepted candidates is 3.7. Science GPA is weighed more heavily by the admissions committee. All college credit grades are calculated to determine your GPA. If you take a course more than once, each grade received for that course is included in the calculation.
The average MCAT score of accepted candidates is 512. At VCU, the highest MCAT score is considered when evaluating your application.
Volunteer Service and Clinical Experience
Applicants must demonstrate volunteer/community service and medical/clinical experience to be considered for acceptance into the VCU School of Medicine.
Volunteer service is defined as work that is done without monetary compensation for the purpose of bettering the community or population served. Volunteer service may be performed through religious, political, civic, charitable, scientific, or educational organizations.
Activities performed as part of employment or service-learning courses do not count as volunteering. The average amount of volunteering by medical school applicants is 200 hours within the past four years.
Medical/clinical experience is defined as exposure to patient care in a health care setting such as a hospital, clinic, or physician’s office. VCU admissions looks for “long-term, in-depth medical/clinical work.” Patient exposure is a critical requirement for applying, as physicians must first and foremost be comfortable working with patients.
International Medical Aid’s pre-med internships provide compelling and insightful experiences that truly prepare you for a career in medicine. Our internships are intensive, in-depth, and immersive. You’ll learn in real-world clinical settings, getting hands-on experience as you work alongside medical professionals from around the world. Plus, our admissions consulting team helps all our interns in their journey to medical school, so you’ll have personalized help and support every step of the way.
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine Letters of Recommendation
Here are the guidelines for the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine letters of recommendation submissions.
Applicants must submit a minimum of three and no more than five letters of recommendation using the AMCAS Letters of Evaluation/Recommendation Service.
The admissions committee at the VCU School of Medicine highly recommends the following:
- Letters should be dated within one year of your application
- Letters should not be written by friends or family members
- Letters should be based on direct interactions with you in an academic or professional setting
- Letters should address your maturity, reliability, interpersonal skills, and character
- If you’ve taken time off between college and applying to medical school, at least one letter should address your experiences during that time
- For applicants who have any special circumstances such as low grades, leaps of absence, disciplinary action, etc., at least one letter should include an explanation of the situation
In general, your letters should come from professors or employers who know you well and can attest to your academic ability and personal qualities. Try to include a variety of letters, but we highly recommend including letters from teaching faculty in your undergraduate institution’s science department.
Required Coursework for VCU School of Medicine
According to VCU’s admissions criteria, candidates must “demonstrate that they have acquired a broad education that extends beyond the basic sciences to include the social sciences, history, arts, and languages.” This helps future physicians understand the social and historical factors that affect their practice of medicine.
A baccalaureate degree from an accreditated institution is “recommended and customary.” Below is the prerequisite coursework listed by the School of Medicine’s admissions committee.
- English or writing intensive courses: six credits of writing intensive courses. Other courses may be substituted upon request, please contact the admissions office.
- College mathematics: six credits of college level math/statistics
- Biological science: eight semester hours, including laboratory. This may be satisfied by general biology, general zoology, or botany.
- General or introductory chemistry: eight semester hours, including laboratory.
- Organic chemistry: eight semester hours, including laboratory.
- General or introductory physics: eight semester hours, including laboratory experience.
- Upper level biological science courses. Such as biochemistry, cell biology, anatomy, embryology, genetics, microbiology, molecular biology, immunology or neuroscience.
- Psychology: Highly recommended
- Sociology: Highly recommended
CASPer stands for Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics. It’s a situational judgment test used to assess non-cognitive personal qualities that VCU believes are important for successful students and physicians. Your motivations, ability to collaborate, and ethical decision-making skills are among the many qualities the test evaluates.
The CASPer exam is an online test that you can take from the comfort of your own home. The test is 90 minutes long and consists of 12 sections, each with a different scenario. For each scenario, you’ll be asked to choose the response option that you believe is the best course of action.
All applicants are required to complete the CASPer test to be considered for enrollment. Tests are taken at takealtus.com/casper. Candidates will take the CSP-10111 – U.S. Medicine test. You’ll need your AMCAS number and government-issued ID.
VCU Medical School Acceptance Rate and Admissions Statistics
The VCU School of Medicine received 8,031 applications for the 2021-2022 application cycle. Out of the applicants, 1,129 were Virginia residents and 6,869 were non-residents, and 184 matriculated.
The VCU Medical School acceptance rate is 4.5%. The interview rates are 24.0% for in-state applicants and 4.3% for out-of-state applicants.
Around 48% of the entering class is composed of in-state students.
The average age of enrolling students is 24 years old. About 42% of first-year students are above the age of 25.
The average GPA of accepted and enrolled students is 3.74 for the 2021-2022 application cycle. The average MCAT score is 510.
VCU School of Medicine MD Tuition and Cost of Attendance
The School of Medicine’s Financial Aid Office offers a detailed breakdown of the tuition, fees, and estimated cost of attendance for VCU’s MD program. Here’s a summary of what it costs to attend.
For in-state students, tuition is $33,752 per year. Fees such as technology fees and health insurance bring the annual cost up to $37,163 – $37,527. Finally, other estimated costs, such as housing, food, and transportation, bring the total cost to attend VCU School of Medicine to $75,263 – $76,908 per year.
For out-of-state students, tuition is $56,578 per year. Technology fees, health insurance, and other fees bring the annual cost up to $60,679 – $61,043. Finally, other estimated costs such as housing, food, and transportation, bring the total cost to attend VCU School of Medicine to $96,141 – $98,318 per year.
AMCAS Primary Application and VCU Medical School Secondary Application
The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) is the first official step to applying to medical school. The AMCAS application is your primary medical school application. It’s a standardized application that’s sent to every medical school you apply to. (There are a small number of medical schools that don’t use the AMCAS, such as state schools in Texas.)
Upon receiving your primary application, the VCU School of Medicine will invite you to complete its secondary, school-specific application. The VCU secondary application includes questions written by the school’s admission committee to help determine if you’re a good fit for the VCU School of Medicine.
For a closer look at primary vs secondary medical school applications, check out our blog about understanding the differences between primary and secondary applications.
VCU School of Medicine Secondary Application: Essay Prompts, Sample Answers, and Advice
Like many medical schools, the VCU School of Medicine conducts a holistic review of your application when evaluating your candidacy. This means that the admissions committee takes into account your entire application — not just your grades and MCAT score — when making their decision.
The volunteer and healthcare experiences listed in your AMCAS application will help the school determine your level of commitment to serving others, as well as your understanding of what’s involved in a career in medicine. The secondary application is a chance to give these experiences context, elaborate on why they were meaningful to you, and explain what you learned from them.
Additionally, VCU will evaluate your written communication skills, which are important for both the academic and clinical aspects of a career in medicine. Crafting clear, well-organized essays is key to demonstrating your ability to communicate effectively.
Here are the secondary application essay prompts from the VCU School of Medicine 2021-2022 application cycle. We’ve included a breakdown of the prompts, tips for how to answer, and a few sample responses.
Cultural humility is defined as a “process of reflection and lifelong inquiry which involves self-awareness of personal and cultural biases, as well as, an awareness and sensitivity to significant cultural issues of others.” Please provide an example of a specific time you demonstrated cultural humility with some reflection on the experience. (2000 char)
In most medical school secondary applications you’ll encounter a question designed to evaluate your cultural competency. Cultural competency is a measure of how well you understand and can relate to people of different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. It’s an important quality for doctors to have since they will be treating patients from all walks of life.
Cultural humility is a key component of cultural competency. Being able to reflect on your own biases and cultural assumptions is essential to providing quality care to patients from diverse backgrounds. Understanding and sympathizing with the cultural values of others is also a key quality of a culturally competent doctor.
So, your answer to this specific prompt should demonstrate your self-awareness and ability to reflect upon your cultural situation. It should also show your ability to recognize and understand the cultural situation of others. Here are some example scenarios.
- A time when you had to overcome your own biases to provide support, care, or services to someone from a different background.
- A time when you recognized and respected the cultural values of a patient or family member, even if they differed from your own, and how this process challenged and changed you.
- A time when you utilized your cultural competency to navigate a delicate, tense, and/or important situation.
Here’s an example response to this question.
In 2022, had the opportunity to do a pre-med internship abroad in Kenya through International Medical Aid. I learned so much about the culture and the people there, and I got to see first-hand how healthcare is delivered in East Africa.
One of the things that struck me when I began shadowing in Kenya was the level of deference given to elders. Watching nurses spring into action upon receiving an elder led to a series of epiphanies that changed how I think about culture.
For one, something was confusing me about my experience. After all, isn’t it the case that we respect elders in America? Why did Kenya feel so different? I hadn’t taken the time to reflect on the position of elders in my own culture — I just assumed we respected our elders. My experience in Kenya prompted me to realize that respect for elders in America is not consistently given, and our institutions reflect this sad fact.
I also encountered a handful of younger Kenyans who resented the respect given to elders. Rather than write this off as exceptions, it helped me understand that culture is not monolithic. All cultures have antagonisms that arise from their history, and culture is not simply the traditions that prevail the most.
I also realized that, though I had experienced the cultural dynamic first-hand, I didn’t understand it as well as I could. I decided to do some research and learned that village-elders in Kenya play important roles in public leadership. They perform decision-making and judicial functions, and they do so voluntarily.
It’s difficult to admit, but the stereotype of the African elder in my culture’s media had stopped me from investigating the specific and unique qualities of Kenyan culture. I had the false sense that I already knew what elders were in African culture. But that knowledge was based on cultural stereotypes, not research, experience, and reflection.
Overall, my experience in Kenya taught me that there are many layers to cultural humility. Learning about other cultures is a project that’s never complete, and it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you’ve learned enough. By humbling oneself to the depth and complexity of others’ cultures, we can begin learning how to truly respect and serve others.
Please briefly explain any lapses in your undergraduate education that are not explained in your application.
Many circumstances require taking time off from school. If you have a gap in your undergraduate education, here’s your chance to explain to admissions what happened.
At its core, this question is about helping the admissions committee understand your academic journey and how you’ve handled challenges along the way. Explain the circumstances, describe the positive outcomes, and stand by your decision.
This question doesn’t have a character limit, so it’s up to you to stay focused and concise with your response. If the situation was complex, organize your answer narratively to help the reader follow along. Double-check your response to make sure you aren’t including extraneous information or over-explaining yourself. Be confident in your explanation and let your character shine through.
Here’s an example of a brief response to this question.
I took a semester off to care for my grandfather after he had a heart attack. I recognized that, while I needed to prepare for the rigors of work-life balance in medical school and beyond, I was the only one in my family who could feasibly take time off to help my grandfather recover without suffering financial consequences
It was a difficult time for our family, but I’m grateful for the experience. Caring for him taught me a lot about how challenging the recovery process can be. I communicated his progress with the rest of my family and helped him with physical therapy exercises. Seeing him get stronger every day was an incredible experience.
This semester off helped me develop patience, resilience, and communication skills that I know will be essential in medical school and my future career. I also used the time to study for the MCAT and plan my summer pre-med internship.
If not addressed in your application, what are you currently doing now?
Are you still finishing your bachelor’s? Are you taking a gap year? Are you working? Let the admissions committee know what you’re up to and how it’s preparing you for medical school.
This essay is your opportunity to talk about anything that isn’t already included in your application. If you’re taking a gap year, tell the admissions committee what you’re doing and why you think it will benefit your future as a physician.
If you’re working, tell the admissions committee about your job and how it’s helped you develop skills that will be useful in medical school and beyond.
If you’re finishing college, explain what courses you’ll be taking in your final year and how they’re preparing you for medical school. Include any extra-curricular activities that are not mentioned in your AMCAS application.
No matter what you choose to write about, be sure to focus on how your current activities are preparing you for a career in medicine. You can reference the AAMC Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students to help focus your answer.
VCU School of Medicine Interview Questions
If you have a competent, well-crafted application and compelling pre-med experience, chances are VCU will invite you to an interview. Here, the admissions team will get to know you as a person and evaluate your interpersonal skills. They’ll keep looking to see if you fit their school’s unique mission and values.
In our article, Most Important Residency Interview Questions in 2022, we discuss what you can expect at a medical school interview and provide advice for how to prepare. Regardless of which schools you’re applying to, the interview phase is crucial to your candidacy.
Here are some details about the VCU School of Medicine interview phase according to previous applicants:
- 85% of applicants were impressed by the interview and it helped favor them to VCU School of Medicine.
- On average, interviewees felt low to moderate levels of stress during the interview.
- Many interviewees were able to conduct their interviews virtually, which helped lower transportation and financial burdens.
- On average, interviewees rated the quality of the VCU School of Medicine interviews highly relative to other medical schools.
- Most interviews lasted longer than an hour and were conducted one-on-one.
- Most interviews were open-file.
Here are some of the reported questions asked by the VCU interviewers:
- “Tell us about a challenging time that affected you and others.”
- “Why medicine?”
- “Tell me about an obstacle you had to overcome.”
- “What qualities do you think make a good physician?”
- “Tell me about the last time you apologized.”
- “How would you choose which classmates to work with on a group project?”
- “What responsibility do you have to the homeless population as a physician?”
The resources on our website are designed to help you succeed in the medical school admissions process. But we understand that everyone’s journey is unique — in fact, many applicants benefit greatly from personalized help.
That’s where our medical school admissions consulting comes in. We’ll connect you with an admissions expert who will help you develop a personalized strategy based on your unique needs and aspirations.
Every year, our team helps applicants get into top medical schools around the country. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help you, schedule a free consultation today. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and help you get on the path to success.
In the ‘Selection Factors’ section of this article, we covered VCU’s requirements for healthcare experience. Whether it’s VCU or another school, hands-on clinical experience is either required or very highly valued.
MedicalAid.org offers a pre-med internships abroad that allow you to gain valuable experience in unique healthcare settings. You’ll learn about the day-to-day operations of hospitals around the world, shadow medical professionals, and benefit from didactic presentations geared to your medical career aspirations.
Check out our pre-med internships abroad today to learn more and find the perfect program for you!
We hope you find our resources helpful to your medical school application process. Remember, if you need any guidance along the way, our team at International Medical Aid is always here for you.
Don’t forget to explore more of our ultimate medical school guides:
- Oregon Health and Science University
- University of Maryland School of Medicine
- Case Western Medical School
- University of North Carolina Medical School
- University of Florida Medical School
- Emory University School of Medicine
- Boston University School of Medicine
- California University of Science and Medicine
- UC San Diego Medical School
- California Northstate University College of Medicine
- Touro University of California
- CHSU College of Osteopathic Medicine
- UC Davis School of Medicine
- Harvard Medical School
- UC Riverside School of Medicine
- USC Keck School of Medicine
- UT Southwestern Medical School
- Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio
- University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine
- UT Austin’s Dell Medical School
- UTMB School of Medicine
- McGovern Medical School at UT Health
- Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
- McGovern Medical School at UT Health
- The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine
- UNT Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine
- University of Houston College of Medicine
- Texas A&M College of Medicine
- Johns Hopkins Medical School
- Baylor College of Medicine
- George Washington University School of Medicine
- Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
- St. George’s University School of Medicine
- Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (in Pennsylvania)
- Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University
- Wake Forest University School of Medicine
- Western University of Health Sciences (in California)
- Drexel University College of Medicine
- Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago
- Georgetown University School of Medicine
- Yale School of Medicine
- Perelman School of Medicine
- UCLA Medical School
- NYU Medical School
- Washington University School of Medicine
- Brown Medical School
We wish you all the best in your medical school journey!