Part 1: Introduction

The Washington University School of Medicine is located in St. Louis, Missouri, and is one of the best medical schools you can attend in the United States. The university, commonly coined WashU, has everything a medical student could want: a plethora of resources, an extraordinary group of professors, students who become friends and colleagues, and an excellent program that prepares students for acceptance into exceptional residency programs all over the country.

The Washington University School of Medicine has everything a medical student could want, making the program extremely competitive and requiring prospective students to be at the top of their game. WashU ranks in the same tiers as universities like Brown, Harvard and Perelman. 

Aligning yourself with the school’s mission and goals are the best way to get through the application process and (hopefully!) score an interview with The Washington University School of Medicine. You’ll need to stand out as the very best of all the applications WashU receives. While this could be daunting, we are here to help. We’re going to walk you through…

  • The programs WashU offers
  • Cost of attending WashU
  • Application process, including sample essay responses
  • Admissions process
  • Interview process

Let’s get started.

Part 2: Medical Programs at Washington University School of Medicine

  • Doctor of Medicine (MD)
  • Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD)
  • Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Engineering (MD/PhD)
  • Doctor of Medicine and Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MD/MSCI)
  • Doctor of Medicine and Master of Population Health Sciences (MD/MPHS)
  • Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health (MD/MPH)

Washington University School of Medicine has its own traditional, four-year program with a focus on biomedicine. If you are admitted into this program, you’ll go through Phase 1 Preclinical, Phase 2 Clinical Clerkships, Phase 3 and Research. The cool thing about WashU is that, instead of listing all the coursework and curriculum, they show you what your time at WashU could look like through the experience of current students.

Phase 1: Preclinical

Your first year at WashU will begin with early morning classes consisting of lectures and labs. Instead of earning letter grades, first-year students receive pass/fail grades, but studying is still stressful since there is a ton of course work. In the afternoon, students attend sessions with their mentors in a clinical setting (medical office or hospital) where you’ll help treat real patients. Small group sessions are also a frequent part of the first-year experience. Life basically consists of attending classes, studying, eating and getting caffeinated, working with mentors and patients in clinical settings and more studying. 

Phase 2: Clinical Clerkships

In your second year, you’ll start your day seeing patients. Before you meet with them in individual patient rooms, you’ll look at their labs and vitals, and check for any recent updates. This information will also be shared with other students who will treat these same patients. When more severe issues arise, attending physicians are there to ensure that everything goes well (or as well as possible). Lectures and rounds (including grand rounds and patient rounds) are also part of the day. Your Phase 2 year will basically consist of seeing patients and learning even more than you did during your Phase 1 first year.

Phase 3: Elective Courses

Your third year at WashU will consist of elective courses and more experience with patients in clinical settings. Going over lab work and consulting with your patients is a key part of the Phase 3 experience. After spending time with your patients, you’ll present the information you’ve gathered to your fellow. Later that day, you will discuss the patient’s health with your attending physician. Phase 3 will mostly consist of this. Where your first two years were book-heavy and patient-light, your third year is where this flips around. 

Research

Research primarily takes place in the lab. Lab work like RNA extraction, microscopic examinations and transfection experiments take place, to name just a few. This year of your education transitions you from classroom settings into the hospital and lab, where you can begin to treat patients with less supervision. 

Your time at Washington University School of Medicine will provide you with the five-star education you need to become an excellent doctor and have confidence in your skills. 

While Washington University School of Medicine has a total of six programs, the traditional, four-year program to become a Doctor of Medicine (MD) is the program we’ll be focusing on, as we guide you through the application process. If you are interested in looking into WashU’s other programs, click here. While we won’t be focusing on those programs and their admissions process might look a bit different, the sample essay questions and answers that we provide in Part 4 could prove to be helpful in your application process. 

Tuition Costs

Attending medical school obviously isn’t free. But just how much will it cost you to attend Washington University School of Medicine? First-year students are looking at $66,913 for tuition alone. Add in textbooks, course work materials, housing costs, food and travel expenses, and you’re looking at around $87,500 for your first year, which can be broken down to $43,750 per semester. In short, it’s not cheap. 

Washington University School of Medicine has a $100 million scholarship fund for students who need help or who earn grades that qualify them for part-tuition coverage. While it’s unlikely to graduate medical school with no debt, WashU’s program has an average of $125,000 compared to the national average of $200,000.

Part 3: Just How Tough Is It To Get In?

Last year (2019-2020 academic year), the stats were…

  • 4,766 applicants
  • 47 applications per position
  • 101 brand new, incoming students

WashU averages a two percent acceptance rate. 

Basic Requirements to Even Be Considered for Washington University School of Medicine

While it might seem next to impossible to get into WashU since they have less than a three percent acceptance rate, it isn’t. If you have the grades and appropriately align yourself with their mission and goals, you could position yourself to be among the two percent who are accepted. 

Let’s look at what your grades and course work will need to look like as you keep WashU in mind for medical school.

  • GPA: 3.85
  • MCAT: 519

Additionally, WashU requires you to take the MCAT three years before you apply. That means if you’re applying for the 2023 academic school year, you’ll need to have taken the MCAT in 2020. If you didn’t already take it, you’ll need to delay your application. 

Washington University School of Medicine wants to ensure that its applicants can handle the intense course load that comes with the medical program. These are the classes that are required at the undergraduate level from an accredited university: 

  • Biology
  • Inorganic chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry or Biochemistry
  • Physics
  • Calculus (integral and differential equations)

Students are required to have 90 credit hours completed and to have studied each of these subjects for at least one year. And while many courses have pass or fail options, we highly recommend taking courses for a letter grade. A pass/fail score shows that you knew enough information to pass the course, but a letter grade shows just how well you learned the material. An A- is far more impressive than a passing grade. As far as majors go, the pre-med courses listed above are the only requirements. You can major in anything you want at the undergrad level as long as you complete those requirements. 

Expected Timeframes

  • July: Submit your AMCAS application. While this isn’t due until December 1, the application is long and completing it thoroughly and carefully will greatly improve your chances of scoring an interview at Washington University School of Medicine.
  • October – February: Interviews. (The earlier you submit your application, the earlier your interview will be!)
  • November – April 15: If you are accepted, you will know within this time frame.
  • December 1: Actual deadline to submit AMCAS application.
  • December 16: Send your transcripts to WashU by this date.
  • December 31: Deadline for letters of recommendation and MCAT scores

Washington University School of Medicine operates with a rolling admissions system. This means that the earlier you apply, the earlier you will be accepted or rejected.

Part 4: Your Washington University School of Medicine Application Essays

This is the part that makes many students nervous. There is one essay to complete in your AMCAS application and three more to complete as part of your secondary application. 

In case you aren’t familiar with the terminology or how it works, you’ll submit two applications. The first is your AMCAS application, which is the standard application for everyone who wants to attend medical school, regardless of where you’re applying. Your secondary application goes directly to the medical school where you are applying. You will have one AMCAS application for all medical schools and one secondary application for each individual school.

These essays are what personalize your application. These essays are your chance to shine. For your AMCAS application, you’ll write your medical personal statement. Then, for Washington University School of Medicine, there is one required essay and two optional essays. We highly recommend answering all the essay prompts. This is a great chance to shine and show the admissions committee why you should be part of their two percent acceptance rate. Let’s go over the questions WashU asks and discuss how to best answer them.

Question #1: Have you completed your bachelor’s degree, have you paused your education, or will you be a part-time student during the academic year for which you apply? (YES/NO)

Answer yes or no. There is no need to justify or explain your answer. 

Detail the activities you participated in during gaps in full-time enrollment. (2000 characters)

While this question will most likely be similar to some of the information you already provided in your AMCAS Work and Activities section, it’s important to fully answer it here as well. 

This section should not include any extracurricular activities that were also academic. The university wants to know what you did when you weren’t enrolled in classes. There isn’t enough room to detail a lot, but there’s enough to make you nervous if you don’t have a ton of experience. But rest assured that you can do this! Here are some tips.

  1. This is about you. Yes, you. While you might be tempted to talk about other people with whom you shared those experiences, this isn’t about them. Take your chance to shine here, and focus on what you did.
  2. Keep it simple. This isn’t the time to take about how life-changing your experiences were. Just simply describe what you did.
  3. Be honest and repetitive. There is nothing wrong with referencing something from your application.

If you feel like you lack the necessary experience to answer this question, consider applying to Medical Aid’s program. We have fantastic opportunities that our alumnis still talk about.

Still need some help? We understand. Here’s a sample essay to help you get started.

Assistant Research Technician; University of San Marcos, July-September 2019. I spent my time here with my eye focused on a microscopic lens where I studied cell cultures and worked with the lead researchers to help them with their work. My duties included monitoring cell cultures that were developed in the lab, recording data and sharing my findings with the lead researchers. The data I compiled for them and presented to them were included in various academic journals.

This is about 300 words / 6000 characters. If each of your entries is approximately this long, you’ll have room for two more examples. It’s okay if you don’t use all the characters, but do not exceed the character limit! Also, even though you can include information from other parts of your application, never plagiarize yourself! Always word things in new ways, even if it is the same information. 

Question #2: Write about an event or situation where you failed.

This question is hard to answer because it makes you so human. Of course, everyone makes mistakes, but no one wants to acknowledge those mistakes to the admissions committee of a prestigious university!

There’s no need to share the most embarrassing moment of your life. Share an experience where you had good intentions but failed, and include what you learned from the experience. 

When I was a freshman at USC, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was enrolled full-time in on-campus classes and had worked hard to get into USC, but I felt like I needed to go home and be with my family. My father wanted me to come home, but my mother insisted that I stay at school. My dream had been to attend medical school since I was in middle school. 

I chose to stay at school to honor my mother’s wishes since she was the one with cancer. We had regular phone calls and video chats before the cancer metastasized, and she was too ill to talk to me every day. That was when my father started urging me to come home for Thanksgiving break. I hadn’t wanted to spend the money on a flight home for just one week when I could come home for an entire month for Christmas break. 

However, this ticket would also be taking me home to my mother to see her, so I made the decision to fly home. It’s a good thing I did. My mother passed away the morning I was supposed to fly back to school after Thanksgiving. I flew back to USC like I planned to so I could avoid my dad because I knew he was right. I had the excuse that Mom would want me to finish my education. But I knew that I could receive an exemption from USC with my mother’s passing and return the next semester. I stayed at school until Christmas break.

I really miss my mom. I regret not coming home sooner to spend more time with her. In the future, I need to weigh my circumstances equally and not be so focused on one single thing. I wish I had had more than just a few days with her between her diagnosis and passing. I learned from this experience that my personal life is as important as my professional life.

This essay is heartfelt and shows a situation that many of us can relate to. This applicant’s personal and academic life unexpectedly collided, and she learned a hard lesson. This is a great example to share with the admissions committee because it’s a real-world example that is both poignant and powerful, and it connects her personal life to her future goal of becoming a doctor.

Question #3: Share anything else that you would like the Committee on Admissions to know. (3000 word limit)

This is a great place to discuss religious or cultural diversity. In fact, you probably have an essay that you’ve written that you could cater to WashU for this question. Whatever topic you choose to write about should ultimately connect back to Washington University School of Medicine, and why you should be among the few who get an interview. Remember that answering these optional essay questions is your opportunity to really shine on paper. That’s not something you want to forget with the added effort you’re putting in. 

Here’s a sample essay on religious diversity. 

I grew up in a conservative home with Christian parents until I was a teenager when my father decided to renounce Christianity, and my mother followed him. They went from talking about Jesus dying on the cross for their sins to Eckhart Tolle and staying in the present moment. Their sudden change of faith from religion to spiritualism caused me to go into my own spiritual crisis of sorts. I decided to still be a Christian, but to attend a different church where no one knew me.

I went through three different denominations before I found my place in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My parents hadn’t cared about my religious persuasions once they left the Christian church, but they paid attention when I became a Mormon. They hated it. They were utterly convinced that they had lost their daughter to a cult.

Thankfully, I was 20 years old at this point and old enough to make my own decisions. It had been five years since my parents wreaked havoc on me spiritually. The tables had now turned. Only, instead of having peaceful conversations about spiritualism, we had arguments about whether I knew what I believed. You see, when your parents think you’re in a cult, they’re convinced that you don’t actually know what you believe, and they convince themselves of what they think you believe. It’s a recipe for disaster because there isn’t really a way to resolve the problem.

To this day, my parents aren’t fond of my decision, even though I’m still happy in the Latter-day Saint faith. The ongoing differences in our beliefs have taught me that it’s okay to be different. I’ve learned how to be more diverse. My friend group has evolved from a small circle of Christian friends to friends who are from all walks of life. 

I believe my acceptance into the Washington University School of Medicine would further my horizons by meeting even more people from different walks of life. I believe we can all learn from each other, and learning at WashU is one of my dreams.

Part 5: Your Interview at Washington University School of Medicine

Congratulations if you’ve made it this far! You are among the select few applicants whom WashU will consider for their traditional medical program, and that’s amazing.

Each school’s interview process is unique, so let’s take a look at how WashU does it. Keep in mind that COVID-19 will likely impact how you are interviewed. You will receive detailed instructions on how your interview will take place to keep you and the university employees safe.

A typical interview day will include a meet-and-greet with some faculty and medical students, a complimentary meal and a tour of the university. You will also have two interviews, one where the interviewer has thoroughly gone over your application and knows everything you have shared, the other where the interviewer has not gone over your application. This helps to prevent bias on their part and gives you the opportunity/challenge to answer questions on the spot. Very detailed experience about specific parts of your application might be required in one interview while sharing your credentials might be required in the other interview. Brush up on your skills and how you want to word things before you arrive for your interview. This will help you be prepared to give nice, polished answers. 

Conclusion

Applying for medical school is certainly a long, complicated process! There are many steps to take before you will ever sit in your first lecture or lab. But if you want to become a doctor, it will be worth investing your time. The care you’re investing to get into medical school shows the same care that you’ll have for your patients when you’re wearing a white coat with your name and the letters “MD”. 

We hope that this definitive guide helps you if you decide to apply to Washington University School of Medicine. Don’t let their 2% acceptance rate deter you. Put your best foot forward, and apply. The worst that can happen is shooting for the moon and landing on the stars.

If your application to medical school is years out, consider applying to our program to gain the kind of experience you want to write about in your essays. You can never have too much experience. And if you don’t have as much experience as you’d like to have, write about the experiences you do have. When you start to think about it, you’ll realize you have more experience than you initially thought.

Good luck with applying to medical school. We wish you the very best in your application process!