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December 1, 2019

Applying to Harvard Medical School as an International Student?


Aspiring medical students, not surprisingly, are some of the best students in college. The United States, despite its health care system needing a major overhaul, the medical education system is first rate. Extremely selective even for American applicants, the bar for international students is much higher, with acceptance rates in the 10 – 15% range.

Standing Out in a Crowded Field


  • Your ultimate goal is to present the best version of yourself to the medical schools. Your application must be strong from top-to-bottom. Medical schools will divide the applicant pool into American citizens and international students. They further sub-divide the pool in international students with American or Canadian college degrees, and those earning degrees aboard, excluding Canada.


  • Harvard Medical School requires at least one year of study at an accredited college in the US or Canada.

Admission Selection Factors

There are several components to the application. They include:

  • Strong Academic Record
  • Compelling Personal Statement & secondary essays
  • Exceptional MCAT scores
  • Outstanding Letters of Evaluation
  • Notable Summer Activities
  • Noteworthy Life Experiences
  • Meaningful Service to Humanity
  • Intellectual Curiosity and Academic Research
  • Evidence of Fine Character & Integrity

The Essential Core Competencies

If you plan to attend Harvard Medical School, you’ll need to master the Association of American Medical College’s (AAMC) 15 Core Competencies. They are broken down into four sections:

Creating a Compelling Application

  • Your persona narrative must argue successfully:
    • Why you selected the field of medicine?
    • What motivates you to learn more about a defined field in medicine?
    • What you want the medical schools to know about you that makes you talented and special?

Building your Edge

  • Is there a component of your application that rings that you are committed and engaged? For example, have you submitted a peer reviewed manuscript that was accepted for publication

The Metrics

  • Do your grades and MCAT score suggest your ability to not just survive, but thrive in medical school and beyond

Immigration Status

  • Given the current climate in Washington DC, obtaining travel to the US can be challenging at best, and in certain countries virtually impossible.

Financial Aid

  • The US government requires proof of residency or citizenship when applying for financial aid
  • Moreover, more often than not, you must prove the ability to pay tuition in advance of matriculation
  • Institutions with large endowments, such as Harvard Medical School, can often offer need-based financial aid