California Medical Schools: How to Get In

Learn how hard it is to get into California med schools and the strategies to make it happen

Medical Schools in California.jpg

Getting into a medical school in California is a very common goal among premed students given the state’s high-ranking programs, reduced in-state tuition at public institutions, beautiful weather, cultural diversity, and so on.

Unfortunately, admissions is also incredibly difficult due to schools’ competitive stats, large state population, and massive number of applications each program receives.

Do a quick search online and you’ll come across horror stories from students on premed forums like:

 (Note: “Zero IS interviews” refers to 0 in-state interview invitations.)

(Note: “Zero IS interviews” refers to 0 in-state interview invitations.)

Fortunately, there are systematic approaches to getting admitted, as many of our students have demonstrated over the years:

 Stanford Medical School Acceptance

Stanford Medical School Acceptance

 UCSF Medical School of acceptance

UCSF Medical School of acceptance

My goal for this article is to demystify what it takes to get into California medical schools to help improve your admissions odds.

Part 1: List of Medical Schools in California

Part 2: California Medical School Admissions Strategies

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List of Medical Schools in California (Updated: November 2018)

Your first step is to learn about your competition when applying to California med schools. I dug up the most pertinent information about each school to help you understand the admissions landscape, whether you’re a California resident or out-of-state applicant.

While compiling this information, I observed the following trends:

  • California medical schools boast high rankings. Of the 8 schools ranked by US News (Research), two are in the top 5, three in the top 10, four in the top 25, seven in the top 50, and eight in the top 100.

  • Tuition and fees to attend California medical schools is comparable to schools outside California.

  • While out-of-state students must pay more than in-state students at public California (i.e., UC) med schools, tuition and fees for out-of-state UC students is lower than all California private schools’ tuition and fees.

  • California residents enjoy higher interview rates at every school except Stanford. (Note: In-state vs. out-of-state interview rates were not found for three schools.)

Click on the medical school below to view its information:



Allopathic (MD) Medical Schools

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California Northstate University College of Medicine

  • US News & World Report Rank: Unranked

  • Location: Elk Grove, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Year established: 2015

  • Tuition & fees: $58,371 (in-state and out-of-state)

  • Average GPA: 3.58

  • Average MCAT: 513

  • Interview rate: 11.7% (in-state) | 1.3% (out-of-state)

  • Size of first-year class: 94 (92.5% in-state)

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California University of Science and Medicine

  • US News & World Report Rank: Unranked

  • Location: San Bernardino, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Year established: 2015

  • Tuition & fees: $60,250 (in-state and out-of-state)

  • Average GPA: Not available

  • Average MCAT: Not available

  • Interview rate: Not available

  • Size of first-year class: Not available

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Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science

  • US News & World Report Rank: Unranked

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Year established: 1966

  • Tuition & fees: Pending

  • Average GPA: 3.0

  • Average MCAT: 498

  • Interview rate: 3.2% (combined)

  • Size of first-year class: Not available

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Keck School of Medicine of USC

  • US News & World Report Rank: 32 (Research) | 53 (Primary Care)

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Year established: 1885

  • Tuition & fees: $62,257 (in-state and out-of-state)

  • Average GPA: 3.76

  • Average MCAT: 515

  • Interview rate: 12.0% (in-state) | 6.7% (out-of-state)

  • Size of first-year class: 184 (74.4% in-state)

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Loma Linda University School of Medicine

  • US News & World Report Rank: Unranked

  • Location: Loma Linda, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Year established: 1909

  • Tuition & fees: $56,368 (in-state and out-of-state)

  • Average GPA: 3.86

  • Average MCAT: 508

  • Interview rate: 8.0% (in-state) | 5.3% (out-of-state)

  • Size of first-year class: 168 (51.7% in-state)

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Stanford University School of Medicine

  • US News & World Report Rank: 3 (Research) | 32 (Primary Care)

  • Location: Stanford, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Year established: 1908

  • Tuition & fees: $57,252 (in-state and out-of-state)

  • Average GPA: 3.89

  • Average MCAT: 518

  • Interview rate: 6.2% (in-state) | 7.7% (out-of-state)

  • Size of first-year class: 100 (38% in-state)

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UC Davis School of Medicine

  • US News & World Report Rank: 39 (Research) | 10 (Primary Care)

  • Location: Davis, CA

  • Public or Private: Public

  • Year established: 1966

  • Tuition & fees: $39,932 (in-state) | $52,177 (out-of-state)

  • Average GPA: 3.72

  • Average MCAT: 509

  • Interview rate: 9.8% (in-state) | .9% (out-of-state)

  • Size of first-year class: 114 (95.6% in-state)

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UC Irvine School of Medicine

  • US News & World Report Rank: 46 (Research) | 77 (Primary Care)

  • Location: Irvine, CA

  • Public or Private: Public

  • Year established: 1896

  • Tuition & fees: $35,247 (in-state) | $47,492 (out-of-state)

  • Average GPA: 3.82

  • Average MCAT: 512

  • Interview rate: 10.3% (in-state) | 4.3% (out-of-state)

  • Size of first-year class: 104 (89.4% in-state)

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UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine

  • US News & World Report Rank: 8 (Research) | 4 (Primary Care)

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA

  • Public or Private: Public

  • Year established: 1951

  • Tuition & fees: $35,492 (in-state) | $47,737 (out-of-state)

  • Average GPA: 3.85

  • Average MCAT: 517

  • Interview rate: 11.1% (in-state) | 6.0% (out-of-state)

  • Size of first-year class: 175 (66.9% in-state)

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UC Riverside School of Medicine

  • US News & World Report Rank: 93 (Research) | RNP (Primary Care)

  • Location: Riverside, CA

  • Public or Private: Public

  • Year established: 2008

  • Tuition & fees: $35,492 (in-state) | $47,737 (out-of-state)

  • Average GPA: 3.74

  • Average MCAT: 508

  • Interview rate: 6.5% (in-state) | 0% (out-of-state)

  • Size of first-year class: 66 (100% in-state)

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UC San Diego School of Medicine

  • US News & World Report Rank: 22 (Research) | 17 (Primary Care)

  • Location: San Diego, CA

  • Public or Private: Public

  • Year established: 1968

  • Tuition & fees: $35,343 (in-state) | $47,588 (out-of-state)

  • Average GPA: 3.84

  • Average MCAT: 517

  • Interview rate: 12.8% (in-state) | 5.3% (out-of-state)

  • Size of first-year class: 134 (88.8% in-state)

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UCSF School of Medicine

  • US News & World Report Rank: 5 (Research) | 2 (Primary Care)

  • Location: San Francisco, CA

  • Public or Private: Public

  • Year established: 1864

  • Tuition & fees: $34,682 (in-state) | $46,928 (out-of-state)

  • Average GPA: 3.84

  • Average MCAT: 516

  • Interview rate: 7.8% (in-state) | 5.2% (out-of-state)

  • Size of first-year class: 161 (68.3% in-state)

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Osteopathic (DO) Medical Schools

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Touro University California College of Osteopathic Medicine

  • US News & World Report Rank: Unranked

  • Location: Vallejo, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Year established: 1997

  • Tuition & fees: $55,600 (in-state and out-of-state)

  • Average GPA: 3.52

  • Average MCAT: 507

  • Interview rate: Not available

  • Size of first-year class: 135 (79% in-state)

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Western University of Health Sciences - College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific

  • US News & World Report Rank: Unranked

  • Location: Pomona, CA

  • Public or Private: Private

  • Year established: 1977

  • Tuition & fees: $57,865 (in-state and out-of-state)

  • Average GPA: 3.63

  • Average MCAT: 506

  • Interview rate: 11.7% (combined)

  • Size of first-year class: 221 (84% in-state)

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California Medical School Admissions Strategies

Now that you’re familiar with how competitive the admissions process is at California med schools, I’ll cover two strategies—beyond achieving high stats and completing all the right extracurriculars—to help maximize your odds of getting in.

Strategy 1: Take a date-driven approach to deciding which schools to apply to

Although California med schools are often lumped together, there is significant variability with regard to admissions statistics that you would be wise to incorporate when developing your school list.

I routinely observe how students add certain schools to their list “just because” or thinking that “it can’t hurt,” even though the data clearly show that their chances of getting in are slim to none.

For instance, UC Riverside receives over 1,000 applications from out-of-state applicants each year, despite the fact that none of them receive interviews or get admitted. Why waste your money and time when you could be spending your resources on better options?

In addition, be realistic about your admissions odds based on your GPA and MCAT score.

For example, Stanford admits students with an average GPA of ~3.9 and an average MCAT score of 518. If you have a 3.6 GPA and below a 510 MCAT score, you’re highly unlikely to get in, unless you’re exceptional in some other regard (e.g., first author on 5 publications to high-impact research journals).

While I’m a proponent of including a few reach schools in your med school list, I don’t subscribe to the “it can’t hurt to apply” philosophy when it comes to applying to schools that are nearly impossible for you to get into.

Writing high-quality secondary essays take a lot of time, so it’s best to prioritize schools that you have a better chance of getting into. Focusing on far, far reach schools at the expense of realistic ones detracts from your chances of getting admitted to the latter.

In other words, it can hurt to apply to unrealistic schools.

Strategy 2: Focus on each school’s mission and demonstrate fit

Individual California schools—like any other med school—have specific areas that they excel in and about which they’re proud.

For instance, the home page of UC Irvine’s website boasts research grants, research discoveries, and information on upcoming grand rounds. On the other hand, Loma Linda’s website’s home page largely highlights their commitment to service, to the community, and to promote Christian values.

It’s not that Loma Linda’s faculty are not interested in conducting research (they are) or that UC Irvine does not care about service or the community (it does), but rather that the type of students they aim to recruit differ.

Therefore, when completing secondary applications for each school, make sure to demonstrate fit with their stated and presented mission.

The same advice applies when interviewing at California med schools. While MMI interviews leave less room for explicit statements about your commitment to a certain community within California, etc., you can still demonstrate how your values align with each school’s mission through the answers you provide.

Final Thoughts

Getting into California medical schools is a tall order, yet it’s possible if you’re able to achieve high stats and ensure that your demographic background, experiences, and essays align with the type of students they’re looking for.