medical programs in california

Last Updated on July 29, 2023

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medical programs in california

Medical Schools in California in 2022

Medical Schools in California

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This blog lists the medical schools in California along with their course requirements and admission statistics. We also cover all the UC medical schools in detail. Plus, we give you failproof tips for how to make your application stand out! Don’t forget to check out medical school acceptance rates before you choose to which schools you want to apply!

Note: If you would like to navigate to specific sections of the article, click “Article Contents” above (on mobile) or on the right (desktop) to see an overview of the content.00:00

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California is the most populous state in the United States and the third-largest in area. California offers not only mild weather and varied terrain, but a demographically diverse population, with large immigrant populations from all over the world. California also features one of the world’s largest economies and is considered a global trendsetter in popular culture. California produces the country’s highest agricultural output and contains Silicon Valley, the global hub of technological innovation. The above characteristics make California an ideal location for any prospective student to embark on a diverse and varied journey through their medical education, allowing you to study in urban, suburban, and rural areas and to encounter many different types of patients and presentations.

Allopathic Medical Schools in California:

1. California Northstate University College of Medicine 

Mission: “To Advance the Art and Science of Medicine through Education, Service, Scholarship, and Social Accountability.”

Location: Elk Grove, CA

Region: Northern California

Institution Type: PrivateCourse prerequisitesRecommended coursesAdmission statistics

 2 semesters of college-level English 

 2 semesters of Biology with laboratory

 2 semesters Inorganic (General) Chemistry with a minimum of 8 units with Laboratory

 2 semesters of Organic Chemistry with a minimum of 8 units with Laboratory

 2 semesters of Physics

2 semesters of college-level Math 

1 semester of Biochemistry

2. California University of Science and Medicine – School of Medicine

Mission: “To advance the art and science of medicine through innovative medical education, research, and compassionate healthcare delivery in an inclusive environment that advocates critical thinking, creativity, integrity, and professionalism.”

Location: San Bernardino, CA

Region: Southern California

Institution Type: PrivateCourse prerequisitesAdmission statistics

CUSM-SOM does not have any course prerequisites, but encourages applicants to take courses in the humanities, women’s studies, multicultural issues, ethics, behavioral sciences, social sciences, and statistics.

3. Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California

Mission: “We are dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals and society by promoting health, preventing and curing disease, advancing biomedical research and educating tomorrow’s physicians and scientists. 

  • Groundbreaking discoveries in basic science clinical research.
  • Excellence in educating the next generation of academic clinicians and basic scientists.
  • Advanced university-level patient care with breakthroughs that fundamentally change the practice of medicine.”

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Region: Southern California

Institution Type: PrivateCourse prerequisitesAdmission statistics

No specific course requirements

4. Loma Linda University School of Medicine

Mission: “The mission of the School of Medicine is to continue the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus Christ.”

Location: Loma Linda, CA

Region: Southern California

Institution Type: PrivateCourse prerequisitesRecommended coursesAdmission statistics

General Biology, one year sequence with lab

General or Inorganic Chemistry, one year sequence with lab

Organic Chemistry, one year sequence with lab

Biochemistry, one academic term. Lab recommended.

General Physics, one year sequence with lab

5. Stanford University School of Medicine

Mission: “To be a premier research-intensive medical school that improves health through leadership, diversity, and a collaborative approach to discovery and innovation in patient care, education, and research.”

Location: Stanford, CA

Region: Northern California

Institution Type: PrivateCourse prerequisitesAdmission statistics

Although Stanford Medical School does not have specific prerequisite courses, they recommend the following:

2 years of chemistry with lab (including exposure to general chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and biochemistry)

1 year of biology with lab

1 year of physics with lab

6. University of California, Davis, School of Medicine

Mission: “To foster a dynamic, patient-centered learning environment and prepare our graduates to improve the health of the diverse communities they will serve as physicians, scientists and healthcare leaders.”

Location: Sacramento, CA

Region: Northern California

Institution Type: PublicCourse prerequisitesAdmission statistics

Biological Sciences, 1 year

Chemistry, general and organic sequence: 2 years (If you are unable to take a full year of organic chemistry, courses in biochemistry will be accepted.)

Physics, 1 year

7. University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine

Mission: “We are dedicated to advancing medical knowledge and clinical practice by offering a rich educational environment. We nurture the development of medical students, resident physicians and scholars in the clinical and basic sciences and support the dissemination of research advances for the benefit of society.”

Location: Irvine, CA

Region: Southern California

Institution Type: PublicCourse prerequisitesRecommended coursesAdmission statistics

Biology, 1.5 years, including one upper-division biology course.

Chemistry, 2 years, to include general/inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry.

Physics, 1 year

8. University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen, School of Medicine

Mission: “To prepare our graduates for distinguished careers in clinical practice, teaching, research, and public service. Recognizing that medical school is but one phase in a physicians education, we must create an environment in which students prepare for a future in which scientific knowledge, societal values, and human needs are ever changing.”

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Region: Southern California

Institution Type: PublicRecommended coursesAdmission statistics

Biological Sciences and Physiology

Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Physical Sciences with lab


Mathematics and Statistics

9. University of California, Riverside, School of Medicine

Mission: “To improve the health of the people of California and, especially, to serve Inland Southern California by training a diverse workforce of physicians and by developing innovative research and health care delivery programs that will improve the health of the medically underserved in the region and become models to be emulated throughout the state and nation.”

Location: Riverside, CA

Region: Southern California

Institution Type: PublicCourse prerequisitesRecommended coursesAdmission statistics

Mathematics — 8 semester hours in calculus and/or statistics.

Physics — 8 semester hours, labs optional.

General chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry — 16 semester hours, labs optional.

Biology — Eight (8) semester hours, labs optional.

10. University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine

Mission: “To provide cutting edge resources and education to our students so they may grow into innovative and compassionate physicians, focused on providing superior medical care to the global community.”

Location: La Jolla, CA

Region: Southern California

Institution Type: PublicCourse prerequisitesRecommended coursesAdmission statistics

No specific course requirements

11. University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine

Mission: “At UCSF, the purpose of medical education is to educate learners who will improve the health of our communities and alleviate suffering due to illness and disease in our patients. The UCSF School of Medicine Bridges Curriculum educates MD graduates to excel in the competencies needed by 21st-century physicians.”

Location: San Francisco, CA

Region: Northern California

Institution Type: PublicCourse prerequisitesAdmission statistics

Biology, one year with laboratory (may include biochemistry)

Chemistry, one year, including at least one semester of organic chemistry with lab (may include biochemistry)

Biochemistry, at least one course

Physics, one semester

12. Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science

Mission: “Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science is a private non-profit student centered University that is committed to cultivating diverse health professional leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations through outstanding education, research, clinical service, and community engagement.”

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Region: Southern California

Institution Type: PrivateCourse prerequisitesAdmission statistics

Biological Sciences and Physiology: Cellular and Molecular Biology and Genetics

Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Physical Sciences: Inorganic and Organic chemistry, Biochemistry of intermediary metabolism, and associated laboratory activities.

Humanities: This might include literature and/or art, history, philosophy, religion, ethics, economics, social behavior, psychology

Mathematics and Statistics: This might include biomathematics, computer science, matrix algebra.

13. Kaiser Permanente, Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine

Mission: “To provide a world-class medical education that ignites a passion for learning, a desire to serve, and an unwavering commitment to improve the health and well-being of patients and communities.”

Location: Pasadena, CA

Region: Southern California

Institution Type: PrivateCourse prerequisitesRecommended CoursesAdmission statistics

Behavioral or social science (for example, anthropology, economics, ethnic studies, psychology, sociology): one-half academic year (1 quarter or 1 semester).

General biology with laboratory: 1 academic year.

General or inorganic chemistry, or equivalent, with laboratory: 1 academic year (three quarters or 2 semesters).

General physics with laboratory: 1 academic year.

Humanities (for example, art, English, history, literature, philosophy): one-half academic year.

Osteopathic Medical Schools (DO) in California

14. California Health Sciences University College of Osteopathic Medicine

Mission: “To graduate exceptional Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine by:

Inspiring a diverse student body to commit to careers that serve our region, with a focus on recruiting students from the Central Valley;

Developing compassionate, highly trained, intellectually curious, adaptive leaders capable of meeting the healthcare needs of the future through a performance-based education;

Empowering people to teach, serve, research, innovate, and practice collaboratively in areas of skill and expertise in disciplines related to osteopathic medicine.”

Location: Clovis, CA

Region: Central California

Institution Type: PrivateCourse prerequisitesAdmissions statistics

Behavioral Sciences: 3 semester hours, 4 quarter hours.

Biology: 8 semester hours, 12 quarter hours.

Inorganic or General Chemistry: 4 semester hours, 6 quarter hours.

Organic Chemistry: 8 semester hours, 12 quarter hours.

Physics: 8 semester hours, 12 quarter hours.

English (e.g. Composition/Literature): 6 semester hours, 9 quarter hours.

15. Touro University of California College of Osteopathic Medicine

Mission: “Touro University California provides graduate and professional educational excellence in the fields of Health Sciences, Public Health, and Education. The TUC learning experience is student-centered, enriched by focused research and scholarship, and prepares professionals for rewarding lives in service to others both locally and around the globe.”

Location: Vallejo, CA

Region: Northern California

Institution Type: PrivateCourse prerequisitesRecommended coursesAdmissions statistics

Biology – 8 semester units or 12 quarter units, with lab.

Physics – 8 semester units or 12 quarter units, with lab.

Chemistry Option 1 (Must satisfy Option 1 or Option 2): General/Inorganic Chemistry – 8 semester units or 12 quarter units, with lab. Organic Chemistry – 8 semester units or 12 quarter units, with lab (may substitute 4 semester units of Biochemistry for 4 semester units of Organic Chemistry)

Chemistry Option 2 (Must satisfy Option 1 or Option 2): General/Inorganic Chemistry – 4 semester units or 6 quarter units, with lab. Organic Chemistry – 8 semester units or 12 quarter units, with lab.

Biochemistry – 4 semester units or 6 quarter units, with lab.

2 courses of College English.

2 courses of Behavioral Science.

1 course (minimum 4 semester units) of Math/Computer Science.

16. Western University of Health Sciences – College of Osteopathic Medicine

Mission: “To prepare students to become technically competent, culturally sensitive, professional and compassionate physicians who are prepared for graduate medical education, who are lifelong learners, and who will serve society by providing comprehensive, patient centered healthcare with the distinctive osteopathic philosophy. This is accomplished through excellence in curriculum, translational research, service, osteopathic clinical practice and the enhancement of osteopathic graduate medical education.”

Location: Pomona, CA

Region: Southern California

Institution Type: PrivateCourse prerequisitesRecommended coursesAdmissions statistics

College English: 1 academic year, 6 semester units.

Behavioral Sciences: 1 academic year, 6 semester units.

Biological Sciences with lab: 1 academic year, 6 semester units.

Organic Chemistry with lab: 1 academic year, 6 semester units.

Inorganic Chemistry with lab: 1 academic year, 6 semester units.

Physics with lab: 1 academic year, 6 semester units.

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UC Medical Schools

With a total of 5 health centres, the UC network also boasts 6 medical schools: UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, and UC San Francisco. These programs enjoy worldwide and domestic recognition for their general programs as well as medical schools specifically.

However, with these impressive accomplishments, med schools in the UC school system also have highly competitive acceptance rates of only 1.3-2.2%. The programs also very strongly prefer in-state applicants, and few accept applications from international and Canadian applicants. 

The highest acceptance rate among UC medical schools is 2.2%


UC Rankings: Admission Statistics

The following UC ranking is based on the institutions’ overall acceptance rates, which can give you an idea of the level of competition you will face. You can organize the table from highest to lowest acceptance rates, MCAT, or GPA by clicking on the appropriate section at the top of the table. You can also use the toggles to hide any information that you find impertinent.

Select fields:


Overall Acceptance Rate



Out-of-State Success Rate

International Success Rate

UC Medical School Acceptance Rates

SchoolOverall Acceptance RateMCATGPAOut-of-State Success RateInternational Success Rate
UC Davis1.7%5123.700.04%0.03%
UC Irvine1.65%5173.830.85%n/a
UC Riverside1.3%5103.720%0%
UC San Diego1.8%5173.850.6%0%
UC San Francisco2.2%5183.850.9%0%

Notice that the schools with the highest GPA and MCAT expectations are not the ones with the lowest rates of admission. For example, Riverside has the lowest percentage of success at 1.3%, but also has the lowest median MCAT score, at 510, and one of the lowest GPA requirements, at 3.72. At the same time, UC San Francisco holds the highest rate of success, at 2.2%, but also has the highest thresholds for both the MCAT and the GPA median, at 518 and 3.85, respectively. Keep this in mind when you are preparing your medical school applications – it will take more than scores and statistics to get into schools with some of the lowest medical school acceptance rates. 

Based on the above rankings, we can see that many of the UC medical school programs are comparable in terms of competition and level of academic excellence required for success. The two outliers that can accommodate a greater variability in the applicant’s record are UC Davis and UC Riverside.  

Keep in mind that since the majority of American medical schools have rolling admissions, the time of submission significantly affects the chances of success. The rolling process allows admissions committees to assess and accept applicants as the applications roll in, despite the application cycle still being open for other applicants. This means that the later the application is submitted, the lower its chances for success. For example, an application submitted at the start of the application season will have access to more available spots, and thus better chances, than an application submitted shortly before the deadline, since many of the spots will likely be filled already. This means that even if you compose a stellar application package but wait until the last minute to submit, you will have a lower chance of admission than someone who submitted their application as soon as the application system opened. Make sure you check medical school application timelines before you start your planning.

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Before we move on to tips for how to choose the right school for you, we should note the number of applicants who were invited to interview. The med school interview is an integral part of the application process, as it allows prospective students to articulate why they want to become a doctor, and reflect on the experiences and learning outcomes that they can bring to the program. Schools that entertain a higher number of interviews thus provide more opportunities for applicants to personally articulate their suitability to the program. Luckily, your chances at getting an interview are quite a bit higher than the competitive rates for admission, as most UC schools invited 6-10% of all applicants to interviews. 

All applicants invited to an interview stand a strong chance of receiving an admittance into the program, which is why it is so integral to learn how to prepare for a med school interview. Ideally, an interview should give the committee a strong grasp of who you are and your life story, how your experiences and learning outcomes will shape you as a physician and make you an asset to the medical community, and how you will integrate into the program. In addition, med school interviews test students’ abilities to problem-solve ethically complicated situations, communication, and demonstrate other qualities identified by the AAMC as Core Competencies required of physicians. In the latest admissions cycle, UC med schools used a variety of med school interview formats. UC Riverside, UC San Diego, and UC Davis all used the MMI format. UC San Francisco took the more traditional route, with applicants being invited to 2 traditional blind interviews. UC Irvine and UCLA asked candidates to interview both through the traditional med school interview and the AAMC VITA video interview. 

The best way to prepare for your interview is to practice with sample questions and answers. It is important to get ready to answer such common medical school interview questions like tell me about yourself and what is your greatest weakness. Make sure to learn the interview format of your chosen schools and prepare accordingly. If your school uses the MMI format, don’t forget to run through MMI questions during your preparation, as it is a challenging interview format, with many scenario and policy-type questions.

Ideally, you will want to receive personal feedback from a medical school advisor as you practice and prepare. Personalized feedback can help you improve more than your answers. Quality feedback can help you work on your posture, communication skills, and confidence. 

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Application Requirements for UC Med Schools

Status: In-State vs. Other

One of the first things to consider when selecting which schools to apply to is your residency status. Not all UC schools accept Canadian and international applicants. UC Riverside, thanks to its commitment to Inland Southern California and interest in applicants who can demonstrate their dedication to the region, only accepts applications from in-state candidates and may consider out-of-state applicants on a case-by-case basis, provided the applicant can demonstrate a significant relationship to California. If you’re an out-of-state medical school applicant, check out a list of out-of-state friendly medical schools in the US.

UC San Diego and UC San Francisco are the two schools that will accept applications from out-of-state candidates, but reject applications from International students. Although it should be noted that UC San Diego is willing to consider applications from Canadian applicants on a case-by-case basis, similar to UC Riverside’s treatment of out-of-state applicants. UC Irvine expands the pool of eligible applicants slightly, as it accepts applications from out-of-state and Canadian applicants. 

Only UC Davis and UCLA are classified as Canadian-friendly US medical schools. A “Canadian-friendly” program treats Canadian applicants as out-of-state applicants, using the same admission requirements and, most importantly, will not charge international tuition fees for admitted candidates.

The only two schools that are willing to consider all types of resident categories are UC Davis and UCLA, as they accept applications from in-state, out-of-state, Canadian, and international applicants. Despite this, note that only a total of 7 international students matriculated in all of the UC med schools in recent years. This means that the competition will be particularly fierce if you are applying from outside of the USA and Canada. 

Thus, UC rankings may demonstrate competitive acceptance rates, high grades, and test scores, but you must also remember to consider your residency status. Make sure to check each school’s residency criteria before you apply to determine whether you fit their eligibility requirements. All UC med schools accept applications from DACA students.

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Academic Fit

Having established your eligibility and chances based on the category of your application, it is important to assess how well your academic record compares to the figures of the previously accepted applications. When choosing which schools to apply to, be sure to assess how well you meet the expectations of the school, as schools often use these scores to weed out applicants early on in the selection process. You have better chances of being invited to an interview if your scores are within the 25-75th percentile values, and get better the closer you get to the median scores for GPA and MCAT. 

Some things that you can do ahead of time to improve your chances at success is to focus on taking courses that you are genuinely interested in, as these will make it easier to achieve a higher GPA. Make sure that you study subjects that you are passionate about, stay engaged in your classes, and develop key study habits that bring better success. For example, you are better off writing out notes by hand rather than highlighting your textbook, as studies show that you retain information better when you write it down. 

Similarly, make sure you take advantage of office hours with your professors, as these meetings will help you understand the material better and also make connections with your professors. These connections will be key as you start asking for reference letters for your applications, and can even lead to important research and lab experiences. 

To do well on your MCAT, you will have to start preparing for it early. Ideally, you should have taken all of the medical school prerequisites in chemistry, biology, and physics by the end of your second year, so you start studying for the test then. To prepare for the challenging MCAT CARS section, be sure to read and analyze everything you can find, like magazine articles, philosophy essays, classical literature, and practice getting used to identifying arguments, stances, and evidence. 

You should aim to set your MCAT test date by the end of the summer before your fourth year; that should give you time to rewrite the test if you need to. 

Check out our foolproof MCAT CARS strategy:

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Experiences: AMCAS Work and Activities

With that being said, to impress any of the schools in our UC rankings, your application must involve more than just your scores. What makes a strong application is the amalgamation of the candidate’s personal story, academic record, and previous experience, all of which should demonstrate the ways in which you are a good fit for the programs of your choice. 

In addition to your grades, statistics, and your premedical experience, one of the key factors to consider when deciding which programs to apply to is how your previous record and extracurriculars align with the school’s values and interests. In other words, you should consider your fit in the program, and how the program’s values relate to your own experiences and goals. Each program’s mission statement is the first stop for accessing important information about how the program defines itself and what it holds most valuable. For this reason, it is a key indicator of the type of experiences and applicant profiles that the med school will find attractive. 

For example, UC Davis’s mission statement states that the school is aiming to provide learner-centered education to a diverse body of students and cultivate in them “the passion to improve lives and transform the health of the communities they will serve as physicians, scientists, and health care leaders.” UC Davis’s interest in creating a diverse body of students means that the admissions committee will likely be interested in hearing what makes each applicant a diverse candidate, be it life experiences, personal background, or extra-curricular experiences that have shaped their understanding of diversity. 

On the other hand, the mission statement for UC Riverside’s med school is perhaps the most specific of all the UC schools, as it discusses the school’s commitment to servicing the community of Inland Southern California, training a diverse workforce, and developing innovative research and healthcare delivery programs for the medically underserved in the region. This mission statement makes it clear that in addition to a vested interest and commitment to diversity, innovation, and the health of the medically underserved, prospective students must demonstrate their interest in and familiarity with Inland Southern California . As such, previous familiarity with the region and experience within it, along with experience with medically underserved communities, will be of paramount importance for hopeful applicants to the program. 

When choosing which programs to apply to, you can assess the values and mission of the school and how well they align with your own interests and experiences. For the UC schools, you will be able to demonstrate and discuss your previous experiences in your AMCAS Work and Activities section. 

To understand what types of experiences will help your application, you should look to the profile of the previously accepted candidates, which you can access on the MSAR database. Learn how to use MSAR to choose the best medical school for you. This is a great source for information regarding the types of experiences you should be accumulating, as it provides data on the premedical experience of the admitted class for each school.

As with most med schools, research is a key experience for most of the applicants for all of the UC med schools. If you are interested in applying to one or more of UC med schools, try to find significant experiences in research/lab prior to your application, as well over 90% of the successful applicants have significant experiences in a research/lab environments. If you are still seeking to gain quality research experience, make sure to prepare a solid resume and research assistant cover letter. These two documents will help you find research positions during your undergrad on campus and off. 

Over 90% of UC medical school matriculants have research experience!


You should also look to find meaningful experiences in medical/clinical community service and volunteering, since most successful applicants had these experiences as well. Indeed, UC Davis and UC Riverside were the only universities for whom the successful cohort had more experience in medical/clinical community service and volunteering than research/lab experience. For these schools, experiences like volunteering in hospitals can help you make you an attractive candidate. 

Generally, experiences in community service and shadowing also make important contributions to applicants’ profiles, as the vast majority of all of the programs’ matriculating cohorts demonstrate significant experiences in these fields. Indeed, shadowing is often a recommended experience for applicants, so you should try to find some experiences in shadowing or clinical observation prior to your applications.

On the flip side, a minority of successful applicants have previous medical/clinical paid employment experience, meaning that these types of experiences, though valuable, are not as integral in securing an admission to one of the UC med school programs.

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Personal Statement

In addition to your academics and experiences, your medical school personal statement will also playing an important role in demonstrating your suitability to the profession, and potentially some of the medical schools of your choice. While the personal statement is not unique to each school, it is a general essay about your candidacy that will likely demonstrate many of the traits that valued by various schools, including the UC med schools. 

The AMCAS personal statement is a personal essay that should articulate why you have chosen to pursue medicine. In the span of 5300 characters, your personal statement should convey what makes you a unique candidate, your journey to medicine, and how you envision yourself as a physician. In it, you should discuss formative experiences that have led you to this profession, and helped you develop important qualities that will make you an asset to the profession. 

Though it may be tempting to discuss all of your experiences with medicine in your statement, it is important to remember that it is an essay that reflects on your interest in medicine, and is not a CV. As such, it is important to focus on only 2-3 key experiences that have solidified your interest in medicine, and dedicate the limited space of the essay on actually unpacking each experience. It is through the details of your experiences and your ability to discuss what you learned from them that you will be able to provide impactful reflections on your path to medicine and why you are committed to it. 

And though the personal statement is general, since it is sent out to all of the schools to which you are applying, many of the qualities and skills that you will convey in your statement will likely relate to the mission statements of the schools, like leadership, diversity, and community engagement. 

Secondary Applications

Lastly, it is important to choose schools that relate to your values and experiences because, if you match the academic and test criteria of the schools, you will likely get a chance to directly address your suitability during the medical school secondary essays. While the personal statement and AMCAS sketch are general, secondary applications will ask you to answer questions and prompts specific to each school. 

As such, the secondary application is usually your chance to better articulate your fit for the program and its mission, should you be invited to submit it. In this part of the application cycle, be prepared to write essays that directly demonstrate how your profile and experience relate to the school mission and values, and the ways in which your candidacy makes a great fit with the school’s goals. 

Secondary applications are usually shorter and more direct essays that universities ask applicants to write in the second step of the application. While some universities ask all applicants to write secondaries, others perform a preliminary selection of students based on their academic and MCAT performances, experiences, and personal statement. 

When invited to submit secondary applications, you will be given specific questions and essay topics that you should provide answers to within a certain word limit. Usually, these questions will ask you to explain certain experiences or how your previous experiences align with the mission of the university. In most cases, you will have a deadline by which to submit your essays. 

These essays can be very time consuming, which is why it is better to be strategic which schools you apply to so that you don’t end up losing time on applications to programs that you are not seriously considering. For example, in the latest cycle, UCLA secondaries consisted of 10 short essays that had to be submitted within 15 days. In contrast, UCSD secondaries provided applicants with a whole month to complete their required and optional essays. Of course, because of the rolling process, time of the essence, so you should always aim to have these ready within 1-2 weeks of receiving the prompts.

Check out 10 UCLA secondary school examples:

What To Consider: UC School Profiles

When thinking about where to submit your applications for med school in the UC system, you should also consider how each school compares to the type of lifestyle and practice you are hoping to pursue. The state of California boasts one of the biggest economies in the world, ranging from agriculture to the tech world, and is also one of the largest states in the USA. As such, the various med schools in the UC school system inevitably inhabit a large variety of environments and treat hugely different populations and communities. 


Not least of your considerations as an applicant will be the medical school tuition.

Select fields:


In-state tuition

Out-of-state Tuition

UC Medical School Tuition

SchoolIn-state tuitionOut-of-state Tuition
UC Davis$70,702$82,947
UC Irvine$65,067$77,312
UC Riverside$72,083$84,328
UC San Diego$66,578$78,823
UC San Francisco$75,287$87,532

As we can see above, tuition rates vary between roughly 65-77 thousand USD for in-state students, and roughly 77-88 thousand USD for out-of-state students, but many of these costs are offset by financial aid that is available at each institution. And yet, some of the lowest tuition schools also had some of the highest values for indebtedness, which could be related to the costs of attending school in that location and the scope of financial aid available. Though we can see the percentages of the cohorts that received aid, wo do not know the extent of the financial aid available at each institution.  

So while tuition rates among the various UC med schools do not present a very large variability, the difference in the indebtedness for the different programs can be an important factor when deciding on programs.


How much does medical school cost if you attend a UC school? The cost of attending is also affected by the cost of living associated with the geographical location of each school, which can be a factor to consider when deciding on the programs of choice. You should also consider the types of communities and medical practice each program provides. 

For example, San Francisco has one of the highest costs of living in California, with overall average rent for a one or two bedroom apartment pegged close to 3000 USD per month. Indeed, San Francisco is known for providing some of the highest salaries, and has a correspondingly high rental median and real estate prices. With a population of close to 900k residents, it has the fourth highest population in California, and is also one of its most densely populated cities. With a history of social activism and political activity, San Francisco remains an important hub for urban political engagement. 

Similar to San Francisco, Los Angeles is known for its high prices for rent, with an overall average of 2300 USD per month for a one bedroom apartment. With a population of over 4 million residents, LA is the largest city in California, second largest in the USA (after New York City), with the UCLA campus nestled in the heart of the city. LA is known for its diverse population, so attending the UCLA would result in a distinctly urban experience in terms of both culture and medical practice. It is also home to an abundance of political activity, so protests and political organization make up an important part of the culture of the city and the university. 

In sharp contrast, the campus of UC San Diego School of Medicine is located in the city of La Jolla, California, an affluent but small community of around 50 thousand residents. Technically a neighborhood of the much larger city of San Diego, La Jolla sits directly on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and has an overall average rental price of around 2300 USD per month for a one bedroom apartment. With the ocean and its beaches surrounding three sides of the community, La Jolla is known for its mild climate, casual atmosphere, fine dining, and boutique shopping. 

With a larger population of around 200 thousand residents, Irvine has an overall rental average of roughly 2400 USD a month for a one bedroom apartment. Though an expensive city, Irvine offers the advantages of a planned city, and has also gotten recognition for the high percentage of advanced degrees held by its residents. 

With a similar population range, at around 300 thousand residents, Riverside offers the lowest average rent, at roughly 1700 USD a month for a one-bedroom apartment. As the birthplace of the citrus industry in California, Riverside prides itself on its history. As UC Riverside is the newest medical school in the UC system, with the first class enrolled in 2013, it makes a strong commitment to serving its local community. 

Though the main campus of UC Davis is located in Davis, CA, a city of only 65 thousand residents (not counting university students and families), the UC Davis School of Medicine is located in Sacramento. With a population of half a million residents, Sacramento is the sixth-largest city in California and has one of the cheaper average rental prices, at 1500 USD per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Sacramento is the capital of California, and is a major financial and healthcare center on the West Coast. The culture of the city is forward-facing and rapidly evolving, while the city itself offers extensive parks and green space for its residents.


If you have a sense of the type of medicine you would like to pursue, you can also take into consideration what fields of medicine graduates from different programs have ended up pursuing. If you are still wondering how to choose a medical specialty, make sure to check out our tips to help you in this difficult decision.

For example, an entire quarter of UC Davis’s graduating class (25%) is pursuing Internal Medicine, with a close 19% specializing in Family Medicine, and 13% in Psychiatry. Similarly, 24% of UC San Francisco’s graduating class is also pursuing Internal Medicine, followed with a more even distribution among the other specialties, such as Emergency Medicine (8%) and Surgery (7%). 

Emergency Medicine also comes out on top in UC Irvine’s graduating class (18%) and UC Riverside (21%). Other specialties of note for UC Irvine include Internal Medicine (14%) and Surgery (10%), while Internal Medicine (18%), Family Medicine (16%), and Psychiatry (16%) for stand out for UC Riverside. 

Similar to UC San Francisco, UCLA also had a relatively even distribution among the specialties, with 16% pursuing Internal Medicine, 12% pursuing Pediatrics, 11% pursuing Psychiatry, and 9% Family Medicine. 

Check out our video to find out what makes studying in California unique:

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