Allopathic (M.D.) and Osteopathic (D.O.) Medicine


Physicians diagnose and care for people of all ages who are ill or have been injured. They take medical histories, perform physical examinations, conduct diagnostic tests, recommend and provide treatment, and advise patients on their overall health and well-being. While there are several different types of physicians, they can usually be divided into three broad categories:

  • Primary care physicians are the doctors patients usually visit most frequently. They treat a wide range of illnesses and regularly provide preventive care, and they also enjoy long-term relationships with their patients. Pediatricians, family practitioners, and general internists are primary care physicians.
  • Surgeons perform operations to treat diseases and repair injuries.
  • Specialists have expertise related to specific diseases, age groups, and bodily organs. Cardiologists, psychiatrists, geriatricians, and ophthalmologists are examples of specialists.

—From the Association of American Colleges of Medicine

There are two types of physicians: M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) and D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). M.D.s are also known as allopathic physicians. D.O.s place an emphasis on holistic care of patients.

Application Process

Applications for allopathic medical schools are processed through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), while applications for osteopathic medical schools are processed through Association of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medical Schools Application Service (AACOMAS)

Applications should be submitted in the year prior to the year for which you are seeking admission. Many medical schools have rolling admissions, so applicants would do well to apply as early as possible. Applicants to allopathic medical schools may wish to review the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) resource; students can purchase their own copy or online access, or work with the co-chairs to find more information.

Entrance Exam Requirements

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required for admission to both M.D. and D.O. programs. It is a standardized, computer-based exam. 

Letters of Evaluation/Recommendation

Your adviser from the Health Professions Advising Committee will compose a composite letter from the letters of recommendation you solicit from professors, supervisors, research mentors, and others who know you in professional or service contexts; that letter will also contain a rating of you on behalf of the committee based on your academic record, service, experience, and other factors. Students should consult early and closely with their adviser to determine whom to solicit for letters of recommendation.


Medical schools usually require personal, on-campus interviews, though how many applicants are interviewed and at what point in the application timeline those interviews take place varies widely. Members of the Health Professions Advising Committee conduct at least one mock interview with applicants the spring before they apply; subsequent mock interviews are readily available and heartily encouraged.

Area Schools


International Students

As the Association of American Medical Colleges states, “Do U.S. medical schools ever accept international students? The short answer is yes, but it’s not easy.” A limited number of medical schools—65 as of the latest MSAR—even accept applications from international students; for example, in the Philadelphia area, only Penn, Jefferson, and Temple accept applications from international students. Furthermore, “Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible for federal aid, which includes Direct Stafford, Direct PLUS, and Perkins Loans. In most cases, international students will need to secure private loans or institutional loans if offered by the medical school. In some cases, medical schools require applicants to prove they have sufficient financial resources to pay for all four years of medical school, or will require applicants to have the full amount in an escrow account” (AAMC). At this time, 21 colleges of osteopathic medicine accept international applicants, including the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, which has more detail on the specific requirements and guidance for international students interested in their programs.