University of Southern California

How To Get Into USC Medical School (Keck University of Southern California)

Take in that Southern California sunshine! Los Angeles – the city of dreams. And in the distance, you see that beautiful sign of red and gold: “Keck School of Medicine of USC.” But, let’s rewind a bit. How does one get into USC Medical School? How do we stand out, shine, and show the admissions committee that we are all they want and more? If you want to get into Keck, then keep reading! This blog post serves as a high-yield resource of facts and the med student perspective for Keck School of Medicine of USC.  We’ll also give tips for getting accepted to USC. Whether you’re comparing medical schools that you have been accepted to, preparing for an interview, or wanting to learn more about USC Med School, keep reading!

Why Choose USC Medical School?

The most common reasons we’ve heard from students:

  • Location, Location, Location! Who doesn’t want to live in Los Angeles?
  • The clinical training is second-to-none. Keck owns LA County Hospital, so you have the opportunity to interact with diverse, underserved patients. Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the United States.
  • USC has an immensely supportive alumni network. 
  • Excellent match rates, with students matching all over the country into a variety of competitive specialties.
  • Keck medical school has a great emphasis on social justice, which is prevalent throughout the curriculum. 
  • USC has a vibrant culture. Take a shuttle on over to the undergrad campus and watch Trojan football at the Coliseum! 


The USC Medical School secondary application has many fun and short essays! We think this reflects the culture of the school. They want well-rounded individuals who prioritize having a work-life balance.

The most common question we receive from medical school applications is, “Do you need to answer the optional essay for the USC Keck secondary?” Our answer is, DEFINITELY! Do not submit your USC secondary application without answering the optional question. Read our USC medical school secondary application essay tips and the USC secondary application essay prompts each year since 2014. 

How to get into USC Medical School - tips from accepted students

Keck USC Medical School Secondary Application Essay Questions:

Essay 1) What is the most fun you’ve had lately? (3-5 sentences)

Essay 2) If you had to give yourself a nickname, what would it be? (3-5 sentences)

Essay 3) If you had enormous wealth, how would you allocate your charitable donations? (3-5 sentences)

Essay 4) Describe a situation in which you didn’t get something you felt you deserved. (3-5 sentences)

Essay 5) What do you see as the physician’s role in public health? (150 words or less)

Essay 6) [Optional]: Is there anything else you would like us to know? (200 words or less)

If you have questions about your Keck School of Medicine secondary application, email us at or contact us.


Get the Cracking Med School Admissions team’s expertise through our secondary essay editing packages. If you have questions, email us at or contact us.

USC Medical School
Interview Format

Interviews at USC Keck are traditional one-on-one interviews. There are typically two interviews, lasting about 30 minutes each. One of your interviewers will commonly be a current Keck Medical School student. The questions, demeanor, and interview style of your interviews will depend greatly on who your interviewer is. 

Want to learn more about how to prepare for your USC medical school interview?

Read our 3 popular medical school interview blog posts here:

  1. How to Prepare for Medical School Interviews
  2. 4 Common Medical School Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
  3. How To Answer Tell Me About Yourself and Why Medicine?

The Cracking Med School Admissions team has helped several students get accepted to USC and ace their interviews! Make sure to contact us and get our help.

download your interview guide

If you are prepared, the interview gives you the perfect opportunity to standout and shine by sharing with people what you are passionate about.

Med School Admissions Interview Guide eBook Cover
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USC Medical School Acceptance Rate

Admit Rate

USC Medical School Admissions Statistics:

  • USC Medical School School Median GPA: 3.7
  • USC Medical School Median MCAT: 517 (129 chemical & physical / 128 critical analysis / 130 biological & biochemical / 130 psychological, social)

How did USC Keck Medical School Students Do on Their USMLE Step Exams?

  • Average Keck USC Medical School USMLE Step 1 Score: 234
  • Average Keck USC Medical School USMLE Step 2 Score: 247

Source: U.S. News Graduate School Rankings 2021

5 USC Secondary Application Medical School Tips

How to get into USC Medical School Tip #1: 
  • The secondary prompts are intentionally tailored to get to know you better as a person. The admissions committee is looking for genuine responses. Don’t overthink it – just write what is true to you. Some of the questions are a little silly, so don’t be afraid of giving silly responses. 
How to get into USC Medical School Tip #2: 
  • Use the space in your essays and the time in your interviews to tell them something unique about you. People write about hobbies and special interests that are not healthcare related.
How to get into USC Medical School Tip #3: 
  • Make sure your application has a cohesive narrative. If your extracurriculars are all over the place and don’t show a clear passion for something, it may look like you’re simply trying to “check boxes.” 
How to get into USC Medical School Tip #4: 
  • Keck is dedicated to social justice and serving the underserved. If this aligns with your interests, then make sure that is communicated in your application. 
How to get into USC Medical School Tip #5: 
  • Keck wants to see how you fit in with their student culture. And, the more you expose yourself to student life, the more you will get a feel for what kinds of students Keck is looking for. I would recommend seeking out opportunities to meet current students and ask them questions. Not only will this help inform you on whether or not Keck is a good fit for you, but it will come across in your interview when you want to show the committee that this is a good match. 

Your medical school application Coaches, Mentors, & Cheerleaders

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Rachel Rizal, M.D.

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Each year, the Cracking Med School Admissions team
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The Insider’s View on Keck USC School of Medicine's Pre-clinical years

How to Get Into USC Medical School Tip – Know the Curriculum:

Keck School of Medicine Curriculum: Overview 

As a Keck med student, your first two years are pre-clinical years and then you do your clinical rotations the last 2 years. There are many interdisciplinary components of USC Medical School’s Curriculum throughout the 4 years, including the HEAL Program (Humanities, Ethics/Economics, Art, and the Law). The HEAL Program allows students to reflect on what it means to be a physician citizen and reflect on ethical decision-making to policy to hospital administration. 

Pre-Clinical Years:

Introduction to Medical Sciences (IMS) kicks off the first year and teaches its students the fundamental basic science knowledge, along with integrated systems (i.e. cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, etc.). The second year culminates with the Integrated Cases Section (ICS) in which students take their pre-clinical knowledge that they have built up and apply them in clinical case scenarios. 

How to get into USC Medical School – Know Unique Characteristics:

Unique highlights about pre-clinical years:

  • The first two years are entirely pass/fail which eliminates internal competition amongst the students. 
  • Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM) is a longitudinal curriculum that emphasizes clinical skills and patient-centered medicine. Students learn how to take a history, perform a physical examination, organize medical records, etc. Keck has state-of-the-art simulation and clinical skills labs to immerse their students early on.
  • The first-year course, Professionalism and the Practice of Medicine (PPM), provides an unparalleled opportunity for longitudinal mentoring, as students are organized into learning communities of about 25 students. The aim of the course is to develop its students into professionals who are communicative, ethical, and culturally competent.
  • Each student is required to participate in research in the pre-clinical years, known as the Scholarly Project (SP). Students are able to develop skills of critical thinking around evidence-based medicine and research.

Special Dual Degree Programs:

  • MD/PhD
  • MD/MPH
  • MD/MBA

Taking Time Off:

Most MD candidates at Keck USC Medical School graduate within 4 years. 

What students are saying about USC Medical School

The Insider’s View on USC Medical School's Clinical Years

USC Medical School Clinical Curriculum:

Clinical Years:

The clinical phase occurs during years 3 and 4. Students will rotate through specialities in groups of about 25-30 students. The clinical curriculum begins with a one-week course, Transition to Clinical Practice, designed to help students transition from the classroom to the clinic.

There are nine required clerkships, graded honors/high pass/pass/fail:

  • Family Medicine (6 weeks)
  • General Surgery (6 weeks)
  • Internal Medicine (6 weeks)
  • Neurology (4 weeks)
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology (6 weeks)
  • Pediatrics (6 weeks)
  • Psychiatry (6 weeks)
  • Internal Medicine Sub-Internship (4 weeks)
  • Surgery Sub-Internship (4-6 weeks)
  • Students are required to complete 16 weeks of selective clerkships, encompassing all specialty areas

Intersessions are one-week sessions in the fall and spring between required clerkships, allowing students to reflect on their clinical experiences. These courses expand on topics including professional development, residency applications, and ethical decision making. 

In addition to the selective clerkships, students must complete 30 weeks of elective clerkships. There is great flexibility for students to explore fields of interest. Students are able to rotate through Keck hospitals, other medical schools, or even abroad. Students also have the opportunity to dedicate about 8 weeks to research. 

Unique highlights about clinical years:

  • The Track Mentor Program allows 3rd year students to meet with an assigned mentor who facilitates discussions on topics such as cultural challenges, student well-being, or team development. 

USC Medical School Clinical Rotation Sites:

  • LAC + USC Medical Center
  • Keck Hospital of USC
  • Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA)

What students are saying about clinical rotations at Keck Med


Where do students live?

Keck medical school has on-campus housing (Currie Hall) that is popular amongst 1st year students. It has an abundance on amenities, including a state-of-the-art fitness center, swimming pool, rooftop deck, hot tub, recreation areas, and gaming systems. These apartments come fully furnished and cover internet and utilities. It is conveniently located right on the health sciences campus, across from Keck hospital. Not to mention, it is filled with social life and other students who are academically driven. Check out this link for more information:

Aside from student housing, students live all over Los Angeles. Keck medical school is located in East Los Angeles, so students tend to be concentrated around that area, but it is not uncommon for students to commute from West Los Angeles as well. Many students choose to live in Pasadena or Glendale to get more of a suburban life, while some students stick to the city life by living downtown. Some even choose to live near the undergraduate campus. It all depends on preference. It is easy to find roommates; USC sets up Facebook pages for students to meet each other and find housing. While Los Angeles can be expensive, it is doable to find affordable housing, especially if living with a roommate. The staff at Keck would be happy to aid you in finding housing in the area. 

Student Life:

Student life is so active at Keck! There are numerous clubs to get involved in, from medical specialty interest groups, to religious clubs, to artistic organizations. Keck is a very collaborative and diverse environment, notably known for its student culture. USC has a strong sports scene, so if you are interested in that, you may purchase season tickets and easily hop on over to the undergrad campus (there is a very convenient, free shuttle between the two campuses). Los Angeles is a hotbed for cultural and artistic vibrancy. Everyone can find something they enjoy within the city. The beach is nearby, there are numerous, beautiful hikes, the restaurant scene is spectacular, and so much more. If you go to Keck, you will be so fulfilled and supported by all those around you.

Getting around:

Almost all students have a car. You will need a car to get around to your various rotation sites. 


Financial Considerations:

  • USC Medical School Tuition and Fees: ~$67,000 + ~$21,000 room and board
  • Average indebtedness of 2019 graduates: ~$218,000

Source: U.S. News Graduate School Rankings 2021

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