UPenn Special Sciences Program for High Achievers Wanting to Get Into Medical School

The UPenn Special Sciences Program is geared to high achieving students who either need to complete some of the required courses for medical school or who want to enhance their academic credentials prior to applying.

This is a highly selective program where entry is measured by your ability to perform well on standardized tests. 

But those who are accepted into the Special Sciences will quickly realize that with scholastic achievement in the classroom they will have unlimited opportunities when applying to medical school.

Program Focus

Successful applicants to the program generally have completed a bachelor's degree at least one year prior to applying. 

This is a program that caters to the career-changer because you will have the option to take courses part-time in the evening or enroll as a full-time student. 

Many of the students have diverse work experiences and may already hold advanced degrees in law, business and the humanities. The Special Sciences Program attracts students who have life experience and now want to enter the medical profession.


There is no formal course curriculum for the Special Sciences, instead students will take courses which meet their individual needs. As a full-time student you will have the opportunity to take day classes offered through the College of Arts and Sciences.

A normal schedule will include three to four courses per term, usually in biology or neuroscience.

One unique aspect of the program is some courses are offered in an on-line format. I would try to avoid these types of courses though, because medical schools may frown on this practice. Available courses include:

  • Advanced Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology and Genetics
  • Clinical Research in Emergency Medicine
  • Histology
  • Immunology
  • Vertebrate Physiology
  • Biochemistry

Additional courses outside the hard sciences may be taken, such as: history and sociology of science, Spanish for health professionals, and statistics.


You will want to hold a bachelor's degree ideally one year prior to applying to the UPenn Special Sciences Program. You will need to have a B or higher in your undergraduate work and demonstrate excellence on standardized tests (MCAT, SAT, GRE, LSAT, DAT, etc).

It is highly beneficial to have worked or volunteered in a clinical setting or have long-term exposure prior to applying.

This is because the University of Pennsylvania wants to ensure program applicants understand the challenges within the health care arena.


You can apply for one of three start times for the UPenn Special Sciences, and the deadlines are as follows: Summer Admission = April 1; Fall Admission = July 15; and Spring Admission = December 1.

A completed application will include:

  • Completed application
  • Current resume
  • Application fee $70.00
  • Application essays
  • Official transcripts
  • Score reports for standardized test(s)
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Copy of AMCAS (if applicable)

Please note there will be an interview for students who supply the appropriate materials and warrant further consideration by the admissions committee. If you cannot come to campus it may be possible to conduct a telephone interview.

Also admissions decisions are fast tracked where you will be notified in roughly two weeks after your interview whether you were admitted or not.

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