In 2007, the MCAT was first offered electronically. Prior to this technological shift, the MCAT was only offered a limited number of times a year—as a paper and pencil exam. There was also a restriction placed on the number of times you could take the exam in one year as well as in your lifetime. Now that the MCAT is offered 37 times, just this year alone, and there is no limit placed on the number of times that you can take the exam in a calendar year or in your lifetime (Oh, joy!), many students take the exam more than once before applying to medical school.
Multiple MCAT Scores! Oh My!
The way that these scores are viewed by adcoms can cause a lot of anxiety, depending on the combination of scores that you have. Some adcoms prefer to look at your best scores in each section from multiple tests while other schools consider the average of all of your scores. There are many forums and discussion threads that attempt to identify the schools that rely on each method. However, adcom members may each have a personal preference for how they rank scores and applicants. It’s impossible to predict how any one school will view your scores when there are so many different people involved in the review process. Each committee member will bring his or her unique perspective and opinion to the discussion.
MCAT Average Correlates with Step 1 Score
In an article published in 2010 in Academic Medicine on the “Validity of Four Approaches of Using Repeaters’ MCAT Scores in Medical School Admissions to Predict USMLE Step 1 Total Scores,” the authors encourage adcoms to use the average of the students’ scores because they found that these numbers correspond most closely to the scores students will earn on the USMLE Step 1.
In April 2015, the new MCAT will be introduced. Researchers will need to conduct new studies to examine how students’ scores on the new exam will compare to their performance on Step 1. If you are applying with scores you’ve received before April 2015, it would be safe, based on the research available, to use the average of your scores to help determine how they will impact your application.
What Really Happens with Multiple MCAT Scores
That being said, based on my experience serving on selection committees, I noted the following trends in our discussion of MCAT scores:
- The most recent score carried the most weight.
- As long as there was an increasing trend in the test scores, previous scores—even if they were low—did not hurt an applicant’s chances of acceptance (as long as all other parts of the application were strong).
- When there was high variability within the scores, the highest score for each section was considered and the average was calculated.
Overall, it demonstrated determination to see that a student had taken the MCAT more than once—this helped applicants especially when they improved their scores each time they took the exam.
Multiple MCATS: Demonstrating Determination
Taking the MCAT more than once will not necessarily hurt your application—unless you receive a lower score than your previous exam(s). One of my favorite medical students, David, had taken the MCAT six times and completed three or four different postbac programs before he got into medical school. He was—by far—the most popular mentor for our postbac students because he had the best sense of humor and sense of perspective. In taking the MCAT multiple times and improving his score, overall, he demonstrated his determination to succeed. He was able to convince adcoms that there was no other career for him. While I don’t advocate taking the MCAT six times, I do recommend that you learn from each practice exam and test you take and that you use that knowledge to improve. Create a strategy that will not only help you get into medical school, but one that will help you in medical school and in your career.
Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted.com advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs.
Many top MBA programs released decisions in the past several days, including: Chicago Booth, Cornell Johnson, Duke Fuqua, Michigan Ross, MIT Sloan, Northwestern Kellogg, UVA Darden, and Wharton.
Did your app hit the chopping block? Here’s why:
1) You didn’t qualify.
You gotta call a spade a spade sometimes (or always, really). If you had weak test scores, low grades, or inadequate work experience either quantitatively or qualitatively, then you’re just not going to measure up at the top schools. In essence you fail to convince the school that you can handle the work or represent the school well to recruiters…and you’re toast. …and they may be right. (Sorry to be tough here, but not everyone is qualified to attend H/S/W/C.)
TIP: Apply R2/R3 to different, less competitive programs OR reapply next year to the same schools after you’ve strengthened your profile (improved test scores, taken additional coursework, increased work responsibilities, etc.).
2) You didn’t present your qualifications, fit, or goals well.
There are a number of points to be made here. B-schools seek applicants with multiple talents, and you need to demonstrate that you’ve got them. Competitive stats are frequently necessary for admission, but not sufficient. For example, if you have the stats, but didn’t show the soft skills, didn’t show fit, didn’t explain why you need the degree from this particular program, or failed to present your achievements in an authentic, thoughtful, and compelling way, then the answer could easily still be DECLINE. The adcom may ding you for lacking such qualifications, even though you may have them, because you failed to present them effectively.
TIP: Apply R2/R3 or reapply next year with a stronger application that clearly highlights your qualifications, fit, and goals.
3) You were a victim of the numbers at intensely competitive programs that reject more qualified applicants than they can accept.
This is true of most top 15 programs especially if someone comes from an over-represented group in the applicant pool.
TIP: Apply R2/R3 to different programs or reapply next year to the same ones and keep your fingers crossed for better luck!
4) Combination of the above.
Most likely you weren’t rejected for one single reason, but due to a combination of various factors.
For more on understanding your rejection (and then doing something about it!), please see http://www.accepted.com/mba/rejection-acceptance-videos.aspx#2.
And let’s face it, it’s hard to be objective about your application. If you’re unsure why you were rejected or what you can do to change the outcome next time around, check out our MBA Application Review. You really don’t want to repeat the same or similar mistakes again.
By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.
This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Mary Patton S. Davis, a first-year student at Wharton.
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Where are you in business school and what year?
Mary Patton: I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida, which some may argue is not the South, but I beg to differ. Tampa is culturally Southern in many ways, and most of my family is from Alabama – hence the double name. I moved “up north” to Washington, DC to study French and International Relations at Georgetown University and graduated in 2010. I was always convinced I would work in government and security/intelligence, but life had other plans! That’s how I wound up at Wharton, by way of East Africa, to enter the class of 2016 with a focus on Entrepreneurial Management.
Accepted: Looks like you’ve been doing some really interesting work in Rwanda. Can you tell us about some of your recent jobs and projects there?
Mary Patton: My path to business school has been a very unconventional one. After Georgetown I joined political communications firm GMMB, working on media buying for the 2010 midterm elections and account management for political action committees. In the summer of 2011 I traveled to Rwanda to visit my older sister Elizabeth and the organization she founded in 2009: the Akilah Institute for Women, a three-year college specializing in hospitality, information technology, and entrepreneurship for young women from low-income rural communities. I fell in love with the country and the organization, and Elizabeth asked if I would move there to build their communications and marketing strategy. So I did what any responsible, rational person would do: I quit my job, sold my belongings, and moved to Rwanda in January 2012 for an indefinite period of time. It can take a giant leap of faith outside your comfort zone to discover your true passions, but I believe it’s one worth taking!
I built out Akilah’s marketing and communications throughout that spring and summer. At the same time I had begun teaching horseback riding lessons on the weekends and met the owner of the barn, a well-known expat businessman. One weekend he mentioned he was looking for someone to build a digital marketing department and drive new business development at his advertising agency. My response was, “Interesting, but I can’t think of anyone who fits that description.” He laughed and replied, “No, I want YOU to come in and interview!” You never know where your next job offer will come from…
I began working for the ad agency that summer, and stayed with them for over a year and a half. I became Director of Operations, tackling projects from refining internal processes, to landing new clients, to expanding our digital marketing services. Through this job I realized my passion (and aptitude!) for management, business development, and “intrapreneurship”, which led me to apply for an MBA. Managing a team of twenty-five people at the age of twenty-four impacted me greatly both personally and professionally, and was an opportunity for which I’ll always be grateful.
Accepted: What is your post-MBA career plan? Is it related to your work in Rwanda?
Mary Patton: I came into Wharton with several areas of interest, knowing that my post-MBA career plans would involve some, if not all, of them: Africa, technology, entrepreneurship, and fitness. My passion for fitness and entrepreneurship grew out of a company I co-founded while working at the ad agency: Yego Yoga Rwanda, a chain of yoga studios operating in six locations across Kigali with eleven instructors. I’ve furthered this interest here in the US by continuing to teach yoga and developing several business ideas in that area. For now I’m focused in that direction but who knows, maybe I’ll find a way to pursue all four of these interests!
Accepted: Do you have an internship lined up yet for next summer? If so, what will you be doing and what was the internship application process like at Wharton? If not, what steps are you taking now to plan ahead for the summer? How early does internship recruiting start at Wharton?
Mary Patton: There are many recruiting timelines – it all depends on what industry you’re pursuing. Mature recruiting (mostly for finance and consulting) begins as early as mid-October, while start-up recruiting doesn’t intensify until the spring. I’m personally interested in tech and start-ups so my recruiting hasn’t begun yet, although I’ve had informal offers from tech companies in Africa and start-ups on the West Coast. Right now I’m focused on working on my own business idea, so entrepreneurship is my number one summer internship choice!
Accepted: Can you tell us about your involvement in the Wharton Business Plan Competition?
Mary Patton: I believe it’s important to surround yourself with the type of people and situations that support your long-term goals, so I knew I wanted to immerse myself in the entrepreneurial environment of the WBPC. Given my background, my biggest value-add to the planning committee is in a marketing role. As Director of Marketing my mission is to grow awareness of and engagement with the WBPC both within the Penn community and without. I’m excited to see what this year’s competitors have in store for us, and how the WBPC contributes to future Penn-born businesses! To learn more about the competition, visit us at http://bpc.wharton.upenn.edu/.
Accepted: What is your favorite thing about Wharton so far? Is there anything you’d change about the program?
Mary Patton: My favorite thing about Wharton is how holistic the growth experience has been. Wharton is fully committed to developing students not only academically, but also professionally, personally, emotionally, and socially. All at once, Wharton is exciting and terrifying; rewarding and challenging; social and lonely; invigorating and exhausting; intellectual and obnoxious. Without all of those emotions, you wouldn’t be getting the full experience.
The only thing I would change: I wish there was more interaction between the Penn grad schools. I would love to have more opportunities to meet fellow students from the law, med, engineering, and education schools. I think this would enrich the experience for all of us, and keep us from talking about our econ problem sets and statistics projects all day long!
Accepted: What are your top 3 admissions tips for applicants aiming to go to Wharton?
1) Be unique.
Admissions officers sift through thousands of applications looking for the diamonds in the rough. Imagine them sitting around at the end of the day recalling and discussing hundreds of essays – how will yours be remembered? When I met Wharton’s Director of Admissions at Winter Welcome Weekend, she exclaimed, “Oh, I remember you! You’re the yoga girl from Rwanda who worked in advertising.” How will your application stand out? What interests/projects/talents/experiences make you unique?
2) Paint a compelling story.
Regardless of whether your career path is streamlined or as unusual as mine, your application should show progress and a desire to grow professionally and personally. Draw a clear thread throughout your jobs and experiences to demonstrate how you’ve arrived at this point where you feel compelled to apply for an MBA. Did you change jobs to follow your newfound passion for that industry? What extracurricular activities support your interests and show your proactive nature to learn more? How have you challenged yourself and stepped outside your comfort zone?
3) Be clear about your ambitions.
Now that you’ve explained the narrative behind your career path, be clear about what you plan to do post-MBA. Schools want to see direction not only in your actions up to this point, but also in your goals beyond the MBA. Even if you don’t know the exact job you want three years from now, offering examples of what most interests you in a long-term career helps give schools an idea of how you’ll fit into their MBA class. Make sure to also explain WHY – what problem are you most passionate about solving? Which industry are you most intrigued by? What types of jobs most excite you?
Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? Who is your target audience? What role does social media play in your life?
Mary Patton: I started blogging while backpacking through SE Asia and India, but since starting school I’ve pivoted from travel to business-related topics. I naturally identify and write about topics I find interesting; luckily other people find them interesting too! I like to highlight topics that are relevant to my peers – global and industry-agnostic, but with a focus on entrepreneurship and technology.
For me personally, my blog keeps the creative side of my brain alive during the quantitative and analytical MBA experience – my biggest problem is finding time to blog as much as I’d like! Our generation is increasingly social and transparent, so I think it’s important to confront that issue head-on by taking control of your personal brand. My blog is a “stretch experience” for me and connects me to interesting people and opportunities – such as this interview with Accepted.com!
For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Wharton see:
- Wharton 2015 MBA Questions, Deadlines, Tips
- Wharton Executive MBA 2014 Essay Tips
- Get into the Wharton School, a free webinar
- Advice for Team Interviews
You can read more about Mary Patton’s journey by checking out her blog, MP is for Mary Patton. Thank you MP for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!
Listen to the recording of our conversation with Philip. He has a fascinating story!
00:02:35 – Fulfilling an 11 year promise to his mother and grandmother.
00:06:20 – Why HBS?
00:07:23 – How Philip’s failures in real estate may have helped Philip get accepted to HBS.
00:11:43 – “Whichever school you apply to, make sure you give it your very best so you wont have any room or reason to feel bad about yourself.”
15:10 – The importance of team-work.
17:25 – Becoming a leader. (This is what HBS wants to see!!)
18:34 – What the HBS adcom looks for in your failures.
19:27 – Getting rejected by Harvard Business School. What now?!?!
22:01 – The best parts of life at Harvard Business School.
24:14 – Don’t be intimidated by the size of HBS.
25:23 – The importance of time management and priority management.
29:09 – What Harvard Business School needs to change.
30:15 – The benefits for the case study method.
35:42 – True or false: The competition among HBS students is cut-throat.
39:30 – The feeling of camaraderie among students (and professors.)
41:32 – Case Method – Individually prepare, then share among 5 people, and then share among 90 people. And after class your perspective will be completely different than it was before.
46:35 – $$$ and social life at HBS.
53:55 – A field project in Mumbai, India.
56:32 – Why start your own podcast?
1:00:41 – Magnetic Interviewing – The story of Philip’s startup.
1:06:23 – Innovation labs at Harvard Business School.
*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.
- Life in the MBA
- Magnetic Interviewing
- Follow Phillip on Twitter
- What Does Harvard Business School Want?
- Harvard Business School 2015 Essay Tips
- Breaking Some HBS Stereotypes: An Interview with Ben Faw
- MBAs Across America: Entrepreneurs with a Heart
- From Luxury Marketing to Entrepreneurship: A Talk with Daria Burke
- Jeff Reid on Entrepreneurship
- MBAs Across America: The Coolest HBS Internship
Leave a Review for Admissions Straight Talk:
How can you find the right research opportunity for you?
1. Start early. Ideally, it would be great to have 1-2 years of research experience under your belt before you apply—so the earlier in your undergrad career you identify promising opportunities, the better.
2. Find an area that interests you. For example, if you’re more interested in Psychology or Anthropology than you are in Chemistry, look into the possibility of assisting a professor in one of those fields.
3. Make contact with professors to see if they need research assistants/laboratory volunteers. If your university has a research office or a central list of undergraduate research opportunities, check there first. If the system is less formal, do some research into professors’ current work (through department websites, professors’ CVs, etc). Then make contact via email and ask if you can speak to them about the possibility of volunteering in their lab. Let them know what background you have in the field (especially any prior research experience). If they don’t need research assistants at the moment, don’t be discouraged- talk to someone else.
4.Think about doing a thesis. Depending on where you’re studying (and what field), this might allow you to design your own experiment.
5. Consider summer research opportunities. AAMC provides a good listing here.
By Dr. Rebecca Blustein, Accepted.com consultant since 2008, former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of the ebook, Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Dr. Blustein, who earned her Ph.D. at UCLA, assists our clients applying to medical school, residency, graduate school and Ph.D. programs. She is happy to assist you with your applications.