It’s risky to apply to med school before taking or retaking the MCAT for a few reasons:
1. Applying to med school is expensive and time intensive. It would be a shame to put in all that effort and then bomb the test and risk rejection. When you submit your application without an MCAT score, your application remains pending until your scores are submitted. There’s no taking back your application if your scores aren’t what you’d like them to be.
2. Not only does it make the application process more stressful – knowing that you’ve submitted but that your application is still incomplete – but it makes the MCAT exam itself more stressful as well, and for some applicants, this stress could negatively impact their score.
3. Finally, it may not be the best idea to go this route because some schools won’t look at an application until the MCAT score has been submitted. So if they see “MCAT score pending” on an application, it’ll go to the bottom of the stack until it’s ready to be reviewed in full.
A better option…
I recommend taking the MCAT, getting your score, and then applying early in the next cycle, rather than going through the stress of submitting an application with an unknown MCAT score and then taking the test under pressure, knowing that the results will be used and weighed heavily, regardless of how you performed.
If, however, you do decide to apply to med school before you’ve taken the exam, then I recommend the following: Apply only to schools with less competitive programs, those that you think you have a good chance of getting into with, say, the lowest score you think you may get. You can always go back and add more schools later. This way, at least you’ve gotten your application verified on the AMCAS side. Worst case scenario – you don’t score well and have to wait and apply again next year. Not the end of the world.
You know yourself best…
The final word on this is that you know yourself best. If you think you can apply before taking the MCAT without the stress killing you and knowing that if you bomb the exam, you’ll bomb your chances of admission – then go for it. There’s always next year. And some people are fine embracing that attitude.
The advice in this post is based on a conversation we had in our recent webinar, Ask The Experts: Medical School Admissions Q&A with Cydney Foote and Alicia McNease Nimonkar. Check out the full transcript for more tips on applying to med school successfully!