All medical school applicants (or any other professional school applicant) must assess their credentials realistically in order to present themselves best during the application process. Since applicants are evaluated based on specific academic (undergraduate and graduate GPA and MCAT scores) and non-academic (research and clinical exposures, leadership skills, mentoring experiences) criteria as well as on personal attributes such as compassion, discipline, motivation, and work ethic, you must acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses.
Unfortunately, most medical schools do weigh the academic credentials heavily, in particular the MCAT score because strong MCAT scores have been correlated with success on the USMLE. There are very few, if any, medical schools that do not require the MCAT.
If you already took the MCAT and scored lower than you had hoped for, your chances of admission may drop. Should you apply with the score you have or should you retake the test?
Decision Time: You DO NOT Retake the Exam
If your MCAT score is borderline, and you choose not to retake the exam, you will need to present yourself in the best light by stressing your other attributes and credentials, and by taking extra coursework that illustrates your strong academic background. Some schools will accept students with MCAT scores in this range if the student is extremely strong academically, realizing that sometimes standardized tests are not always the best representation of a students’ aptitude. But while some schools will be able to look beyond the MCAT score to see your other attributes, many medical schools will screen you based solely on your MCAT score.
If your scores are simply too low to be competitive at American med schools, you should consider applying to Caribbean and foreign medical schools or pursuing osteopathic medicine where applicant MCAT scores are sometimes lower than at allopathic schools. You can also consider alternative career paths such as patent law or PhD programs, two common alternative career options that allow you to remain in science.
If you are committed to attending an allopathic medical school here in the United States, then you must retake the MCAT and somehow manage to earn a competitive score.
In Part 2, we will provide advice about retaking the MCAT.