That got your attention, didn’t it? If you’re a high school senior or junior whose future plans include medical school, here’s something to think about as you’re evaluating colleges. The question most often asked of college admissions representatives by prospective premeds and their parents is, “What was your medical school acceptance rate last year?” If the admissions rep simply states a number, there are follow-up questions you should ask. First, are all applicants from the school factored in, or only those who were supported with a letter of recommendation from the school’s health professions advisory committee? Second, does the number include only seniors, or are those who applied after graduation also calculated in? Third, are all of the school’s application-related services available to those who don’t apply until after graduation?
The first question is particularly important, especially if the acceptance rate is very high. Some colleges will furnish advisory committee recommendations only to those candidates with the best chance of acceptance (as determined by GPA) and will include only this very select group in their statistics. The problem with this practice (besides the obvious potential for deception) is that very solid candidates with GPA’s slightly below the school’s cutoff (3.4 vs. 3.5, for example) are denied committee recommendations. With respect to the second question: Since it’s always best to compare apples with apples, separate acceptance rates should be calculated for seniors and alums. Seniors are not the same as older candidates with post-graduation work experience and/or graduate degrees, and medical schools don’t treat them as interchangeable. As to the third question: Some colleges keep expenses down by limiting the career-related services available to graduates. Should you choose to apply later rather than earlier, you may find that your access to the premedical adviser is limited and that you are no longer eligible for a committee recommendation.
What’s the bottom line? Be an informed consumer, and go behind the numbers.
By Joan Davis, who had 18 years of experience as a pre-medical adviser at the University of Rochester before joining Accepted in 2006.