The most reliable source of information about allopathic medical schools is provided on the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) website, offered by the AAMC. The statistics in this database can be extremely valuable in helping you decide where to apply.
Before you begin exploring the school data, it’s important for you to know that the schools only provide averages of the scores they accept – they do not provide the full range of scores. If you had access to see the full range of scores for accepted applicants, rather than the averages, you would be pleasantly surprised to see how low the scores for accepted students actually go. If you have a lower GPA, but a higher MCAT score and years of exceptional service and activities, you may be just the student a school is looking for, but you’ll never know if you don’t apply to the right schools.
5 steps for evaluating your med school stats
Don’t be discouraged by your low scores – you need to know how to maximize your other strengths, and most importantly, to apply to programs where you will have a higher chance of getting in.
Follow these steps:
- Step #1: Calculate your stats and be kind to yourself.
Without judgment or berating yourself, calculate your cumulative and science GPAs.
- Step #2: Address a decreasing trend in your GPA.
Look at the trends in your GPA, term by term. If you graduated with a significant decreasing trend, do not apply this cycle. If you have a strong decreasing trend and your GPA is below a 3.0, consider completing postbac coursework or a postbac program. In this case, check out The Definitive Guide to Premedical Postbaccalaureate Programs for guidance in this direction.
- Step #3: Understand your MCAT score and its effect on your candidacy.
If you have maintained a competitive GPA or have a strong increasing trend, review your MCAT scores. If you have earned a 7 or higher in each section of the exam, with a total score above a 25, you can consider applying. If you have scores below a 7 on any section, your application may go through an additional hurdle (known as the “academic committee” on some campuses) where a few applications with low GPAs or lower MCAT scores don’t make the cut. In these committees, they duke it out based on whether the student has any other significant redeeming qualities in other areas that could possibly justify keeping their application under consideration.
- Step #4: Decide if you need to retake the MCAT or complete additional coursework.
If you have a lower GPA, you should have a higher MCAT score to compensate, and vice versa. If your numbers are too low in any of these areas, consider retaking the MCAT or completing additional coursework.
- Step #5: Begin researching schools.
Once you have objectively collected and reviewed your numbers in detail, you are ready to begin researching medical schools.
Again, it is important that you not get discouraged by the numbers, but review them objectively. The more honest and accurately you can review your stats in relation to the schools’, the more realistic and successful your decisions will be. Our focus in this process is on outcomes. By using a strategic approach, we can bring about a positive outcome for your application.
How to choose a medical school based on your stats
After completing the 5 steps above to analyze your scores, it is time to use these scores to guide your decision-making process in choosing the best med school program for you (and not beat yourself up about the numbers!). Separate yourself as much as you can from those numbers; take some time to process any strong emotions before you begin selecting schools, in order to make wiser decisions.
When you are ready, use the scores as a tool to help you get from Point A (being a premed applicant) to Point B (getting accepted to medical school).
Follow these 5 steps:
- Review the medical schools in your state.
- Identify which out-of-state medical schools accept a higher percentage of out-of-state students.
- Out of this whittled-down list of schools, begin comparing your scores.
- Taking the list of schools you have created, begin evaluating the schools on the basis of your personal interests.
- Double-check that you meet all the prerequisite requirements for each school to further refine your list.
1. Review the medical schools in your state.
Statistically, you are more likely to be accepted into a school where you are considered a resident. Often, medical schools will have special programs geared towards serving those communities that are medically underserved in their area. For example, UC Davis School of Medicine hosts a Rural PRIME Program for students from rural areas who want to return to their communities to work as doctors.
The strongest predictors of whether you will meet the criteria for these types of special programs include: 1) your personal connection to the community, and 2) how much volunteer and clinical experience you have serving this particular group of people. Take these factors into account when deciding whether or not to apply to any programs that may represent your community.
2. Identify which out-of-state medical schools accept a higher percentage of out-of-state students.
Select the percentage that you are most comfortable with, say 40% or higher to be safe. Using this information will prevent you from selecting schools where your chances are especially low simply given that you are an out-of-state resident. This tactic should narrow down your list considerably.
There are some medical schools that claim they accept out-of-state residents; however, last year, students notified us of some schools that gave them automatic rejections simply on the basis of their place of residence even though the schools stated otherwise on their websites.
3. Out of this whittled-down list of schools, begin comparing your scores.
As long as your application is strong in all other sections, you can choose schools on the basis that you fit at least one of their averages for either MCAT or GPA. For example, if you fit high into a school’s average for GPA, but are just below the MCAT averages, and you are genuinely interested in applying to the school, you can include it on your list.
4. Taking the list of schools you have created, begin evaluating the schools on the basis of your personal interests.
These personal interests could include: ethnicity, financial aid, graduate degrees or combined programs, and research opportunities. Compare the number of students accepted from your ethnicity. If it’s a relatively low number, you may have a higher chance at the school because you will enhance the diversity of your medical school class.
The availability of financial aid is always an important consideration. Some schools have lots of private funding and scholarships available while others offer more basic packages. Looking at the school in terms of its specialties and how it can support your career goals is also important in the long term.
5. Double-check that you meet all the prerequisite requirements for each school to further refine your list.
Unfortunately, many students forget to complete this step. If you are missing even a single class, you may be disqualified from serious consideration. Cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s. It’s an expensive mistake to apply to schools where you simply don’t meet their basic requirements.
The importance of considering your stats and your personal interests in choosing medical schools to apply to
So yes, the numbers are an element – an important criterion – but they are not the only one that you should consider when choosing which medical schools to apply to. In using your stats to objectively select the schools where you have the highest chances of acceptance, you will be setting yourself up for success.
Do you need help decoding your stats and determining which med schools would be the ideal picks for you? We can help! Work one-on-one with an expert admissions advisor to choose the best schools for you and apply successfully to acceptance. View our Medical School Admissions Consulting & Editing Services for more information.
Alicia McNease Nimonkar worked for 5 years as the Student Advisor & Director at the UC Davis School of Medicine’s postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and other health professional programs. She has served Accepted’s clients since 2012 with roughly a 90% success rate. She has a Master of Arts in Composition and Rhetoric as well as Literature. Want Alicia to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
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