Fewer MD applicants earned a seat in medical school in 2016 (39.7%) than in recent history. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, this is the second year in a row that the admit rate fell below 40%. For their 12th annual survey of medical school admissions officers, Kaplan Test Prep recently queried med school admissions staff across North America to find out what most helped and hurt hopeful medical students.
Here are some of their findings:
• MCAT score continues to be a top factor: More than half of the admissions officers (54%) agree that a low MCAT score is “the biggest application dealbreaker.” This is up from 46% in the 2016 survey. A low undergrad GPA took a far second place at 36%. Many admissions officers stressed their “holistic” approach, meaning that they look at everything a candidate submits.
• Apply early: A large majority (70%) of the admissions officers say that applying early – June or July – gives students an admissions advantage, with 41% calling the advantage “significant.” Take your MCAT by May in order to have everything together to submit your apps early. It takes approximately 30 days after the testing date to have scores released.
• Keep it a politics-free zone: The majority (53%) of admissions officers say that it’s better to avoid discussing politics in your personal statements and interviews. Although it’s good to be outspoken, you’re dealing with the subjective views of the interviewer. According to one admissions officer, talking politics is “risky.”
• Social media matters: Almost one-third (29%) of admissions officers say they’ve looked at applicants’ social media profiles to find out more about them. Of that 29%, most of them found something that negatively affected the applicant’s admissions chance. “Lewd images” and “inappropriate behavior” are listed as examples.
According to Eric Chiu, executive director of pre-health programs at Kaplan Test Prep, “In what remains a hypercompetitive admissions landscape, premeds should work diligently on putting together the strongest application possible, starting with a strong MCAT score, high GPA, a compelling personal statement, and persuasive letter of recommendation. And by all means, if you can apply early, do so, as admissions officers say it can provide you a boost.”
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