After completing the first steps in determining which medical schools you should apply to by analyzing your scores, it is essential that you use these scores simply to guide your decision-making process and not to beat yourself up about the numbers. Separate yourself as much as you can from those numbers. Taking the time to process any strong emotions before you begin selecting schools would help you to make wiser decisions. When you are ready, use the scores as a tool to help you get from Point A to Point B.
To get started and to save yourself considerable time and effort:
1. Review the medical schools in your state first.
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 considered 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 them 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 residency 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 austere packages. Looking at the school in terms of its specialties and how it can support your career goals is important in the long term. Just as much as you may feel that the decision is all up to the school, you have the ultimate power in choosing which schools to consider you.
5. Double check that you meet all of 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. For example, some schools will only accept committee letters while other schools don’t require them. If you don’t have a committee letter, it will not help to apply to any schools that will only accept this type of letter of recommendation.
So yes, the numbers are an element – an important criterion – but not the only one that you should consider when choosing which medical schools to apply to. In using your numbers to objectively select the schools where you have the highest chances of acceptance, you will be setting yourself up for success. If this process seems overwhelming, contact us – we’re here to help!
Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs. Want Alicia to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!