Medical school applicants (or any other professional school applicant) must assess their credentials realistically to present themselves in the best possible way during the application process. Since applicants are evaluated based on specific quantitative (primarily undergraduate GPA and MCAT scores) and non-quantitative (research and clinical exposure, 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 quantitative credentials heavily, in particular the MCAT score, because strong MCAT scores have been correlated with success on the USMLE. The MSAR reports each program’s median MCAT score from the previous application year, as well as their lowest and highest accepted scores.
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 approach applications “holistically,” meaning that they weigh all aspects of your application and realize that standardized tests are not always the best representation of a students’ aptitude. But many medical schools screen applicants, at least initially, on their MCAT scores.
If your scores are simply too low to be competitive at American allopathic med schools, you might pursue osteopathic medicine, which evaluates applications more holistically and consider lower MCAT scores than allopathic schools. You might also investigate foreign medical schools, including Caribbean programs. Some do not require the MCAT, although graduating from a program outside North America can make your return to a US residency more difficult. You can also consider alternative career paths, such as biomedical research or patent law, two common alternative career options that allow you to remain in science.
If you are committed to attending an allopathic medical school in the United States, then you must retake the MCAT and earn a competitive score.
An experienced medical school admissions consultant can help you figure out which programs to apply to and how to craft an admissions strategy that will get you accepted. Click here to pair up with an expert and get started!By Cydney Foote, former administrator at the University of Washington School of Medicine and author of three ebooks about medical education. Cyd has successfully advised medical school and residency applicants since 2001. Want Cyd to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!