Don’t Let the Computer Control Your Fate! Get Into Medical School

“What are my chances?” I see this everywhere I look on the SDN forums. Students post their MCAT scores, their science GPA and cumulative GPA. They talk about all the wonderful things in life they have done and how they’ve wanted to be a doctor since even before they remember.

Unfortunately, there is usually a sob story to these posts.  It usually involves tough circumstances which didn’t allow them to study as much as they needed.  They got a 501 on the MCAT, a 3.3 GPA, or some random combination of scores that they think now puts them out of the running for a chance at getting into medical school.

An especially poor GPA or poor MCAT score can be a real concern in a medical school application because medical schools can filter out applications due to scores below specific MCAT or GPA cutoffs. If you have a very low GPA or MCAT score, the majority of medical schools may filter out your application and not even look at it. Then it doesn’t matter how great the rest of your application is—the schools are not even seeing it!

Fortunately, there are things you can do to ensure that your application is manually reviewed.

Automation in the Med School Application Process

The medical school application process is largely computerized now. Back when I applied, it was the first year they did it all online. It was a disaster. Hopefully things have smoothed out since then.

The typical med school applicant meticulously enters in all of his or her data, checks it, double checks it, and then triple checks it. After they have filled in every question and squeezed in their personal statement down to the exact character amount, they submit it.

Now what?

Almost all the schools you submitted an application to will send you a secondary application, asking for more information and more money (emphasis on the money, because it is a ploy to get more of it). They will send this to you even if you have no chance of getting into their school.

[Related episode: What Does the Med School Application Timeline Look Like?]

Filtered out for a Low GPA or MCAT Score

If you have below a 3.0 GPA (just to take one example), there is a chance your application won’t even be reviewed by many medical schools.  They won’t even know you exist, other than the couple of dollars you sent them by submitted your application.

How does this happen? The computer systems used by medical schools and the application systems let schools filter by certain variables. They can filter out your application by the MCAT score or by your science GPA. This makes them very efficient; it allows them to see the applications they think will truly give them the best applicant pool to choose from.

Medical schools can filter out applications by a GPA or MCAT score cutoff. If you're below that cutoff, your application won't even be seen.Click To Tweet

What about your application that has one speed bump? You scored low on the MCAT, but you have a great GPA, resuscitated Mother Teresa, and invented the cure for AIDS. Oh—and you are in remission from cancer after chemo. The diagnosis just happened to be right around when you took thei MCAT, and you didn’t do well because of it. Does the admissions committee care? Nope—because they don’t even see your application. It was filtered out.

So how do you fix this situation?

Be Your Own Advocate. Sell Yourself.

I always say that every job in this world is a sales job. Every person you talk to, every decision you make, you are selling something. Now is the time to sell yourself. You have to pick up the phone, open up your email, and communicate with the admissions office of the medical school you want to go to.

You need to sell yourself to medical school admission committees.Click To Tweet

This is where you must turn on your charm and sell yourself. Here is a telephone script I put together for contacting medical schools to get them to manually review your application:

“Hi, my name is _______. I recently submitted my application and had a question I was hoping you could help me with.”

“Sure, what is it?”

“I have been focused on my premed courses and have been pretty steady, with a 3.8 GPA in my science courses. I struggled with the MCAT after some (financial difficulty/death in the family/medical issues). Even though I think the majority of my application shows I would be a great fit at XYZ School, I’m worried that my MCAT score might cause your system to skip my application for review. I would be very grateful if you could manually grab my application for review. I hope you can see that I could be a great student at XYZ School, and I would be very excited to attend next year.”

This simple rehearsed script discussing how you’d like them to take a look at your application even if their system didn’t grab it is totally feasible and not an unreasonable request. They might also tell you that your application was already pulled and is/was being reviewed, and that will help put your mind at ease.

Modify this any way you need to. The earlier you build relationships with the admissions committee members, the better off you will be. There is a reason they say “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Links and Other Resources