The importance of MCAT scores in medical school admissions cannot be understated. But a high score is not necessarily required to gain acceptance to medical school. So what does it take to get into medical school?
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
Demystifying Med School Admissions: Beyond the 520 MCAT Score
Insights on MCAT Scores from Personal Experience and Research
Getting into medical school does not require a score of 520 or higher on the MCAT. This insight comes from personal experiences and interactions with peers, including those from USC. Achieving an extremely high score is not a prerequisite for med school acceptance.
Utilizing the MSAR to Gauge Individual School Preferences
When considering potential schools to apply to, it is crucial to conduct thorough research. One invaluable resource during this process is the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR). It provides detailed information about individual schools, including their assessment of MCAT scores.
For Zasca, the MSAR is a great resource for applicants to gain insights into how much emphasis a specific school places on the MCAT. For example, at NYU Grossman, where the speaker currently attends, the average or median MCAT score is around 522. This indicates that the school highly values MCAT performance. However, there are other institutions to consider, such as the University of Texas Medical Branch, where the average score may be around 511-512.
By utilizing the MSAR, applicants can deduce which schools prioritize the MCAT. Then they can take into account other aspects of the application that hold equal or greater importance.
The Limitations of Stats: Understanding the Nuances of MCAT Admissions
However, when relying solely on statistics like median and average MCAT scores, it becomes challenging to gauge how the MCAT is truly valued in the admissions process.
The MSAR provides some insights, but it doesn’t offer a clear cause-and-effect relationship between specific scores and admissions decisions.
It raises the concern of perpetuating a cycle where applicants choose schools based on their stats. And this could lead to schools selecting candidates solely based on those stats, without considering the broader range of MCAT scores and GPAs. The data presented in percentiles only provides a limited snapshot of the admissions landscape.
Zasca concurs that the MSAR is a valuable starting point for researching potential schools. However, she emphasizes that if there is a school that resonates with students and aligns with their interests and initiatives, it shouldn’t deter them from applying based solely on their MCAT score not aligning with the school’s median.
Looking Beyond MCAT Scores
Zasca highlights the importance of creating a balanced school list and conducting thorough research. She urges applicants to consider all elements of their application, such as their personal statement and activities descriptions. Use those to showcase their fit with the school and their dedication to areas like working with underserved communities. These factors can serve as strong evidence of being an excellent medical school candidate.
Tapping into Networks for Med School Success
When faced with a below-average MCAT score, the question arises: Will a school even consider my application?
The Power of Personal Connections and Conversations
Zasca advises utilizing alumni networks and reaching out to friends who may have connections with the desired schools. These individuals, whether students or admissions staff, can provide valuable insights into what specific schools value in applicants.
While the MSAR offers useful information, it doesn’t capture the full picture. There are insider tips that only those within the school or admissions realm would know, such as specific preferences for involvement in social justice and underserved communities. Talking to current students or insiders can uncover these hidden gems of wisdom.
“The MSAR doesn’t paint the full picture… there are some insider tips that only people who go to that medical school or only people who work in admissions would know.”
Furthermore, try to engage in more intimate one-on-one conversations outside of official events. This allows for a deeper understanding of the institution’s values, free from the potential influence of formalities. By tapping into personal networks and fostering genuine connections, applicants can gain valuable insights for a successful med school application journey.
The Quest for Specific School Criteria
In our quest to understand what medical schools truly seek, we delve into the nuances of their preferences. It’s not just about presenting student statistics; it’s about comprehending what each school is specifically looking for.
For instance, does the University of Chicago prioritize first-generation students for class diversity? Are they seeking candidates interested in rural medicine tracks? Uncovering this essential information proves challenging through the MSR or school websites alone.
Our aim is to develop resources that assist students in narrowing down programs aligned with their interests. While a high MCAT score aids in the process, it’s crucial to note that aspiring physicians with below-average scores still secure spots at excellent medical schools and go on to thrive in their careers.
Perseverance Pays Off
Zasca recently had a conversation with one of her closest friends from undergrad who is currently applying to medical school. Her friend faced challenges with the MCAT, scoring below her desired target on both attempts. While she initially expected improvement on the second try, the results fell short of her expectations.
Contemplating whether to take another gap year or retake the MCAT, she weighed the toll of the demanding exam. She decided to focus on enhancing other components of her application instead. Zasca provided dedicated support, particularly in refining her friend’s personal statement, which turned out to be exceptional. Despite being below the MCAT median for many schools she applied to, her friend received an impressive six or seven interview invitations.
This story highlights that a lower MCAT score does not define an application cycle’s outcome. With determination and a standout personal statement, applicants can still flourish and achieve success.
The Importance of Personal Fit and Dream Schools
When considering the median MCAT scores published on the MSAR, it’s crucial to understand that it represents the middle point, not the minimum requirement. Additionally, looking at the 10th and 25th percentiles provides a broader perspective.
While the addition of median with one standard deviation on the MSAR offers more clarity, it still doesn’t provide a complete range of accepted MCAT scores.
“If you think you’re going to be a great fit at that school, if you think you’re going to thrive there, if you just have always dreamt about going to that school – apply.”
Ultimately, if there is a particular school that has always been your aspiration, then don’t hesitate to apply. The cost of adding a school to your list and writing secondary essays is a small investment compared to the potential opportunity of attending their dream institution. Let the school make the decision rather than assuming rejection without giving them a chance to evaluate your fit and potential.