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Your MCAT and GPA Don’t Matter as Much as You Think They Do

Session 278

You shouldn’t be surprised to read online that a student with near perfect stats didn’t get an interview invite or acceptance. You’re more than your stats.

Today, I’m sharing my insights into stats and school list, which is contrary to what you may see out there. Specifically, I’m sharing my thought process on how to choose your schools.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[01:52] Your Stats Don’t Matter: They Do, But They Don’t

I’ve heard of students applying to schools with great MCAT scores and almost perfect GPAs, decent extracurriculars, but the students didn’t get interviewed anywhere. Looking at their school list, they applied to four California-state schools. They’re California residents going to school in the midwest area. California medical schools are really hard to get into. These students also applied to several east coast schools, which are also very hard to get into. Even with great stats, those schools are still hard to get into.

Your stats don’t matter. This may seem counterintuitive. But really, in the end, they don’t. They do, but they don’t at the same time.

“Low-tier,” “Mid-tier,” and “High-tier” Medical Schools

On another website, a student posted his stats with 4.0 GPA, 525 MCAT score, and then gives out his school list. He asks whether he should add more “mid-tiers.”

There's no such thing as mid-tier, high-tier, or low-tier medical schools. That's just a premed thing.Click To Tweet

Don’t Worry About Residency Programs When You’re a Premed

Are there residency programs out there that will discriminate based on the medical school you go to? Yes, there are. However, I strongly disagree with painting broad strokes about residency admissions based on the medical school that you’ve gone to.

If you’re concerned about the residency program you’re going to, stop! You shouldn’t be worried as a premed student about the residency program you think you want to go to.

First, your choices of specialty are likely going to change. Based on the last AAMC data I could find, 75% of students change their mind when it comes to specialty selection. The majority of students change their mind, so you shouldn’t be thinking about a very specific residency program right now as a premed student.

Even if you do stick with that residency program you’re interested in, getting into one of those top programs shouldn’t be your goal. It would be nice or great. You shouldn’t decide what medical schools you’re going to apply to because you have one specific residency program in mind.

Getting into medical school is hard. Don't make it harder by limiting your chances, because you're limiting the schools you're applying to.Click To Tweet

You can get into neurosurgery by going to a “low-tier” school. There’s no data out there that shows that you have to go to a top medical school to get to a competitive residency. Your medical school doesn’t matter. Don’t make it harder for yourself by only applying to top-tier medical schools because you think you have amazing stats.

[08:40] Do Stats Really Matter?

Your stats don’t matter. They matter up to a certain extent or point in the application process. And then everything else takes over.

As an applicant, you have to work on the rest of your application, as those other aspects matter even more than your stats. Your stats can open a door for you, but once that door is opened, if you have a bad personal statement, your door will shut quickly. It’s the same way if you have bad extracurricular descriptions or if you can’t talk about why you want to be a doctor.

If you can’t talk about the activities you’ve done and how they’ve impacted you, those doors will shut, regardless of your stats.

Your stats can open a door for you, but once that door is opened, if you have a bad personal statement or extracurriculars, that door will shut quickly.Click To Tweet

Your Stats Need to Be Good Enough

When you’re applying to medical school, you need good enough stats to pass through the digital shredders, the filters the school has set up. Your stats should be good enough to pass those filters and to be sorted in a way that your application lands on the desk of somebody.

[11:25] You’re Just Like Everybody Else: How Do You Stand Out?

And when you apply to these “top-tier” medical schools because you have great stats, guess what? There are a lot of other students who have the same stats.

So when you start comparing yourself to other students who are also applying to those other “top-tier” medical schools, you now all of a sudden look like a normal student. Because they’re comparing you with other students with 525 MCAT scores and 4.0 GPAs. So when your personal statement doesn’t hold up to the personal statement of another student, you’re probably not going to get an interview.

Your personal statement is probably the most important thing outside of your stats. (Check out my book on the medical school personal statement on Amazon.) So your stats open the door. Your personal statement gets you through the door. Your secondary essays land you a seat. And your interview hopefully seals the deal for that acceptance.

Your stats open the door. Your personal statement gets you through the door. Your secondary essays land you a seat. And your interview hopefully seals the deal for that acceptance.Click To Tweet

[13:35] Things to Consider When Preparing Your School List

So when you’re preparing your school list, don’t look at MCAT and GPA. Instead, look at schools where you want to apply. There is so much more out there you need to consider—the culture of the school, mission/vision, programs, clubs, activities, support, etc.

When you're making your school list, don't look at MCAT and GPA.Click To Tweet

As you’re preparing your school list, consider where you want to live, weather, proximity to family, and class size. And as you’re going through this process, try to visit schools, so you can see firsthand what it’s like.

There are several students I know who had a school ranked as their top choice before interview day and then ranked it at the bottom after interview day. And I’ve also seen the opposite—students who ranked a school at the bottom before interview day, then ranked it at the top after interview day—all because they saw how amazing the school was after visiting it and after talking to students.

The MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) or the College Information Book (CIB) don’t do justice to what you will see when it comes to the medical school and what you will experience by visiting.

There are several students I know who had a school ranked as their top choice before interview day and then ranked it at the bottom after interview day.Click To Tweet

[15:31] You Have No Control Over What Medical Schools Want

You have no control over what the medical school is looking for. So when you look at creating your school list, you have no control over how medical schools are going to look at your application.

There are students I’ve advised who have had the same stats and applied to the same school, and I’ve seen one get immediately rejected while the other one gets an interview and acceptance. If it was all about stats, this wouldn’t happen. But it’s not all about stats. It’s about who you are.

It’s about how you’re able to add to the diversity of the class. Show that through your extracurriculars or secondary essays. If you can’t do that, then you’re probably not going to get interviewed.

It's not all about stats. It's about who you are.Click To Tweet

A Tale of Two Students Applying to a “Top-Tier” Medical School

Let’s just try to paint with a broad brush about students with 4.0 GPAs and 525 MCAT scores. They’re probably super nerds—no offense. And if you picture somebody like that, maybe they don’t know how to write a good essay or personal statement. They just talk about loving science and helping people. They’ve proven themselves in their stats, so they should get accepted, right? They think because they have the stats, medical schools will automatically accept them. They probably think they don’t even need to be interviewed.

But there are also those “normal, non-nerd” students out there who are getting 4.0 GPAs and 525 MCAT scores, who are able to write amazing personal statements and secondary essays. They show diversity through their extracurricular descriptions. Those students are the ones who are actually getting those interviews and acceptances.

All this being said, it’s so much more than MCAT and GPA. You can’t apply to medical school based on your stats alone. You can’t choose the medical schools you’re applying to based on your stats alone. Your stats should have zero bearing on the schools you are applying to. Do not apply to medical schools that you are not going to be happy at because you have the stats that you think will get you accepted there.

Don't apply to medical schools that you aren't going to be happy at just because you have the stats that you think will get you accepted there.Click To Tweet

[18:42] Every School Is Different

Harvard Medical School has a very different culture from the University of Florida Medical School or the University of Kansas Medical School. Every school is going to be different. This may be hard to understand, but you need to do your homework and find out what that is like.

You won’t know if you’re truly going to be happy at a certain school unless you go there. Step foot on the campus and see what it’s like. Even then, it’s hard to gauge, so you need to also talk to students. Talk to graduates and the alumni of the school. Ask them about what they liked and didn’t liked.

As you’re going through this process, hopefully you’ve got great stats. However, don’t mistake those stats for an acceptance to whatever medical school you want to get into.

Getting into medical school is hard even with amazing stats because there are so many other pieces to the puzzle that you’re probably not thinking about. The biggest part of that puzzle is who you are and whether you fit with that medical school. And if that medical school admissions committee looks at your application and determines you’re not a fit for their school, you’re not going to get interviewed, even with amazing stats.

Getting into medical school is hard even with amazing stats because there are so many other pieces to the puzzle.Click To Tweet

[21:21] Don’t Be Discouraged!

So don’t be surprised or get alarmed as you go on these websites and forums and students are posting about how great their stats are. Don’t look at that and determine that you’re now not good enough to get into medical school. They are amazing stats, for sure, but they don’t guarantee an acceptance.

One student I helped with interview prep ended up only receiving one interview even when he had great stats. Reading his application before me helping him out, I told him why he wasn’t getting any interview at first. His personal statement was terrible, and it’s probably why he wasn’t getting any interviews.

What you put in your application matters. The MCAT and GPA are important. But beyond a certain point, they’re not important anymore. The rest of the application is just as, if not more, important as those stats.

The MCAT and GPA are important. But beyond a certain point in the admissions process, they're not important anymore.Click To Tweet

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