Medical school is arguably the hardest graduate program to obtain admissions into in America. Every year, thousands of eligible applicants are turned away from medical schools and forced to try their luck the following year. With the fierce competition only rising, it is important to know everything you can do to increase your chances of getting into medical school. In this article, we will not only address the numbers behind medical school admissions, but how you can increase them for your own application.
The following statistics, obtained from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), paints a daunting picture about medical schools admissions. These figures speak for themselves.
- -In 2011, 43,919 students applied to medical schools. However, only 20,176 of those applicants were accepted into at least one medical school. In other words, 54% of applicants got rejected to every medical school they applied to.
- -In 2011, the average science GPA of all applicants was 3.43. However, the average science GPA of all matriculates was much higher at 3.61.
- -In 2011, the average MCAT score of all applicants was 28.2. However, the average MCAT score of all matriculates was much higher at 31.1.
- -From 2009 to 2011, students with a GPA between 3.8 and 4.0 had a 28% chance of getting rejected at every medical school they applied to. Students with a GPA between 3.6 and 3.8 had a 45% chance of getting rejected at every medical school they applied to. Students with a GPA between 3.4 and 3.6 had a 60% chance of getting rejected at every medical school they applied to. Students with a GPA between 3.2 and 3.4 had a 73% chance of getting rejected at every medical school they applied to. Every year, a typical applicant applies to about 15 medical schools.
So what can you do knowing these details? Obviously, the best way to increase your chances of getting into medical school is by improving academic marks. Nothing improves one’s medical school chances more than having a solid GPA and MCAT score. This should also be supplemented by strong recommendation letters, personal statements, and extracurricular activities.
However, there are other ways (and often overlooked ways) an applicant can increase his or her chances. Since medical school acceptance rates are low, applicants need to utilize every strategy possible to increase their chances of getting into medical school. Listed below are three easy ways to increase your chances; they have nothing to do with what you put on the application itself.
1. Apply to a lot of medical schools.
This one seems obvious and simple, but surprisingly, many students overlook this one. Applying to medical school is not like applying to undergraduate college. Applying to medical school is also not like applying to law school, business school, or any other graduate program. This is because you cannot assume you have a “good” chance at any particular medical school, even with the greatest GPA, MCAT, recommendations, essays, etc. Medical school is so competitive that no matter how qualified you think you are, there will be hundreds more just like you. Many applicants hope that just one school will accept them. If you are accepted to more than one, be proud of the fact that you are one of the few.
Now let’s look at the mathematics behind applying to medical schools. Let’s assume a particular applicant applies to 15 medical schools and has an 8% acceptance chance at all of them (8% is pretty reasonable for a qualified student). Given those variables, the student has a 71% (1-.92^15) chance, at getting into at least one medical school. If that same applicant applied to 20 medical schools, the chance would jump to 81%. Furthermore, if the applicant applied to 25 schools, the chance would rise to 88%.
The difference in those numbers is pretty significant. A pre-med student has undeniably spent hundreds of hours preparing for medical school in his or her college days. It makes no sense for that student to not spend a few more hours, on a few more applications, to significantly increase the probability of achieving the dream.
2. Apply to medical schools in June.
If you are a well-qualified pre-med student, it is likely that you are a hardworking student. You cannot afford to change that when the time finally comes for you to apply to medical schools. You need to finish the race you have decided to run strong.
Almost every medical school recommends that students apply as early as possible. In other words, they want you to apply in June, which is when the application opens for most medical schools. The very fact that medical schools advise you to apply early should be enough reason for you to apply in June. However, if you are not yet convinced it matters, let’s look at a logical explanation on why applying in June can help your odds.
Every medical school has a limited number of seats in each class. Furthermore, most medical schools have rolling admissions. If you apply in June, there are going to be a lot of seats open for you to potentially claim. If you apply last minute, most of the seats will have already been occupied. In addition, more students seem to apply later than earlier. If you apply late, you will be competing with more students for less spots.
3. Apply Early Decision.
Many medical schools have an early decision option. You can only choose one school to apply early decision. If the school accepts you, you must attend that school. If you apply and get accepted, you won’t have the anxiety of applying to more medical schools; you can relax until next fall when your classes will commence. If you do not get accepted, then you will apply to medical schools just like every other student will. There is nothing to lose by applying early decision.
Furthermore, medical schools claim the acceptance rate for students who apply early decision is considerably higher. Though there has been no study on how much it can increase your chances, there is again, nothing to lose. You should pick a school that you really want to go to and apply early decision. If you get in, then that is great. If you get rejected, then it is as if nothing happened.
The factors listed above have nothing to do with what you put on the application itself such as GPA, MCAT, and activities. A pre-med spends countless hours in school and in extracurricular activities to steadily increase the chances of getting into medical school. There is no reason not to consider the factors here; you worked way too hard to sell yourself short now.