In recent years, the U.S. allopathic medical school acceptance rate has hovered around 45 percent. Before you dive into the year-long process of preparing your application, assess your own strengths and weaknesses to identify areas you can work on throughout the year to improve your chances of medical school admission.
Potential areas of weakness:
1) Poor grades and/or MCAT score. Nothing can replace a strong academic performance, and these factors are especially important in the first round of screening. Admissions committees are seeking out candidates who are likely to succeed in medical school, and this is primarily determined by your undergraduate GPA (especially in science courses) and MCAT score. If your grades and scores are lackluster or inconsistent, you have a few options:
- If you earned a C- or lower in a required course, re-take it.
- If you earned an unimpressive score (above a C-), improve your performance in the next level course. Before signing up for an advanced course, evaluate why you didn’t get the grade you wanted. Did you need a better study strategy? Were you devoting too much time to extracurricular activities? Did you take the appropriate prerequisites?
- Enroll in a post-baccalaureate program or a related master’s degree program, and do well! Your main goal is to show admissions officers that you are academically capable of the work that will be demanded of you in medical school.
- Consider osteopathic medical school. Osteopathic schools generally have higher acceptance rates, although the work required of you in school will be the same.
2) Lack of relevant experience. It’s not easy to convince medical school admission committees that you are dedicated to a life in medicine if you have no demonstrated proof of medical experience or community service. If you are lacking in this area, it’s never too late to get started!
- Volunteer in a clinic or hospital to gain clinical exposure. This will not only give you something to talk about in your personal statement and interview, but also help you decide if this is really the right path for you.
- Shadow a physician for a day. If you think you’re interested in a particular specialty, find someone who works in that specialty who will let you know follow them around for a few hours. This can be something that’s set up through your school alumnae network, a family friend, or even a friendly phone call or email.
- Deepen your involvement with an extracurricular activity that you are already a part of, or expand your range of opportunities by joining a new organization.
3) Poorly planned application strategy. Well-qualified medical school candidates can fail to gain admission if they don’t apply to an appropriate mix of schools or if they simply send in their application materials too late in the game. Think about the following factors before you get started:
- Plan for a lighter course load. You’ll need extra time in your schedule to prepare for the MCATs, write your essays, and travel for interviews. Anticipating your needs ahead of time will lower your burden during the year.
- Start early! Take your MCAT in the spring or summer. Schools won’t begin reviewing a candidate’s application until they receive MCAT scores. And medical schools are typically rolling admission, so the earlier you apply, the more likely you are to get in.
- Meet with your pre-medical advisor to identify a realistic list of schools. Even the most qualified applicant has a good chance of getting rejected if he or she only applies to the top 10 medical schools in the country.
More on your medical school application
Understanding the medical school application timeline.
Common reasons why medical school applicants are rejected.
How are med school applications evaluated?
What makes a strong medical school application?