How Will Medical School Admissions Committees Evaluate My Application?

Facebook
Google+
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
When thinking about the steps necessary to get into medical school, it is helpful to have an idea of what aspects of your application you will be judged upon and how heavily each component weighs. The task of getting accepted to med school is a challenging one. It can be daunting. But if broken down into a step-by-step process, it becomes more surmountable. One strategy to more intelligently approach the process is knowing what admissions committees will be looking for. I have been involved in the admissions process in both medical school and residency and spoken with people who have conducted interviews and sat on admissions committees. Here’s an inside look into how the admissions committee, the group of people that matter, will evaluate your application.

Parts of the Medical School Application

First, I will list each component of the primary application in order of importance to admissions committees, as I see them. Keep in mind this is not an absolute list, but a general view of relative importance of application components.

1| GPA/MCAT

I list these 2 together because it is nearly impossible to say which is more important. Both are the only true objective measures of academic performance, and thus the most important part of your application. The way I see it, they can be considered equally important. You should strive for your highest possible achievement in both. It is possible to make up for a subpar GPA with an outstanding MCAT, and vice versa, but strive for excellence in both areas.

2| Research

In my opinion, the key extracurricular activities are second in importance to academic achievement. This includes research experience and clinical work. It is my feeling that research takes precedence as the more important of the two for this reason: there is more variability in research experiences. The amount, quality, and depth of research work varies widely between students. Some students are able to achieve publications or conference presentations from their research experiences. This opportunity to set yourself apart, and achieve higher, makes research a better metric for differentiating applicants than clinical volunteering.

3| Clinical experience

As mentioned above this is also of very high importance, just behind research. Everyone needs to perform clinical volunteering, so it will be more of a requisite than something that really sets your application apart. But without it, you are in trouble. Seek out 1-2 solid positions at which you can dedicate a good amount of time (>100 hours), demonstrating your dedication to medicine and decent exposure to its actual practice.

4| Personal Statement

This is the next highest on the list as it is something that can set your application apart. The personal statement does not necessarily need to blow the reader away. A safe, well-written and thoughtful statement can be quite enough. But stellar statements can go a long way in making up for an otherwise suboptimal application. You can learn more about how we can help you craft your own stellar personal statement here. On the flip side, a poorly written, disorganized statement can be a huge detriment.

5| Letters of Recommendation

You will generally submit 4-5 letters of rec, from 3 professors and 1-2 extracurricular preceptors. It is crucial to have strong, positive letters from someone who knows you well. It can be a red flag to have lukewarm letters, and will certainly harm your chances of acceptance to have negative letters. Cultivating relationships and choosing letter writers wisely is key.

6| Community Service/Work Experience/Activities

These are important to include on the AMCAS activities section, but are overall relatively low yield. They help in that they demonstrate balance, showing that you are a well-rounded individual. They are essential to complete, as all your competitors will do them as well, but they will likely not play a large role in admissions committee decisions. There is one exception to this rule. If you are an atypical applicant who has significant work experience after undergrad in another field such as engineering or finance, this is something that could be a significant strength of your application. Without checking all the boxes above, you will not be able to gain acceptance; but paired with the right academic achievements, unique work experience can help you stand out amidst the crowd.

The Medical School Secondary Application

After initial review of the primary application, secondary applications will be sent out. See our prior posts on secondaries, which consist of short essays asking you to expand on your interest in medicine and that program in particular. Be aware that most schools will send you a secondary, requiring more application fees to be paid. (It is theorized that some schools are not selective with providing secondaries as this adds to the price paid by the applicant, and thereby benefits the school). Secondaries are also crucial. Much like the personal statement, if unique and well-written they can be a way to shine and show your personality. If poorly done, they will be a red flag.

Interview Offers

Finally, the interview will come along! This, as you may have guessed, is of paramount importance. The personal interaction on the interview day allows schools to assess personality and people skills, genuine interest in medicine, and professionalism. In many ways you could argue that this is the most important step of the process, as it can secure acceptance or result in the demise of even a strong application. It is not so simple to call it the most important component though, as without the necessary GPA, MCAT, and experience, you one would never make it to interview day. The best way to hone your interview skills is through deliberate practice with those who have served on admissions committees and conducted real interviews.

Ranking of Importance of Application Components

Putting it all together, here is my list of application components ranked in order of importance to the admissions committee:
  1. GPA
  2. MCAT
  3. Interview
  4. Research
  5. Clinical Experience
  6. Personal Statement
  7. Letters of Recommendation
  8. Secondaries
  9. Community Service
  10. Work Experience
Another way of evaluating this list is the relative influence each component has on the strength of your application. In other words, the relative likelihood to sway an admissions committee. This is driven primarily by the variability among applicants on that component, and thus your potential ability to shine above the competition in that area.
  1. MCAT
  2. GPA
  3. Interview
  4. Research
  5. Personal Statement
  6. Secondaries
  7. Letters of Recommendation
  8. Clinical Experience
  9. Work Experience
  10. Community Service
Of course, absolute importance still holds a great deal of weight in this ranking scheme, as you can see that the top 4 have not changed (with the exception of the order of GPA and MCAT, as there is more variability among MCAT scores than GPA). I believe that written components such as personal statement and secondaries become more important in this scheme as they can be more unique in both helpful and harmful ways. Clinical experience, which is less variable, drops a bit. Overall, simply knowing the components that comprise the application is a great start as it will allow you to create a roadmap to success. Adding to this a knowledge of the relative importance of each component will allow you to divide your time and effort among them appropriately. Plan ahead and you will be successful. Good luck! Consider our premium services at any time during the process for advice, support, editing, and consultation on the application!
Facebook
Google+
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Join the Insider Newsletter

Join the Insider Newsletter

Receive regular exclusive MSI content, news, and updates! No spam. No nonsense.

 

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
×
×

Cart