The MSAR (Medical School Admissions Requirements) is a user-friendly database on medical schools and is a valuable resource for anyone applying to medical school in North America. According to its website, the MSAR is “an online database that enables you to browse, search, sort, and compare information about U.S. and Canadian medical schools and BS/MD programs, and more.” In this post (complete with screenshots), we will introduce the salient features of the MSAR and underscore the high-yield information that will be of particular interest to applicants researching medical schools for their list. We will be examining the MSAR page for the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in detail as our case study.
The Main Page
From the main page of the MSAR, you can type any medical school’s name into the search bar to find information on that institution.
You can write notes in My Notes, save your favorite medical schools to My Favorites, and enter your own stats in My Coursework & Scores to cross reference against the median scores for your target medical schools.
You can apply a number of filters to narrow down the number of institutions that fit your criteria. For instance, if you know you want to attend a suburban public medical school in California, you can search for medical schools fitting that or other criteria.
Lastly, you can scroll through snapshots of the 171 medical schools listed on the MSAR website. Below is the snapshot for UCSD. As you can see, it highlights salient information such as the median GPA and MCAT scores (of accepted applicants), the tuition & fees, and how many students are in the first year class. If this is one of your target schools, make sure to add it to your favorites. If you want more information, clicking on the school’s name will take you to its detailed page.
Case Study in Medical School Details: UCSD
We will now examine the MSAR page for UCSD, which features a huge amount of information on this medical school. When you click the link for UCSD from the main page of the MSAR, it will bring you to the homepage for UCSD. There is a menu of options on the left side of the page that details the Overview, Admissions, Acceptance Data, Education & Research, Tuition, Aid & Debt, and Campus Life of UCSD. Clicking on any of these links will bring you to that part of UCSD’s page.
In my opinion, the only high-yield item to pay attention to in the Overview section is the school’s Mission statement. You want to know what each medical school’s values are so you can write your essays and secondaries in line with the mission of each particular medical school.
The first high-yield item in the Admissions section is the Interview Information. This gives you information on when interview invitations are sent out to applicants, the format of the interview (in the case of UCSD, it is the Multiple Mini Interview, or MMI), and what to expect on interview day.
Application Policies has important information such as the oldest or newest MCAT score that the school, how many students the school will probably matriculate from your application cycle, and whether the school considers in-state residency.
Applications Accepted is extremely important for out-of-state or international applicants. If you do not fit these criteria, do not even bother applying.
Acceptance Information tells you when the earliest and latest acceptance notifications are sent out (October 15 and September 20, respectively) and how long you have to accept the offer (2 weeks).
Waitlist Information tells you how many people typically are kept on the waitlist and how many people make it off the waitlist. For UCSD, there are 300 people on the waitlist and only ~10% (27 of 300 applicants) are accepted off the waitlist.
Lastly, and most importantly, are Selection Factors. This is probably the highest yield information from the entire Admissions section. This section gives you detailed information about exactly what types of students the admissions committee of the particular medical school is looking for. This section also details a laundry list of requirements you must fulfill in order to be considered and/or accepted. Pay close attention to this information and make sure that you check all the boxes.
The Premedical Experience section will give you an idea of what the medical school values in its accepted students. As you can see, the data indicate that incoming first years at UCSD tend to have a great deal of Research/lab experience and little Medical/clinical paid employment. This means that having research experience will increase your chances of getting into a major research university like UCSD.
The Acceptance Data has a ton of juicy numbers that will inform on whether you have a decent shot of getting an acceptance from that particular school. For instance, you can look at the school’s MCAT Data. This will show you the school’s total median MCAT score, with an added percentile range, for all Accepted Applicants at the school, all in-state or out-of-state applicants at the school, all matriculated students at the school, and all accepted students nationally. This is an incredibly helpful tool that allows you to parse the numbers to most closely match your personal background.
Below the MCAT Data is a breakdown of each Section Score on the MCAT. This enables you to break down your MCAT score even further and compare your performance on each section to those of accepted students at the particular school.
Like the MCAT Data section, the GPA Data section is extremely high-yield and enables you to compare your GPA to the students accepted at that medical school.
The Matriculation Data for First Year Class breaks down the number of applications, interviews sent out, the total number of matriculants, and how many matriculants were in special programs (e.g., MD/PhD, BS/MD).
There are a number of Matriculant Demographics listed. In my opinion, the most relevant are the breakdown of male versus females in the entering class. As you can see, UCSD has matriculated significantly more women than men in the entering class for the last three years.
Race & Ethnicity is another important demographic that you should pay attention to, especially if you would like to be part of a diverse class. Like most medical schools, UCSD has a preponderance of Caucasian and Asian students.
Education & Research
The Education & Research section gives you some important information on how the medical school structures its teaching methodologies. For instance, the Instruction section gives housekeeping information about the structure of the medical school’s curriculum and what the school emphasizes in its curriculum. Look here if you want to make sure that the medical school has a curriculum that will enable you to learn.
The Evaluation and Requirements section is probably the most high-yield section of the entire Education & Research tab. Here, you will see how the school grades you (UCSD is pass/fail), whether students are ranked (UCSD does not rank students), and whether a thesis is required (no in the case of UCSD)
The Research Funding and Opportunities section is important if you are interested in research and/or are a MD/PhD applicant. This section tells you how much grant money the school brings in and gives you a starting point to find research opportunities.
Tuition, Aid & Debt
The Tuition, Aid & Debt section gives you information on how much tuition is at the medical school, the average amount of debt graduates of that medical school incur, and how the percentage of students that receive aid. This information is extremely important because it will enable you to extrapolate how much debt you can expect to incur in the course of getting your MD from that particular school.
The Campus Life section gives you some bare bones details about the quality of life you can expect as a student at that particular school. While the information here is useful, it is much more helpful to talk to current students about their daily lives at that medical school. Current students are always a superior source of information to something you read online.
The MSAR is an incredibly useful tool for getting detailed information about all or particular medical schools. You should expect to heavily utilize the MSAR at all stages of the medical school application process. You will use it to research medical schools and craft your list, personal statement, and secondaries. You will peruse it when you receive an interview invitation to make sure you have some general knowledge of the school so you can answer why you want to attend that school when asked at the interview. You will hopefully revisit the MSAR when you hold multiple acceptances in order to compare all the schools at which you hold acceptances. Best of luck with the upcoming application cycle!