Surprising Statistics About Medical School

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Have you ever wondered about whether medical school admissions is becoming more or less competitive, or whether certain genders have different trends? There’s a lot of interesting data here, let’s dive in.

*Note* All the data presented in this post comes straight from the AAMC, the official organization overseeing United States medical school admissions. You can find the spreadsheets on their FACTS page.

 

First Time Applicants vs Reapplicants

Of the greater than 50,000 applicants that apply to medical school in the United States each year, did you know that over 1/3 are reapplicants? In the last 4 years, from 2017 to 2020, between 36% and 38% of applicants were repeat applicants, meaning fewer than 2/3 of applicants were applying to medical school for the first time.

This shouldn’t be that surprising, considering only 40% of applicants each year get accepted, meaning 60% must either choose to reapply in a future cycle or choose a different career path altogether.

Unfortunately, the AAMC doesn’t publish the acceptance rate of reapplicants compared to first-time applicants, although if you speak to experienced admissions committee members, they’ll tell you reapplicants have a lower chance of getting in compared to first-time applicants. It makes sense. After all, those applicants were not accepted by any school in a previous cycle, and without substantial improvement and changes to their application the next time around, they’re likely to end with a similar outcome. Don’t be the applicant that reuses the same personal statement and application. That almost always ends poorly. Make sure you figure out why you didn’t get accepted, and work on addressing any deficits in your application before you reapply. Speaking with former admissions committee members about your application and how to improve is your best bet.

 

MCAT Score by Undergrad Major

Not all majors are created equal, at least in terms of MCAT scores and admissions statistics. Math and statistics majors tend to have the highest MCAT score, with applicants at 510.5 and matriculants at 514.8. Specialized health sciences, such as nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and public health trended lowest, with applicants at 502.8 and matriculants at 510.1.

The trends are similar regarding acceptance rates. Amongst those majoring in math and statistics who applied to medical school, 47.4% were accepted, compared to only 36.7% of those majoring in specialized health sciences.

Is this a chicken or the egg phenomenon? There’s a great deal of nuance here, and a few reasons why we see these patterns. If you want to see my full breakdown of the best major to get into medical school, including explanations of the data, we made a post addressing that exact question.

 

Men vs Women

While medicine in the United States has historically been dominated by men, more and more women are entering the profession.

The majority of applicants in 2004, 2005, 2019, and 2020 were women, most recently with 52.1% of applicants female.

In terms of matriculants, over 50% of women made up entering classes to medical school in 2018, 2019, and 2020, most recently at 52.4%.

What I found interesting is that in 2004 and 2005, there were more women than applied than men, yet more men matriculated. Whereas in 2018, more men applied than women, yet more women matriculated. What do you make of that? Let us know down in the comments.

In terms of GPA and MCAT, male matriculants tend to have slightly higher MCAT scores. However, women tend to have slightly higher non-science GPAs, but men have slighter higher science GPAs. These differences do reach statistical significance.

MCAT scores amongst matriculants

  • 2018 511.2 men 509.6 women
  • 2019 511.9 men 510.5 women
  • 2020 512.3 men 510.8 women

Science GPA amongst matriculants

  • 2018 sGPA 3.65 men vs 3.63 women
  • 2019 sGPA 3.66 men vs 3.64 women
  • 2020 sGPA 3.67 men vs 3.65 women

Non-science GPA amongst matriculants

  • 2018 non-science GPA 3.76 men 3.82 women
  • 2019 non-science GPA 3.77 men 3.83 women
  • 2020 non-science GPA 3.78 men 3.84 women

 

Ethnicity

This year we’ve begun to have much-needed discussions regarding racial inequality on a national level. The AAMC does publish trends with MCAT and GPA scores as it relates to ethnicity. Someone somewhere will surely get offended by the data, but remember this is simply the official reported data. Let us know calmly and respectfully what you think of this data down in the comments

White matriculants have an average MCAT of 512.1 and GPA of 3.76.

Native American matriculants have an average MCAT of 504.8 and GPA of 3.57.

Black or African American matriculants have an average MCAT of 505.7 and GPA of 3.51.

Hispanic matriculants have an average MCAT of 506.2 and GPA of 3.62.

Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander matriculants have an average MCAT of 508.7 and GPA of 3.46.

Asian matriculants have an average MCAT of 513.9 and GPA of 3.77.

A finding that surprises many people is that Asian matriculants on average have a higher MCAT and GPA than white matriculants, and these differences achieve statistical significance.

 

Is Medical School Becoming More or Less Competitive?

Is medical school becoming more or less competitive? You’re likely not surprised to hear it’s becoming more competitive in the United States. In 2010, 43.6% of applicants matriculated. This is trending down, with 40.9% of applicants matriculating in 2020.

Similar trends are observed with average MCAT and GPA scores. The average applicant’s MCAT has gone up from 504.7 in 2018 to 506.1 in 2020, and the average matriculant’s MCAT has increased from 510.4 to 511.5.

With GPA, trends are similar. Applicants have gone from 3.45 to 3.48 over the last two years, and matriculants’ GPA has gone from 3.64 to 3.66.

The official data is a valuable resource for those trying to gauge their own competitiveness in applying to medical school. But remember that your MCAT and GPA aren’t everything — they’re simply easy to focus on because they’re easy to measure and compare. Even amongst applicants with killer numbers, an MCAT of 518 or higher, and a 3.8 GPA or higher, it’s still not a guarantee. In fact, over 12% of those with such stellar scores did not get any acceptances.

Don’t overlook the soft components of your application. If you’re early on in your premed career, that means focusing on the right experiences and extracurriculars. You can learn all about navigating the premed path most effectively with our Premed Roadmap to Medical School Acceptance Course. And if you’re about to apply to medical school, we offer a suite of services to help you strengthen your app, from personal statement and AMCAS editing to mock interviews and polishing your secondaries.

Much love!

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