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Guidelines for Choosing Medical Schools

  1. Subscribe to the new Medical School Admission Requirements database after the new version becomes available in early April at: https://students-residents.aamc.org.
  2. First examine the admission data for the state supported schools in your state of legal residence. (Most medical schools list the requirements for declaring In-State residence on their web site.) Note the credentials of the applicants from the previous year who matriculated, i.e., the Science and Overall GPA numbers and the MCAT scores. Remember these are applicants who were accepted and are currently attending. These numbers give you the 10 - 90% range, the 25 - 75% range, and the median number for these three numerical indicators. Now you have an idea of the numerical requirements of the school or schools to which you statistically have the best chance of gaining admission. Examine the numbers of In-State and Out-of-State applicants and matriculants, and note the advantage of In-State residents.
  3. Next go through the school listings focusing on privately supported medical schools and those few state schools that admit a significant percentage of out of state applicants. Always note any preference for applicants from particular states that may enhance or diminish your chances. You must use the three numerical indicators (Overall and Science GPA and MCAT scores of last year's matriculants) as your first filter. Remember that you are looking at numbers earned by applicants who were admitted! Once you identify a school for which your numbers make you a realistic candidate, begin to explore the other admission criteria (i.e., specific course requirements) and program features (e.g., emphasis on research, community outreach programs, MPH options, etc.).
  4. You will note that many privately funded medical schools have large numbers of applicants. This is often misleading. Applicants apply to many schools and often include these schools in their AMCAS list. However, the majority of these applicants ultimately attend other schools even if accepted to these for reasons of In-State tuition, location, etc. Do not be discouraged if you have a real interest in such a school! You should take every opportunity beginning with the secondary application from that school and, if possible, spring and summer tours, to convince the school you would seriously consider attending if admitted.
  5. Match schools with your values and professional / personal needs. Factor in your interests, values, and personal or professional needs to your choices. Review a school's mission statement, history, programs, and curriculum for medical training. If you hope to be accepted to a school that values inclusion, then read about the school's diversity in recruitment, training of medical students, coursework, community involvement, affiliated hospitals and clinics, and student services. If you have specific needs around family housing for medical students and or funding, then this should be considered.
  6. If a school has multiple programs leading towards medicine (i.e., MD/PhD, MD/MPH) or is recruiting for in particular specialization of medicine (global, underserved), then be sure to speak to these directly as an applicant. For example, a school with an MD/MPH program may want two years of public health leadership or work experience.
  7. When applying to MD/PhD programs, an applicant should have numerical qualifications within the upper one-half of last year's accepted class, and in many case within the upper one-fourth. Some program websites give very specific information on these qualifications. An applicant must also be certain that the research area of interest is included in a school's MD/PhD program.
  8. Some schools use a holistic review of applicants that expands beyond the numbers from MCAT and Science GPA. Qualifications like distance travelled (longevity and time preparing for medical school), passion for medicine, social justice, leadership, diverse populations, direct patient care experience, etc., will be evaluated at the same level as other qualifications. If so, consider demonstrating these assets in your AMCAS even if some schools seem out of your normal range of consideration.
  9. Your goal is to assemble a list of schools for which you have the desired credentials and perhaps a few "dream" schools. A well-researched list normally contains 15 - 18 schools. Applying to many more than that is usually foolish and fruitless. The process is expensive, and turning around more than that number of secondary applications is very time consuming. As a result, many of these secondary applications are hastily and poorly researched and prepared, and the delay in returning them tips off the school you were busy with other applications first. It is also a fact that if an applicant doesn't get any interest from 15 schools, he/she will not get any from 20 or more.
  10. Reapplying? Before submitting a second application, re-applicants must clearly demonstrate that the weaknesses and shortcomings of the first application have been addressed and corrected. In this situation, reapplying to some of the same schools that previously placed the applicant on a waitlist or in a hold file or showed some interest in the first application is advised. However the improvements must be clear, obvious, and significant.
  11. Submit your AMCAS in early June. If you are waiting for an MCAT score, submit the AMCAS in early June listing in it one or a few schools (e.g., your state schools). When you receive your score, add the remaining appropriate schools to your already submitted and processed AMCAS application. This insures an early processing of the application by AMCAS and prompt delivery to the schools.


William J Higgins