Have you ever heard something about medical school admissions that you thought maybe wasn’t “quite right?” Have you considered at all that some of the rumors you’ve been told about the med admissions process aren’t exactly true? There’s a ton of “old wives’ tails” out there around medical school admissions.
In this post, I tackle the major mythical creatures of medical school admissions. You might have read this US News article about the Medical School Admissions Myths. Well, I’m here to share several myths, many of them far more sinister than the ones in the US News post. Here we go!
Myth: It’s all about the grades
Having great grades is absolutely an important part of the admissions equation, but if the admissions process centered on gpa, then medical schools would be reporting a much higher average gpa among students they accept. Many other factors are being weighed besides just the numbers.
Myth: A high MCAT will make up for a bad gpa
If your gpa is 2.0, or 2.5, or even 3.0, it’s highly unlikely that a strong MCAT score will do enough to solve the problem. Unfortunately, too many students depend on this myth as the cornerstone of their admissions process.
Myth: Getting a letter of recommendation is as simple as sending an email to a recommender
Fact: A quality letter of recommendation requires that you initiate and develop a meaningful relationship with your recommenders. Don’t expect to get a decent letter of recommendation by sending an email to a stranger.
Myth: Submitting my AMCAS early is enough to be able to say “I applied early.”
Fact: Your application isn’t complete until med schools have everything — MCAT scores, AMCAS application, letters of recommendation, and your secondaries.
Myth: Medical schools send acceptances in the fall.
Fact: Medical schools begin to send acceptances in mid-October, and continue to send acceptances throughout the next eight months! Public medical schools tend to send their acceptances much later than some private medical schools.
Myth: Revealing that I received time accommodation for my exams in college will hurt my chances.
Now that we’re something like 50+ years into an understanding of different learning styles, medical schools have already dealt with this within the admissions process. I would expect that med schools see very little difference in success rates among students, whether they received time accommodation or not.
Myth: The application is just another form to fill out; I can do it in a weekend.
Fact: The medical school application is the first and only way that you can “sell” yourself to medical schools. It’s the focal point of several years worth of preparation. Don’t blow it by believing you know all about what med schools want.
Here are eight additional myths plus three bonus assumptions that you want to know about. Read on …
Myth: Applying to medical school is just like applying to college.
When you applied to college, you thought about where you might apply over the summer, and you started working on your applications maybe in September. You wrote maybe one essay, you took the SAT, you got some rec letters from your teachers, and you spent a little time on your CV. You sent your application in around October or November. Possibly December. Maybe you did an interview, either on campus or near your home. That’s about it.
In contrast, the medical school admissions process has an entirely different timeline. It’s a multi-step application sequence that takes several months to complete. Further, you don’t hear back from most medical schools until six months, or more, after you’ve applied.
Myth: It’s all about the MCAT
While it’s true that medical schools have a pretty clear cutoff for admissions at around 30 to 32 on the MCAT, you may be surprised to learn that as many as 20 percent of accepted applicants had MCAT scores below the cutoff. That means “there’s something going on” around the admissions process, and medical schools look beyond your test score.
Every premed runs the gauntlet of medical school admissions. The prerequisites, application, experiences and many other requirements are rife with traps and pitfalls. Here are three myths that prevent qualified students from applying to medical school.
Myth: I haven’t done anything incredible during my college experience, so I don’t stand out.
Fact: Your life experience is unique, and your plans for the future are original and yours alone. Want to stand out from the crowd of premeds? Write about the major accomplishments of your future career.
Let yourself be idealistic. Set lofty goals, and write about them in your application to medical schools. Medical school admissions offices are filled with applications from students who want to be doctors, but can’t articulate a “Big Reason Why.” Let yourself go!
Myth: I need to stuff a ton of extracurricular activities in my application to look good.
Fact: Med schools aren’t interested in you pandering to them. If your resume is stuffed full of things that you think make you “look good,” med schools will see through that.
Ask yourself what trait you’d like from your own doctor. I feel the best when my doctor is passionate about life, and passionate enough about medicine to want me to be part of the process. I love it when my doctor gets excited along with me when a treatment works!
Myth: Non-traditional students are at a disadvantage.
Fact: The average age of enrolled med students has been rising. Med schools realize that an older student has more life experience and greater ability to cope with the challenges and adversity of med school. Just because you’ve been around the block a few times, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pursue your dreams.
Don’t let these myths hold you back from your dreams. Go for it!
Bonus! Three Medical School Admissions Assumptions that Can Screw You Over
Like so many things in life, medical school admissions is filled with assumptions and myths that are 1) surprising, 2) not true, and, if you rely on them, 3) can get you into a heap of trouble. Here are three little-known medical school admissions assumptions. All of these have to do with the MCAT.
Assumption #1: You have to have your MCAT scores before you can apply.
Wrong. Your primary application is independent of your MCAT scores, so you can submit your primary application as soon as it is ready. However, you need to have both the primary application and the MCAT score to the medical school admissions office in order for your application to be considered. (You’ll need other documents, too.)
Assumption #2: It’s a good idea to take the MCAT regardless of your practice scores, just to get the experience.
Wrong. Too many students make this mistake. I would never recommend you take the MCAT just to practice. It’s much better to take free practice tests at home, instead. Further, if your scores on practice tests are in the mid-20s, it’s highly unlikely your MCAT score will jump into the low 30s in just a few days.
Assumption #3: The MCAT is the most important part of the application.
Not so. Medical schools will evaluate your entire application. Like the parts to a car’s engine, all of the pieces are intricately connected; you engine won’t start without the battery, but that doesn’t make it the most important part of the engine.