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Hey guys, was hoping for some input on what were the best schools to aim for with my stats. So far, the major aspects of my application are:

GPA: 3.8
MCAT: 520
Research Experience: 4 years of significantly independent project work in two labs
Publications: Currently 4, will have atleast 6 by time of application (including two Nature papers) -- multiple poster presentations as well
Shadowing: Completed ~100 hrs in various specialities (anesthesiology, OR, orthopedic, etc.)
Volunteer Experience: 4 years working at local children's hospital as a case-worker for patients' families to aid with a broad spectrum of socioeconomic needs to improve long-term health outcomes
Clinical Experience: Worked at the ER department of a hospital for 3.5 years to aid nurses/doctors in providing care
Other Activities: 3 years of tutoring, 3 years as editor/writer peer scientific research magazine, created resources/curriculum to introduce basic health education to underprivileged and disadvantaged kids

Potential Red Flags: Asian, California resident, took the MCAT a couple of times (lower score of 32 the first time) no significant awards/scholarships

I would really appreciate your opinion on what schools are within reach based on my resume!
 
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Lawper

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Strong application. For the most part, medical schools will accept the most recent/highest score, so the upward swing from a 32 to a 520/37-38 will help a lot. For schools that average (which are few), you'll be applying with a 35 MCAT, which in itself is a strong score.

Good ECs and strong research experience. Being Asian from CA may slightly hurt, but nothing beats having two Nature papers. Apply wherever you want.
 
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Another one of those resumes that makes the less or even slightly less stellar majority depressed! Just skip med school and apply directly to residencies!
 
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Goro

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Even with the MCAT retakes, you're golden. Let's see YOUR list!

We know you're going to start with the UCs, Stanford and Keck. Just go ahead.



Hey guys, was hoping for some input on what were the best schools to aim for with my stats. So far, the major aspects of my application are:

GPA: 3.8
MCAT: 520
Research Experience: 4 years of significantly independent project work in two labs
Publications: Currently 4, will have atleast 6 by time of application (including two Nature papers) -- multiple poster presentations as well
Shadowing: Completed ~100 hrs in various specialities (anesthesiology, OR, orthopedic, etc.)
Volunteer Experience: 4 years working at local children's hospital as a case-worker for patients' families to aid with a broad spectrum of socioeconomic needs to improve long-term health outcomes
Clinical Experience: Worked at the ER department of a hospital for 3.5 years to aid nurses/doctors in providing care
Other Activities: 3 years of tutoring, 3 years as editor/writer peer scientific research magazine, created resources/curriculum to introduce basic health education to underprivileged and disadvantaged kids

Potential Red Flags: Asian, California resident, took the MCAT a couple of times (lower score of 32 the first time) no significant awards/scholarships

I would really appreciate your opinion on what schools are within reach based on my resume!
 

GrapesofRath

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There's no school which is out of reach.

Cover your bases with lower tiers and fill out the rest of your list to your discretion. Unfortunately the schools that do average multiple mcat attempts of weigh both to near equal significance won't really tell you that openly( ie if you call them don't expect them to say we average multiple mcats) but your in strong enough shape that shouldn't matter much for you
 
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Not to rehash this yet again, but maybe I will get it this time @gyngyn @Goro....

How is it advantageous for med schools and adcoms to average MCAT scores? How is that in their interest? And, if they say they do not average, what would in it for them by averaging them (or diluting the higher score at all) when they explicitly say they do not do that?

I agree that the OP here has no real worries in this regard as the research, volunteering and clinical experience are off the chart.
 
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gyngyn

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Not to rehash this yet again, but maybe I will get it this time @gyngyn @ Goro....

How is it advantageous for med schools and adcoms to average MCAT scores? How is that in their interest? And, if they say they do not average, what would in it for them by averaging them (or diluting the higher score at all) when they explicitly say they do not do that?

I agree that the OP here has no real worries in this regard as the research, volunteering and clinical experience are off the chart.
We are following the advice of the developers of the exam.
The AAMC has advised us that based on the evidence they have gleaned from re-takers, averaging will give us the best estimate of academic prowess. Now that there is a new test, they recommend using the new test where applicable. This is an example of the studies upon which they made this conclusion: http://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/Abstract/1985/12000/Predictive_validity_of_the_MCAT_for_students_with.2.aspx
 
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We are following the advice of the developers of the exam.
The AAMC has advised us that based on the evidence they have gleaned from re-takers, averaging will give us the best estimate of academic prowess. Now that there is a new test, they recommend using the new test where applicable.
Is that in their written materials? And what about schools saying they take the highest score but doing something else? Why would they do that? And why would most schools say they take the highest score if AAMC is advising them to do otherwise?
 

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Is that in their written materials? And what about schools saying they take the highest score but doing something else? Why would they do that? And why would most schools say they take the highest score if AAMC is advising them to do otherwise?
It has been a frequent component of their advice to admissions officers.
I will freely admit that it is impossible to predict how individual evaluators will interpret multiple scores (in spite of recommendations).
Any school that wishes to expand their applicant pool would give the impression that the score that puts an applicant in the best light is the one they will use.
 
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It has been a frequent component of their advice to admissions officers.
I will freely admit that it is impossible to predict how individual evaluators will interpret multiple scores.
Any school that wishes to expand their applicant pool would give the impression that the score that puts an applicant in the best light is the one they will use.
And what would you do (and what do you think most other adcoms would do) if you love everything about an applicant except for when you average their scores and have the option to simply consider the higher one? In other words, if you really want the applicant would you be inclined to just accept the higher score because doing so will put the applicant at or close to the median? Or, conversely, would you reject on that basis?
 

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We are following the advice of the developers of the exam.
The AAMC has advised us that based on the evidence they have gleaned from re-takers, averaging will give us the best estimate of academic prowess. Now that there is a new test, they recommend using the new test where applicable. This is an example of the studies upon which they made this conclusion: http://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/Abstract/1985/12000/Predictive_validity_of_the_MCAT_for_students_with.2.aspx
To play devil's advocate doesn't the AAMC also now for this new test recommend using it as a "threshold" test where scores shouldn't be used to evaluate applicants and discriminate them past a certain point? For example I don't think the AAMC for this new test and what they have said about it condone schools viewing applicants with 515's differently from those with 522's and yet we all know schools will look at them differently. So can't you see an argument from some where this is simply school's cherry picking what they want to listen to from the AAMC even though statistics clearly show past a certain point the MCAT does not correlate with success in medical school? Again I don't necessarily agree with what I said but I do think artificially playing devil's advocate here does provide some perspective worth at least mentioning.
 
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gyngyn

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And what would you do (and what do you think most other adcoms would do) if you love everything about an applicant except for when you average their scores and have the option to simply consider the higher one? In other words, if you really want the applicant would you be inclined to just accept the higher score because doing so will put the applicant at or close to the median? Or, conversely, would you reject on that basis?
If I really want the applicant, any MCAT in a acceptable range is acceptable.
 

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To play devil's advocate doesn't the AAMC also now for this new test recommend using it as a "threshold" test where scores shouldn't be used to evaluate applicants and discriminate them past a certain point? For example I don't think the AAMC for this new test and what they have said about it condone schools viewing applicants with 515's differently from those with 522's and yet we all know schools will look at them differently. So can't you see an argument from some where this is simply school's cherry picking what they want to listen to from the AAMC even though statistics clearly show past a certain point the MCAT does not correlate with success in medical school? Again I don't necessarily agree with what I said but I do think artificially playing devil's advocate here does provide some perspective worth at least mentioning.
Yes. They also advise us to triangulate data from the applicant pool to identify those who are likely to succeed at our school. I have the greatest respect for schools that can take kids with a 22 MCAT and get them to a point where the they can compete for a residency position.
 
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1985? And at Jefferson, one of the few schools I've seen that states they average? And based on that abstract, it sounds like they are suggesting the first or lower score is more "valid" than the higher score? So basically the low scorer faces the daunting task of needing the re-take to be twice as high as what they might target as reasonable for them in order to move the needle accordingly. Pretty harsh.
 

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Yes. They also advise us to triangulate data from the applicant pool to identify those who are likely to succeed at our school. I have the greatest respect for schools that can take kids with a 22 MCAT and get them to a point where the they can compete for a residency position.
Well now you are bringing in something else to the equation. If you want to go outside of what the AAMC recommends that is fine to choose the best applicants. But then why use what the AAMC recommends as justification for why your school average multiple MCATs because clearly schools don't follow all that the AAMC recommends?

I guess the key question out of all of this is if the AAMC did not recommend schools average multiple MCATs that your school and many others would do it? Because there is enough evidence to show that both people with 515 MCATs and 522 MCATs can be quite successful in medical school and yet those two scores are clearly not looked at the same?
 

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Well now you are bringing in something else to the equation. If you want to go outside of what the AAMC recommends that is fine to choose the best applicants. But then why use what the AAMC recommends as justification for why your school average multiple MCATs because clearly schools don't follow all that the AAMC recommends?

I guess the key question out of all of this is if the AAMC did not recommend schools average multiple MCATs that your school and many others would do it? Because there is enough evidence to show that both people with 515 MCATs and 522 MCATs can be quite successful in medical school and yet those two scores are clearly not looked at the same?
What should we tell all the folks who call us asking about how their (many) scores are viewed?
Should we give them a general rule based on recommendations from the developers or just say it's idiosyncratic?
We frankly don't give a hoot about the difference between a 523 and anything higher (or a 490 and anything lower).
Differences in the middle are included in the soup of evaluation which frankly includes the judgement issues associated with multiple re-takes...
 
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We are following the advice of the developers of the exam.
The AAMC has advised us that based on the evidence they have gleaned from re-takers, averaging will give us the best estimate of academic prowess. Now that there is a new test, they recommend using the new test where applicable. This is an example of the studies upon which they made this conclusion: http://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/Abstract/1985/12000/Predictive_validity_of_the_MCAT_for_students_with.2.aspx
So for different test formats, the AAMC recommendation is to use the new test, whereas for all attempts of the same test, the AAMC recommendation is to average all scores. Sounds like a reasonable suggestion considering for the former, the two exams are different, while for the latter, the value of taking the most recent/highest score (or even superscoring) diminishes rapidly after 2-3 attempts.

Alas, it's up to the school discretion in the end, since all scores are permanent. But there is always a story to tell in cases pertaining to massive upward MCAT swings (especially done within a sufficiently large time gap).
 
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So for different test formats, the AAMC recommendation is to use the new test, whereas for all attempts of the same test, the AAMC recommendation is to average all scores. Sounds like a reasonable suggestion considering for the former, the two exams are different, while for the latter, the value of taking the most recent/highest score (or even superscoring) diminishes rapidly after 2-3 attempts.

Alas, it's up to the school discretion in the end, since all scores are permanent. But there is always a story to tell in cases pertaining to massive upward MCAT swings (especially done within a sufficiently large time gap).
This is the most important point. The story isn't always pretty, though.
 

gyngyn

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1985? And at Jefferson, one of the few schools I've seen that states they average? And based on that abstract, it sounds like they are suggesting the first or lower score is more "valid" than the higher score? So basically the low scorer faces the daunting task of needing the re-take to be twice as high as what they might target as reasonable for them in order to move the needle accordingly. Pretty harsh.
Not really. The Jefferson faculty is among the kindest and most generous of teaching faculty I've met (and at least they are being up-front about their policy).
It would be good advice not to take the MCAT until one is entirely sure that they will hit a score consistent with success, though.

I've seen at least as many faculty who use the lower score for comparison (especially for screening)!
 
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What would tell all the folks who call us asking about how their (many) scores are viewed?
Should we give them a general rule based on recommendations from the developers or just say it's idiosyncratic?
We frankly don't give a hoot about the difference between a 523 and anything higher (or a 490 and anything lower).
Differences in the middle are included in the soup of evaluation which frankly includes the judgement issues associated with multiple re-takes...
Seems to me a re-take can be an indication of very good judgment OR poor judgment. And perhaps those who do well the first time are given too much judgment credit. For many of those I'm sure they had absolutely no way of being sure whether they would have to consider a re-take before the first attempt.
 

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What would tell all the folks who call us asking about how their (many) scores are viewed?
Should we give them a general rule based on recommendations from the developers or just say it's idiosyncratic?
We frankly don't give a hoot about the difference between a 523 and anything higher (or a 490 and anything lower).
Differences in the middle are included in the soup of evaluation which frankly includes the judgement issues associated with multiple re-takes...
Let's forget this discussion for a second because I made it hard to find the question I really wanted to ask amidst the mini rant I just had

Do you think the number of schools that average multiple MCATs have been significantly influenced by the study the AAMC released where they said your performance in medical school is best predicted by averaging multiple MCATs? This is an impossible question to answer but do you think schools that average multiple MCATs would look at things differently(maybe even significantly differently) had it not been for that study? Maybe an easier question to answer is have you noticed an uptick in the number of schools that average multiple MCATs in the past 5 years since that study came out by the AAMC?
 
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Not really. The Jefferson faculty is among the kindest and most generous of teaching faculty I've met.
It would be good advice not to take the MCAT until one is entirely sure that they will hit a score consistent with success, though.

I've seen at least as many faculty who use the lower score for comparison (especially for screening)!
Didn't mean the Jefferson faculty specifically. Meant the averaging and an applicant having to score twice as high on the second attempt to register the same effect.
 

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Seems to me a re-take can be an indication of very good judgment OR poor judgment. And perhaps those who do well the first time are given too much judgment credit. For many of those I'm sure they had absolutely no way of being sure whether they would have to consider a re-take before the first attempt.
We have the liberty of making any reasonable conclusion.
This is why I recommend a single strong score as the best strategy.
 
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So for different test formats, the AAMC recommendation is to use the new test, whereas for all attempts of the same test, the AAMC recommendation is to average all scores. Sounds like a reasonable suggestion considering for the former, the two exams are different, while for the latter, the value of taking the most recent/highest score (or even superscoring) diminishes rapidly after 2-3 attempts.

Alas, it's up to the school discretion in the end, since all scores are permanent. But there is always a story to tell in cases pertaining to massive upward MCAT swings (especially done within a sufficiently large time gap).
But what about a single re-take with increase in performance within 6 weeks to 2-3 months of the first one?
 
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We have the liberty of making any reasonable conclusion.
This is why recommend a single strong score as the best strategy.
Of course, that's obvious. But I'm just not convinced a high scorer on round 1 exhibited clearly better judgment. They did score well, so obvious credit there, but I think there is a lot of assuming going on the suggest that this was judgment-related.
 

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But what about a single re-take with increase in performance within 6 weeks to 2-3 months of the first one?
Because the retake was taken shortly after the first exam, the recommended policy would be to average the two scores. Of course, if the score went from a 30 to a 39 (as an example), many schools would favor the 39 but they would be interested to know more about what led to the 30 in the first attempt.
 
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Of course, that's obvious. But I'm just not convinced a high scorer on round 1 exhibited clearly better judgment. They did score well, so obvious credit there, but I think there is a lot of assuming going on the suggest that this was judgment-related.
We get lots of opportunity to evaluate judgement regarding re-takes that has less to do with scores than behavior.
The common ones: Someone who re-takes an unexpired score in the 97th percentile, re-taking before the first score is available, taking the test more than twice, re-taking a good score when the application deficiency is in a completely different area...
 
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Because the retake was taken shortly after the first exam, the recommended policy would be to average the two scores. Of course, if the score went from a 30 to a 39 (as an example), many schools would favor the 39 but they would be interested to know more about what led to the 30 in the first attempt.
Oh, so are you saying a longer gap is considered more generously? I thought the interest was more about innate ability vs what you can do if you study non-stop for another 12-18 months? So it is more about the judgment even no one can know for sure what they will need to do until he or she actually takes it. I thought you were going to say a single, more recent re-take would be treated more generously.
 
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We get lots of opportunity to evaluate judgement regarding re-takes that has less to do with scores than behavior.
The common ones: Someone who re-takes an unexpired score in the 97th percentile, re-taking before the first score is available, taking the test more than twice, re-taking a good score when the application deficiency is in a completely different area...
Now THIS^^^^ strikes me as more fair. And in cases where you determined the judgment was OK would you then be less inclined to average?
 

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Now THIS^^^^ strikes me as more fair. And in cases where you determined the judgment was OK would you then be less inclined to average?
Once the candidate has opened the door to speculation, he loses the ability to predict how his scores will be interpreted.

I view the scores (and the rest of the application) as a story that either paints a picture of someone I am interested in or not.
 

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Oh, so are you saying a longer gap is considered more generously? I thought the interest was more about innate ability vs what you can do if you study non-stop for another 12-18 months? So it is more about the judgment even no one can know for sure what they will need to do until he or she actually takes it. I thought you were going to say a single, more recent re-take would be treated more generously.
Most recent score, as in the score of the second/last attempt, not in the time frame taken. I use most recent/most highest interchangeably though since I assume the second/last score is the highest (doing worse on the retake is a massive red flag). Of course, I could be wrong, and that many medical schools may in fact weigh the new score more heavily than the old even when the improvement was <3 points.

From what I have seen in many applicants in the school-specific discussion forums, they took the MCAT initially (or even twice!), did poorly, waited out for a couple of years, took the MCAT the third time and crushed it. Apparently, the time gap was sufficiently large enough for schools with sizable MCAT medians to weigh the last attempt heavily enough to accept them in the end.

Generally, a one-year gap is good enough for schools to weigh in the recent attempt more heavily than the prior attempts, even though all scores are visible. But a significant improvement in a short amount of time also favors the recent/higher score quite significantly for reasons you mentioned, but it also raises questions on what went wrong in the first attempt.

Studying for 12-18 months is unfeasible anyways ;)
 
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Once the candidate has opened the door to speculation, he loses the ability to predict how his scores will be interpreted.

I view the scores (and the rest of the application) as a story that either paints a picture of someone I am interested in or not.
Fair enough. Would it be fair to say that you tend to average as a rule of thumb but that you reserve the right not to do so?
 

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Fair enough. Would it be fair to say that you tend to average as a rule of thumb but that you reserve the right not to do so?
As in the practice of medicine, we use evidence where it exists and use experience and judgement where evidence is sparse or unclear.
 
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Do you think the number of schools that average multiple MCATs have been significantly influenced by the study the AAMC released where they said your performance in medical school is best predicted by averaging multiple MCATs? This is an impossible question to answer but do you think schools that average multiple MCATs would look at things differently(maybe even significantly differently) had it not been for that study? Maybe an easier question to answer is have you noticed an uptick in the number of schools that average multiple MCATs in the past 5 years since that study came out by the AAMC?
Schools that aspire to evidence-based evaluation are more likely to state that they average.
I frankly do not believe that a single methodology exists in any school, despite their party line.
 

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Schools that aspire to evidence-based evaluation are more likely to state that they average.
I frankly do not believe that a single methodology exists in any school, despite their party line.
Interestingly in all my time looking into this I've only found 2-3 schools that have openly stated either to me when I called them or in general meetings to the public or anything like that that they openly average multiple MCATs.

But yes I would agree and be thankful that schools don't employ any single methodology. Ultimately what it all means is even for schools that average multiple MCATs just because a 24 and 34 average out to a 29 doesn't mean that gets looked at the same way as a 29 in a single sitting.
 
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Thanks for the feedback everyone! (@Lawper @Nietzschelover @Goro @GrapesofRath @gyngyn @ZhaoMD) I was especially worried about the MCAT score after retaking, but I guess I have to hope that they weigh the second score more heavily!

As of now, the preliminary list I have developed includes in no particular order:
Stanford
UCSF
UCLA
UCSD
USC
Northwestern
U Chicago
John Hopkins
Wash U St. Louis
Duke
Columbia
Mt. Sinai

However, I feel that these are all leaning toward reach schools. I am having difficult deciding on what safety schools to apply because I don't want them to reject me off the bat if they mistakenly assume that I would never go there because of my stats.

@ZhaoMD: No, I was not first author for either of those two papers.
 
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GrapesofRath

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Thanks for the feedback everyone! (@Lawper @Nietzschelover @Goro @GrapesofRath @gyngyn @ZhaoMD) I was especially worried about the MCAT score after retaking, but I guess I have to hope that they weigh the second score more heavily!

As of now, the preliminary list I have developed includes in no particular order:
Stanford
UCSF
UCLA
UCSD
USC
Northwestern
U Chicago
John Hopkins
Wash U St. Louis
Duke
Columbia
Mt. Sinai

However, I feel that these are all leaning toward reach schools. I am having difficult deciding on what safety schools to apply because I don't want them to reject me off the bat if they mistakenly assume that I would never go there because of my stats.

@ZhaoMD: No, I was not first author for either of those two papers.

All of those schools can be within striking distance.

Also btw where did you do your undergrad?

For safety type schools like at the 90th percentiles of school's MCATs. Be cognizant of the ones you'll be above the 90th percentile as those are definitely the ones you are less likely to get interviewed at. A 520 which is 37 equivalent isn't necessarily a 40+ type score that really has to be very careful about getting screened out at a number of places but still keep those stats in mind as you are above the 90th percentile at a number of lower tiers. Schools like GW, Drexel and Rosalind probably aren't a great use of an application. Here are some reasonable lower and medium tier types to complement your big names that might be worth consideration.

Tulane
Hofstra
Tufts
U of Arizona(both)
Miami
Saint Louis
Jefferson
Cincinnati
Wake Forest
Emory
Boston U
Einstein
Stony Brook
Rochester
Case Western

I'd also give consideration to public schools that show IS preference. Big stat apps with all kinds of accomplishments like you have are the ones they look for. Ohio State and UVA are definitely worth consideration. Perhaps Wisconsin, Colorado and Iowa as well, maybe even schools like Illinois, Maryland and UNC(although now you really are venturing towards schools where it is very difficult to get into OOS).
 
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All of those schools can be within striking distance.

Also btw where did you do your undergrad?

For safety type schools like at the 90th percentiles of school's MCATs. Be cognizant of the ones you'll be above the 90th percentile as those are definitely the ones you are less likely to get interviewed at. Here are some reasonable lower and medium tier types to complement your big names that might be worth consideration.

Tulane
Hofstra
Tufts
U of Arizona(both)
Miami
Saint Louis
Cincinnati
Wake Forest
Emory
Boston U
Einstein
Stony Brook
Rochester
Case Western

I'd also give consideration to public schools that show IS preference. Big stat apps with all kinds of accomplishments like you have are the ones they look for. Ohio State and UVA are definitely worth consideration. Perhaps Wisconsin, Colorado and Iowa as well, maybe even schools like Illinois, Maryland and UNC(although now you really are venturing towards schools where it is very difficult to get into OOS).
Thanks for the quick response! I did my undergrad at UC Berkeley. I will definitely look into these schools!
 

Goro

7+ Year Member
Jun 10, 2010
53,593
78,802
Somewhere west of St. Louis
Status
Non-Student
Suggest adding/considering:

UCD
UCR (IF you're from the Inland Empire)
BU
Hofstra
Einstein and ALL other NYC schools
SUNY SB
Tulane
Miami
Emory
U AZ
Pitt
Vandy
Loyola
Rochester


As of now, the preliminary list I have developed includes in no particular order:
Stanford
UCSF
UCLA
UCSD
USC
Northwestern
U Chicago
John Hopkins
Wash U St. Louis
Duke
Columbia
Mt. Sinai

However, I feel that these are all leaning toward reach schools. I am having difficult deciding on what safety schools to apply because I don't want them to reject me off the bat if they mistakenly assume that I would never go there because of my stats.

@ZhaoMD: No, I was not first author for either of those two papers.
 
OP
S
Sep 25, 2012
4
1
Status
Suggest adding/considering:

UCD
UCR (IF you're from the Inland Empire)
BU
Hofstra
Einstein and ALL other NYC schools
SUNY SB
Tulane
Miami
Emory
U AZ
Pitt
Vandy
Loyola
Rochester
Thanks @Goro! Will definitely check those out.