WeAreNotRobots

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Although grades/MCAT are very important, we all have heard of people who have been accepted to MD schools with lower-than-average stats. So, my question is this: what did these people do to get accepted? Stellar letters, unusual personal situation, and amazing EC's most likely, but I would like to hear about some specific examples. What EXACTLY would cause the ADCOM to choose the person with a below-average academic record over the plenty of others with an above-average one?

(I hope this conversation will provide some insight into what makes applicants stand out, and inspire people who may be discouraged due a blemish or two in their numbers.)

Note:
average GPA applicant/matriculant (2008): 3.50/3.66
average MCAT applicant/matriculant (2008): 9,9,10,P/10,10,11,P

...so basically, I want to hear about that guy you know who got in with like a 3.3 and a 27.
 

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URM, letters, disadvantaged, crazy ec's, amazing interview, IS at a statey, daddy's the dean, mommy can pay 4 years of tuition in one check, blah de blah.
 
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armybound

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My undergrad GPA was a 3.3. I had over 20 hours of Cs. My freshman year GPA was slightly above a 2.5

I applied 3 times.
I was unsuccessful with a 3.3/31 with few ECs other than a really goodwork experience as an EMT in an ICU the first time I applied.
I applied again with a 3.3/31 and a year of graduate school experience at 4.0 and a little bit of research. Got more interviews, but still unsuccessful.

When it finally worked out, several things had changed, but most importantly, I think I was able to sell myself. I changed my application to really sell the highlights of what I've done and who I am, instead of mundanely listing experiences without showing how important or unique they were. I did a few more ECs, just basic volunteering, and finished my Master's degree. I got new LORs, which were much more flattering, and a new MCAT (33), though I don't think the MCAT was the difference maker. I also got a job which is somewhat unique and completely relevant, and spent a lot of time discussing how my skills in my job would be useful as medicine heads towards more electronic medical records/order entry.

So in short, I got a few more experiences, but really sold myself.
 

flip26

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To really get anything of value out of the AAMC stats for yourself, you need to look at the subset you belong in...if you are a URM, then those averages and medians will matter more to you than the aggregate data...same thing with other races...

Then, consider your state of residence. What are the acceptance stats like at your state school? If you live in, say, Louisiana, they are quite a bit lower than what is required in neighboring Texas...not to mention what the poor slobs in California face in terms of instate competition...

Thus, racial identity and state residency explain a lot of the downside variability on MCAT and GPA...there are other factors, of course, but if you are trying to understand how applicants with below average MCAT and GPA get admitted, look at the data subsets and consider the differences in competition between states.
 
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dally1025

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there are tons of threads on this topic...

i've got a sub-par gpa and was accepted to 2 schools (1 IS, 1 OS). my gpa is 3.29 cum and 3.1 sci. i had tons of extracurriculars (founder and leader of campus organization that planned several medical outreach trips, interned with a pediatrician and orthopedist, tons of community service and volunteering). my mcat wasn't exceptional. the first i scored a 28 (10 BS, 7 PS, 11 VR) and the second time 31 (9 BS, 12 PS, 10 VR). my interviews went really well. after i was waitlisted last cycle at the OOS school i spoke with the dean of admissions and he said that my interviewers were very impressed and that's why i was one of the few OOS that was waitlisted and ultimately accepted.

if you're sub-par you may not be accepted the first round but if you make improvements to your app before the next round and show you're dedicated you'll eventually be accepted. it took me a couple of rounds but it happened because i didn't give up. the biggest word of advice if you are waitlisted-always call the dean of admissions and ask why and what you can do to improve your app. it isn't an easy road but it can be done!
 

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Accepted to Jefferson and received 2 other MD interview invitations with a 3.66 (bcpm 3.51) and 25 P on the MCAT. I had excellent letters from community leaders and professors who really knew me well. I think maturity was important. ECs were also important. Check out my mdapps. I am the youngest emergency management director in the commonwealth of PA. I'm basically responsible for preparing my community for disasters, responding to disasters (which I have), and evacuating everyone if necessary. I'm also an EMT, and I've worked for a doctor's office as a driver for 4 years.
 

amakhosidlo

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So, my question is this: what did these people do to get accepted?
The URM/privileged/connected thing goes without saying, but I think it's pretty safe to say that most of the people that don't fall under those categories all have one thing in common: They didn't do anything to get accepted. They pursue actual interests that demonstrate passion and lead to standout experiences/leadership positions, which in turn give them mountains of interview fodder/speaking points. Interview skills and personality obviously play a role too, but I think that in the case of outliers, what gets them through the door is an X-factor that make them stand out as unique and genuine.
 

BlackDr2b

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URM, letters, disadvantaged, crazy ec's, amazing interview, IS at a statey, daddy's the dean, mommy can pay 4 years of tuition in one check, blah de blah.
:laugh:
 

Law2Doc

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... I think it's pretty safe to say that most of the people that don't fall under those categories all have one thing in common: They didn't do anything to get accepted. They pursue actual interests that demonstrate passion and lead to standout experiences/leadership positions, which in turn give them mountains of interview fodder/speaking points. Interview skills and personality obviously play a role too, but I think that in the case of outliers, what gets them through the door is an X-factor that make them stand out as unique and genuine.
I agree with this "X-factor" notion (but not the downplaying of interview skills/personality). This is not purely a numbers game and there are tons of different "hooks" folks have had that get them into the interview stage. And once they get to that interview, the interview skills and ability to sell themselves gets them the rest of the way to the prize. Numbers keep you from getting screened out, often get you interviewed. But med schools don't fill their classes with numbers. They have to select individuals from that group that survived the various objective cuts.

A lot of folks on SDN hate the idea that this isn't a process of simple objectivity -- that the schools don't simply draft them from top down based on MCAT and GPA, and that the best stats don't always get acceptances from the best schools and so on. But in fact this is not an objective system, it's more often a very subjective system after a series of objective cuts. Meaning a school often selects for interviews based on numbers and things of interest in the application, but then factors like "good fit" and impressions at the interview tend to dictate the final selection. So you often hear about folks with amazing numbers who end up with a ton of waitlists, and folks who were lucky to get interviews who actually do quite well in the process. So having a "hook", a good personality, and interview skills probably beats out a couple of extra points on the MCAT any day. That's the process, and most think it works pretty well.

But, as the above poster suggests, it doesn't serve you well to try to be what adcoms want. You either are what they want already, or aren't. But being interested in and passionate about something interesting that you can talk about with some animation more often than not is regarded as a positive. Makes you more interesting, a more complete human being, and thus more often a "good fit" for the program. The dude with the high stats who is just going through the motions at the interview but lacks a fire in his belly about anything extra-curricular beyond the usual 500 hours of volunteering, etc isn't going to light up the score board in the same way.
 

WeAreNotRobots

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I agree with this "X-factor" notion ...

A lot of folks on SDN hate the idea that this isn't a process of simple objectivity -- that the schools don't simply draft them from top down based on MCAT and GPA, and that the best stats don't always get acceptances from the best schools and so on.
sure, i think we all know it's not purely numbers that get you in; it's also not just "high numbers, volunteering, research, clinical" either. the "x factor" is what determines who gets picked out of ALL the highly qualified applicants who have achieved these.

but i want to know about SPECIFIC occasions in which the LOW numbers did not hold someone back (thanks armybound, dally, and han).

amakhosidlo, and anyone else: how does your X-factor/notable experiences get you in the door when the first screens that take place are based on numbers? when does someone first read your PS?
 

HeatherMD

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My undergrad GPA was a 3.3. I had over 20 hours of Cs. My freshman year GPA was slightly above a 2.5

I applied 3 times.
I was unsuccessful with a 3.3/31 with few ECs other than a really goodwork experience as an EMT in an ICU the first time I applied.
I applied again with a 3.3/31 and a year of graduate school experience at 4.0 and a little bit of research. Got more interviews, but still unsuccessful.

When it finally worked out, several things had changed, but most importantly, I think I was able to sell myself. I changed my application to really sell the highlights of what I've done and who I am, instead of mundanely listing experiences without showing how important or unique they were. I did a few more ECs, just basic volunteering, and finished my Master's degree. I got new LORs, which were much more flattering, and a new MCAT (33), though I don't think the MCAT was the difference maker. I also got a job which is somewhat unique and completely relevant, and spent a lot of time discussing how my skills in my job would be useful as medicine heads towards more electronic medical records/order entry.

So in short, I got a few more experiences, but really sold myself.
You are so my hero lol. I feel like my experience is going to play out much like yours. It's reassuring to see that you can get in if you try hard & often enough!
 
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slowbutsteady

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I agree that med schools can smell a mile away a person who "did things to enhance their app" versus those who "did things that they wanted to do."

It is very unattractive to look like you are trying too hard to do the right things or check the right boxes.
 
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deleted74029

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I don't think there was anything wrong with him citing URM as contributing factor for acceptance. It'd be pretty ignorant of us to pretend that adcoms don't try to have diverse classes, which sometimes results in people (URM or any other factor that sets them apart) with stats lower than the average being admitted.
 

BlackDr2b

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I don't think there was anything wrong with him citing URM as contributing factor for acceptance. It'd be pretty ignorant of us to pretend that adcoms don't try to have diverse classes, which sometimes results in people (URM or any other factor that sets them apart) with stats lower than the average being admitted.
I just thought it was funny because it was the first thing. That's all. Definitely not trying to start that discussion.
 

WeAreNotRobots

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It is very unattractive to look like you are trying too hard to do the right things or check the right boxes.
1. how is "padding your app" any different from "selling yourself"?
2. how do you successfully sell yourself (in a classical sense in your PS, letters, interview) when your academic record is a liability?
 

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I don't think there was anything wrong with him citing URM as contributing factor for acceptance. It'd be pretty ignorant of us to pretend that adcoms don't try to have diverse classes, which sometimes results in people (URM or any other factor that sets them apart) with stats lower than the average being admitted.


Some schools take this even one step farther. My school actually sets aside two "minority" students from our class for each applicant luncheon, in addition to four other students. You know, kinda like the requisite Asian/Black/Indian people featured on most college catalogues.
 

BlackDr2b

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Some schools take this even one step farther. My school actually sets aside two "minority" students from our class for each applicant luncheon, in addition to four other students. You know, kinda like the requisite Asian/Black/Indian people featured on most college catalogues.
I have heard of schools doing this. I know one school in particular has the people from the diversity office have their own time with the minority applicants.
 
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deleted74029

Some schools take this even one step farther. My school actually sets aside two "minority" students from our class for each applicant luncheon, in addition to four other students. You know, kinda like the requisite Asian/Black/Indian people featured on most college catalogues.
I know exactly what you mean, I go to a pretty white undergrad and I get plastered all over everything as the token black guy. Gets kind of annoying sometimes. Saw this episode of scrubs recently and its exactly the kind of treatment you get when you're "that black guy."

[YOUTUBE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qDnIHhiB6o[/YOUTUBE]
 

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I just thought it was funny because it was the first thing. That's all. Definitely not trying to start that discussion.
just a random list.

i'm a girl.
 

BlackDr2b

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I know exactly what you mean, I go to a pretty white undergrad and I get plastered all over everything as the token black guy. Gets kind of annoying sometimes. Saw this episode of scrubs recently and its exactly the kind of treatment you get when you're "that black guy."

[YOUTUBE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qDnIHhiB6o[/YOUTUBE]
This is one of the main reasons that I want to go to a HBCU for medical school. I am tired of being one of two or three or the only. It gets real old.
 

BlackDr2b

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just a random list.

i'm a girl.
Sorry ma'am! No, it really wasn't like that. I'm not the type to be sensitive over that or start something silly. Hope I didn't bother you! If so I apologize.
 
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deleted74029

This is one of the main reasons that I want to go to a HBCU for medical school. I am tired of being one of two or three or the only. It gets real old.
Everyone else in my family attended an HBCU for undergrad, but I always felt that HBCUs just weren't my cup of tea. I didn't apply to any this year but if things don't work out this cycle I may add some next year. But I would honestly probably pick another school if it came down to a traditional school vs an HBCU.

Edit: sorry for further derailing this thread. :oops:
 

ChemEngMD

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I know exactly what you mean, I go to a pretty white undergrad and I get plastered all over everything as the token black guy. Gets kind of annoying sometimes. Saw this episode of scrubs recently and its exactly the kind of treatment you get when you're "that black guy."

[youtube]9qDnIHhiB6o[/youtube]

How come I never see you in the URM forum? Too good for us? :laugh:
 

BlackDr2b

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Lol I've made a couple of posts over there, just not much traffic so I don't visit it often.
That's why you gotta come over there so we can have some more traffic
 

armybound

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1. how is "padding your app" any different from "selling yourself"?
2. how do you successfully sell yourself (in a classical sense in your PS, letters, interview) when your academic record is a liability?
Padding your app and selling yourself are completely different. Getting random, useless experiences just so you can say you have them don't contribute anything.
Being able to speak about useful qualities or experiences and why you're a better person for them is selling yourself. Talk about your experiences as a leader, but not simply by saying "I was an officer in my pre-med club." Talk about your determination to stay in the fight instead of blaming your poor grades on whatever you feel like. Making an effort to overcome a poor academic history shows perseverence.
 
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deleted74029

Padding your app and selling yourself are completely different. Getting random, useless experiences just so you can say you have them don't contribute anything.
Being able to speak about useful qualities or experiences and why you're a better person for them is selling yourself. Talk about your experiences as a leader, but not simply by saying "I was an officer in my pre-med club." Talk about your determination to stay in the fight instead of blaming your poor grades on whatever you feel like. Making an effort to overcome a poor academic history shows perseverence.
In one of my interviews my interviewers were much more interested in the activities I participated in that were not medically related. I think if you have an app full of hospital volunteering and pre-med club positions it looks much more like you were just trying to pad your application versus having an app with an array of different activities.
 

armybound

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In one of my interviews my interviewers were much more interested in the activities I participated in that were not medically related. I think if you have an app full of hospital volunteering and pre-med club positions it looks much more like you were just trying to pad your application versus having an app with an array of different activities.
people are naturally interested in activities that aren't cookie-cutter. I'm sure adcomms have learned by now that shuffling papers in the ED 2 hours a week isn't a really meaningful volunteer experience for pre-meds, but many do it because they want to be able to list that they were a volunteer.

I think people get too narrow-minded about life as pre-meds. They only can do things that positively affect their chances at getting into med school instead of just living life and understanding that applying to med school goes along with it. Like you, my best conversation pieces in interviews were about topics that I willingly went into not to improve my application, but because I'm a unique human being and I have interests, too.
 

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27 mcat (7 in PS) and 3.4 gpa,

I'm south american but pretty much white, so I didn't apply URM, but did note I speak spanish, not sure if that qualifies me as "taking the easy way out" or whatever

I know how to talk to people and am a great interviewer, and my 3 years of research with self obtained grants, 2 years of teaching the anatomy lab at my school, and fouding of multiple organizations at my school that benefit others really stood out in my application, in fact it's all inteviewers wanted to talk about.

I was acceped at Temple this cycle for those reasons
 

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I have been published twice in clinical journals, the second as the first author. I played varsity intercollegiate athletics for two years. I am a high school teacher while still being a fulltime college student. 3.7 gpa, 29 mcat
 
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circulus vitios

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I have been published twice in clinical journals, the second as the first author. I played varsity intercollegiate athletics for two years. I am a high school teacher while still being a fulltime college student. 3.7 gpa, 29 mcat
Wow, those are definitely sub-par ECs and grades. :rolleyes:
 

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Sorry ma'am! No, it really wasn't like that. I'm not the type to be sensitive over that or start something silly. Hope I didn't bother you! If so I apologize.
lol no prob.

i guess people really did think i'm samuel l jackson. :rolleyes:
 

Law2Doc

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but i want to know about SPECIFIC occasions in which the LOW numbers did not hold someone back...
My point is that the subjective, x-factor occasions are not things that are readily duplicable. you either have it or you don't. So not much point looking for specific examples of folks who succeeded with low stats -- you cannot ride on their wave, you have to make your own. Which is why I always thought MDApplicants.com was a waste of time -- knowing somebody else got in with lower stats than you doesn't help you at all because you never know what kind of a "hook" they had. All you know is that if they got in with lower than average stats, then they did have a hook. But you can't reproduce it. And no sense trying. You have to have your own deal. There is no plug and chug formula that's going to get you into med school, and I think you'd get that based on your screen name. :)
 

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My point is that the subjective, x-factor occasions are not things that are readily duplicable. you either have it or you don't. So not much point looking for specific examples of folks who succeeded with low stats -- you cannot ride on their wave, you have to make your own. Which is why I always thought MDApplicants.com was a waste of time -- knowing somebody else got in with lower stats than you doesn't help you at all because you never know what kind of a "hook" they had. All you know is that if they got in with lower than average stats, then they did have a hook. But you can't reproduce it. And no sense trying. You have to have your own deal. There is no plug and chug formula that's going to get you into med school, and I think you'd get that based on your screen name. :)
:thumbup: Exactly the reason I don't have an MDapps...
 

WeAreNotRobots

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My point is that the subjective, x-factor occasions are not things that are readily duplicable. you either have it or you don't. So not much point looking for specific examples of folks who succeeded with low stats -- you cannot ride on their wave, you have to make your own. Which is why I always thought MDApplicants.com was a waste of time -- knowing somebody else got in with lower stats than you doesn't help you at all because you never know what kind of a "hook" they had. All you know is that if they got in with lower than average stats, then they did have a hook. But you can't reproduce it. And no sense trying. You have to have your own deal. There is no plug and chug formula that's going to get you into med school, and I think you'd get that based on your screen name. :)
i'm not looking for a formula, and in fact, my grades are fine, so i'm not seeking fodder to replicate an underdog story. the point of the thread, as stated, was to gain some insight into how applicants stand out, and provide inspiration to those with less-than-ideal numbers. and since there's no objective standard of what "hooks" or not, i think we could all benefit from a few specific examples.

and thanks for noticing the screenname.
 

Law2Doc

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i'm not looking for a formula, and in fact, my grades are fine, so i'm not seeking fodder to replicate an underdog story. the point of the thread, as stated, was to gain some insight into how applicants stand out, and provide inspiration to those with less-than-ideal numbers. and since there's no objective standard of what "hooks" or not, i think we could all benefit from a few specific examples.
The bold is what I think we don't want to do. The goal should be to get your numbers to be competitive. If they aren't, you don't need inspiration, you need a hook. Seeing that someone else got in with worse numbers shouldn't give you any inspiration, because you don't really know why they got in, and often they don't know either. Only the adcoms who are looking for a specific "good fit" know for sure. But it's a mistake to ease up because you are objectively better than others who did fine. If your stats are too low for med school you hold off applying and spend the time to fix them. Don't look for inspiration that might suggest you go ahead and apply. Get all your ducks lined up in a row before you pull the trigger. That's my point.

You want to get out of the habit of focusing on what others are doing, what stats they have etc. Med school is a much better place once you learn to keep your eyes on your own plate. And the application process is a good place to start. You know the average stats of matriculants from the prior year, and can assume that this will be the target to be deemed competitive. Beyond this, you shouldn't care what stats others have. All you need to know is your own stats, and what other non-numeric things you can bring to the table. What non-numeric things others bring to the table, and what stats they had when they got in should be pretty meaningless to you, and absolutely won't be of any help to you, and should not be of any inspiration to you. That's my opinion, but I think it saves you a lot of heartache if it keeps you from pulling the trigger and applying before your stats are battle-ready based on some stranger who got in based on factors you can't even imagine.

I get that you want a list of what "hooks" have worked so folks can feel inspired. I just think it's a mistake, and you have no way to evaluate these "hooks" and they might not even have been the real reasons folks got in. So it's an exercise in futility and nobody should take any solace in it.
 

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I have heard of schools doing this. I know one school in particular has the people from the diversity office have their own time with the minority applicants.
almost every school i have interviewed at did this. i liked it, helps break the ice and let you meet more of your potential future classmates.
 

WeAreNotRobots

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The bold is what I think we don't want to do. The goal should be to get your numbers to be competitive. If they aren't, you don't need inspiration, you need a hook...

I get that you want a list of what "hooks" have worked so folks can feel inspired. I just think it's a mistake, and you have no way to evaluate these "hooks" and they might not even have been the real reasons folks got in. So it's an exercise in futility and nobody should take any solace in it.

i don't see the problem with hearing about some success stories...but i have seen some 5K, 3+ yr members, so maybe people do become a bit obsessed with this site.
 

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I think L2D is trying to say that no one should every try to emulate these stories, because there's more to it than what's shown on mdapps. Listen to the stories if you want, just don't expect the same results because you don't know what really did it for them.
 

WeAreNotRobots

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good point. i mean, i guess what i'm really getting at is that there's plenty of people on here complaining about their numbers, so why not have a few people that say, "numbers aren't everything, and here's the proof!" i just wanted insight into the more human element of the whole process.
 

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My point is that the subjective, x-factor occasions are not things that are readily duplicable. you either have it or you don't. So not much point looking for specific examples of folks who succeeded with low stats -- you cannot ride on their wave, you have to make your own. Which is why I always thought MDApplicants.com was a waste of time -- knowing somebody else got in with lower stats than you doesn't help you at all because you never know what kind of a "hook" they had. All you know is that if they got in with lower than average stats, then they did have a hook. But you can't reproduce it. And no sense trying. You have to have your own deal. There is no plug and chug formula that's going to get you into med school, and I think you'd get that based on your screen name. :)

:thumbup::thumbup: I agree with the "x-factor" theory. This was the theory that I kept trying to get across to people as they were applying to undergrad as well...like when friends of mine didn't get into elite schools and other people got in despite having inferior grades and test scores. There is more to a person than number and I think that admissions committees can see through the padding in a resume and tell whether a person will be a good fit or will be successful at that institution.
 

PeripateticMD

Peripatetic
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Jun 13, 2006
528
39
World
Status
Medical Student
hey there. I'm not quite sure why you're asking for specific stories (b/c I don't think anyone's story is replicable), but I can throw out mine. I had a 3.1 GPA/ 2.7 BCPM (gasp, choke, etc...), but a 34R MCAT (which i took after grad school). But I had pursued an MPH after graduation, doing my thesis in Haiti and getting "the most incredible LORs" many application readers had ever read (so some said - I never read them myself). I worked in El Salvador, Haiti, and flew in for my interviews after being evacuated from the Darfur border. I got into everywhere I interviewed. But I applied uber broadly b/c I was scared s*&^less. Obviously. Now I'm sure my classmates who prowl this site are going to nag me about this :).
 

WeAreNotRobots

doctor of medicine
10+ Year Member
Nov 11, 2008
1,062
45
u.s.a.
Status
Resident [Any Field]
hey there. I'm not quite sure why you're asking for specific stories
the idea this: if you ask someone with great stats why they got in, there's no way of knowing what got them in (how much was due to numbers/ECs/interview/letters/X-factor/etc). if you ask someone with decent numbers, again, it's hard to say what might have tipped the scales in their favor. but if you ask the person with lower numbers, you might be better able to figure out what ADCOMS look for in an applicant...because you surely know it wasn't the numbers.

it's also cool to hear about stories such as your own. thanks for sharing.
 

lincolnparadox

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Dec 20, 2006
42
0
Status
Pre-Medical
I think that a good rule of thumb is to know what kind of doctor you want to be and know what schools would fit you best. People that do well in interviews are those that treat the application process like they treat their classwork. If you're geared towards research, then highlight the research aspect of your ECs. If you're jazzed by working with an underserved community (maybe ever your hometown), talk about that.

In an interview, you're always given a chance to introduce yourself. In your personal statements, you can elaborate on what your goals are. Take advantage of the opportunity given to you to explain why you want to be a doctor.

Most doctors are coming in with the same sets of scores. Those students with exceptional scores will walk into an early decision program. Those students with lower scores are accepted based on their story. If you tell your story to the right people (those schools that are looking for candidates like you), then you'll get accepted.

How do you find out? Ask people in your school's Pre-Prof office. Call schools' admissions offices and ask them. Before you even send in your AMCAS, spend $20 on phone calls and get the answers you need to make the best list of schools possible.
 
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