Application season has started! Goro's guide to the app process

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Goro

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Some tips for you. Grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and proceed.

  • Applying early is good. The earlier, the better. By September, it's probably too late for MD schools, but FYI, the DO cycle is longer (up to Dec or even Jan!) I'll make some DO-specific posts in the pre-osteopathic forum later.
  • Do NOT apply to a school that you don't want to go to. It's one thing to not like a place after an interview, but, really, do your homework.
  • Think about where the schools are. Mayo and Rochester are not merely cold in the winter, but Siberian cold. Tulane, on the other hand, is hot and sauna-like in the summer (but with great food). Consider your support groups, if you're leaving home for the first time. I literally have lost students to homesickness.
  • If you don't have your MCAT in (or some other crucial requirement), it's OK to start applying. The verification process can take a long time, so if you can get that out of the way, so much the better.
  • Don't know where to apply? Do your homework. MSAR Online is a mandatory resource. The money it will save you from not applying to even one wrong school (for you) will more than make up for the cost of MSAR.
  • [addendum added] Some med schools accept CC credits, some don't. There's no rhyme nor reason to it. Again, MSAR is useful in telling you who does, and who doesn't take the coursework. Here's a rule of thumb.
    *If you go to a CC and then to a UG school, that's fine.
    *If you go to a CC as a non-trad to get the pre-reqs, for for grade repair as a DIY post-bac, that's also fine.
    *If it appears that you're avoiding your UG school's rigorous weeding courses by taking them at CCs, then that's going to raise some eyebrows.
  • Apply strategically! What I mean is look over the MCAT AND GPAs of the schools you're interested in, and apply to those whose median scores are close to your own. Do NOT apply to a school if your numbers are lower than the 10th percent of matriculants. The people who get into Yale with a 29 MCAT are either URM, legacies, or have something really spectacular about their story.
  • My suggestion is that if you're 3-4 points below the school's median, you're in striking distance, but consider your numbers carefully. Apply smart and apply once.
  • In light of the above, there's "reach", and then there's "unrealistic". Be realistic.
  • If your GPA is under 3.4, I recommend NOT applying now, unless you live in an area where the state schools have their 10th-90th percentiles stretching down to 3.3. An example is U AR or U MO-KC. Better to take a post-bac or SMP and get the GPA into a competitive zone. Oh, and I'm not impressed with the n=1 stories of "my cousin Joe got into Harvard with a 3.0 GPA".
  • [addendum added] If you do well in a SMP/post-bac (GPA >3.6 AND have a MCAT > 33), then there are med schools that reward reinvention, even if your cGPA is <3.4! Search for my other posts for lists of those.
  • A great GPA is not going to make up for a poor MCAT, and vice versa.
  • The average MD matriculant nationwide has a GPA of 3.6 and an MCAT of 33. Remember these numbers.
  • Know your target schools, beyond the numbers. Many schools are mission driven, like Howard, UCI, SIU, and Central Michigan.
  • Look up how many public schools accept out-of-state students, and what percentage are these of the class? MSAR tells you this in the Acceptance Information tab. Many schools will favor instate residents, like, say, Mercer or LSU, to the exclusion of OOSers. Those OOS students taken at, say, U IA or U AL, most likely come from neighboring states. So don't apply to U HI just because you'd love to go to med school in HI. Have the bona fides for HI. My rule of thumb is if >15-20% of the matriculants are from OOS, it might be worth applying. But be > avg.
  • In that vein, think very carefully about "ties" to a state. Growing up in a place and then moving away is fine. Wife's family lives there? Not fine.
  • Have as any eyeballs as possible go over your app. There's no excuse for spelling, grammar or thoughtless mistakes on your PS. And for God's sake, when you cut and paste, remove school A's name and replace it with B for the app for school B. As in sports, where the team that makes more mistakes will lose, the apps with the fewest mistakes get received kindly.
  • Don't use your PS to explain why you got bad grades. It's for "Who are you?", for "Why Medicine?" and how you got to that decision.
  • Do NOT write in your PS or secondary about what you think we want to see...write about your passions and what drives you. Write about what makes you interesting.
  • If English is NOT your native language, have some native English speakers go over your app.
  • Many schools send out secondaries whether you're competitive or not. They can be a tax on the hopelessly clueless, or over-optimistic.
  • Have the right ECs. You need ECs. There are tons of people on SDN who bitch and moan about them. Well, tough. Each school gets thousands of apps for some 100-250 seats. How do we winnow down the pool? The answer is something that high-achievers with no people skills hate hearing: you have display your altruism and humanity, your willingness to serve others, that you know what you'e getting into, and that you know what a doctor's day is like. It's not only about GPA and MCATs...it's about the rest of the packet. All the people you're competing with are academically clones of each other. So the guy with 1000 hrs in the lab and 100 hrs shadowing (and who thinks shadowing counts as volunteering)but no other clinical experience doesn't know what he's getting into, hasn't shown anything altruistic and will be passed over for someone who reads to poor children, or brings coffee to the dialysis patients in hospice. 4.0 automatons are a dime-a-dozen. Stats may get you to the door, but ECs get you through the door.
  • If you're doing this because your parents are pressuring you to do it, stop right now, grow a spine and/or some balls, and tell them that this isn't for you. You'll just save yourself a lot of misery later. Better yet, get them accounts on SDN so they can see what it takes to get into med school.
  • It's a scary process. And that's OK. Keep in mind that this isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. Patience is a virtue.
  • One or two bad grades in your app isn't going to kill you. Neither will parking tickets. Schools don't care about your parking tickets.
  • Not all IAs will kill you either, especially if they occurred when you were young and stupid, and now have grown. AdCom members were young and stupid once too.
  • If you have a felony in your background (especially a crime against a person), or multiple offenses, especially DUI, stop right now.
  • If you have an institutional action (IA) for cheating, stop right now. There's cheating and then there cheating. Plagiarism is not the same as merely forgetting some footnotes. Having someone take an exam for you is, well, lethal.
  • Always have a backup plan.
  • Know what's in your app. Do NOT lie. Do NOT embellish. If you did research, know what it was about.
  • If you're still collecting LORs, simply ask "do you know me well enough to write me a good LOR?"
  • It's OK to have had a poor semester, or even a poor year, if you have overcome that with straight As since then. People believe in redemption, and let's face it, we like come from behind stories.
  • This process is not a zero-sum game. If you have a 3.5 GPA, and your cousin Jane has a 3.7, you're still competitive. You're not competing for the same seat, just a seat.
And to all of you, good luck!

I knew I'd think of something! "Where do I apply?" [I should make a table!]
My rough rule of thumb:
MCAT > 36 and GPA > 3.6: anywhere.
GPA >3.5; MCAT <35 all except high tier schools
GPA >3.4, MCAT < 33, low tier (edited)

MCAT < 28, newest schools only (except Hofstra and Central MI..the latter wants in-state only)
MCAT <27: suggest re-take
The minimum MCAT ideally should be 30 with 10/10/10 (note: it will take us a few years to get comfortable with the new MCAT. In the mean time, we'l use percentiles)

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Spinach Dip

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<3 Goro for writing all this out.

You should re-post and/or bump this thread every June 1st
 
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sunflower18

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This is great!! Quick question about your "where should I apply" table -- what if your stats are mismatched, with an MCAT score in one category and a GPA in another?

Thank you so much for your help and contribution!!
 

ronnicus

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I'm so grateful sdn has people like you to help people like me through the process- you are a godsend Goro
 
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Person0715

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Great post! Extremely informative. I especially like the part about Rochester.
 

Spinach Dip

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This is great!! Quick question about your "where should I apply" table -- what if your stats are mismatched, with an MCAT score in one category and a GPA in another?

Thank you so much for your help and contribution!!

My question also.

What if someone has a GPA which is below the 10%ile for ~every school, but an MCAT which is above the 90%ile for ~every school. (Or vice-versa.) For arguments sake, let's suppose the rest of their app is average or slightly above-average.

What then?



PS. I know these applicants are rare, but there are a few of them out there looking for help!
 
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Optimus-Prime

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I'm usually pretty private with my stats but I'd really like your opinion.


How are the chances? Low tier MD, reach for a mid-tier, competitive for DO
 
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Mr Interesting

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I'm usually pretty private with my stats but I'd really like your opinion.

I'm 26
3.3 GPA rough start, but 4.0 in my last semesters (super senior)

-Was an amateur mixed martial arts fighter for two years

3.87 GPA in masters program for biology, vascular physiology research

32 MCAT v10, p11, b11

-100 hours volunteering at a rural clinic with an NP
-100 hours at a homeless shelter
-75 hours shadowing an oncology clinical trial
-I taught a college level anatomy winter course
-Currently doing ultrasound research at NIH
-Volunteer at a healthcare outreach clinic in Baltimore
-Starting a volunteer position in a level 1 trauma hospital
-Will be volunteering at a muscular dystrophy summer camp for kids next month

How are the chances? Low tier MD, reach for a mid-tier, competitive for DO
Seriously, you couldn't have made your own thread in the "what are my chances" section?
 
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Omppu27

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Not to take away from how great this post is, but Table 18 here says 3.69 cGPA and 31.3 MCAT averages for 2013 matriculants.

He might of got mixed up with median. Not 100% about GPA, but median MCAT is 33.
 
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Optimus-Prime

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Taken from msar

*National Median refers to data derived by including MCAT scores from all accepted applications and includes duplicate scores from individuals with multiple acceptances. The national median for each individual test section remains identical when calculated using duplicate scores or a single record from an accepted applicant, except in the case of the national median for the Total MCAT Score, which is 31 when derived using unduplicated scores.
 
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Spinach Dip

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Taken from msar

*National Median refers to data derived by including MCAT scores from all accepted applications and includes duplicate scores from individuals with multiple acceptances. The national median for each individual test section remains identical when calculated using duplicate scores or a single record from an accepted applicant, except in the case of the national median for the Total MCAT Score, which is 31 when derived using unduplicated scores.

And the off-topic argument has STARTED!!

Let's see how many pages this one will take up.
 
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Optimus-Prime

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And the off-topic argument has STARTED!!

Let's see how many pages this one will take up.
What's there to argue??? The average is 33, if you don't take into account multiple acceptances it's 31
 

Spinach Dip

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GPA >3.4, MCAT < 33, low tier
GPA > 3.4, but MCAT < 32: low tier

One more thing... Is this a typo? You are essentially telling people with the same GPA, but an MCAT of 1 point difference to apply to the exact same places???
 

fishieFDR

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One more thing... Is this a typo? You are essentially telling people with the same GPA, but an MCAT of 1 point difference to apply to the exact same places???
Could be an error of repeating. 1 point won't make that much of a difference.
 

Goro

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Mea culpa...I'm going on median scores from MSAR Online 2013.

Not to take away from how great this post is, but Table 18 here says 3.69 cGPA and 31.3 MCAT averages for 2013 matriculants.

Yeah, it is...it's an on-the-fly type of thing. I'd like to make a color-coded chart. Stay tuned.

One more thing... Is this a typo? You are essentially telling people with the same GPA, but an MCAT of 1 point difference to apply to the exact same places???
 
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Goro

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PM me.

I'm usually pretty private with my stats but I'd really like your opinion.

I'm 26
3.3 GPA rough start, but 4.0 in my last semesters (super senior)

-Was an amateur mixed martial arts fighter for two years

3.87 GPA in masters program for biology, vascular physiology research

32 MCAT v10, p11, b11

-100 hours volunteering at a rural clinic with an NP
-100 hours at a homeless shelter
-75 hours shadowing an oncology clinical trial
-I taught a college level anatomy winter course
-Currently doing ultrasound research at NIH
-Volunteer at a healthcare outreach clinic in Baltimore
-Starting a volunteer position in a level 1 trauma hospital
-Will be volunteering at a muscular dystrophy summer camp for kids next month

How are the chances? Low tier MD, reach for a mid-tier, competitive for DO
 

Goro

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It can be. Pitt's floor is 31, but their median is 36. So four points below the median gives me pause. The 32 is what I call "striking distance". Some people may define it as "reach". If you've got a compelling story, then go for it.

I thought a 32 and up was competitive for the mid-tiers
 

gettheleadout

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Taken from msar

*National Median refers to data derived by including MCAT scores from all accepted applications and includes duplicate scores from individuals with multiple acceptances. The national median for each individual test section remains identical when calculated using duplicate scores or a single record from an accepted applicant, except in the case of the national median for the Total MCAT Score, which is 31 when derived using unduplicated scores.
This means the median for matriculants (where # matriculants = # applicants accepted = # of single record acceptances) is 31, same as the mean for matriculants from Table 18.

What's there to argue??? The average is 33, if you don't take into account multiple acceptances it's 31
The average of 33 is meaningless because if I only have two applicants with MCAT scores of 30 (A) and 36 (B), and applicant A gets one acceptance and applicant B gets 8, then the average is from the data set {30, 36, 36, 36, 36, 36, 36, 36, 36} and is 35.3. This tells us nothing of the actual applicants, where between the two of them, the average was a 33 (yeah it's still only two applicants and the average is still meaningless but scale it up, higher stat applicants probably get more acceptances).
 
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Doctor Dream

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Thank you @Goro for taking the time to write this! It's guidance like this that makes SDN the great resource that it is.
 
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dbeast

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I don't want to give people false hope, but goro, I think you're setting the bar a bit too high for the stats you mentioned (in an otherwise outstanding post). You have a balanced 33 and a badass story? Go ahead and try your chances at top tier schools. Not saying you'll make the cut, but if a top school's average is 35, then 50% of the class is below it. People on SDN tend to forget that fact. You'll never know if you don't try.
 
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The Buff OP

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I'm usually pretty private with my stats but I'd really like your opinion.

I'm 26
3.3 GPA rough start, but 4.0 in my last semesters (super senior)

-Was an amateur mixed martial arts fighter for two years

3.87 GPA in masters program for biology, vascular physiology research

32 MCAT v10, p11, b11

-100 hours volunteering at a rural clinic with an NP
-100 hours at a homeless shelter
-75 hours shadowing an oncology clinical trial
-I taught a college level anatomy winter course
-Currently doing ultrasound research at NIH
-Volunteer at a healthcare outreach clinic in Baltimore
-Starting a volunteer position in a level 1 trauma hospital
-Will be volunteering at a muscular dystrophy summer camp for kids next month

How are the chances? Low tier MD, reach for a mid-tier, competitive for DO
Hmmm I don't see how many hours you have hit the gym. Apply DO. :laugh:
 

shyfed

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Thank you! When you say "By September, it's probably too late for MD schools," do you mean to submit your application or to be complete? I am planning on submitting my AMCAS within the next few days, but the committee letter / letter packet might not be sent in until early-mid August (depending on when my school gets around to it)
 

mehc012

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Colors are good.
I feel like @Goro gets into colored-text discussions a lot on here...though I like that you've started color-coding your quoting system, it makes it 8000x easier to parse through!
 
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Ismet

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Thank you! When you say "By September, it's probably too late for MD schools," do you mean to submit your application or to be complete? I am planning on submitting my AMCAS within the next few days, but the committee letter / letter packet might not be sent in until early-mid August (depending on when my school gets around to it)

Submitting the application in September is too late. Being complete in September is not early, but it's not late either.
 
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Optimus-Prime

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Hmmm I don't see how many hours you have hit the gym. Apply DO. :laugh:

Thats in the PS along with my main motivation for medical school

the ability to write my own androgel prescriptions, and one day have the same testosterone levels as a bull shark (highest test in the animal kingdom)
 
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NYerrr

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ShabbaRanks

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Which schools are the "newest schools only"
 
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BeancheBlanco

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  • Know your target schools, beyond the numbers. Many schools are mission driven, like Howard, UCI, SIU, and Central Michigan
How do you do this? Websites seem to say the same thing about each school being committed to research, diversity, patient care, etc.
 

RiPSTONE

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Thanks for this! I'll look at again once I finish my MCAT this summer!
 

Goro

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Howard, Morehouse, Meherrey, Charles Drew: HBC (go look it up).
Regional schools (UCI, SIU) Read their mission statements, and listen to your fellow SDNers from those states. For schools like Mercer and Central MI: Look at the OOS acceptance rate. You can dig up the states of origin of matriculants for each school, but you'll have to dig for those.
When all else fails, contact Admissions deans.


How do you do this? Websites seem to say the same thing about each school being committed to research, diversity, patient care, etc.
 
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BeancheBlanco

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Howard, Morehouse, Meherrey, Charles Drew: HBC (go look it up).
Regional schools (UCI, SIU) Read their mission statements, and listen to your fellow SDNers from those states. For schools like Mercer and Central MI: Look at the OOS acceptance rate. You can dig up the states of origin of matriculants for each school, but you'll have to dig for those.
When all else fails, contact Admissions deans.

I mean more for your more popular private schools. Is there any way to make a meaningful differentiation on your secondaries between a school like Jefferson and a school like Wake Forest? I see some SDN members casually mention that certain schools are "service-based" or favor "re-invented" applicants. Not sure how they are getting this information.
 

Goro

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For those, no. I group them all together. For example, I often refer to the "Philly triplets" of Drexel, Jefferson and Temple.

I mean more for your more popular private schools. Is there any way to make a meaningful differentiation on your secondaries between a school like Jefferson and a school like Wake Forest? I see some SDN members casually mention that certain schools are "service-based" or favor "re-invented" applicants. Not sure how they are getting this information.
 

BeancheBlanco

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For those, no. I group them all together. For example, I often refer to the "Philly triplets" of Drexel, Jefferson and Temple.

so, in your opinion, should you even bother trying to appear interested solely in that one school for, say, Drexel? Or do you think it would just look disingenuous and be written off.
 

lmn

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so, in your opinion, should you even bother trying to appear interested solely in that one school for, say, Drexel? Or do you think it would just look disingenuous and be written off.
If their secondary asks you why ____, I would try to come up with something from your knowledge of their school/mission and their website.
 

Goro

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One would think you'd be interested in any school you apply to. The schools aren't omniscient...they don't know who you're applying to, or care.

so, in your opinion, should you even bother trying to appear interested solely in that one school for, say, Drexel? Or do you think it would just look disingenuous and be written off.
 
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Sean Lee

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Goro, is late June submission of AACOMAS primary considered early for DO Schools?

I want to get my AMCAS submitted before working on my AACOMAS.
 

lolcat

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i love you goro great work! quick question about being a reapplicant. i applied to some schools last year but didnt make it unfortunately. there were a couple secondaries i wasnt able to finish (swamped with work and ran out of time). i'm applying to those schools again so should i send an email explaining why i didnt complete the secondaries the first time around?
 

BeancheBlanco

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One would think you'd be interested in any school you apply to. The schools aren't omniscient...they don't know who you're applying to, or care.

I meant that it seems pointless to explain to Drexel why you have *special* interest in their school i.e. more interest in their school than other schools if there truly isn't a significant difference between them and most other schools. And so going out of your way to try to appear specially interested in a school might not be a good strategy for a secondary essay unless it is specifically asking "why do you want to go to this specific school". And if they do ask that question, you are pretty much forced to give a general answer that could be recycled for many other schools.
 

Ismet

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I meant that it seems pointless to explain to Drexel why you have *special* interest in their school i.e. more interest in their school than other schools if there truly isn't a significant difference between them and most other schools. And so going out of your way to try to appear specially interested in a school might not be a good strategy for a secondary essay unless it is specifically asking "why do you want to go to this specific school". And if they do ask that question, you are pretty much forced to give a general answer that could be recycled for many other schools.

You are overthinking this. Just like every girl likes to be told she's pretty, every school likes to be told that you like them. Even though there are a lot of similarities between Drexel, Temple, and Jeff, each one has certain things that make it unique and might be of interest to you. You should find something specific about that school that you like and touch on it.
 
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hoihaie

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For schools that require non science rec letters, is that requirement absolute i.e. Penn state? I don't have any non-science letters (only science ones: 1 from PI, 1 from community service, 3 from science professors). SHould I still apply to schools that want non-science letters? I called the admissions office for penn state and they just said they can't tell me to apply or not...
 
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