Gladiolus23

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Could someone please explain to me what the most important things are when being assessed by a medical school? What do they look at the most?

I know that all these are very important: Grades (GPA and sGPA), MCAT score, EC's, leadership, research, community service, interview and personal statement

But how are these ranked in order of importance?? I've heard of many people who get into top med schools with mediocre grades because of their awesome EC's or because of something significant they did. At the same time, there are people who get in because of their very high grades and MCAT score, regardless of what EC's they pursued...

I'm very confused.
 

CarlosDanger

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Could someone please explain to me what the most important things are when being assessed by a medical school? What do they look at the most?

I know that all these are very important: Grades (GPA and sGPA), MCAT score, EC's, leadership, research, community service, interview and personal statement

But how are these ranked in order of importance?? I've heard of many people who get into top med schools with mediocre grades because of their awesome EC's or because of something significant they did. At the same time, there are people who get in because of their very high grades and MCAT score, regardless of what EC's they pursued...

I'm very confused.
Oops, didn't mean to do that. I'll just answer anyways. Order of importance:

1.)MCAT
2.)MCAT
3.)Grades
4.)Exposure to medicine, community service, and research
 
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JDMcNugent

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I am no expert but it really is tough to say. Obviously, you want your gpa's and mcat to be in a competitive range for the schools you apply to just to have your application looked at. Some schools may weight the mcat heavier because they see it as a way to distinguish if your high gpa was due to easy course instruction or if you actually learned the material. Some may weigh gpa more than the mcat. Extracurriculars and letters are really important but research may only be important if the school you are applying to places a with great emphasis on research. The personal statement must also be compelling enough for the reader to view you as an interesting person who has sincerely thought about medicine as a career and what motivates you. The interview is probably the distinguishing factor where you can sell yourself and display that you care about people and can communicate effectively. This is the best way for a school to picture if they can see you interacting with patients every day.

Sorry if this isn't the answer you are looking for but I think it is best to focus on having a well-rounded application and not look at the individual parts in a ranking system. The gpa's and mcat are really important just to meet criteria but then after that, you want to have a balanced application that can set you apart from other applicants. I wouldn't worry a whole lot about how other people got into medical school based off of really high gpas/mcat with no ECs. In the end, all that matters is what you can do to get in.
 

Syndicate

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Based on my experience from this current cycle (>20 interview invites, 4 acceptances so far)

1. MCAT
2. GPA
3. Clinical experience (volunteering + shadowing)
4. LORs
5. Interview
6. Personal statement and other stuff on AMCAS app + secondaries
7. Research
8. Community service
9. Undergrad prestige
10. Anything else I forgot
 

Pacna

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I think it's

1) MCAT & GPA
2) Other BS you add to your application throughout your college/professional career to make yourself more appealing to medical schools but which actually has no real value as far as success in medical school goes and is thus just superfluous nonsense medical schools require in order to help them sift through the huge amount of applicants they get each cycle with great grades and also while maintaining the idea that physicians are one of the noblest of professions with only the noblest of applicants garnering any real consideration.
 

BurberryDoc

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Jun 7, 2013
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Based on my experience from this current cycle (>20 interview invites, 4 acceptances so far)

1. MCAT
2. GPA
3. Clinical experience (volunteering + shadowing)
4. LORs
5. Interview
6. Personal statement and other stuff on AMCAS app + secondaries
7. Research
8. Community service
9. Undergrad prestige
10. Anything else I forgot

TWENTY PLUS INVITES?!?
 
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Jun 11, 2013
77
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Medical Student (Accepted)
Based on my experience from this current cycle (>20 interview invites, 4 acceptances so far)

1. MCAT
2. GPA
3. Clinical experience (volunteering + shadowing)
4. LORs
5. Interview
6. Personal statement and other stuff on AMCAS app + secondaries
7. Research
8. Community service
9. Undergrad prestige
10. Anything else I forgot

Whoaa 20!!!! ...what were your stats if u dont mind?
 

darkjedi

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Everything is seen holistically. Ranking everything would be too simple for how complex the whole process is. Good MCAT/GPA is critical, and how well you do in those two determines that tier schools you are likely to get interviews at. Things like ECs/research/leadership/etc are also important/critical for the higher tier programs, while the 'lower' tier ones tend to be more forgiving. You don't necessarily have to ace every box, but you should have strong experiences.
 

EthylMethylMan

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May 19, 2012
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Based on my experience from this current cycle (>20 interview invites, 4 acceptances so far)

1. MCAT
2. GPA
3. Clinical experience (volunteering + shadowing)
4. LORs
5. Interview
6. Personal statement and other stuff on AMCAS app + secondaries
7. Research
8. Community service
9. Undergrad prestige
10. Anything else I forgot
">20 interview invites, 4 acceptances so far"

Are you a wizard?

But yeah, this guy's order seems pretty accurate.
 
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BurberryDoc

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I would rank community service and research equal to each other in terms of PRIORITY, but I think research receives more merit at some institutions and vice versa for community service at other institutions. Also, I think undergraduate institution prestige only matters for the top 40 or so universities - after that? All else is benign as I understand it.
 

Goro

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I'd say this is a pretty fair assessment. Keep in mind that different schools value some things more than others. For example, my dean is really keen on high MCAT scores.

Also, some things get you the II, and others secure the admission. We (and others) have rejected high MCAT/high GPA interviewees because they they lacked ECs (some, I swear< never had set foot in a hospital), were robots at the interview, or had a bad LOR (rare). UG prestige might salvage a borderline candidate ("look, the guy had a 3.4 at U Chicago").

One more thing is the rising trend. Did someone recover form a poor start or a really rocky semester when mom got sick?

Grad school/post-bac/SMP performance is almost a category by itself, and also has significant weight.

You also have to keep the big picture in mind. No one thing will salvage a poor GPA or MCAT. We look at the entire app.

My ordering below.

1. MCAT
2. GPA
3. Clinical experience (volunteering + shadowing)
5. Interview
4. LORs
8. Community service
6. Personal statement and other stuff on AMCAS app + secondaries
7. Research
9. Undergrad prestige
 
May 10, 2013
356
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It depends which medical schools you're applying to. Research is important for top MD schools but not so much for DO schools. Additionally, some schools emphasize volunteer work with underserved populations while others look mostly for high stats.
 

justAstudent

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I would also suggest taking a look at the mission statement of medical schools. Some schools state explicitly that their main focus is working with undeserved populations, in which case they would prefer seeing more volunteer work than research. Other schools will emphasize the scholarly aspect in their mission statements and look for applicants with strong research backgrounds.
 
Apr 3, 2013
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3.8+/35+ I had a lot of clinical exposure and other activities.
What were your clinical exposure experiences? As well as the other activities?
 
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torshi

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Could someone please explain to me what the most important things are when being assessed by a medical school? What do they look at the most?

I know that all these are very important: Grades (GPA and sGPA), MCAT score, EC's, leadership, research, community service, interview and personal statement

But how are these ranked in order of importance?? I've heard of many people who get into top med schools with mediocre grades because of their awesome EC's or because of something significant they did. At the same time, there are people who get in because of their very high grades and MCAT score, regardless of what EC's they pursued...

I'm very confused.
MCAT is number one.
Grades and EC's.
Everyone will have the same experiences, perhaps even better. Big differences are with MCAT scores considering med school is tailored to less experienced healthcare professionals (college grads), little exp is required, hence more focus on academic performance than anything.
 
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Ismet

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I'd say this is a pretty fair assessment. Keep in mind that different schools value some things more than others. For example, my dean is really keen on high MCAT scores.

Also, some things get you the II, and others secure the admission. We (and others) have rejected high MCAT/high GPA interviewees because they they lacked ECs (some, I swear< never had set foot in a hospital), were robots at the interview, or had a bad LOR (rare). UG prestige might salvage a borderline candidate ("look, the guy had a 3.4 at U Chicago").

One more thing is the rising trend. Did someone recover form a poor start or a really rocky semester when mom got sick?

Grad school/post-bac/SMP performance is almost a category by itself, and also has significant weight.

You also have to keep the big picture in mind. No one thing will salvage a poor GPA or MCAT. We look at the entire app.

My ordering below.

1. MCAT
2. GPA
3. Clinical experience (volunteering + shadowing)
5. Interview
4. LORs
8. Community service
6. Personal statement and other stuff on AMCAS app + secondaries
7. Research
9. Undergrad prestige
Agreed. We put research up a bit higher, maybe under clinical experience/interview, but the whole application is definitely considered.
 

BlueLabel

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Question: are we all sure that MCAT > GPR? I'm inclined to disagree, with the caveat that I'm well aware of grade inflation/deflation effects and AdCom countermeasures.

The reason I say this is because it was my understanding from the WAMC graphs that GPR was a better predictor of applicant success than MCAT. To put it another way, LizzyM scores where the higher factor is the GPR are correlated with better outcomes than scores where the MCAT is higher. The conclusion is that having a high GPR is more helpful than having a high MCAT, all else equal.

Thoughts?
 
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Goro

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It varies from school to school. BTW, there is data (although >10 years old) that strongly shows a correlation between poor MCAT performance and USMLE performance. Much to my chagrin, it's taken as gospel at my school. Also keep in mind that Lizzy M scores do not look at individual schools, but at the nation as a collective. I much prefer using MSAR as my guide for MD schools.

Question: are we all sure that MCAT > GPR? I'm inclined to disagree, with the caveat that I'm well aware of grade inflation/deflation effects and AdCom countermeasures.

The reason I say this is because it was my understanding from the WAMC graphs that GPR was a better predictor of applicant success than MCAT. To put it another way, LizzyM scores where the higher factor is the GPR are correlated with better outcomes than scores where the MCAT is higher. The conclusion is that having a high GPR is more helpful than having a high MCAT, all else equal.

Thoughts?
 

nm825

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I'd say this is a pretty fair assessment. Keep in mind that different schools value some things more than others. For example, my dean is really keen on high MCAT scores.

Also, some things get you the II, and others secure the admission. We (and others) have rejected high MCAT/high GPA interviewees because they they lacked ECs (some, I swear< never had set foot in a hospital), were robots at the interview, or had a bad LOR (rare). UG prestige might salvage a borderline candidate ("look, the guy had a 3.4 at U Chicago").

One more thing is the rising trend. Did someone recover form a poor start or a really rocky semester when mom got sick?

Grad school/post-bac/SMP performance is almost a category by itself, and also has significant weight.

You also have to keep the big picture in mind. No one thing will salvage a poor GPA or MCAT. We look at the entire app.

My ordering below.

1. MCAT
2. GPA
3. Clinical experience (volunteering + shadowing)
5. Interview
4. LORs
8. Community service
6. Personal statement and other stuff on AMCAS app + secondaries
7. Research
9. Undergrad prestige
When you say applicants have been rejected for a bad LOR, are you talking about a generic letter or an actual bad "I recommend this individual with hesitation" type letter?
 

Goro

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The latter. I wouldn't ding anyone just because the LOR writer was too lazy to give a decent portrait of the applicant.

But when someone writes "Joe X was continually late for lab" or Jill Y was not a team player in her group and constantly complained about her partners", that's a problem.

I see these at the rate of 1/year.

When you say applicants have been rejected for a bad LOR, are you talking about a generic letter or an actual bad "I recommend this individual with hesitation" type letter?
 

487806

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The latter. I wouldn't ding anyone just because the LOR writer was too lazy to give a decent portrait of the applicant.

But when someone writes "Joe X was continually late for lab" or Jill Y was not a team player in her group and constantly complained about her partners", that's a problem.

I see these at the rate of 1/year.
But are those letters necessarily credible? It shows more of the writer's anger issues. Let's be real. If the LOR writer really has a problem with an applicant, why would they agree to write an LOR in the first place?
 

mvenus929

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It's going to depend on the school, honestly. Some schools will put a high value in where you're from or whether you're interested in primary or specialty care, for instance. Other schools may care a lot more about the numbers.

At my school, your ECs are really what matter. Seriously. Numbers matter, sure, but they can be overcome with some great ECs.
 

Ismet

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But are those letters necessarily credible? It shows more of the writer's anger issues. Let's be real. If the LOR writer really has a problem with an applicant, why would they agree to write an LOR in the first place?
If the LOR writer has a strong feeling that the student would not make a good physician, for whatever reason, he may think he is doing a service to the school by alerting them of these reasons. Sucks for the applicant, but I know a couple people who I don't think should ever be allowed to see patients, despite being qualified applicants on paper.

I think it is much more likely for the student to have faults than for a faculty member to childishly take out anger/frustration on them or embellish the truth. I'm sure the latter has happened, but I'd much sooner assume that the student has no idea of the issues he/she has and just asked a faculty member for an LOR.
 
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But are those letters necessarily credible? It shows more of the writer's anger issues. Let's be real. If the LOR writer really has a problem with an applicant, why would they agree to write an LOR in the first place?
Also of you just don't get along with everyone or just show your lazy etc bad habits to everyone, you still have to find someone to write the letters, so even if they hesitate or hint that it won;t be that good...you don't really have a choice
 

487806

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If the LOR writer has a strong feeling that the student would not make a good physician, for whatever reason, he may think he is doing a service to the school by alerting them of these reasons. Sucks for the applicant, but I know a couple people who I don't think should ever be allowed to see patients, despite being qualified applicants on paper.

I think it is much more likely for the student to have faults than for a faculty member to childishly take out anger/frustration on them or embellish the truth. I'm sure the latter has happened, but I'd much sooner assume that the student has no idea of the issues he/she has and just asked a faculty member for an LOR.
Wow. The LOR writer isn't obligated at all to write for the applicant, so they can do the applicant favor by not writing in the first place. Their "heroic deed" by informing the school about the flaws of the applicant is just incredibly traitorous (and speaks a lot about the writer's character in general) because the applicant usually has zero access to confidential letters. Talk about betrayal of trust.

Also, this is assuming the applicant is strong elsewhere and generally is a nice, personable guy. Just a little frustrated that out of all things to worry about in this stressful process, the thought of a LOR writer betraying applicants is irritating.
 

Goro

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100% concur.

If the LOR writer has a strong feeling that the student would not make a good physician, for whatever reason, he may think he is doing a service to the school by alerting them of these reasons. Sucks for the applicant, but I know a couple people who I don't think should ever be allowed to see patients, despite being qualified applicants on paper.

I think it is much more likely for the student to have faults than for a faculty member to childishly take out anger/frustration on them or embellish the truth. I'm sure the latter has happened, but I'd much sooner assume that the student has no idea of the issues he/she has and just asked a faculty member for an LOR.
 

Goro

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As I wrote above, this is a very rare event.


Wow. The LOR writer isn't obligated at all to write for the applicant, so they can do the applicant favor by not writing in the first place. Their "heroic deed" by informing the school about the flaws of the applicant is just incredibly traitorous (and speaks a lot about the writer's character in general) because the applicant usually has zero access to confidential letters. Talk about betrayal of trust.

Also, this is assuming the applicant is strong elsewhere and generally is a nice, personable guy. Just a little frustrated that out of all things to worry about in this stressful process, the thought of a LOR writer betraying applicants is irritating.
 

Syncrohnize

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Could someone please explain to me what the most important things are when being assessed by a medical school? What do they look at the most?

I know that all these are very important: Grades (GPA and sGPA), MCAT score, EC's, leadership, research, community service, interview and personal statement

But how are these ranked in order of importance?? I've heard of many people who get into top med schools with mediocre grades because of their awesome EC's or because of something significant they did. At the same time, there are people who get in because of their very high grades and MCAT score, regardless of what EC's they pursued...

I'm very confused.

I don't think this question is answered best as:


1. X
2. Y
3. Z

because contexts vary so for a student from background A, maybe GPA means less due to certain reasons.


That being said, I think there are a few basic ground rules. They are not ranked in order of importance (All this is my own opinion btw)

1. GPA and MCAT are viewed as filters more than anything else. It's funny because most students (including myself) judge themselves most heavily on these factors but oftentimes they're the things, I THINK, that are scrutinized the least. I honestly think adcoms do some MS Excel work with GPAs and MCATs. They can break down the MCAT but they're not going to scrutinize the GPA. (Maybe if they're interested in a candidate for other reasons, they might sift through and try to rationalize bad grades as a first year trend followed by successive improvement).

2. Medical schools look for (a.k.a. require) CLINICAL EXPERIENCE. One nearly mandatory form of it is shadowing and then after that something along the lines of a scribe (job), hospital volunteer, nurse assistant, etc. will serve as the second un-official requirement. If you don't have it, or lack a substantial amount of exposure to it, this will hurt your application.

3. The previous two points are things that will make your application competitive with the rest so it's not screened out (i.e. eliminated from competition). However, having a PASSION is something that I think medical schools look for and this is what will give your application the big boost it needs for a successful interview and acceptance. You must show evidence that you've stuck to something and are passionate about it whether it's a sport, research, cause, art, etc. It also helps if you have some awards/evidence of achievement (like a 1st place award or a paper published) to demonstrate your skill in said passion. I bet you've heard this since undergrad admissions but it's best to have one solid thing than 3-4 mediocre things. As I said a couple sentences ago, research can count as a passion and that's why I think research has helped so many applications. If you only have "check-the box" research though, it's best to try to look for another passion to develop.

4. Personal Statements are usually pretty similar no matter how much you try to distinguish yourself. From what I've heard from Adcoms, so as long as you don't screw it up, I don't see this (or secondaries for that matter) being a big determining factor. Therefore, make sure you don't strain yourself to sound unique or you might end up in the said 5% of PS's that are "bad" instead of the 90% that are "good enough". Of course, write your PS and activities well and proof-read multiple times and make sure your passions are underscored with colorful examples through your PS and 3 most meaningful activities. Lastly, Letters of Recommendations often will not carry much weight as so many times, students ask professors and the process is seemed more like a formality. I have seen letters before and I have seen embellishment on the side of recommenders and even cases where students are given the chance to write their own letters of recommendation. However, there are also many cases where LORs are well-written (by the actual faculty) and contain colorful examples that demonstrate why or how a student will contribute or be successful in medical school. If an LOR does this, I think this would be an extremely valuable asset to an application and will outweigh an average or perhaps even a poor PS. I suspect that interview decisions might even be made if an LOR contains something like "this student was one of the top 5 students I have taught in 500 student BIOC 4100 that I have taught for 7 yrs and in addition [input colorful examples] On the other hand, LORs can just as damaging as a negative LOR will literally serve as a big fat, STAY AWAY sign to an otherwise decent application. My friend actually had this happen to him (he was totally unaware of it) but luckily, his interviewer told him about his. (His results that cycle were 2 in-state interviews having applied to 19 schools w/ a 3.8 GPA and 36 MCAT (bal.) with all else being there for the most part..one acceptance, one wait list, and like 6 pre-interview rejections currently).

5. Profile. If you're not invited for an interview at a medical school you thought you were more than qualified for, realize that MCAT and GPA are just screening tools. Even if you've demonstrated a passion and have clinical experience there are unsaid factors schools are looking for. Also, in my opinion (that I don't vocalize often), I think medical schools somehow have knowledge of what the acceptance/waitlist/interview invite status of students elsewhere are as I've already heard of one such example from an adcom in PA. In addition, as publicized widely on SDN race, gender, etc. do play a factor as schools aim to keep the demographics somewhat balanced but there are certain demographics that are over-represented and under-represented. Also, something as simple as your interests may play a factor. For example, oftentimes schools may have already selected 3 students who are good marathoners and now might prefer a student who excels in another area. As another example, maybe the admissions statistics at present are 60% female and 40% male. In this scenario, male applicants will get the upper hand in admissions. Also, I think it goes without saying but any record of misconduct will definitely reflect very poorly on an otherwise decent application.

6. Things that people stress that I personally think are overrated:

1. Undergraduate Course load/schedule:

Simple Bio degree w/ minimal reqs filled and 12 credits each semester w/ a 4.0> Physiology Major taking advanced upper levels classes w/ a Biochemistry Minor with a 3.8

At the same time though, having two majors with one in a different fields and oftentimes having an engineering major is supposedly advantageous (not a huge one) but I have not seen an isolated example of this.

2. Prestige of Undergraduate Institution:

The elites will always carry respect but don't expect 0.3 to be added to your GPA because of attending one.

3. Overseas "medical" Trips:

Recently, it has even become conventional wisdom on SDN as well that these thousand dollar trips to foreign countries do not serve as a unique experience. You will, in fact, get dinged if you are found to have performed any medical duties that are above your head during these trips. You'll likely be doing more good volunteering at home. That being said, starting your own group, raising funds single-handedly, and fulfilling a planned and specific public health objective while making friends along the way is impressive and a different story.




Overall, the competition is harsh but staying humble and working hard while maintaining other constructive interests will put you in a good position moving forward. Oftentimes, the reason for your rejection can be silly and can be as simple as luck (as I discussed when talking about maintaining a balanced class) so it's best not to put judge oneself to harshly for (silent) rejections.
 
Last edited:
Nov 27, 2013
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What about undergrad major? Is this accounted for in gpa/prestige factors you guys think? Ex: does a rigorous major in a good/prestigious program factor in at all to gpa where a potentially lower gpa would be seen as competitive?