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I was planning on applying to med schools during this upcoming cycle (May 2020), but because of the coronavirus, I am rethinking my plans. I am interested in several upper tier research-focused med schools, but my MCAT score is low (514) for most of these schools. My GPA (3.94) and ECs are strong and competitive for these upper tier schools. I have a lot of quality research experience and very strong LORs. I attend a top 20 undergrad school. I was accepted into the NIH SIP program for this summer and was hoping my research experience at the NIH this summer would help strengthen my application, but the NIH SIP program has been canceled. I specifically targeted this NIH lab because the research in this lab is similar to the research I did last summer during a summer student research program at a major academic/medical center. I enjoyed the research topic and felt it would be good to have this commitment, consistency and continuity. My would-be PI at the would-be NIH lab is a very influential and prominent scientist at the NIH. I was hoping a LOR from this PI and the fact the research focus was a continuation of my research last summer would strengthen my application for these upper tier schools and maybe somewhat offset my low MCAT score. However, with the NIH SIP program being canceled, I have been rethinking my future.

My thoughts are:

  • Option 1: Take a gap year:
  • return to the NIH lab for summer 2021 (my spot will be held per the PI) and stay there for my entire gap year. Hopefully, if I receive a strong LOR from the PI and have this continuity and committment in the research topic/focus I started in summer 2019, my app will be strengthened.
  • Consider retaking the MCAT during this gap year: this is my big question. I don’t want to risk getting a lower score.
  • Have this extra gap year time to prepare for interviews, secondary app essays, strengthen other ECs, etc…
  • Option 2: Continue with my original plan of applying this cycle and hope for the best with the upper tier schools without the added benefit of the NIH experience. I will obviously be applying to my state school and mid to lower tier schools that are more appropriate for my MCAT score. My MCAT and GPA are several points above the median/mean at my state medical school, but they only admit 50% of in-state students, so there is no guarantee there.
Thanks for any opinions/advice you can give me.
 

notthrowingawaymyshot

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I really don’t think you should retake your MCAT. That is a really great score and it might not look like very good judgement to retake that score unless you ended up scoring 520+

You should just adjust your school list to match your stats by doing some research on MSAR

Good luck! :)
 
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I really don’t think you should retake your MCAT. That is a really great score and it might not look like very good judgement to retake that score unless you ended up scoring 520+

You should just adjust your school list to match your stats by doing some research on MSAR

Good luck! :)
Do you think that a lack of summer plans this upcoming summer will hurt my chances? Again, I was supposed to be at the NIH but now that is not happening
 
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I was planning on applying to med schools during this upcoming cycle (May 2020), but because of the coronavirus, I am rethinking my plans. I am interested in several upper tier research-focused med schools, but my MCAT score is low (514) for most of these schools. My GPA (3.94) and ECs are strong and competitive for these upper tier schools. I have a lot of quality research experience and very strong LORs. I attend a top 20 undergrad school. I was accepted into the NIH SIP program for this summer and was hoping my research experience at the NIH this summer would help strengthen my application, but the NIH SIP program has been canceled. I specifically targeted this NIH lab because the research in this lab is similar to the research I did last summer during a summer student research program at a major academic/medical center. I enjoyed the research topic and felt it would be good to have this commitment, consistency and continuity. My would-be PI at the would-be NIH lab is a very influential and prominent scientist at the NIH. I was hoping a LOR from this PI and the fact the research focus was a continuation of my research last summer would strengthen my application for these upper tier schools and maybe somewhat offset my low MCAT score. However, with the NIH SIP program being canceled, I have been rethinking my future.

My thoughts are:

  • Option 1: Take a gap year:
  • return to the NIH lab for summer 2021 (my spot will be held per the PI) and stay there for my entire gap year. Hopefully, if I receive a strong LOR from the PI and have this continuity and committment in the research topic/focus I started in summer 2019, my app will be strengthened.
  • Consider retaking the MCAT during this gap year: this is my big question. I don’t want to risk getting a lower score.
  • Have this extra gap year time to prepare for interviews, secondary app essays, strengthen other ECs, etc…
  • Option 2: Continue with my original plan of applying this cycle and hope for the best with the upper tier schools without the added benefit of the NIH experience. I will obviously be applying to my state school and mid to lower tier schools that are more appropriate for my MCAT score. My MCAT and GPA are several points above the median/mean at my state medical school, but they only admit 50% of in-state students, so there is no guarantee there.
Thanks for any opinions/advice you can give me.
Stop obsessing with the likes of Harvard and apply already. Suppose that the only school you get into is U VM or Drexel. Will you give up on being a doctor?

I suggest these:
UCSD
UCSF
Mt Sinai
Case (maybe)
U VM
U IA
U Toledo
USF Morsani
OH State
UCF
U Cincy
Miami
St. Louis
Albany
Albert Einstein
Rochester
Rush
Rosy Franklin
NYMC

EVMS
Wake Forest
Jefferson
Temple
Drexel
Creighton
Tulane
USC/Keck
Dartmouth
Seton Hall
MCW
Loyola
Emory
BU
Duke
Pitt
Hofstra
Tufts
Oakland-B
Western MI
Uniformed Services University/Hebert (just be aware of the military service commitment)
Nova MD
CUSM IF you're from CA
Kaiser IF you're from CA
Your state school(s).
 
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notthrowingawaymyshot

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Do you think that a lack of summer plans this upcoming summer will hurt my chances? Again, I was supposed to be at the NIH but now that is not happening
I think if your other EC’s are good to go you should apply broadly this year :) you have good stats so just make sure you apply to a good amount of mid tier schools. I promise the rank of the school won’t matter much especially if you just want to be a doctor
 
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KnightDoc

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I was planning on applying to med schools during this upcoming cycle (May 2020), but because of the coronavirus, I am rethinking my plans. I am interested in several upper tier research-focused med schools, but my MCAT score is low (514) for most of these schools. My GPA (3.94) and ECs are strong and competitive for these upper tier schools. I have a lot of quality research experience and very strong LORs. I attend a top 20 undergrad school. I was accepted into the NIH SIP program for this summer and was hoping my research experience at the NIH this summer would help strengthen my application, but the NIH SIP program has been canceled. I specifically targeted this NIH lab because the research in this lab is similar to the research I did last summer during a summer student research program at a major academic/medical center. I enjoyed the research topic and felt it would be good to have this commitment, consistency and continuity. My would-be PI at the would-be NIH lab is a very influential and prominent scientist at the NIH. I was hoping a LOR from this PI and the fact the research focus was a continuation of my research last summer would strengthen my application for these upper tier schools and maybe somewhat offset my low MCAT score. However, with the NIH SIP program being canceled, I have been rethinking my future.

My thoughts are:

  • Option 1: Take a gap year:
  • return to the NIH lab for summer 2021 (my spot will be held per the PI) and stay there for my entire gap year. Hopefully, if I receive a strong LOR from the PI and have this continuity and committment in the research topic/focus I started in summer 2019, my app will be strengthened.
  • Consider retaking the MCAT during this gap year: this is my big question. I don’t want to risk getting a lower score.
  • Have this extra gap year time to prepare for interviews, secondary app essays, strengthen other ECs, etc…
  • Option 2: Continue with my original plan of applying this cycle and hope for the best with the upper tier schools without the added benefit of the NIH experience. I will obviously be applying to my state school and mid to lower tier schools that are more appropriate for my MCAT score. My MCAT and GPA are several points above the median/mean at my state medical school, but they only admit 50% of in-state students, so there is no guarantee there.
Thanks for any opinions/advice you can give me.
You seem to totally know what you are doing, so, at the risk of stating the obvious I would partially agree with what everyone else is saying, but for a different reason.

I don't begrudge you your top tier aspirations because everything you have other than the MCAT would make you highly competitive for them. What I think you are missing is this -- your MCAT would place you at a very low %-ile for most of them, which would make an acceptance highly unlikely for you, even with the NIH experience. Most of their successful applicants will have everything you have PLUS a 520 MCAT +/-.

Only you can decide if losing another year and being able to hit that score on a retake is worth it versus just applying to schools now such as those @Goro suggests. If you don't substantially improve your MCAT, your NIH experience will be great but will probably not overcome a 514 MCAT at the top schools, so you won't be any better off than you are now, and will have lost the year. Just my 2 cents as a premed, and I don't have an MCAT score yet, but I don't consider myself to be anything special, and don't anticipate wasting time and money applying anywhere where my stats aren't at or above the median. I realize that is very conservative and isn't for everyone, but I think I'll have a better cycle than by hoping that my rather typical ECs will overcome below median stats. Keep in mind that, for the top tier, even spectacular ECs are typical.
 
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KnightDoc

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Do you think that a lack of summer plans this upcoming summer will hurt my chances? Again, I was supposed to be at the NIH but now that is not happening
No -- pretty much all premeds are going to be in the same position this summer!
 
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I think if your other EC’s are good to go you should apply broadly this year :) you have good stats so just make sure you apply to a good amount of mid tier schools. I promise the rank of the school won’t matter much especially if you just want to be a doctor
Thank you so much for your help and encouragement!
 
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You seem to totally know what you are doing, so, at the risk of stating the obvious I would partially agree with what everyone else is saying, but for a different reason.

I don't begrudge you your top tier aspirations because everything you have other than the MCAT would make you highly competitive for them. What I think you are missing is this -- your MCAT would place you at a very low %-ile for most of them, which would make an acceptance highly unlikely for you, even with the NIH experience. Most of their successful applicants will have everything you have PLUS a 520 MCAT +/-.

Only you can decide if losing another year and being able to hit that score on a retake is worth it versus just applying to schools now such as those @Goro suggests. If you don't substantially improve your MCAT, your NIH experience will be great but will probably not overcome a 514 MCAT at the top schools, so you won't be any better off than you are now, and will have lost the year. Just my 2 cents as a premed, and I don't have an MCAT score yet, but I don't consider myself to be anything special, and don't anticipate wasting time and money applying anywhere where my stats aren't at or above the median. I realize that is very conservative and isn't for everyone, but I think I'll have a better cycle than by hoping that my rather typical ECs will overcome below median stats. Keep in mind that, for the top tier, even spectacular ECs are typical.
Great advice! Thank you and good luck with applying!
 
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efle

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Research years are already becoming ubiquitous among med students that want competitive specialties/matches. So save your research gap year for during med school. Apply with your 3.9/514/good ECs
 

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I was planning on applying to med schools during this upcoming cycle (May 2020), but because of the coronavirus, I am rethinking my plans. I am interested in several upper tier research-focused med schools, but my MCAT score is low (514) for most of these schools. My GPA (3.94) and ECs are strong and competitive for these upper tier schools. I have a lot of quality research experience and very strong LORs. I attend a top 20 undergrad school. I was accepted into the NIH SIP program for this summer and was hoping my research experience at the NIH this summer would help strengthen my application, but the NIH SIP program has been canceled. I specifically targeted this NIH lab because the research in this lab is similar to the research I did last summer during a summer student research program at a major academic/medical center. I enjoyed the research topic and felt it would be good to have this commitment, consistency and continuity. My would-be PI at the would-be NIH lab is a very influential and prominent scientist at the NIH. I was hoping a LOR from this PI and the fact the research focus was a continuation of my research last summer would strengthen my application for these upper tier schools and maybe somewhat offset my low MCAT score. However, with the NIH SIP program being canceled, I have been rethinking my future.

My thoughts are:

  • Option 1: Take a gap year:
  • return to the NIH lab for summer 2021 (my spot will be held per the PI) and stay there for my entire gap year. Hopefully, if I receive a strong LOR from the PI and have this continuity and committment in the research topic/focus I started in summer 2019, my app will be strengthened.
  • Consider retaking the MCAT during this gap year: this is my big question. I don’t want to risk getting a lower score.
  • Have this extra gap year time to prepare for interviews, secondary app essays, strengthen other ECs, etc…
  • Option 2: Continue with my original plan of applying this cycle and hope for the best with the upper tier schools without the added benefit of the NIH experience. I will obviously be applying to my state school and mid to lower tier schools that are more appropriate for my MCAT score. My MCAT and GPA are several points above the median/mean at my state medical school, but they only admit 50% of in-state students, so there is no guarantee there.
Thanks for any opinions/advice you can give me.
What were your FL practice test scores? If you were consistently scoring above 520 and somehow got 514 in actual test then retake if they administer this summer, otherwise go with what you have than taking gap year.
 

efle

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Just for the record its not great advice. I was below the median at all 6 schools I interviewed at and the school I was accepted at.
But were you a typical cookie cutter applicant, or were you filling another niche that gave you laxity on your LizzyM? E.g. if you are a non-trad with interesting prior work, veteran, extraordinary humanitarian/community service, minority in medicine, significant prior research, and so on.

It's really the people like OP coming straight out of the feeder undergrads with all the usual boxes checked that need a high MCAT to be considered by top ranked med schools, imo.
 
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Talldoctor96

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But were you a typical cookie cutter applicant, or were you filling another niche that gave you laxity on your LizzyM? E.g. if you are a non-trad with interesting prior work, veteran, extraordinary humanitarian/community service, minority in medicine, significant prior research, and so on.

It's really the people like OP coming straight out of the feeder undergrads with all the usual boxes checked that need a high MCAT to be considered by top ranked med schools, imo.
Honestly I wasn't even talking about OP just disagreeing with knightdoc lol. I think its ridiculous to not apply to a school if you are below their median. Thats 50 percent of the class!!!
 

efle

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Honestly I wasn't even talking about OP just disagreeing with knightdoc lol. I think its ridiculous to not apply to a school if you are below their median. Thats 50 percent of the class!!!
At the same time, he's right about the significance of that score gap for people like OP. I was from a similar feeder undergrad to OP and had a friend who insisted on retaking a 514 to get a 520+. They're now at NYU enjoying the free tuition, and there's no doubt in my mind they would've gotten a big fat R with only the 514 score. SDN always advises against it (and I also think OP should just apply) but for people with different priorities like OP, it might not be that bad of advice.
 
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Talldoctor96

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At the same time, he's right about the significance of that score gap for people like OP. I was from a similar feeder undergrad to OP and had a friend who insisted on retaking a 514 to get a 520+. They're now at NYU enjoying the free tuition, and there's no doubt in my mind they would've gotten a big fat R with only the 514 score. SDN always advises against it (and I also think OP should just apply) but for people with different priorities like OP, it might not be that bad of advice.
Again I am not talking about OP. I specifically debating the phrase "Just my 2 cents as a premed, and I don't have an MCAT score yet, but I don't consider myself to be anything special, and don't anticipate wasting time and money applying anywhere where my stats aren't at or above the median. " He is referencing himself and not OP. I am saying I disagree with this idea. Thats it. Its okay if we disagree.
 
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KnightDoc

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Again I am not talking about OP. I specifically debating the phrase "Just my 2 cents as a premed, and I don't have an MCAT score yet, but I don't consider myself to be anything special, and don't anticipate wasting time and money applying anywhere where my stats aren't at or above the median. " He is referencing himself and not OP. I am saying I disagree with this idea. Thats it. Its okay if we disagree.
Yes, and I also admitted it is a conservative point of view that isn't appropriate for everyone. My point of view is that people below any school's median need something special to compensate, bearing in mind that they are also competing against 50% that are above the median.

If OP is not a URM, or doesn't have some crazy special ECs, the odds are very high that OP is NOT going to be one of the very small handful of matriculants at any top tier research-focused school with a 514 (or below) MCAT. Period. I could always be wrong, but MSAR says I'm probably not, and, for the record, NIH research is not a crazy special EC at these schools.

By the way, please don't think I'm advocating the retake -- I'm not, unless OP has his or her heart set on the top schools AND OP has confidence he or she can hit the 520+. Otherwise, I agree with everyone else who says OP should apply with what he or she has, since, other than the MCAT, it is great and should result in several As, just not at Harvard, Penn or Mayo, etc.
 
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Talldoctor96

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Yes, and I also admitted it is a conservative point of view that isn't appropriate for everyone. My point of view is that people below any school's median need something special to compensate, bearing in mind that they are also competing against 50% that are above the median.

If OP is not a URM, or doesn't have some crazy special ECs, the odds are very high that OP is NOT going to be one of the very small handful of matriculants at any top tier research-focused school with a 514 (or below) MCAT. Period. I could always be wrong, but MSAR says I'm probably not, and, for the record, NIH research is not a crazy special EC at these schools.

By the way, please don't think I'm advocating the retake -- I'm not, unless OP has his or her heart set on the top schools AND OP has confidence he or she can hit the 520+. Otherwise, I agree with everyone else who says OP should apply with what he or she has, since, other than the MCAT, it is great and should result in several As, just not at Harvard, Penn or Mayo, etc.
What are you talking about dude... literally half the class comes from below the median. What you’re saying is true for maybe the bottom 10 percent but you are just so wrong to say you need to be “special” to get in below the median. Also you’re not competing against other applicants. Do I need to tag Goro??? ;) but for real dude no offense but you’re not even an applicant. Don’t go around spewing just totally insanely wrong information. Obviously you want to aim for schools where ur above the median but to think you need to be URM or an EC superstar to get in if you’re like 40th percentile is BS. Stop telling people that.

Creating a school list is one of the most important aspects of a successful application so you’re incorrect advice is impactful and destructive.
 

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What are you talking about dude... literally half the class comes from below the median. What you’re saying is true for maybe the bottom 10 percent but you are just so wrong to say you need to be “special” to get in below the median. Also you’re not competing against other applicants. Do I need to tag Goro??? ;) but for real dude no offense but you’re not even an applicant. Don’t go around spewing just totally insanely wrong information. Obviously you want to aim for schools where ur above the median but to think you need to be URM or an EC superstar to get in if you’re like 40th percentile is BS. Stop telling people that.

Creating a school list is one of the most important aspects of a successful application so you’re incorrect advice is impactful and destructive.
A 514 is a lot closer to 10th percentile than 40th at most of the private T20s. I'm with him on this one, OP needs better than a 514 to feel good about their odds of nabbing several t20 interviews, even with a research year.

Though, again, I think applying now, going to a solid mid-upper school, and then taking a research year after MS3 is the best route to a great match.
 
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KnightDoc

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What are you talking about dude... literally half the class comes from below the median. What you’re saying is true for maybe the bottom 10 percent but you are just so wrong to say you need to be “special” to get in below the median. Also you’re not competing against other applicants. Do I need to tag Goro??? ;) but for real dude no offense but you’re not even an applicant. Don’t go around spewing just totally insanely wrong information. Obviously you want to aim for schools where ur above the median but to think you need to be URM or an EC superstar to get in if you’re like 40th percentile is BS. Stop telling people that.

Creating a school list is one of the most important aspects of a successful application so you’re incorrect advice is impactful and destructive.
Okay, and maybe I'm just a little too tough on myself, but I'm assuming that those who are successful with stats below the median have ECs that are far above average. Maybe I'm wrong, and, if so, what distinguishes one applicant with average ECs and below average stats from all the others who are unsuccessful? In any event, in such circumstances I'm not usually so lucky that I would gamble on it when I can increase my odds by being above the median.

Also, TBH, I was never really talking about 40th%-ile -- even in my OP, I talked about top schools being 520 +/-, when several of their medians are 521-522. I'm talking about 514 when the median is 522, or 509 when the median is 514, etc. I never meant to imply I would apply it literally for 1 or 2 points (40th %-ile) where there is otherwise a good fit, especially since the peak of the bell is right around the median at pretty much all schools.
 
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