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Premed counselor urging me to retake a 31...good idea?

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hurpaderp

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Hi everyone,

I'm a college senior planning on applying to MD schools for this upcoming 2016-2017 cycle, and I need advice on whether or not I should listen to my premed advisor about retaking my MCAT (PS:11, VR:10, BR: 10). I took it on January 2015 right before the new 2016 exam came out, and while the score was a couple of points lower than my average score of practice exams (~35), I was pretty content with it.

But I talked to my premed advisor this afternoon, and he strongly urged me to retake it. He said that because I'm applying as an international student, my MCAT score will need to be "substantially higher" if I wanted a "decent shot at MD schools." This took me by surprise, since I looked up the AAMC statistics for matriculated intl students, and my subsection scores were all within standard deviation of the mean.

So the question is, should I listen to my advisor and retake the exam? I really don't want to, because I really want to focus on getting good grades for my last semester, and I don't have enough time to seriously prepare for this new exam. But now I feel really anxious, and I don't want to regret it later in the cycle for not retaking it. I would really appreciate any advice.

Quick background info about the rest of my application:
-biophysics major with a cGPA of 3.72 and a sGPA of 3.59. Currently attending a top 10 university.
-strong clinical research background (worked as a volunteer clinical research assistant every summer since freshman year), with 1 first author abstract publication.
 

Aubrey Graham

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I wouldn't unless u r aiming for top 20


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hurpaderp

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I wouldn't unless u r aiming for top 20


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I feel like my list of schools is going to be pretty top-heavy out of necessity, since not a lot of mid- or low-tier schools accept international students (much less accept applications from them). :( Please correct me if I am mistaken.

Should I retake it if I'm applying to top 20 schools?
 

mimelim

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Re-taking of the MCAT should NOT be because someone tells you to, either in person or on SDN. It should likewise should NOT be because of which schools you are applying to.

You should re-take the MCAT if there is substantial reason for you to believe that you will improve on your score, regardless of your circumstances. Your chances of admission increase with a higher score, but your chances of admission decrease with a lower score, which a sizable number of people do. An even larger number of people stay the same and simply waste time, money and effort that could have been far better used.

There are several things that would give you reason to think that you will improve your score:
#1 Your initial test day was outside of normal test taking standards, ie. you were very sick and it hampered your cognitive abilities.
#2 Your practice scores were significantly above that of your actual score, consistently.
#3 Your studying for the initial MCAT was notably poor or can be improved upon substantially.

Only you can know about those 3 things. You need to make this decision based on YOUR evaluation of those 3 things (because while you can post on here and we can give you feedback, only you really know how big each of those things are. It is definitely true that as an international student, you face a larger hill with medical school admissions and a higher MCAT will go a long way, it is not as simple as, "study more, higher score" and it is folly to think otherwise.
 
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piii

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I feel like my list of schools is going to be pretty top-heavy out of necessity, since not a lot of mid- or low-tier schools accept international students (much less accept applications from them). :( Please correct me if I am mistaken.

Should I retake it if I'm applying to top 20 schools?
Being an international applicant puts you in a different position than a normal US applicant, whom I would say a 3.7/31 is okay. Getting a 35 equivalent could really be what you need. You could apply one cycle and if not, retake and score higher. But keep in mind that usually practice scores are a little higher than the actual score. I'd like to see @GrapesofRath 's advice on this one.
 

GrapesofRath

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Being an international applicant puts you in a different position than a normal US applicant, whom I would say a 3.7/31 is okay. Getting a 35 equivalent could really be what you need. You could apply one cycle and if not, retake and score higher. But keep in mind that usually practice scores are a little higher than the actual score. I'd like to see @GrapesofRath 's advice on this one.

For those who arent US residents only 140/1351 applicants matriculated somewhere(I think the actual acceptance rate is closer to 15%). So the US national average is 43% but for internationals its 10-15%.

For US MD matriculants MCAT average is around 31.2+/3.9

For non US MD matriculants MCAT average is 33.6+/-3.4

What mimelim said is true and absolutely valid but any international needs to realize the uphill battle they are facing when close to only 1/10 of them are getting into any US MD school and OP is already starting off close to a SD below the average MD matriculant MCAT for an international. Therefore, in my shoes, yes while I would only actually retake the test if I had a good reason to believe I could do significantly better, I would in fact plan to study for a retake and take practice tests with the intention at least of retaking(with the final decision based off how the practice test results go).

I personally wouldnt apply and then retake only if I didnt get in. There's no point in an international making things harder on themselves being an international AND a reapplicant if it comes to that.
 
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Goro

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Data point 1, 202, 799, 994 that pre-med advisors are idiots.

Retake that perfectly good score and so help me, I'll reach through your computer screen and smack you upside the head!

You are competitive for many MD (and all DO) schools!

Your lack of clinical volunteering and community service is much more of an issue.



Hi everyone,

I'm a college senior planning on applying to MD schools for this upcoming 2016-2017 cycle, and I need advice on whether or not I should listen to my premed advisor about retaking my MCAT (PS:11, VR:10, BR: 10). I took it on January 2015 right before the new 2016 exam came out, and while the score was a couple of points lower than my average score of practice exams (~35), I was pretty content with it.

But I talked to my premed advisor this afternoon, and he strongly urged me to retake it. He said that because I'm applying as an international student, my MCAT score will need to be "substantially higher" if I wanted a "decent shot at MD schools." This took me by surprise, since I looked up the AAMC statistics for matriculated intl students, and my subsection scores were all within standard deviation of the mean.

So the question is, should I listen to my advisor and retake the exam? I really don't want to, because I really want to focus on getting good grades for my last semester, and I don't have enough time to seriously prepare for this new exam. But now I feel really anxious, and I don't want to regret it later in the cycle for not retaking it. I would really appreciate any advice.

Quick background info about the rest of my application:
-biophysics major with a cGPA of 3.72 and a sGPA of 3.59. Currently attending a top 10 university.
-strong clinical research background (worked as a volunteer clinical research assistant every summer since freshman year), with 1 first author abstract publication.
 
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bananafish94

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Don't do it. That's a perfectly respectable score.

EDIT: I changed my mind. Do it. Get a better score. Don't put yourself in my position.
 
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Meeehai

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Only if you're confident that you can do better.
 
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GrapesofRath

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Lol this is "a little" bit of a huge game changer

For US grads historically we're talking about roughly a 5-8% difference in acceptance rate between a 3.7/31 and 3.9/31. It's not particularly significant at all IMO; the list of schools a 3.7/31 should be applying to is practically the same as a 3.9/31

OP is international which makes this discussion moot, but still the MCAT is what I would focus much more so than the GPA.
 

ivorypearls

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Wait, I just reread OP's question and overlooked the part where he said he was an international applicant. That might be a little bit more of a game changer..
 

efle

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Wow my bad, I actually thought this was the other "do I retake a low 30s MCAT" thread but theirs was a 512 and they had a 3.45

With a 3.7 yeah the international status matters way more
 

Nietzschelover

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My first reaction was that this may be a case where the advisor does know what he is talking about for an international candidate. OP also said he's at a top 10 school so perhaps the advisor has been around the block once or twice. I can certainly understand the pressure in this case for a re-take, with the added twist that you would have to account for the new psych/soc component. Or maybe an extra gap year is worth considering to allow more time for a re-take and also to get some strong volunteering to complement the clinical research strength.
 

stemingen

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You have to be very competitive as an international applicant. If there are other areas you can improve further, focus on those; if not, retake MCAT and aim for much higher score is not a bad option.
 

lcm2020

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As an international with that score you have good chances of getting in a DO school.

MD would be very difficult though
 

redferrari

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God, when my cousin went through the application process ten years ago, a 31 would've meant quitting life for two weeks and getting on the next flight to Cancun. Times surely have changed. So grateful I was able to sprinkle some fairy dust on my 29 and get an MD acceptance...

With you being an international applicant though, I have to err on the side of the majority here and say. I have a strong feeling that US applicants basically are asked, "How bad do you want it?" The question is the same for international applicants with a hundred expletives following the word "bad."
 
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hurpaderp

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[UPDATE]

Hello everyone,

Thank you again for your input. I really appreciated all of your feedback, and I wanted to give you guys a quick update.
I decided to retake the MCAT in April, and received a score of 522 (129/130/131/132) :soexcited:! I don't think I ever studied so hard in my life, and I'm just glad that I won't have to worry about that test anymore. @Goro, I also took your advice about clinical volunteering, and I began volunteering at a nearby hospice in February. I have about ~50 hours of volunteering so far, and I plan on volunteering throughout my application cycle this year. I'm hoping that my ~900 hours of clinical+academic research buffers my deficiency in clinical volunteering, and I plan on applying to research-heavy schools where I might be a better fit.

One potential problem I see is that my stats are now kind of skewed (mid-high MCAT, mid-low sGPA). Do you folks have any suggestions of international-friendly schools that place a greater emphasis on MCAT over GPA? I'm looking at the 2017 MSAR now, and the following appear to be the schools that matriculated the highest number of non-Canadian intl students this year:

-Albert Einstein
-BU
-Case Western
-Rosalind Franklin
-Columbia
-Emory
-Dartmouth
-GWU
-Mt. Sinai
-NYMC
-Northwestern
-St Louis U
-Thomas Jefferson
-Wayne State
-Cornell
-Stony Brook
-U Pittsburgh
-U Virginia
-Wash U St. Louis
-Yale

^Anything I should add/remove from this list?
 
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