Hi guys! What schools should I consider applying to based on my current profile? I'm taking a gap year and would also love any recommendations on what to pursue to experience something new/different from undergrad.
Summary: Decent GPA and MCAT, strong research, good clinical exposure, some volunteer experience
Strengths: Research, leadership
Weaknesses: MCAT, GPA
cGPA: 3.80 sGPA: 3.76
MCAT: 515 - Chem: 129, CARS: 127, Bio: 130, Psych: 129
State of residence: CA
Undergraduate institution: UCLA, Neuroscience Major, Double Minor in Biomedical Research and Religion
Clinical experience (volunteer and non-volunteer): Two years as clinical research associate for ED (only offered to ~25 students),
Research experience and productivity:
- Three years in neurology lab (run by chair of neurology and director of stem cell research center)
- 2 publications (5th author in Science, 3rd in impact 20 journal TBD), 5 posters (two at national conferences including SFN), may submit one more paper by time of application
- Have done five research programs (includes Howard Hughes Undergrad Research Program)
Shadowing experience and specialties represented:
Spent ~150 hours shadowing neurosurgeon, ~200 hours shadowing neurology through clinical research program, worked ~600 hours in emergency department
Work with organization that teaches underprivileged high school students about science by bringing them to campus to perform lab experiments; create educational modules for students and have created career website for students through nationally-funded PROJECT STEPS (started in September 2016)
Other extracurricular activities (including athletics, military service, gap year activities, leadership, teaching, etc):
- Student Director of school's official Alumni Mentor Program (1700 participants)
- Co-President of research organization that helps undergrads apply to research labs/become better researchers
- Captain and choreographer for Bollywood dance team (won first at nationals), now manage 30K budget and sponsorships
- Alumni Relations Director in undergraduate scholarship organization
Relevant honors or awards: 10 scholarships total including Regents, national-level alumni scholarship, Howard Hughes Undergrad Research Program (offered to 5 students/year),
LOR: I have two strong letters (1 from my PI who is a well-known neurologist and 1 from a professor in my major who has served as a personal mentor), working on one more from professor in my minor and one from the Vice Chancellor of Alumni Affairs
I'm starting to make my school list for next year's application cycle to make sure I can meet any class requirements. Any recommendations on where I should consider applying to? I'm hoping to apply to schools with more of a research focus, but am honestly kind of lost on where to start. I'd also love any suggestions of gap year options to get to experience something new/different from what I've experienced in undergrad.
Any help is appreciated. Thanks guys!
Disagree with the above commentator. Although I am a few years out from med school applications, you would be a competitive candidate for any medical school if you were offered an interview. Your scores are your biggest weakness, true; some institutions may screen you out but I doubt it. The rest of your application is stellar, especially your research (co-authorship on a Science paper >>> mediocre MCAT scores that are offset by your good GPA). You should apply to every single top 30 medical school and should expect to get IVs from many of them. It also appears that you'll be able to attend UCLA given your mentorship, which is a fantastic institution in its own right.
For reference, I had similar GPA, slightly higher MCAT scores, and nowhere near your research/EC and still got interviews to top-10 programs. While the applicant pool gets more competitive yearly, you should be ok. Of course, you should apply to a number of upper-tier programs and a few safeties as backup.
In your year off, you should focus on research with goal of 1-2 additional manuscripts and doing things you really enjoy (i.e. travel/work abroad, volunteer at a program you will have fun at) while working on your application.
I wouldn't say we disagree on the main thrust of our analyses, but I feel obligated to point out certain issues with your post. You claim that her GPA surpasses her MCAT score. This would disagree with the most recent data from AMCAS which shows us that a 514+ MCAT is phenomenal -- better than about 90% of applicants -- while a 3.8+ GPA is also good, but only better than about 75% of applicants. I would thus also be hesitant to claim that co-authorship in Nature, however stellar this might be, really outshines her stats to the degree which you seem to claim it does (I might be inclined to change my opinion were she applying MSTP). Of course, while we might disagree on the relative merit of each of the components of OP's application, I don't think we disagree on the overall conclusion that OP is a very strong applicant to medical school (my words were "won't get in everywhere, but could get in anywhere," which is virtually as strong as you can be).
I also personally would not endorse simply sending a shotgun application to every top 30 medical school without doing any further research. If you're talking about the US News rankings, then that top 30 would include several OOS institutions that are nearly impossible for her (and every other OOS applicant) to get into, such as UW, UNC, Oregon Health and Sciences etc; it would require her to open up the TMDAS only for the purposes of applying to a single school (UTSW); and it would require her to forgo applying to certain CA schools outside of the top 30 (forfeiting the chance for instate tuition prices). I'm of the mind that cutting down one's list prior to sending off the application will lead to much in the way of directly saved resources and time. There is also the opportunity cost to factor in -- the time it takes to work on the essays and interview at a certain school will inevitably limit how quickly and effectively one can tailor their applications for other schools. E.g., OP gets a case of writers block and spends 3 days working on Case Western's secondary essays, leading her to feel rushed and put out a less-than-stellar secondary application to Pittsburgh. From a cursory glance, both schools seem similar in mission, research capacity, patient population, etc. However, OP doesn't find out that Case has mandatory 8AM lectures until she interviews there and realizes that she would not be happy there. At the same time, Pitt, the school which she'd really be happy at, reads her haphazardly written secondary application and decides not to extend her an interview at all.
Sure, if one has infinite resources (not only money but also time) then your strategy might be a good one to follow. I'm inclined to believe, however, that being as surgical as possible in this process is the best way to maximize success in the end.